Catholic Upbringing Helps Sam Straley Make Sure 'The Kids Are Alright'

Nov 29, 2018

Update Monday Dec. 2: Here's a link to my Sam Straley interview from Around Cincinnati Sunday night. 

Original post Thursday, Nov. 29: Thanks to his Guardian Angels School education, actor Sam Straley is sort of an assistant director for church scenes on ABC's The Kids Are Alright.

"We do a lot of church stuff," says Straley, the Anderson Township native who plays oldest son Lawrence Cleary in the new fall sitcom about a blue collar Irish Catholic family with eight boys in the 1970s.

In my interview on Around Cincinnati airing 7 p.m. Sunday on WVXU-FM, Staley explains:

The Cleary family on Easter Sunday. Sam Straley is third from the left.
Credit Courtesy ABC

"We're doing this church scene, and I'm like teaching the kids what they have to do with their hands, because they're standing in the pews and their hands aren't folded. And I have to teach them: 'OK, boys, let's line up. You stand like this (in church). You sit like this. You pray like this.' "

I taped the interview with Straley the week before Thanksgiving, when he was home for the first time since production began in August. We chatted about ABC giving the sitcom a full-season order for 22 episodes; his Catholic education at Mount Washington's Guardian Angels School ("Go Angels!" he says); the long wig he wears on the show; his plans for his "hiatus" when the show wraps production in March; and his career goals.

Sam Straley in the WVXU-FM studio on Nov. 13 recording the 'Around Cincinnati' conversation airing Sunday, Dec. 2.
Credit Kevin Reynolds / WVXU-FM
Roger Grooms, Straley's grandfather, reviewed theater and movies for the Enquirer, WKRC-TV, WXIX-TV and WSAI-AM.
Credit Courtesy ACT Cincinnati

Straley also talks about how his grandfather Roger Grooms -- a local teacher, theater director and movie/drama reviewer -- inspired his career choice, as I wrote in my Nov. 15 post, "Actor Sam Straley Makes His Grandpa Proud On ABC Sitcom."

He grew up in Anderson Township as a middle child, with an older and younger sister – quite different from the eight Cleary kids living in a home with one bathroom on the ABC comedy.

He's a bright, engaging young actor you'd want to root for even if he wasn't from Cincinnati. Here are a few comments you'll hear on Around Cincinnati:

BEING A GUARDIAN ANGELS ALTAR BOY: "It wasn't my thing. I fainted the first time I was an altar boy. I joined because I think I had a crush on someone, 'She's an altar girl. Maybe they'll pair us up.' It was not for me."

CROWDED HOUSE: "Mom comes from a huge Catholic family, so I sort of know what Lawrence is going through, in terms of a small space with a lot of people… My parents divorced when we were really, really young, and for a few months, when I was like a baby, we lived with her mom. So we were always at that house. And we always had so many people over, and like the whole family would be there, so I really could gauge what it was like to have so many people under one roof.

The ABC comedy, set in the 1970s, did an episode about the Clearly family's first microwave oven. Straley is pictured with Andy Walken, who plays his brother, and Michael Cudlitz, who plays his father.
Credit Courtesy ABC

ACTING EXPERIENCE WHILE ATTENDING DePAUL UNIVERSITY IN CHICAGO: "I worked on Chicago P.D. two times. They were two completely different characters – but two bad guys. You know, shady boys."

HIS GRANDFATHER'S INSPIRATION: "I wouldn't be here without him. He'd take me to films growing up…. That's when I knew: That's what I want to do….

"I think about him all the time. I think of my grandma, who was an actress, his wife (Patricia Grooms), and how much they influenced me. Yeah, I really want to make them proud. This is a great opportunity to grow as an actor, and to get better. That's what I'm doing. So I really, really hope that I'm making them proud."

Around Cincinnati airs 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, on WVXU-FM, WMUB-FM and streaming at wvxu.org.