The actor who portrays Austin “Chumlee” Russell of “Pawn Stars” sounds like he was born for the role.
Quick with the wit, Garret Grant, 27, comes with a colorful background. He grew up in rural Georgia among chicken farms, became a “theater hound” and played a guitar in Sin City burlesque joints before Lady Luck came calling.
“This is a dream come true,” said Garret, who plays the character “Chump” in “Pawn Shop Live!” The parody opens Jan. 21 at the Golden Nugget.
He’s playing the most popular character on the hit TV reality show, according to Twitter. “Pawn Stars” has been a cable blockbuster for History since its inception in 2009.
Austin has 176,000 Twitter followers, more than triple of some Las Vegas headliners.
The Q-and-A interview:
Start with your background.
“I’m 27. I’m from a small town in north Georgia. I’ve always had passion for theater. I attended Franklin County High School in Lavonia (population: about 2,000). Nothing but chicken farms. I performed at Hart County Community Theater and attended Columbus State University (in Columbus, Ga.). I’ve been doing theater and music since first grade. I was busy doing as many shows as I could. I was a complete theater hound. This is a dream come true.”
Your most memorable role back then?
“My favorite role I ever played was Jack in ‘Into the Woods,’ based on (the fairy tale) ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ ”
Do you physically resemble Chumlee?
“I’m 5-10, with shoes on and hair up. I’m about 215. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve got a bit of a beer gut.”
Has anyone said you resemble Chum?
“No, not really. Some of the first pictures they took (for show promotion), I didn’t know it was me.”
Given the popularity of Chumlee, you might walk into a bar and end up with a few free beers.
“I wouldn’t complain about that at all.”
What brought you to Las Vegas?
“It was a slow process. Some of our friends moved out here. I played guitar in some burlesque shows.
“There are not many places for people to get into theater. My roommate, Gus Langley, plays Lil Boss in the show, the Corey (Harrison) character. We just thought this would be a good place to start making our mark. We’ve been best friends for about eight years. We’ve got a really good chemistry on the show.”
How did you get involved in the show?
“Originally the show was scheduled to open in mid-June. I had something else scheduled. I was out of town so I skipped the first audition. Gus had been to the audition. They were still looking for the Chump character. Gus said, ‘You should come to the auditions.’ I knew Troy (‘Pawn Shop Live!’ director Troy Heard) from my college days in Georgia.”
Have you met Chum yet?
“I actually haven’t met him but he came to a read-through. He was there. We were busy doing notes and they were talking about stuff. First time everyone in same room. But we are planning to hang out with ‘em. I think that we would get along really well. I think there are some big differences and some similarities.”
How did you prepare to channel Chum?
“I was already a fan of the show, an avid watcher, so I watched a lot of clips of him on YouTube. I tried to get his mannerisms down. I’m not trying to impersonate him. The easiest thing about playing him is he doesn’t have a lot of energy. He’s always trying to get out of work. He’s easygoing and slow-moving. That makes for an easy transition to the stage.
“He brings the laughs. When you are playing that kind of a character, everything makes it more better.”
This one goes out to all you Little League fathers. Dave Maddux can vouch for all those long hours of hitting grounders to your kids.
Homegrown hero Greg Maddux swept into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, being named on 97.2 percent of ballots.
“I can’t take any credit for Greg’s 355 pitching victories because he just had so much natural ability,” the proud papa said, “but I can take a little credit for his 18 Gold Glove Awards (the most ever by a pitcher).
“I hit ground balls to (brother) Mike and Greg every day for two hours when they were growing up.”
THE SCENE AND HEARD
Julian Serrano, one of Spain’s most decorated chefs, coached a Spanish team past France on Bravo’s “Top Chef” on Wednesday. The episode, filmed in New Orleans in July, divided the six remaining contestants into two teams. They had to include almonds, olives, mussels, chicken and chocolate into each course. Serrano won back-to-back five-star ratings at Picasso (Bellagio) in the early 2000s and operates Julian Serrano at Aria. …
The three-day Miss Nevada USA competition starts today at Ham Hall at UNLV. Co-hosts are 2011 Miss USA Alyssa Campanella and deejay Chet Buchanan of KLUC-FM 98.5.
Nicolas Cage, celebrating his 50th birthday Wednesday with his wife and son at Echo & Rig in Tivoli Village. … Tim Tebow, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Thursday promoting Tivo with Tivo CEO Tom Rogers, who had jaws dropping when he told HLN: “We’re all about figuring how to pass things to mobile devices and we’ve got a world-class passer here.” … Pharrel Williams, whose latest hit, “Happy,” is set to take over No. 1 in the UK, at N9ne Steakhouse (Palms) on Wednesday. … Former “Dancing with the Stars” pro Lacy Schwimmer and Stratosphere headliner Frankie Moreno at Carmine’s (Forum Shops at Caesars) on Wednesday.
THE PUNCH LINE
“There was a nuclear meltdown in North Korea today. But enough about Dennis Rodman.” — Jay Leno
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.