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Actor Eric Ladin On the Origins of His Acting Intensity

Ladin humbly attributes his memorable roles to great storylines, but he has clearly carved a reputation for playing the roles of intense characters.
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September 1, 2022
Eric Ladin as prosecutor Eric Chastain in “Where the Crawdads Sing.” (Sony Pictures)

When actor Eric Ladin was only 14 years old, he saw a film that would set him on a life-long mission to be an actor: the 1992 Rob Reiner film “A Few Good Men.” 

Ladin was so inspired by Tom Cruise’s performance as the bulldog of a prosecutor, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, that he went to see the film in the theater ten times.

“I fell in love with watching courtroom stuff as a young adult,” Ladin told The Journal. “I fell in love with movies about trials. I’ve always loved watching litigators work, especially good ones.”

He was barely a year removed from his Bar Mitzvah, but he already had a clear dream to play prosecutor on screen. 

That dream would come true in 2022 with his role as Eric Chastain in the critically acclaimed film, “Where the Crawdads Sing.” In that film adaptation of the bestselling novel, Ladin channeled his Texas roots to play a cunning, smooth-talking southern prosecutor in a murder trial. Any time Ladin’s character speaks in the courtroom, there is little room for doubt in the defendant’s guilt. He performs with a ferocious certainty that can only come from someone who has watched and re-watched Cruise’s captivating scenes in “A Few Good Men.”

“It’s a coming-of-age story about a young girl in the swamps who’s a complete outcast,” Ladin said of the film. “And I think that there’s a little bit of that in all of us. We’ve all found some point of our life where we’re trying to find our people in our community. And woven within that story is a murder mystery, because she’s on trial for murdering another young person in the town. For those who haven’t read the book I think they’ll be taken on a beautiful ride — it’s shot absolutely beautifully.” 

Ladin’s list of roles throughout his acting career is an impressive resume of job titles. He played FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on “Boardwalk Empire,” and Dr. Roquet Walker in “Big Love” — both on HBO. He also played hard-headed NASA flight director Gene Kranz on the Apple TV+ show “For All Mankind,” as well the role of Jamie Wright, a young ruthless campaign manager in Netflix’s “The Killing.”

One of his most memorable roles was as a foul-mouthed U.S. Marine Corps Corporal James Chaffin in the Emmy-nominated HBO miniseries “Generation Kill.”

“My favorite thing about “Generation Kill” is that veterans come up to me all the time and tell me how much they enjoy that show and how realistic it is to the actual life of a soldier,” Ladin said. “I love that because we really worked hard to make it feel as realistic as we possibly could.” 

Ladin humbly attributes his memorable roles to great storylines, but he has clearly carved a reputation for playing the roles of intense characters. He credits his early theater experiences in Houston at The Kincaid School for forging his ability to impress not only casting directors but audiences. 

Long before starring in several award-winning TV shows and films, Eric Ladin was just a kid in Houston, Texas who loved acting in local theater. 

Ladin said that he loved growing up Jewish and that going to services is still very much part of his life.

When he had his Bar Mitzvah in 1991, he wasn’t the least bit nervous, having prepared for it like a theater performance. After describing his Bar Mitzvah as one of his earliest successful stage/Bimah performances, Ladin discussed why he thinks live theater and in-person synagogue attendance will be returning to pre-pandemic levels soon.

“There’s an energy that’s palpable when you’re in a synagogue … when I want to hear a Cantor sing, I want to hear it — and not out of my computer speakers.”   

“There’s an energy that’s palpable when you’re in a synagogue,” Ladin said. “And I wish I could be in a room with casting directors and directors and work with them for all of the audition processes and not do that over Zoom. There’s just something, the three dimensions of it all that you miss, as opposed to the two dimensions you’re looking at on your computer screen. When I want to hear a Cantor sing, I want to hear it — and not out of my computer speakers.”

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is still in theaters. Ladin also can be seen in the 4th season of “Ozark” on Netflix.

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