Gwinnett County has a lot going for it, and now its residents can add another notch in their collective belt of accolades -- they may now proudly claim their community is home to a TV celebrity.
A 2009 graduate of Norcross High School, Chandler Massey has a starring role on NBC's "Days of Our Lives," a long-running daytime soap opera. He's the eldest son of Lewis (the former Secretary of State for Georgia) and Amy Massey, who live in Peachtree Corners along with their two other children.
Massey also has had roles on several TV shows including "Army Wives" and "One Tree Hill" and will be making his debut on the big screen in a teen comedy called "16 Love" (formerly titled "Smash"), due out later this year.
He's in Suwanee on Monday on a book tour to promote "Days Of Our Lives 45 Years: A Celebration In Photos," a compilation of behind-the-scenes pictures of the longest-running scripted show in NBC history. Massey and with will be at Suwanee's City Hall on Mon., March 21, 6-8 p.m.
"It's great being home," he said. "The show is on hiatus this week so I plan on hanging out with my family and play a little Ultimate Frisbee with friends." His plans also included returning to his alma mater over the weekend to catch the production of "Noises Off," a play presented by the high school's drama department.
Landing the role of Will Horton in NBC's daytime drama in December 2009 was "nerve racking, but a dream come true," said Massey, who never attended acting school before taking the TV role. It was the training he received from Norcross High School theater director Gina Parrish, who helped him hone his skills as an actor, he said.
"She believed in me. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be where I am today," he said earnestly. "Norcross has an outstanding theater program, I remember staying after school for sometimes six hours rehearsing for a play."
But it wasn't in high school where the acting bug first bit him, he said. His first venture into film came at his parents' home, where as a 4-year-old, he and his family would create family shows full of swashingbuckling antics.
Then in fifth grade he starred in his first play in the role of the villainous "Injun Joe" in the production of "The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
"I loved it. After that I was just hooked," Massey said.
It didn't take long for the talented young actor to land his TV role. After high school graduation in May, and with the help of an agent, Massey was reporting seven months later to California to the "Days of Our Lives" set.
He currently lives in Los Angeles and these days, his time is filled with rehearsals -- and when he has time -- classes at UCLA, where he's majoring in Chinese. College, he said, is his "back-up plan."
His days start early -- he rolls out of bed in time to make his 7 a.m. call time where he heads straight to hair and makeup, then by 8:45 a.m. taping starts. "We have one rehearsal, then one take," said Massey. "It's very fast paced; we cover over 100 pages a day."
Those first days on the set with veteran actors was "humbling, but cool," said Massey. "I love it, there's so much I can learn from them. I didn't realize how little I knew until I got on the show."
Massey admits he never watched the show until auditioning for the part. But when he learned that he had landed the job and would be playing the part of the oldest son of one of the show's main characters, Sami Brady, Massey said he started watching the TV show to prepare for the part.
Despite his TV fame, the 20-year-old is down to earth, he doesn't think of himself as a Hollywood star. "I really got lucky," he said of his TV role. But we all know luck will only take you so far -- stay tuned for more from this rising star.