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WESTERLY — Charles “Chaz “Ahern has brushed elbows with Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s modeled high-end Calvin Klein underwear. He recently finished working on the commercial for this year’s Shark Week on Discovery Channel, and even made a guest appearance in it.
Despite his impressive résumé of experiences, however, Ahern still remembers his roots growing up in Westerly.
In fact, his nickname was coined at his first job at the Blockbuster on Granite Street, where he was told to put a name on his name tag that “didn’t use up too much ink.” His mom, Lynn Ahern, had been calling him Chaz for a while, but it was at this local store that the real “Chaz” was born.
Actor, musician, model, writer, and producer are all hats that Ahern has worn in the five years he’s been living in Los Angeles. Even growing up in Westerly, though, he said he was always doing theater.
After graduating from Westerly High School in 2004, Ahern attended the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga., where he studied fine arts and performing arts with minors in musical theater and dance.
“He probably would have wanted to head out to L.A. right after high school,” said Lynn Ahern. “But I insisted that he go to school, and he granted me that wish.”
Having fulfilled his mother’s wishes by 2008, Chaz headed out to L.A.
“It was really different,” he said. “It was a really big culture shock. I’ve been here for five years, but I feel like I’ve really only come to appreciate and enjoy it in the last half a year or so.”
According to Ahern, the competitive environment of the big city was frustrating and sometimes discouraging. He said one thing that has helped him persevere is a piece of advice Kevin Bacon gave him when they crossed paths while running at 5 a.m. in Hollywood.
“He told me, ‘The first year, you get to know L.A. The second year, L.A. gets to know you,’” Ahern said. “That’s really true in this business, I think. Small accomplishments are big out there.”
Among his many accomplishments is earning his first role in a feature film as a waiter in the comedy “Date Night,” starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell. He has also made guest appearances on numerous TV shows, including Disney’s “The Wizards of Waverly Place” and “Glee,” and had a regular role on TBS’ “Glory Daze,” which was canceled halfway through its first season. He was recognized at Spike TV’s 2010 Guys Choice Awards for best comedic performance by a guest star in a children’s show, which is where he sat at a table with Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and “The Rock.”
“When he won that award on Spike TV, that’s when I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s going to do this,’” said Lynn Ahern.
Ahern was also cast in a scene in “The Amazing Spider-Man” that didn’t make the final cut. He explained that instances like this are somewhat frequent in the entertainment industry, where projects are canceled, directors change and everything is constantly in flux.
“You get attached to projects and then they go away,” Ahern said. “You have to move on if you can.”
Ahern returned home to Rhode Island last week on his way back from a shoot in New York. Since moving to L.A., he said he has only been able to return home a handful of times.
“It’s difficult sometimes watching him on TV shows because we miss him so much,” Lynn Ahern said.
Larry Ahern, Chaz’s father, added that the first time the family was able to get together in five years was this past Christmas.
These sacrifices can add strain to his career, Ahern said, but he plans to continue pursuing his dream.
“I just want to be a great actor, not necessarily rich or famous,” he said.
He added that he does not often review his own work, because he finds too many faults with himself.
“It’s about catering to the audience, not to yourself,” he said.
To that end, he said he defines being a great actor as truly keeping the audience entertained.
“You’re asking someone to give you their most precious thing: their time,” he said. “Whether it’s to listen, to laugh, to let you sway them.”
Ahern said making people laugh is always one of his main goals as an entertainer, and that Jim Carey was his idol growing up. He also idolized superheroes, and described himself as a “comic book nerd.” Hence, he said is dream role would be to play a superhero.
“Being a superhero, you’re bound by a set of rules when you’re playing the character,” Chaz said. “It makes it much more of a challenge from an acting point of view.”
Looking forward, Ahern said he plans to spend more time focusing on live theater and music as his band prepares to open at the House of Blues in West Hollywood for a show in the early fall.
“He’s realizing his dream and he’s happy,” said Lynn Ahern. “That’s all we want.”
“And a big movie star role would be nice too, of course,” Larry Ahern added.