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Excel Entertainmenttrisha Rohde
Actor Kirby Heyborne played a role in the 2003 movie "Saints and Soldiers."

Ideally, Kirby Heyborne would provide for his family and earn a living by making the type of LDS Church-sanctioned films that are shown in Legacy Theater on Temple Square.

"If I could do those for the rest of my life, and make enough money to support my family, I would do that in a heartbeat," the Mormon film star said in a phone interview Monday. "But in reality, there's no way."

The 31-year-old father of two said he doesn't live in an ideal world. He lives in Los Angeles, where audition call-backs are few and far between, and a job filming a TV commercial can determine whether an actor's family has health insurance.

Heyborne is arguably the most recognizable actor of the LDS genre. His squeaky clean, suited image in films like "The R.M." and "The Best Two Years" have become the encyclopedic face of a Mormon missionary. So when the Wyoming- and Utah-raised actor stood impatiently in the background of a beer commercial recently, his fan base took notice, and the blogs have been a-chatter since.

Some think he's gone off the deep end, others say they're disappointed, some think he'll be to blame should their children eventually drink alcohol.

Heyborne points out there is a difference between the man and the characters an actor plays.

"I'm a temple-worthy member that loves his wife and kids, and fulfills his calling at church and does his home teaching," he said. "And yet I'm going to play characters that might have moral dilemmas, or do a commercial — or whatever it is — because my job is the way that I provide for my family."

Just because he's an easily recognized man on the streets of Utah doesn't mean he's a household name elsewhere. And though it may come as a surprise to those who own all his films, he says he's not rolling in cash.

"People in my old neighborhood, when I lived in Sandy ... thought that I was a millionaire," he said. "People think that since you're in a movie you make millions of dollars.

"I still have to struggle," sometimes going on 100 auditions before locking in a performing job, he said.

So when the writers' strike was in full swing last winter, and rumblings of a summertime actors' strike were spreading through Hollywood, he saw the offer to do a Miller Lite beer commercial as a great opportunity.

"I look at it as Heavenly Father was blessing me with a way to support my family and stay afloat for another year," he said.

That's not to say he went about accepting the job lightly. Both he and his wife, Trish, discussed their options, knowing that some observers were going to be vocally upset if he chose to do the commercial.

"I sat down with my wife and we said, 'This is a hard decision, what are we going to do? Do we take this and earn money to support the family for the year?"'

Heyborne opted to take the role, in which he stands in the background of the shot wearing a sweater vest and a slightly longer hair style than he did when he played LDS characters. A cast mate in the foreground puts his ear to the pavement, then estimates the distance to a party where Miller Lite is being served. Heyborne's speaking part consists of him saying "Come on, man."

"People think I endorse beer now, which isn't the case. I don't advocate anyone drinking," he said. "I've never drank before in my life. What's funny is that the other guy that's in the commercial with me, he's never tasted alcohol either."

Heyborne's feature acting roles have certainly garnered the most attention — he was on a short-lived FOX series titled "Free Ride" in 2006 — but he's also working on a music career, a featured component of his Web site, and is a narrator for audio books. Heyborne said he recently recorded his 31st audio book and has done titles including "Black Swan Green" and "Cloud Atlas" by English author David Mitchell.

His fourth album, which doesn't have a title yet, is due for release in September. He drew his inspiration for the CD from his experience with loved ones' struggles with cancer.

"(It's about) approaching life and enjoying every moment that you can," he said. He'll be at a release party on Sept. 29 at the Covey Center in Provo.

Heyborne has also filmed a Snickers candy bar commercial, also due out in September, with the 1980s TV and film star Mr. T.

"But there's chocolate in it, so people might get upset about it because there's caffeine in (chocolate)," he said with a laugh.


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