Family Ties: Doc Porter grew up performing, and now he’s on stage with his mother

Doc Porter and his mother, Dana, in rehearsal for Homewood Theatre’s “On Golden Pond.” (Photo/Camille Voiles)

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories, Family Ties, about young actors whose parents are part of the theater community in Birmingham.

At 14, Homewood’s Doc Porter is already a veteran of stage and screen.

He started doing commercials at age 4, following in the footsteps of his father, Lars, and mother, Dana. Lars grew up doing theater and commercials with his uncle, Norton Dill, and Dana is a familiar face to both TV audiences, for her commercial work, and theater audiences.

Beginning this week, Dana and Doc play mother and stepson in Homewood Theatre’s production of “On Golden Pond,” which also stars Howard Green and Debbie Smith. It runs through April 21.

Doc took a break from rehearsals to answer some questions about his family and his acting work.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Right now, I’m running outdoor track like my dad. When I’m not in rehearsal, you can find me in class (advanced English is my favorite) or at track practice. I’m also involved in Boy Scouts and show choir in Homewood. I’ll start high school next year.

Doc Porter on the set of 2020’s “Saving Grayson.” (Photo courtesy of Dana Porter)

When did you first begin performing?

My earliest “show business” memory is filming a commercial with my mom at age 4. My great uncle, Norton Dill, produced and directed it. I got to act like a superhero, and he showed me all his camera equipment. 

What is it about acting that appeals to you?

Honestly, I have loved theatre from the first time I stepped on the stage. (My stage debut was at age 10 with Birmingham Festival Theatre in “Our Town.”) I like acting because each experience provides a different perspective. You get to explore new characters and stories with each project. Sometimes you get to play serious roles, and sometimes you get to be the comic relief. Last summer, I played the role of Doug (in Disney’s “Descendants”). This was my favorite character to play because he was the comic relief, which gave this role a fun atmosphere. Other roles I have tackled include Tommy Djilas in “The Music Man” and Young William Bloom in “Big Fish.” “Big Fish” was my first musical, and it opened the weekend that the world shut down for COVID. The author came to opening night! We met him, and he autographed a copy of the book for my brother and me. 

What has been your favorite acting experience?

My favorite acting experience was “HONK, Jr.” at the Virginia Samford Theatre because it was my first chance at playing a lead role. I learned that it’s a lot of work, but I also enjoyed getting more stage time and being in the Star dressing room. The cast was also awesome, which made it a lot of fun.

Doc and Dana Porter in the dressing room during “The Music Man.”

Tell me a little bit about your family’s performing background.

My dad grew up doing community theater and commercial work in Birmingham as a young boy. He also did Birmingham Boys Choir. My mom was a musical theater major at Birmingham-Southern College. (That’s where they met.) She also went on to live in New York and to tour Asia with “The Sound of Music.” They’ve been in one show together. It was “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Virginia Samford Theatre. They started rehearsals the day they returned from their honeymoon. I haven’t been on stage with them, but I’ve been in commercials with both my mom and dad and my middle brother. (Doc’s siblings are 13-year-old Boyd and 5-year-old Arthur).  I’ll be on stage with my mom for the first time in “On Golden Pond.” We play opposite each other. It makes the process easier because she’s my mom and we already have a connection. My character, Billy, is similar to me because we’re the same age, but I would say that’s the only real similarity.

Do you have a preference when it comes to stage or screen acting?

I like acting on stage versus acting on screen equally. Performing on stage is cool because you have a live audience – but you have to make sure you know your lines because you only get one shot with each performance. Acting on screen is something that is permanent, so you have to make sure you capture exactly what you need to portray. So sometimes there is more pressure there. Something I haven’t done but would like to try one day is voiceover work. 

Will you continue acting?

As far as long-term goals, I think acting is a great hobby, but I don’t see myself doing it as a full-time job. I know there are a lot of skills to gain from performing, so hopefully that can help me out in the future. Right now, I’m learning to balance rehearsals with schoolwork and practices. Learning lines comes easy to me. The rest is not too tough, but sometimes I have to sacrifice doing some of the things I want to do in my spare time to make it work.

What’s next for you?

Once “On Golden Pond” closes, I start rehearsals for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” opening this summer at the Virginia Samford Theatre.

“On Golden Pond” runs April 11-21 at Homewood Theatre.

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