Child actor finds ‘peaceful and structured life’ in Asheboro

By Savannah Cole

A bearded man often sits in the local coffee shop. He has blue eyes, dark hair and drives a black ’66 Mustang. Just by looking at him, people wouldn’t know that he was a childhood star.

Lane Toran, 37, is best known for his football-headed cartoon character, Arnold, from the television series “Hey Arnold!” He began acting when he was just 1 year old when he appeared in a J.C. Penney commercial.

At age 12, Toran booked his first lead role in the movie “Max is Missing.” Soon after, he became the voice of Arnold. He is also known for the voice of King Bob in the cartoon series “Recess.”

Toran became interested in acting as a kid. Both his parents were actors, so he got into the field at a young age.

His dad was on “Days of our Lives” for about a year and he did some other shows and movies. His mom did an episode on the original series “Beyond Westworld.” Toran had his first print agent by the age of 5 and his first voice-over agent by 11.

“I don’t know if I had a choice,” he chuckled.

Becoming Arnold

Toran loved cartoons as a child. “The Smurfs” and “Strawberry Shortcake” were his favorites. His mom would tape them on VHS and he would watch them over and over again.

He was beyond excited when his agent got him an audition for the voice of a character on the upcoming TV series “Hey Arnold!”

When Toran went in for auditions, he didn’t originally go in for the role of Arnold — that role had already been cast. When he finished the audition, they loved his voice so much that they decided to bring him back in for two or three more auditions to see if he could be their new Arnold.

When he got the call, he was ecstatic.

“I loved acting back then and it was sort of new to me,” he said, “so I was very excited when I found out that I was going to be the voice of Arnold.”

Being Arnold was “almost like playtime.” Toran went in once or twice a week to record. He got to hang out with the other kids that were doing voice-overs for other characters. They all became friends, so it didn’t feel like work to him.

Toran’s life was different than the average 12-year-old. He had to begin homeschooling in the seventh grade to accommodate his recording schedule.

Most of the time in an animated film or show, the actor comes in, records their part and leaves. But “Hey Arnold!” was different. Everyone came to record on the same day. Instead of doing the recordings in a booth by themselves, they all sat in a circle and recorded their parts together.

“Doing a voice-over is so much easier than acting in front of the camera,” Toran said.

Toran has done acting on- and off-camera, but found that he preferred doing voice-overs. When acting on-camera, the actors go through hair and makeup. When recording for animated works, actors come as they are. Since there’s not a camera pointed at them, they can always read off of the script if they forget their part, which is a privilege that on-camera actors don’t have.

Toran’s favorite episodes to record were “Arnold’s Christmas,” “Stoop Kid,” and “Breaking out Lockjaw”. He loved “Breaking out Lockjaw” because it was the episode where he and the grandma released the turtle from the zoo.

The actors that played Arnold’s grandparents were Dan Castellaneta and Tress Macneille, who both did voice-overs on the popular TV series “The Simpsons.” Castellaneta is the voice of Homer Simpson.

“It’s pretty cool that I got to work with so many talented people who went on to do shows and movies that are so popular,” Toran said.

“Hey Arnold!” was a great show for all ages — both children and adults loved it.

Sharon Culbreth, 45, remembers watching it when she was in her twenties.

“I remember the show very well,” she said. “I had my daughter in 1996 and remember watching it when I was at home with her after she was born.”

Sam Gribble, 20, said that he watched it when he was young.

“I remember watching it when I was little,” Gribble said. “Sometimes I still watch the re-runs.”

A change of scenery

Toran loved acting as a child, but when he was 16 he decided to take a break. He took a few more acting jobs until he made a big change in 2015.

He wanted to get away from the chaos of Los Angeles, so he moved to Asheboro, North Carolina, for a more “peaceful and structured life.”

“I’m not a huge fan of acting anymore,” Toran said. “I’d much rather be behind the camera.”

Recently, he directed, co-wrote, edited and colored an indie thriller called “Getaway.”

“The film is a typical horror film storyline but with many twists,” Toran said.

The movie will be available on iTunes and Amazon on April 14. Three to six months after it’s released, it will be available for streaming on Netflix.

Toran also creates Instagram content for various brands. When he isn’t behind the camera, he is working on his Mustang, Jolene, and blending in with the locals at his favorite coffee shop.

Edited by Anna Farmer