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

Living ‘without fear’ on the streets of Orange County

By Julia Masters

Shivering on a sidewalk bench, Aurelio DiScala wept.

The wooden planks provided no warmth, no shelter. Freezing tears streamed down toward his beard tied into uneven sections with neon rubber bands. She was supposed to be here by now, DiScala thought through his exhaustion. It was his third night in a row without sleep.

She had told him over breakfast at the Waffle House that she still loved him. She said that she would come for him tonight — so where was she?

It wasn’t until later the next day that he realized they’d never spoken. There had been no breakfast of smothered and covered hash browns. No confession of love or promise of a future.

It was all a hallucination.

This happened soon after DiScala’s arrival to Chapel Hill two months ago. Since then, the scruffy ‘metaphysical shaman’ set up camp in no man’s land outside the Red Roof Inn in Durham. The camp is at the end of the line on the Chapel Hill Transit D Route, making for an easy commute to Franklin Street.

An estimated 131 people are experiencing homelessness in Orange County, according to a report by Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness.

“People are homeless for three reasons: because they can’t work, won’t work or choose to be,” DiScala said. “I’m all three.”

The Norwalk, Connecticut, native graduated Apex High School in 1999 and attended UNC Charlotte for two years. He then transferred to UNC Wilmington, where he studied computer science, played rugby and started smoking marijuana.

Through the years he worked for General Electric Power, Kenan Flagler Institute of Private Enterprise and played semi-professional rugby for the Atlanta Old White Rugby Club. He has waited tables, rolled pizza dough, gone to Europe and Turkey on soul searching quests and lead cults of metaphysical thinkers, including one in Carrboro. He has also been diagnosed with ADHD, depression and delusional disorders.

Glancing down at the ground, he noticed a rusted razor blade. He Picking it up, he was torn between carefully placing it in his book bag or throwing it away, like invisible forces were playing a game of tug-of-war with his body. He chose to throw it away, because every time he gets a pain on the right side of his nose, it’s his spirit guiding him toward the right decision.

DiScala said that due to his diagnoses, he cannot hold down a job and work normal hours like most 38-year-old men.  Beyond this, he chooses homelessness.

“The homeless population with diagnosed mental conditions have problems getting jobs just like felons,” Annie, a Carrboro resident who mentors the homeless, said. “In some cases, the homeless could get off the street; some want the negative freedom to be out all night, drink, commit crimes and justify it by being homeless.”

Part of the family

DiScala chose Chapel Hill as his home base because of its “gentle feminine energy.” There are no territory wars when it comes to the best spots to position on Franklin Street.

There are no laws prohibiting panhandling and the IFC Community Kitchen serves three course meals, making Chapel Hill a haven for DiScala.

Annie said that the longer a person remains homeless, the closer they feel to the street community. Many of Chapel Hill’s homeless become recognizable on the street, adopted into a new makeshift family.

“Rick! Rick! Where have you been?” DiScala shouted.

“Hey man! What are you up to?” Rick, a recent UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and fellow member of the homeless community, responded.

DiScala stepped into a store and returned with a pack of India pale ales. Rick pulled out two inconspicuous disposable coffee cups from his bag. He ventured into the nearest alley and poured the beer into the cups.

Rick and DiScala sat back, sipped their beers and laughed over somewhat crude conversation, similar to what one might witness walking by fraternity court on a sunny day. Except these men were sitting on the ground, thinking of when their next meal would be.

When worlds collide

Annie compared the student and homeless population in Chapel Hill to two ships passing by one another on their way to different worlds. While she does not believe it is necessary to interact, she thinks students should be aware of the misconceptions surrounding homeless individuals.

“I feel like I usually walk quickly past them or try to avoid eye contact,” Justin King, a junior neuroscience major at UNC-CH, said. “I feel like if I make eye contact I’ll feel more guilty about not giving them money.”

Sometimes interactions between the two ships are less mundane.

Walking home from work one afternoon, junior Isabella Gonzalez realized she was being followed. She noticed that a homeless man she’d passed leaving the ITS office was still behind her as she veered off onto Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Panicking, Gonzalez sped up and frantically dialed her mom’s number. She only hung up after making it to Mill Creek, where the man stopped and watched her walk into the building.

Annie said that the key to the balance between Chapel Hill’s two worlds is to encourage students to treat the homeless with humanity.

DiScala holds a crumpled “Homeless, please help” sign on the street. His long, frizzy curls partially cover a pink scar he got in Mexico defending his girlfriend. He appears stand-offish to those that peer sideways at him as they walk by.

They know he is homeless. They know he is probably hungry and in need of a shower. They assume he has struggled with substance abuse and made terrible life decisions.

They don’t know he recites phrases in ancient Greek and Latin. They don’t know he created and coded his own video game. They don’t know that while science fiction movies are his favorites, Sex and the City holds a special place in his heart. They don’t know that he is a Cancer and his favorite time of year is the fall. They don’t know that he’s been in love.

“You can get very very depressed living on the streets, lose your will to live and start going through the motions,” Annie said. “The problem is when someone doesn’t have something bigger than themselves to believe in.”

DiScala said that he uses a different tactic to endure life on the streets: “I live without fear, act without fear, I never run.”

Edited by Anna Farmer.