With a mixed bag of creativity in his DNA, it was almost predestined that Tristan Lake Leabu would wind up in the spotlight. “My parents were both models but my dad, Jeff, is also a guitarist, a singer and an artist,” explains the lanky 17-year-old. “When I was growing up, he worked for the art departments of studios, building sets, so he’s an amazing carpenter. He taught me how to play chords on the guitar and put the taste in my mouth for ’60s and ’70s rock and roll, blues, folk and jazz.”
Leabu’s mother, Jennifer, sings, plays the piano and once had a career in acting, which enticed her son to follow the same path. “She would go on auditions but have to take me along because my dad was working,” he recalls. “When I was 5 years old, I asked her if I could get my own auditions and it all started rolling from there.”
More like soaring. After competing against over 100,000 kids, Leabu was cast as the Man of Steel’s young son, Jason, in Superman Returns, which starred Brandon Routh (ex-Seth, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) as the title character, along with Kate Bosworth and James Marsden (“I looked enough like all three that it worked”). The longish tresses Leabu was sporting at the time of his audition played in his favor. “For the longest time my mom actually cut my hair,” he shares. “But Bryan Singer, the director, said, ‘Don’t cut his hair. Don’t touch it. I love it. It’s perfect.’ ”
During filming, Leabu fondly recalls “everybody treating me really well and not speaking to me like a baby, but there were days when I didn’t feel like working because I was so young.” Although the 2006 movie debuted to mixed reviews, Leabu is still proud of his first professional acting job. “It’s a beautiful love story,” he notes. “It’s not violent or too much of an action film because it’s really story-driven. I’m honored that I was a part of it.”
While his parents eventually dropped out of the entertainment biz (“My dad’s primarily a fine artist and woodworker with his own studio, and my mom is a jewelry designer”), Leabu continued to appear in movies and TV. “My childhood was pretty wonderful because I’ve been in the industry for so long that it’s just been normal,” he reflects. “Both of my parents have been really supportive and proactive in all of my endeavors. I’ve always gone to public schools, and the teachers have been very understanding about me making up for time when I had to work. I’m not in school anymore because I graduated two years early.”
Landing the role of moody 15-year-old Reed was Leabu’s first foray into daytime, and it’s a genre he immediately found refreshing. “The way that soaps operate is so different from any TV show or film that I’ve done,” he enthuses. “It’s exhilarating because you don’t do very many takes compared to a movie, where you sit there and you do the same scene for two or three hours just to get all the angles and everybody’s coverage. A soap set already has many cameras, so you get everyone’s coverage at once and you can bust out a scene in one take. It helps you stay focused and excited to keep going through your day. Nothing’s ever tedious.”
Leabu also feels Reed’s teen angst has true-to-life resonance. “I think how he’s experimenting with things, like drinking, and what he’s putting his mother through is very well-written,” opines the actor. “I really enjoy playing those things. I don’t know if I was ever rebellious like him. I don’t consider myself tame but I never really rebelled.”
Though he looks forward to some things changing on his 18th birthday this August (“I’m finally getting my driver’s license and maybe finding my own place”), Leabu is happy to live in the here and now. “It’s definitely been a fun and positive experience,” he sums up. “Every day I leave there feeling really good and looking forward to what’s ahead for Reed.”
Did You Know?
• For his Superman Returns role, Leabu won a 2007 Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film by a Supporting Young Actor.
• You can watch him sing and play guitar during different phases of his life on YouTube.
• He is learning to be a luthier, which is someone who makes and repairs stringed instruments.
Though Reed clashes with his exasperated mother, Victoria, Leabu’s relationship with her portrayer, Amelia Heinle (r.), is much better. “Oh, my God, I have so much fun working with her!” he declares. “Even though we’re in really intense scenes, we bust out laughing. It’s hilarious. Our characters are going back and forth, yelling and arguing, but when we hear ‘Cut!’, we just burst into laughter. We’ve got a good relationship”.
He feels the same way about Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) and Eric Braeden (Victor). “My ‘grandparents’ are really great people,” Leabu praises. “I love them. Any day I get to work with them is a good day. Melody is amazing and sweet and so funny. In between takes, we share stories and she’s told me about her experience working on the show. She’s also impressed by my musical taste. She was like, ‘I can’t believe that’s the stuff you listen to! How old are you?’ And Eric is really interesting. I enjoy his company and he’s so professional. I’ve learned a lot from watching them all work.”
Just The Facts
Birthday: August 19
Born And Raised: Los Angeles, CA
Say What? Leabu is pronounced La-boo.
Known As: “My first name was because my dad was reading Tristan and Isolde at the time my mom found out she was pregnant with me. My mom is from Lubbock, Texas, where there’s a lot of lakes around. That’s where she got the idea for my middle name.”
Rug Rat: Leabu has a little sister, Aria Lyric Leabu, 8, who’s an actress.
Play It Again: In addition to guitar, he plays the mandolin and harmonica, as well
as “bad” drums and piano.
Downtime: “I’m an avid record collector, I like sketching nature, writing poetry and songs, and I’m also a bicyclist.”
Pet Set: “We’ve got two little dogs. We found our Rat Terrier running around in Koreatown and named him Jet. The other one is a Corgi I found a couple of years ago. He just ran up to me at this park and I called my mom, so she came and picked him up. His name is Leroy.”