Lucas Neff

Lucas Neff Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: November 7, 1985

Age: 38 years old

Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois

Lucas Neff became a surprise instant star of the fall 2010 network premiere season, drawing laughs and critical notice as a gawky, unexpectant father on the Fox sitcom "Raising Hope" (2010-14). A Chicago native, Neff established distinctive Windy City theatrical bona fides, graduating from the School of Steppenwolf and earning positive local media notices in a number of local stage productions.

In 2009, just 23 years old, he answered a national casting call for an upcoming project by Greg Garcia, and the producer zeroed on Neff as the lead of his quirky proletarian comedy "Raising Hope." Neff also snared his first feature film role in 2009 when venerable indie auteur John Sayles cast him in his latest period drama, "Amigo" (2010). Upon the premiere of "Hope" the following fall, the show, as well as Neff's turn as the earnest but clueless parent, earned a raft of critical praise. Still relatively unknown, Neff's vault into the national limelight saw him listed on a number of fall 2010 network previews as a talent to watch.

Lucas Neff grew up in Chicago, IL, the son of attorney and author Alan Neff and Meade Palidofsky, a playwright and founder of Chicago's Storycatchers Theatre, an organization in which stage professionals work with teen talents to combine social issues with theater. Raised in so creative an environment, Lucas by his teen years showed enough of an academic aptitude to test into the city's selective magnet school, the Whitney Young Magnet High School, one of the top-rated secondary institutions in the country.

By the end of his high school days, he aspired to a career in filmmaking, specifically cinematography, which he planned to study it at the University of Illinois-Chicago until the school misfiled his paperwork and rerouted him to its performing arts department. His drama-inclined mother encouraged him take it as a sign, and out of self-professed laziness, he gave the theatrical program a go and found his calling.

Neff appeared in a number of UIC productions, including "Angels in America" and Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and "King Lear." He graduated in 2008 with a BFA in performance art; went on to study at The School of Steppenwolf, the adjunct school of the famed Chicago theatrical company; and performed in a series of local stage productions such as Collaboraction's Theater Company's "Jon" and Chicago Dramatists' "Lucinda's Bed."

He also won a small part in the short-lived A&E-produced series starring Patrick Swayze in his final role, "The Beast" (2009), which was shot in Chicago. In the meantime, he worked various jobs to pay the rent, at one point canvassing for an environmentalist lobby and cleaning houses. It was during this period he heard about a talent search for a project by Greg Garcia, creator of the one-time NBC hit single-cam comedy, "My Name Is Earl" (2005-09).

Garcia cast a nationwide net, looking for new talent to be the centerpiece of his new show, "Raising Hope," that was in many ways like his previous hit: a zany, unabashedly tableau of lower-class America. Garcia singled Neff's video out of over 500 auditions and asked him to come to L.A., where he read with his prospective onscreen parents, Martha Plimpton, playing his gruff, hilariously mercenary cleaning-woman mom, and Garret Dillahunt as his stoic, dry-witted pool-cleaning dad.

Neff won the role of Jimmy Chance, a dorky, directionless but well-meant slacker who enjoys a one-night stand with a woman who turns out to be a sociopath on a crime spree, and who would later gave birth to his child in prison. When he decides to raise the baby in the wake of her execution, he must contend with his mother who wants him to drop it at the fire station and his own utter incompetence, as evinced in his discovery that he is supposed to strap the child seat into the car and not just have the baby careening around the backseat.

Neff also found himself abruptly starring alongside comedy great Cloris Leachman, playing his dementia-addled grandmother who occasionally tries to make out with Jimmy.

With that project not slated for air until fall 2010, Neff landed a part as a young American soldier in John Sayles' ensemble drama, "Amigo," a tale set amid the forgotten quagmire of the Philippine-American war at the turn of 20th century. Starting in late summer 2010, Fox put "Raising Hope" on a heavy promotional rotation anticipating and receiving consistently positive notices.

With all major outlets following suit, The L.A. Times' review lauded Neff for imbuing his Jimmy Chance with "depth and hilarity." At the same time, "Amigo" premiered on the circuit of international film festivals, including Toronto and London, in the fall of 2010, marking a double triumph for the relative newcomer.

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