Growing up in Columbia, Race Owen thought of himself as a shy, athletic student. He never imagined he’d be working as an actor, living in Los Angeles and starring in a hot TV series. But tonight at 7 p.m., viewers can watch the 31-year-old Hickman High School graduate on “American Heiress,” which airs on MyNetworkTV/Channel 28.
As a kid, Owen was more interested in cars than acting. “I never did any theater in high school. I was too shy and embarrassed,” Owen said. But he wasn’t too shy to become friends with NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, a Columbia native. The two got together around the same time Owen bought his first car — a hunter green 1968 Mustang — at age 16.
“We used to work on cars four to five days a week together, helping each other out,” Edwards said. “He’s a great guy. He’s extremely driven.” From building car engines to coming up with “spectacular” inventions, Owen is the kind of a guy who can do anything, Edwards said. Because of his varied talents, Edwards also said it is hilarious to see his best friend on television. “To me, it’s still amazing that we both are getting to live our dreams,” Edwards said. “His hard work motivates me.”
Edwards’ mother, Nancy Sterling, recalls the boys’ earlier years.
She first met Owen when he and her son raced radio-controlled cars at a local indoor track. “Soon after they met and developed their friendship, Race started taking acting classes in Kansas City, and Carl would go with him every Wednesday.”
The acting lessons paid off for Owen. Even though he plays the villain in “American Heiress,” Owen sees similarities between himself and his character, Damian.
“Well, there is probably more Damian in me than I want to admit,” Owen said. “I’m not a psychopath or on a war path to embezzle money, but everyone who is an actor has an element of their personal character in what you see on screen.”
Owen decided to do the show because of the nature of his character. “Playing the bad guy is the most fun that anyone can ever have,” Owen said.
No matter what role he plays, Owen always remains confident and dedicated.
“Race is very driven with aspirations in many different areas,” said Lacey Thorton, assistant publicist at Guttman Public Relations, the agency that represents Owen. “It will allow him to stand out in the Hollywood crowd and propel him into success.
Despite his move across the country, Race has remained humble and still visits Columbia twice a year.
“I love coming back to Columbia because it is a calmer way of life,” Owen said. “I like going to Shakespeare’s for pizza or wandering around Ninth Street.”
Owen added that Columbia doesn’t have the same level of anxiety as Los Angeles. “When I come back home, I feel like I’m running at full speed, and I have to put myself in neutral and slow myself down,” he said.
Owen is grateful for his childhood in Missouri, which he says taught him strong values that have been useful throughout his hectic life in California.
“I have to say, growing up in Missouri gave me a certain base for a value system and a certain base of normality,” Owen said.
Owen said he can go to Los Angeles and be crazy, but he knows he can always rely on a foundation at home.
Owen’s parents still live in Columbia. His father, R.L. Owen, is a carpenter and has a business carving wooden Santa Clauses in the winter. His mother, Barbara Owen, graduated from Columbia College with a degree in music and taught her first piano lesson at the age of 16. She thinks their sense of expression and artistic pursuits have influenced their son.
And his mother’s musical background has even carried over into her son’s career, too.
“I’m actually getting back into music,” said Race Owen, who compares his sound to artists such as Jack Johnson and James Blunt. “There are two times when I am really the happiest: first, when working in front of the camera; and second, when playing my own original music.”