Chad Allen is probably best known for his portrayal of Matthew Cooper in “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” a role that made him an instant teen star of the ’90s. Allen has been consistently acting since the age of five, and he is still considered to be an in-demand actor 30 years later. Allen has proved that he is more than just a blond-haired, blue-eyed stud by morphing into a variety of different characters, such as the lovable son on “Our House” to a witty and stylish private eye in the “Donald Strachey” book series.
He was born on June 5, 1974, and grew up in Long Beach, California. Admitting that he grew up in a typical “great American dysfunctional family,” he is the youngest of his parents’ six children. Allen has four brothers and two sisters, one of whom is his twin sister.
“We are very close. We have always been very close,” Allen said. However, Allen’s parents were not the easiest to get along with while he was growing up. “My dad was very rigid in the way he raised us,” Allen said, but his mother was the complete opposite. “My mom was a very loving, stay-at-home mom. A real American apple-pie type of mom,” Allen said.
From the beginning, Allen’s family had faith in his abilities. “They were supportive of me. We did not come from a showbiz family at all. We were pretty much a suburban family. We did not know that much about Hollywood,” Allen said.
His mother would take him on auditions as a way of earning extra money for Allen’s future college fund. He never expected that anything would be able to come of it. At 5, being an actor was the last thing on Allen’s mind. Allen recalled a moment when his mother would say that “If I got the job, I could pick up a toy from the toy store. That was the most exciting thing to me at the end of the day.”
It wasn’t until after a few more years that acting became a major part of his life. “Working in Hollywood quickly became who I was, and it was pretty much a nonstop thing all the way through until adulthood,” he said.
According to Allen, growing as a teen idol in the ’90s felt sort of surreal. When he would walk down the street and people knew who he was, he said it was like “someone else people were talking about.” He seemed to handle his celebrity status well for a teenager.
Allen was noted as being in the same category with stars like Michael J. Fox and Corey Feldman, though he did not meet either one of them in person. “We did our own shows mostly,” Allen said. He was, however, once asked to replace Feldman on a film. Feldman could not finish the role of William Finn in the film, “Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Wojas Smart Story,” starring Helen Hunt. The storyline of the movie consists of an unhappy housewife who seduces a younger man and succeeds in pursuing him to kill her husband. Allen said that since Feldman was out of the picture, “They asked if I could come and do it. We had to reshoot everything.” The movie went on to be nominated by the American Cinema Editors for best edited television special.
“Our House” became Allen’s breakout role. He shared the small screen with fellow actors Wilford Brimley, Shannon Doherty and Deidre Hall for the series’ two-year run. Allen remembers the experience as “pretty exciting.” “It was something that I had been working towards for a really long time. To finally land a huge regular [role] on a new show was really quite fantastic and very exciting,” he said.
With being a co-star to the well-known actress Doherty, Allen was able to hold his ground and still has nothing but good things to say about that whole experience. “Shannon and I had some conflicts, but for the most part were kids. She was a little older than me; she was 16 and I was 13. We were kind of like a real family and I still have a lot of love for her,” Allen said.
However, Allen’s life was on the up and up, for the most part until 1996.
The event that stands out in Allen’s career the most would have to be when pictures of him and a guy [that he was dating at the time] kissing were published in a tabloid magazine. “I wasn’t ready to come out [of the closet]. I didn’t know what it meant. I was still too young, but in retrospect, it was one of those great turning points in my life and I am grateful for it,” Allen said.
Allen has also brought the character of Donald Strachey to life from the pages of author Richard Stevenson mystery series. Strachey is a detective who is living in upstate New York and who is also an openly gay man in a monogamous relationship. “I grew up watching old detectives movies with my dad,” said Allen. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to get into the movies that I used to watch [and portray a main character] that happens to be a gay guy. It was fun to show that part of my personality and show that gay [men] can be tough too.” Four films have been made so far and it is likely in the future that there will be more from the series.
In his spare time, Allen loves to swim and ride bikes. As a child, he has always had a fascination with the ocean. He is now in the process of obtaining a degree in marine biology and becoming certified as a scuba Instructor. As for the bike riding, he is now also preparing for his sixth ride in the AIDS/LifeCycle ride. It is a 600-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles that raises funds for HIV and AIDS research.
Allen has spent many years on the television screens of America, but he says that he has no plans to go back to it. With all of his new roles as a director, a diving instructor and a long-term partner to his boyfriend, actor Jeremy Glazer, Allen is a little too busy to commit to another television series.
“Anything is possible, but right now, I don’t have any plans for that,” Allen said. “I am working off-camera, but things can change, so we’ll see.”