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'Giant'-Size Aspirations

Nick Spangler (Courtesy Signature Theatre)

The airwaves are filled with serious actors who turn to TV work to subsidize their earnest stage careers. That's sort of Nick Spangler's situation, with a couple differences.

The TV work he took on last year was reality TV -- competing, with his sister Starr, on CBS's "The Amazing Race." And it was a nice subsidy, all right: They won the race, and a prize of $1 million.

And now, after being watched by 10 million viewers a night, he's back to being an ordinary working

Nick Spangler and sister Starr in their official "Amazing Race" team photo. (AP Photo/CBS, Monty Brinton)Enlarge Image

actor, currently wrapping a run in "Giant" at Arlington's Signature Theatre, with a max audience of 276 people a night. Spangler plays three smallish roles, from a Texas cowboy to a British lord, in the musical that closes Sunday.

Unlike many actors in the reality TV ranks, Spangler, 24, says he didn't do "Race" to launch his career. "I got a lot of flak from people who don't know me for being on the 'Race' as an actor: 'He's just looking for his five minutes of fame,' " he said. "But I was relatively established

Nick Spangler in "Giant" at Signature Theatre. (Scott Suchman)

in New York before the race," having starred in "The Fantasticks" off-Broadway for two years. Why'd he and his sister go on the show? "We've always been fans" of it, he said.

Did his acting skills help in the round-the-world race? (They beat 10 other teams to the finish line.) Well, there was that controversial moment at Angkor Wat, when he threw off the other teams by convincingly lying about looking for a clue he had already found. "As an actor, it's about being observant," he said. "In the race, it's about taking in information and processing and being observant."

Now it's back to the struggles of a working actor -- albeit one who can afford to close on condo in N.Y.C. and has a tad more recognition: When Spangler walked into the auditions for "Giant," he told us, composer and lyricist Michael LaChiusa exclaimed, "I am your biggest fan!" You never know who watches reality TV.

By The Reliable Source  |  May 29, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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