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SIMPLY JESSICA: Talking surfing and fatherhood with actor Henry Dittman

Henry Dittman was suffering as an actor. He had been in Los Angeles for four years and things were not happening for him professionally. He was working a day job at a talent agency.

Dittman was auditioning, but was starting to think it was not going to happen for him as an actor. He contemplated leaving Los Angeles.

He was just days away from leaving, when a close friend of his encouraged him to learn how to surf. The struggling actor went to a surf shop, bought a used surfboard and a wet suit and got in the water and just started catching waves.

“Surfing is solely responsible for my career,” Dittman added.

The Florida native would surf eight out of nine days. He would get up at 5 a.m. to surf. Surfing became an outlet for his nervous energy.

Dittman believes that it was the near-drowning experiences of surfing that brought clarity to him in his auditions.

“I would see a dolphin two feet from me and a shark the next day,” Dittman said. “I would ride on the surface of the water. I would have these massive ups and downs. California waves are no joke.”

It was being underwater long enough to have a conscience thought that if he didn’t get a breath soon that he might drown that gave Dittman the confidence he needed on auditions.

“I would be sitting in the room with casting directors,” Dittman said. “I couldn’t listen to them and not think about the fact that I had nearly died underwater earlier that day was so real that their approval and judgment meant less to me.”

Surfing helped Dittman be present in his auditions.

“I learned that the casting directors were not trying to judge me,” Dittman said. “They wanted me to feel loose, relaxed and in the moment.  Surfing gave that to me.”

Eighteen years later, Dittman continues to surf every chance he gets. He is now a first-time father who is currently playing a father on Nickelodeon’s “100 Things To Do Before High School.”

The show was created by Scott Fellows, who also created “Big Time Rush.” The casting director of “Big Time Rush” got to know Dittman when he came in four times to audition for “Big Time Rush.”

“It was never quite a fit because of my schedule and the role,” Dittman said. “It was Scott Fellow’s idea to think outside the box and hire me for the father role on ‘100 Things.’”

Dittman has a daughter in real life, so this is a dream role to play.

“I feel like he is not your standard show idiotic father,” Dittman said. “He is the silly goofy comic relief on the show. If someone is getting hit with something it is usually the dad.”

Unlike Dittman, who has one child, Fellows is a father of three kids.

“Scott has entrusted me with telling his story to a certain extinct,” Dittman said. “As a new father, I have learned a lot from Scott through conversations we have had about being a dad.”

Henry Dittman plays the father of three on Nickelodeon's '100 Things to Do Before High School. (Courtesy photo)
Henry Dittman plays the father of three on Nickelodeon’s ‘100 Things to Do Before High School.
(Courtesy photo)

Dittman plays a doctor named Mr. Martin on “100 Things To Do Before High School,” which is the story of three friends growing up in middle school trying to make the most of that journey.

“The Martin family is a standard American family that gives their kids the freedom to be who they are while still trying to guide them in the direction of making good moral choices and building a positive character for themselves,” Dittman added.

Dittman thinks of his real-life daughter in the future.

“C.J. and I are partners in crime,” Dittman said. “Mr. Martin is the fun-loving fool and the mom sometimes is the bad guy. I can say that we have the opposite relationship at my house. I will be the one to put my foot down and be the foil to my wife’s and daughter’s conspiracies.”

Dittman feels lucky to be working with Fellows on the show.

“Scott has created a show that has good things to say,” Dittman said. “It’s not poking fun at different kids. I feel like we have a message for young kids that will help them in their daily lives. It is exciting to see someone create a show that has a positive message for kids.”

It was the Nickelodeon show “You Can’t Do That on Television” that inspired Dittman to be an actor. He watched the show everyday.

“It is so thrilling to work on this network now as an adult,” he said.

Dittman sees a resemblance in his television daughter to his real life daughter. The 100 things set has photos of him holding his real baby.

“I see a lot of my daughter in Isabela Moner,” he added.

This military brat who traveled the world as a child has a list of 100 things that he wants to show his daughter.

“After traveling so much as a child and a young adult,” Dittman said, “I want to drive cross country with my family and see the corners of the world that the average kid does not get to see.”

Dittman said the only two things that get him down about having his first child in his early 40s is not being able to sleep in and not being able to surf all the time.

“I had spent years studying yoga and other spiritual growth trying to find stillness,” Dittman said. “I never achieved it until I found myself sitting on a board bopping up and down. Surfing saved me.”

Be yourself. I’m Simply Jessica JcAden. You can reach me at jess.gosnell@gmail.com.