Column: San Diego has a new hockey star


Noah Baird had just finished a first-period test last March when his mother showed up at his Carlsbad high school to take him out of class to an ice skating rink in Mira Mesa.

It was his callback audition for Season 2 of “The Mighty Ducks — Game Changers,” a Disney-branded TV series, produced by ABC Signature. His parents needed to make a video of him skating, and there was no time to waste.

Noah had already read for the role of the little brother of the hockey camp star.

It didn’t matter that the Southern California surfer had never played hockey. That wasn’t a game changer for him because, in addition to surfing, he dances, skateboards, snowboards and plays other sports that require agility and balance.

Carlsbad junior Noah Baird, 16, is more into surfing than hockey, a sport he had to play for a “Mighty Ducks” Disney+ TV series this fall.

(Courtesy photo)

His family submitted the skating video, and two days later Noah learned he had gotten the part.

Producers gave him one week to relocate to the film set in Santa Clarita, where he took a “crash” course in playing hockey. He had to learn the game in two-hour sessions scheduled over two weeks.

Such is the life of an actor — and Noah, 16, has been one since he was 4.

He has appeared in the Broadway show, “Matilda the Musical,” and a New York production of “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” in which he played the annoying brother of star character Ralphie Parker, who coveted a Red Ryder air rifle.

He co-starred in Fox TV’s one-night show, “A Christmas Story: Live” in 2017. And he appeared as young Tommy in the 2019 La Jolla Playhouse one-night benefit concert of “The Who’s Tommy,” a musical that originated at the Playhouse. And these are just a few of his shows.

His LA agent, Domina Holbeck says Noah is marketable because of his confidence and charisma and his willingness to put in the work. “This industry is very competitive, and he works hard on his craft,” Holbeck says.

Noah’s mom, Becky Baird, admits family sacrifices have been made — adjusting work schedules, canceling events, postponing family trips and calling on extended family and friends for last-minute help. But it has led to family adventures across the country and many new friends.

Noah loves theatre, but the one aspect of acting he doesn’t care for is the unpredictability of his life. “It completely interrupts everything. You put every part of your life on hold in a matter of seconds to do it.”

He auditions a couple of times a week. But when the “Mighty Ducks” role came through, he had to put normalcy aside and scramble to work out a new class schedule with his teachers, put sports and other activities on hold (including missing a state surfing competition) and hastily make living arrangements in the LA area.

His mother, a youth theater director and freelance musical theater coach, and his father, a web architect for Paramount Streaming’s Pluto TV, are fully supportive. But it’s getting harder, not easier, now that Noah is heading into Sage Creek High School’s 11th grade with more advanced courses and more time-consuming homework.

On the set, he was given three hours to cram in a full school day of classes, including homework.

When Noah was interviewed by my UT colleague Pam Kragen in 2017, he said acting would always be part of his life, but he was dreaming of a career as a pro-surfer, a chemist, or a race car designer.

Five years later, Noah is focusing on a science career — biochemistry and molecular biology, in particular. His grandfather, Stephen Baird, is a UC San Diego professor emeritus of pathology, and this summer Noah has been observing research work involving bacteria and transport proteins in a UCSD molecular lab.

He plans to attend a college offering a strong biochemistry and molecular biology program.

“Being a professional actor is a very inconsistent job. Most actors do a side job. I want something I can be happy doing every day,” he explains.

When I spoke to the actor, who turns 17 in December, he was about to leave for vacation in Hawaii, a rare treat for a kid who is on a whirlwind work schedule.

In his down time, he says he likes watching TV shows, such as Netflix’s “Zach Stone is Gonna’ be Famous,” “Stranger Things” and shows that his friends are acting in just to see them perform.

“Stranger Things” is one. He has appeared with some of the cast members or their siblings, and they have become a close-knit acting family.

Mitchell Sink, the brother of Sadie Sink who plays Max in “Stranger Things,” acted in “A Christmas Story” with him. And he was in “Matilda the Musical” with Gabriella Pizzolo, who plays Susie, the girlfriend of “Stranger Things'” main character, Dustin.

Filming is complete on “Mighty Ducks — Game Changers,” which debuts Sept. 28 on the Disney+ streaming network, with Josh Duhamel as coach, replacing Emilio Estevez from Season 1. Noah’s character is nicknamed “Fries” because his brother, a self-assured and arrogant hockey player, is the main course, and Fries is merely a side dish.

“We hope there is a Season 3 and, of course, would love for ‘Fries’ to be included,” says Noah’s mom. “But we won’t know anything until after Season 2 airs.”

For now, though, Noah says applying to college is his primary focus.

Despite his heady acting hobby, he manages to keep things in perspective.

His advice: “Always be thankful for what you have in the moment. Be grateful for the opportunities you get. Don’t take them for granted because who knows how long you’ll have them. And respect people around you.”

Those are great lines.

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