Chris Pratt’s star rises, but Lake Stevens roots keep him grounded

LAKE STEVENS — Chris Pratt fell in love with performing two decades ago in the auditorium of Lake Stevens High School, where he re-created his favorite “Saturday Night Live” skits to entertain his classmates.

On Saturday, he’ll host the 40th season premiere of “SNL.”

The 35-year-old actor is known for his leading role in the summer blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy” and his portrayal of goofy, endearing Andy Dwyer in the TV comedy “Parks and Recreation.”

Pratt graduated from Lake Stevens High School in 1997, where he is remembered as a good student, a dedicated athlete and the class clown. His family moved to Lake Stevens when he was in second grade, and the community remains an anchor for the celebrity when he’s caught up in the Hollywood whirlwind.

“I think that portion of my life, like anybody, it really defines who you are,” Pratt said Thursday. “I cling really tightly to my roots. I’m in Hollywood now, which is kind of a ruthless town, and you just float around like a gypsy.”

He was sitting backstage getting ready to run some skits for the “Saturday Night Live” premiere. He could hear Ariana Grande, the musical guest for this weekend’s show, practicing in the next room. Reflecting on his childhood in Lake Stevens, Pratt remembers hoping something big would happen for him, but he never expected to find himself on the set of “SNL,” let alone as the guy kicking off the show’s 40th anniversary.

Pratt’s latest success is no surprise to the people who knew him in high school.

“I think for any of us who watched him grow up, we’re not surprised by who he is and what he’s become,” said Brent Barnes, who coached Pratt for four years on the Lake Stevens High School wrestling team. “But it is kind of surreal to see him on the big screen.”

Barnes described Pratt as dedicated, creative and eclectic, a student who always wanted to learn more.

Ken Collins, now an administrator for the Lake Stevens School District, coached Pratt in football and track and taught his high school civics classes. Pratt has always been hard-working and talented, Collins said, but his finest quality is staying true to his roots.

Both Barnes and Collins still hear from Pratt. There’s usually no time for a long conversation, with Pratt always on the go, but he takes the time to phone home.

Several years ago, Pratt organized and voiced a documentary on the 2010-11 Lake Stevens Wrestling Team called “On the Mat.” It meant a lot to the coaches and players, Barnes said.

“He’s never forgotten where he came from,” he said. “He’s a pretty special person, Chris is. He’s the type of person who gives back.”

If someone asked Collins 15 years ago whether Chris would be a movie star, he would have said it was possible, but it would take a lot of hard work, a dash of luck and a ton of personality to make it happen.

Personality is something Pratt has in spades, he said. As a teen, he did flawless Jim Carrey impersonations to make friends laugh and constantly had a witty line or unexpected joke up his sleeve.

“I have a zillion Chris stories,” Collins said. “He was just so funny.”

Pratt’s coaches are confident his humor will shine this weekend.

“Chris is going to be on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and it’s such a perfect environment for him,” Barnes said. “He can ad lib, and when you see him, that’s Chris. He’s always been funny and friendly. He’s taken that personality of his and worked hard to turn it into a craft that he can share with people.”

A lot of people don’t realize Pratt is from Lake Stevens, Collins said. But when Pratt and his wife, actress Anna Faris, come to town, people flock. Faris grew up in Edmonds.

The couple visits Snohomish County whenever they get the chance, Pratt said. When they come to town, they try to fit in a hike, usually up the Mountain Loop Highway near Big Four Ice Caves. They stop at Omega Pizza &Pasta in Granite Falls, where the owners are longtime family friends. The rest of the time, they spend with family, sitting around the fire, drinking beer, playing games and laughing.

Pratt considers himself lucky to have grown up in Snohomish County.

“I hope people tune in Saturday,” Pratt said. “Just know I’m thinking of you at home. And go Seahawks.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439, kbray@heraldnet.com

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