Sul Ross theater alum dominates the marquees at Rangra, nationwide

David DeLaO performs in “The Long Road Home”, filmed in the Austin area. DeLaO lives in Alpine with his family, and is often finding acting jobs that let him stay closer to home. Photo courtesy of David DeLaO.

ALPINE — One of Sul Ross State University’s very own hit the marquees of the Rangra Theater this month, and not once, but twice. David DeLaO, born in Alpine and currently living in the Big Bend university town, has managed to propel himself from a BFA in theater at the local school to a growing list of acting credits.

This month, the town’s local theater premiered The Marksman and Silk Road, two new films showing nationwide that have DeLaO in supporting roles.

DeLaO didn’t always dream of acting though. He went to Alpine High School, but never auditioned or joined theater classes. “During that time, I never thought about acting. I was a geek. I was into Dungeons and Dragons,” he said.

Instead, his first acting role happened when he unintentionally landed a role in a Sul Ross production of Cinderella, Cinderella. He was already 25 and working at the local UPS. His younger cousins were auditioning for the SRSU play, but no males had shown up to try out.

“They were like, ‘Call David, he always plays dress up with us,’” DeLaO recalled, laughing. He played the prince, and in front of a tiny audience on the first night, he realized, “Holy crap, I want to do this. The acting bug bit me.” He went for his BFA, graduating in 2010.

And while he’d sharpened his performance chops in the school program, he hadn’t learned much about forming a career, other than the idea of moving to Los Angeles or New York.

“I’m kind of a country mouse, not a big city person,” he said. Wanting to stay near his parents in Alpine, he realized he would have to form his own path. He submitted for roles in short films and student films, getting cast in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.

He was driving over six or seven hours each way, auditioning, booking roles and filming around Texas. For four years he cut his teeth, working on indie productions until he booked his first Screen Actors Guild role in 2014 on the TV series American Crime.

“After that, I started snowballing,” he said. He considers it a blessing, to be a working actor able to live in the city he loves. When film incentives were cut in Texas though, many productions shifted their sets to New Mexico. So DeLaO got an agent in the neighboring state. That year, he drove over 26,000 miles to auditions in Albuquerque, establishing relationships with casting directors.

“Of course COVID killed everything last year, but in 2019 I think I did eight projects,” he said. “Seven were out of Albuquerque and one was out of Texas.” But those few days gone to shoot on a set still leave him plenty of time to spend with his wife and four children in Alpine.

His mom and dad live close by and during the interview this week, the actor was busy hiking around by Sul Ross with his younger children. Ultimately, he does it all for his family. “My mom and dad are five miles away, and they’re so close to my kids. If we go a day without seeing them it feels like a week,” he laughed.

When the acting gigs are slow to come, DeLaO picks up work locally, anywhere from the city, to the bank, to a job as a gate guard in Marfa. Still, he’s grateful for every shot he gets.

“If you had told me that when I first started out here at Sul Ross that this would be happening,” the actor said, he wouldn’t have believed it. “It’s really cool to see it all come to fruition.”