Fairfax 8-year-old joins Tom Holland in Apple series ‘The Crowded Room’

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with local child actor in 'The Crowded Room' (Part 1)

It’s not every day that a kid from Fairfax, Virginia, gets to hang out with Spider-Man, but 8-year-old Thomas Parobek joins Tom Holland in the Apple TV+ series “The Crowded Room,” which drops Episode 4 on Thursday.

“The first time I met him, he asked me what was my favorite Spider-Man movie and of course I said, ‘No Way Home,'” Parobek told WTOP. “He knew that I lived in Washington D.C., so he joked about climbing the Washington Monument, even though I knew it was a green screen or something like that. … When I was like 5, I was Spider-Man for Halloween, I think, before I was an actor. I should have brought my Spider-Man costume!”

Created by Akiva Goldsman from the 1981 non-fiction novel “The Minds of Billy Milligan” by Daniel Keyes, “The Crowded Room” is a new psychological thriller series following Danny Sullivan (Tom Holland), who is arrested for his involvement in a shooting outside Rockefeller Center in New York City in 1979. His troubled life is shown through a series of flashbacks during interviews with interrogator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried).

“It’s a cliffhanger show,” Parobek said. “I definitely suggest you watch it.”

Born in 2014, Parobek didn’t star in local school plays but rather started acting for his uncle, filmmaker Daniel Stine, in the short film “Authentics” (2019), which was filmed in Georgia.

“Since my uncle was a director, I started when I was 5,” Parobek said. “I just stumbled into it since my uncle was filming something. He asked if I wanted to be a part of it and I said, ‘Sure.’ Then there was this guy, Linden Ashby, who liked me and had a talent agency called The People’s Store and he said, ‘Hey, you can maybe sign up this guy,’ so his talent agency made me do an audition and they liked my audition and the rest is history.”

Soon after, Parobek was cast in the Netflix series “Cobra Kai” (2018-2023), the popular spinoff of “The Karate Kid” (1984). He played the young version of Johnny Lawrence, who was played again by William Zabka.

“My dad is a big fan of ‘The Karate Kid,'” Parobek said. “I was a part of a flashback scene. I didn’t know who I was, then I was like, ‘I’m young Johnny Lawrence? That’s such a surprise!’ My favorite scene was a flashback scene where I had to play with a G.I. Joe or something and I said, ‘The good guy always wins.’ Also, the big Johnny taught me the crane kick. … The only person I didn’t meet was (Ralph Macchio), I saw him walking for a split second.”

It was great experience for his current role in “The Crowded Room,” appearing in Episodes 6, 9 and 10.

“The audition that I had to do was a part of (a future) scene, so you have to (watch it to) find out,” Parobek said. “I had to throw a bunch of temper tantrums. A long time ago, I think I’ve only had like two temper tantrums when I was little I think, so I just sort of memorized from that. … You just have to scream, throw and everything!”

In the show, he plays the son of Amanda Seyfried, who became a household name after “Mean Girls” (2004) and “Les Miserables” (2012) before earning an Oscar nomination for “Mank” (2020) and winning an Emmy for Hulu’s “The Dropout” (2022). He found Seyfried to be very welcoming and wasn’t intimidated by her accolades.

“I did a few magic tricks in front of her and we did something called BeanBoozled,” Parobek said. “It’s basically assorted jelly beans, some flavors are good, some flavors are not. Amanda kept getting the bad ones like rotten egg, but eventually she got marshmallow. …. I sort of knew her already from ‘The Dropout.’ … My mom watched that. I even got to hold the Emmy with her. She had it with her next to the trailer. It was very heavy though.”

As an 8-year-old, he’s not quite old enough to watch “The Crowded Room” in its entirety yet.

“I was at the red carpet [in New York City], which was actually a blue carpet, which was kind of weird,” Parobek said. “I got to watch the first episode of ‘The Crowded Room.’ … It’s an adult show. I bet I could finish it when I’m older. When all of the episodes come out, I’m probably going to just skip to see my scenes.”

But first, he has to finish third grade at Mantua Elementary School in Fairfax.

Friday is all that stands between him and fourth grade.

Summer break starts this weekend.

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with local child actor in 'The Crowded Room' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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