PASADENA, Calif. — On the new ABC Family series "Lincoln Heights," Robert Adamson is the minority member of the cast. He plays a white kid attending a high school attended primarily by blacks and Hispanics.

In real life, "Well, I grew up in Utah," Adamson said, "so enough said about that."

That's why they call it acting.

Adamson was born in Salt Lake City, spent his childhood in St. George, started secondary school in Springville, moved to Hawaii and then returned to Utah, where he graduated from Alta High in Sandy.

"I wouldn't have had it any other way. Utah's my home," he told the Deseret Morning News.

And it was in Utah where — much to his surprise — Adamson caught the acting bug. "I started doing theater when I was at Alta, my junior year," he said. "I kind of got alienated from all my friends, but I fell in love with it.

"I was too 'cool' to do musicals, I guess," Adamson said rather sheepishly, "but I did Shakespeare. I did Othello. I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts out here, and fell even more in love with it."

His is a familiar tale of a kid who comes to Hollywood to become a star. Adamson was 18 when he made the move. "It's been the roughest three years of my life. It's been a quick growing-up experience just to try to live out here on my own and get work and everything."

He waited tables, cleaned pools, walked dogs and worked at a movie theater, among other things. "At one point, I had four jobs. I was sleeping on the couch. I've been homeless a couple of times. Nothing too big — I'm not trying to make it out to be something that it's not. But it's been a rough trip. But it's turned out to be such a blessing. And to see my parents happy for me has been just fantastic."

His parents, Ellen and Robert Adamson of Draper, have been "very, very supportive. They weren't at first, I don't think, because they weren't really sure what was going to happen with it. They supported me, they sent me on my way and said, 'Make your own decisions.' It's been three years now, and as the show's been coming out, and they've been seeing I've been working hard and not just wasting my time, they've been coming around."

"Lincoln Heights," which airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC Family, revolves around the Sutton family. Eddie (Russell Hornsby) is a cop who moves with his wife (Nicki Micheaux) and their three children back to the tough, inner-city neighborhood where he grew up. Adamson co-stars as Charles, a neighborhood kid who takes a liking to Cassie (Erica Hubbard), the Suttons' teenage daughter.

Charles is a guy who "in a lot of ways is, I think, a lot more courageous than I was growing up," Adamson said. "He sees a relationship with a girl that he wants to pursue, and he goes for it, and he doesn't hold anything back. And those are kinds of qualities I still lack."

There's already a movement on the Internet from fans who want to see Charles and Cassie get together. "They are looking at these two young people who are in love — these star-crossed lovers, if you will. And they are in love. So they want to see two people come together and be happy."

Hubbard said the "strangest feedback" she's gotten is from people who ask, "Is there any difference being in an interracial relationship?"

"And the thing is, we don't feel any different," Adamson said. "I think we approach each other blindly, not looking at race."

Adamson has had his share of ridiculous questions but not about his character. When people learn he is from Utah, the first question is, "Do you have the 10 wives?"

"You'd think that they would be wiped away by now, but I always get the stereotypes."

But that didn't stand in the way of his winning the part on "Lincoln Heights" at the auditions. "I went in and read for it. I got called back, and I was actually kind of shocked because I didn't think I did very well," Adamson said. "And then I went back and read for it again. And I was at home in Utah, and I got a call that they wanted me for it.

"I was in shell-shock. I really didn't know how to respond to it. And it's been really surreal, to tell you the truth. It wasn't really like, 'Oh, yeah! Now I'm really excited and now things are going to take off!' It was like, 'Oh, yes! Now I get work and I get to pay my rent,' and stuff like that.

"And then I started working and seeing the project evolve, and I'm the kind of person, I don't really see the big picture until it all comes together. And now that it's been put together, I'm, like, 'Wow. This was a really big deal.' And I was just trying to focus on doing good work."

It helps that the cast and crew have been so supportive. "I was just embraced, and that's a good feeling. Especially out here," Adamson said. "You don't get that a lot. You get the cold shoulder and you still have to go up and do your work, and you have to do it well. And it's a lot easier when people have your back."

Now his family and friends are excited, and he's hearing from people he hasn't heard from in years. "I'm really shocked by the response that I'm getting because I've never had this much attention," he said with a laugh. "I don't know how to put that, but I really have never had this much attention."

"ANATOMY" OF A CRISIS: As the controversy of Isaiah Washington's alleged slur against "Grey's Anatomy" fellow cast member T.R. Knight escalates, the show's executive producer didn't shoot down the possibility that one actor or the other will be written out of the show.

"I don't know. We're not at that place yet," Mark Gordon told the Deseret Morning News in his first on-the-record comments about the controversy. "I wish I could tell you more. I don't know any more."

The problem began in October when Washington reportedly called Knight an offensive slang term during filming of an episode. Washington later issued a statement of "regret" for his "actions and the unfortunate use of words during the recent incident on-set."

But at the Golden Globes on Monday, he denied using that slur — a claim disputed by other cast members. And on Wednesday, Knight appeared on "Ellen" and said that he heard Washington use the word, and that the incident caused him to acknowledge publicly that he is gay.

All of which has caused a major upheaval on the "Grey's Anatomy" set.

"It's ridiculous and upsetting and disturbing on every level you can possibly imagine," Gordon said. "We take it extremely seriously... It's a mess and we're just trying to figure it out."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com