By KIM ESTES
Four Points News
Joe Ray, an 11-year-old resident of Steiner Ranch, spent a beautiful October day running through a clothesline in the rural countryside of Manor for a video featuring a newly released song written by Taylor Swift.
To the country music vibe and harmony of the band, Little Big Town, Joe darts between a row of whites, plaid and denim billowing in a breeze as songstress, Karen Fairchild, laments a lost relationship.
Joe is also in a scene with band member, Kimberly Schlapman, who acts as his mother, and he has a vignette in which he tosses a football in the air.
The video, inspired by the song “Better Man,” has been viewed more than 6.8 million times on YouTube as of Monday.
“Better Man” is Joe’s first music video but not his first acting job.
“It all started in 2nd grade when we did “Pecos Bill”. I was the lead character – Pecos Bill – and I started loving acting,” Joe recalled.
At the time, his family, including his father, Joseph; mother, Megan; and brothers Jacob and Joshua, now 13 and 7 respectively, lived in Barrington, Ill.
There also, in 3rd grade, he was cast as the narrator of a production of “Aesop’s Fables”. “It was a big part. It was for a 5th grader,” Joe said.
Now that he is a 5th grader and a Four Points resident (the Rays moved here in August 2015 to be near family), Joe has joined Christian Youth Theater Austin and built his resume with parts in the “Wizard of Oz”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Wicked” and “Godspell”.
He loves roles that “burst with energy,” like when he played the rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof”.
However, his dream is a part in the multi-film epic, “Fantastic Beasts”, by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. “I have read every Harry Potter book, including the short stories,” he said. “I love reading.”
A student at Steiner Ranch Elementary, Joe said his favorite subject is math. “The only thing I don’t like about school is getting up in the morning,” he noted.
As for his extra curricular activities, Joe’s parents support his acting aspirations and have even signed him up with Austin Models and Talent. “The agency sends what’s available and if it fits with his schedule, we do it,” Megan said.
The agency notified them about the audition for “Better Man”.
“We filmed on Oct. 21, the day after my birthday,” Joe said with some satisfaction.
His scenes took about an hour-and-a-half to film, but Joe and Megan waited around afterward to get his picture with the band, making a day of the experience.
“I enjoyed the filming a lot. The weather was perfect. I saw a horse, but I didn’t pet it because I wasn’t sure if it was mean or nice,” said Joe, who seems the archetype of “the boy next door”.
Megan describes Joe as a great brother and a straight-A student. “He is happy, sweet and kind. Joe also has a lot of faith, and he goes with the flow,” she said.
“Yeah, if I don’t get a part I wanted, I don’t get disappointed. Just because I don’t get one part doesn’t mean I might not get another,” Joe said.
“If it were for ‘Fantastic Beasts’, I’d be upset,” he quickly clarified. “But, I wouldn’t quit because I don’t usually quit. I just move on, see what happens next and hope for the best. I definitely want to keep acting,” he said.
While it all may sound like a grown-up ambition, for Joe it’s actually a more simple pursuit. “Acting makes me happy,” he declared.