I first got to speak with Clayton Snyder in 2019. He’s one of my favorite actors, and he portrayed one of my favorite Disney Channel characters (and one of the most iconic!), Ethan Craft on Lizzie McGuire. I told Clayton a few months ago that my “Past Foot Forward” philosophy is to appreciate the past while looking forward to new things. My life’s work involves nostalgia, but it’s such a gift to live in the present, too. In this conversation, Clayton shares his stories, both past and present, including life lessons for anyone trying to thrive and find their calling today.
I thought it would be fun to start off with a few quick questions about Clayton’s worldwide water polo travels, real estate career, and Disney Channel memories.
What is the coolest place you’ve ever traveled to play water polo?
Oh, good question. I think probably one of the coolest places I’ve ever traveled to was when I played for a team, Jadran Herceg Novi in Montenegro, and they had just finished this newly constructed outdoor pool that’s just beautiful. It’s right in the Bay of Kotor there…it’s just absolutely gorgeous. But I’ve also been to Budapest, Hungary, which [has] some of the greatest water polo of all time. I’ve been to the Partizan in Red Star Stadium in Serbia, in Belgrade. I was able to play in Shenzen, China for the Universiade, the World University Games back in 2011. So it’s tough to put a finger on one thing. I’ve been so grateful to go to some places. I will say a place that would be a dream to even dip my toes into, let alone play water polo is Bondi beach in Australia. Basically the pool is like, on the ocean and the waves are just crashing up over into the pool, and you just gotta make it work. And it looks like so much fun.
How many songs can you name from either the Lizzie McGuire series soundtrack and/or the movie soundtrack?
Uh, well there is the theme song, “If You Believe.” And then there is “This is What Dreams Are Made Of.” Oh! I know there was one song… “The tide is high, but I’m holdin’ on.” That just happened right when we were filming and got put in the film. I’m doing better than I thought; I got three. I’m trying to think if I can get one more. I mean, it’s some, uh, not Frank Sinatra, but Dean [Martin] in there (singing “On an Evening in Roma”).
What is your favorite neighborhood for selling houses?
Pasadena is just so nice. I love that mix of being close, but also removed from LA, in beautiful suburbia. There’s a lot of great areas for different reasons, for different people, like Studio City is awesome. We’ve done a lot of business on the Eastside. Los Feliz, Highland Park. There was a time not long ago where those were up and coming and now it’s like, no, those came. It’s very difficult to find something in your budget with the dimensions that you’re hoping for.
If you could reenact one episode of Lizzie McGuire, which one would it be (with anybody from the cast)?
I always had like the most fun where I could see the most people, because not everyone’s in every episode. So if the teachers are there, if Kate’s in it… I always thought that it was kind of fun and kind of weird, the one where they give everyone a profession, plus, like, they marry them. It’s such a weird exercise! Looking back on it, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ And then, you know, Kate’s trying to get me to cheat on my wife and it’s like, it’s kinda heavy if you think about it too much. But that’d be a fun one, I think. There’s one where I dance like a madman, that would be a lot of fun, to see what I would do these days. I don’t think I’m nearly as limber as I used to be. So I don’t know if I could do any better than that.
I would think maybe to have all of the 30-year-olds running around on the football field!
Yeah, that thought crossed my mind. We could have a flag football episode where they couldn’t tame my hair out in that humidity. Yeah. My true curls came out.
When you weren’t watching yourself on Disney channel, of course, what were your top three Nickelodeon shows?
I like the cartoons, mostly. The ones that come to mind are Rugrats, Doug, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, there was more live action when I was younger, “Camp Anawana” (Salute Your Shorts).
Clayton’s take on where Ethan Craft might be today:
Well, I won’t say that I was, day‑to‑day thinking about Ethan as he would have evolved ever since we stopped filming the show. I mean, since the rumors of the renewal had been coming about, it definitely got me curious. I was absolutely excited to see familiar faces and be working with everyone again. Like, that’d be great, but also, I was just so curious [as to] what the heck the writers were going to do with the character because he could have gone anywhere.
He could have gone into any profession, or maybe he’s still in school, for all I know, right? Forever community college sort of a thing. He could be living at his mom’s place, he could be very well off and living comfortably, he could be in politics, he could be a mechanic. I think whatever he would do, he would just be all in with it and be very interested in it. I think it would have to involve a lot of other people, though. It wouldn’t be anything secluded. That’s one thing I do know.
I think that art should imitate life and if it ever happens, he should be a realtor.
That’s awesome. That’s a very probable thing. He was probably recruited to some team because everyone else is doing the admin work. People could have a terrible experience, and one conversation with Ethan, they’re like, ‘Man, I feel great. Let’s keep going.’ And he just gets the best reviews, but he’s not actually doing the work. He would actually be doing not that great of a job. But people are so forgiving of him because either they think he’s beautiful or he’s fun and funny, you know. The girls want to be with them, the guys want to be him kind of a thing. And all the other real estate teams are like, ‘Gosh, we can’t compete with this guy!’ That’d be funny.
What did you learn about yourself personally while not playing this one specific character? You did a lot of different kinds of acting, you were playing water polo, went to college…
The show wrapped before I got into high school. And then I was faced with doing the movie or playing varsity water polo for my high school, and I elected for the movie…I thought this was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, as well. And I’m happy I did it, but it also made it very clear how much I missed playing water polo and how terrible I felt not being there for my team. I was very sad actually, during the filming of the movie, because there were all these close games and we got to the CIF championship game against a really strong team. And I couldn’t help but think, even as a freshman, maybe I could have contributed somehow, but I’ll never know. That was it. I didn’t want to audition, I didn’t want to do anything else after that.
Clayton has wondered what life might have been like if he had taken another path, but he shared that he’s grateful for his decisions during those years, and the trajectory of his life afterward.
That led me to continue to play water polo at a pretty high level, and I got a scholarship to Pepperdine, where I met my now-wife. And I’m still in touch with three, four of my closest friends from college, some incredible relationships there. A lot of my friendships now are still based off the water polo community. This is my men’s club team (on Clayton’s hat), shoutout to LA Athletic Club! it’s just given me so much life and other experiences… Staying in school, staying connected to my friends at that time, and not getting too wrapped up in the entertainment scene, I think was really good for me.
That’s really powerful. I know you’ve talked about things that helped give you a sense of normalcy growing up in the entertainment industry, going to regular school, playing sports, having real friends. So now as an adult, you and your wife are both actors, you have other successful careers. What are some things that you do now to help create that sense of normalcy or calm and stability to help you through your day‑to‑day life?
Working on that. It’s always a work in progress. My wife, Allegra, she’s an incredible performer and very grateful and thrilled to be shooting Upload Season 3 in a couple of months up in Vancouver. She plays Ingrid Cannerman. We’re also expecting our baby boy, our first kid coming up, not too long before that. We’re looking to make a move sometime in the next few months as well, and have this real estate business to juggle. I help manage and coach a water polo men’s club team that’s eight years into being developed and fully fleshed out. I’m on the board for the 306 Bomb Group Historical Association, which honors the 306 Bomb Group within the Eighth Air Force and their efforts during World War II. My grandfather was a B-17 pilot. And so that’s just an association of descendants of those airmen and crews; we come together to remember the sacrifices that that niche made during the war and to preserve their sacrifice on our behalf.
We try to go to church, try to exercise, try to get enough sleep and get a few meals in here and there in between. I’m a very curious person naturally. There’s this stack of books; you can tell there’s a theme here with some of this. Some of these were gifted to us from our financial advisor, shoutout to Colby Gilmore at Ronald Blue Trust.
What Clayton is reading:
SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham
The Truth About Money Lies: Help for Making Wise Financial Decisions by Kelly Talamo and Russ Crosson
Faces of Generosity: Inspiring Stories of People Impacting Lives Around the World by Ronald Blue and Russ Crosson
Quit Like a Millionaire: No Gimmicks, Luck, or Trust Fund Required by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung
I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
Confessions of a Real Estate Entrepreneur by James A. Randel
Your Life…Well Spent by Russ Crosson
The Real Estate Game by William J. Poorvu and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank
Has American Christianity Failed? by Bryan Wolfmueller
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Probably the book that’s had the greatest impact on me is The ONE Thing [by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan]. I became aware of that during my time at Keller Williams Realty. And the premise is, look, if everything’s a priority, then nothing’s a priority. And you will be amazed by the incredible amount of growth that you will have if you actually pick the one thing that by doing it, everything else will either become easier or unnecessary. Kind of like the 80/20 principle, right? Like 80% of our results come from 20% of our effort. So if you’re able to block off 30 minutes, an hour or two hours in a day to work on that thing, that’s going to make everything else run better, or have like the biggest jump, whether it’s your business, whether it’s you marital life, your faith life, what would that be? Just work on that and you’ll see monumental growth. … I’m still working on something that’s going to really work for me, but the day is coming, it’s coming. I know it.
You’ll figure it out on the way, right?
Exactly. And that’s the wisdom of Lizzie McGuire.
I do have one more Lizzie-related question. I couldn’t help but rewatch the Billboard video with you and Hilary and Meghan Trainor. What was it like to get that phone call?
So, I get a phone call from my manager. ‘Hey, Hilary just sent us an email asking for your email address. Is that okay?’ I’m like, ‘Sure. I haven’t talked to her in like 17 years. We’ll see what this is.’ She sends me a very lovely email, like, ‘Hey, Clayton, I hope you’re doing well. We’re talking about doing the show again and we need you, you’d be great. But also, weird favor to ask. There’s this trivia quiz thing; at the end of it they have a gift for the participant. This is going to be Meghan Trainor, she’s a huge Lizzie McGuire fan. It’d be amazing if you came out at the end, maybe with a plate of spaghetti, I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.’ I was like, ‘Okay, that sounds hilarious. I’m in!’
Clayton thought he would arrive, catch up with Hilary Duff, and be given instructions on where to sit, where the camera would be, and other logistics.
Instead, I get there and they’re like, ‘Shhh, they’re filming.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ So I’ve walked in and like, they’ve already started filming in this other room that’s closed off. I don’t know who’s in there. I don’t know where the cameras are. Uh, I don’t know what the plan is. I’m sitting next to Meghan Trainor and Hilary Duff’s purses. Like, this is so weird. I’m having to think, ‘What am I going to say? How am I going to lead into this?’ There’s no script for me. ‘Okay, who’s the customer here? Meghan Trainor is, so just kind of make it about her.’ But also, I haven’t seen Hilary in a while… When I walk in I’m like, ‘What’s up, Hil?’ Like we talk all the time, like I just saw you yesterday. ‘Hey, Meghan!’ And it was the best because we put down the pasta and she’s like, ‘Uh, there’s not meat in that, is there?’ She’s a vegetarian. …But it was a ton of fun, it was a great time. Meghan was very very excited, and Hilary and I got to catch up a little bit afterwards, but very fun memory.
I think Hilary was like, ‘Are we eating this?’ You started eating, so good on you!
It looked great! It was like a perfectly good plate of spaghetti. It’d be out of character for me not to, frankly.
Next time you’re in something live, I have to come and see it. Your singing voice is incredible! Out of all the types of acting that you do, being on stage, on television, in feature films, what do you think you enjoy most out of all that?
Live theater so much fun. I think it might come from the athlete side of me. It’s kind of more visceral. You get live audience feedback from it. I don’t like doing improv that much, even though I like to joke around wittily with buddies of mine and be quick on my feet and moment to moment. But if I have to improv in front of a crowd, as in, to entertain, I get really nervous.
Something that’s scripted, like sketch comedy or a play or musical, that’s a lot of fun. I don’t consider myself a great singer by any means. I think I enjoy singing a lot, though. So go figure. …When you’re doing the show, so much work went into it that created this product that you’re doing that also is still alive, show to show. It’s always a little bit different. You’ve gotta be on for that. You’ve gotta be on for film and TV, of course. But that’s a little bit more of a machine at times, where you show up and you do the thing and you go home. There often isn’t as much rehearsal time as there is for a musical or something staged like that.
I’ve run the gamut. But that’s also the downside of it because I like doing all these other things… I did a musical in October for The Root Beer Bandits–shoutout to the Garry Marshall Theatre in Toluca Lake. It was so much fun. Love the show, love the cast, love the director, Joe Bwarie, and everything involved with it. But I was like, this is a lot of time. I’m so uncomfortable during rehearsals ’cause I’ve just got so much to do and it’s hard to stay focused and relaxed on the thing that you’re doing. So I took that as a sign of like, okay, I think I’m going to cool it on the acting for a minute. Just going to focus on some other things so that they can be a little bit more streamlined.
I live vicariously through my wife. So it’s all good in that sense, too.
Life Lessons from Clayton:
The lessons I’ve learned are just how important relationships are, be it your family, be it your friends, romantic relationships. That really is the basis of so much of our happiness and fulfillment. There’s this dance between doing the things that you dream of doing, or that make you happy or, better yet, fulfilled and that bring you joy. A lot of things can give us happiness and it’s very momentary or a very immediate gratification. …Not everything is so important all the time. If you make a mistake, it’s okay, you can get back up. But also, your decisions do matter, and everything is going towards or away from something.
We can be amazed by what we can accomplish or where we find ourselves in a shorter time period if we really commit to doing something and live into the behaviors it takes to be that person. That’s kind of the main thing of where I’m at right now: ‘Okay, who are you wanting to be? Who do you sense that you are called to be, what is that person like? What do they do? How do they think? Where do they give their time and their energy?’ And you can do that. You could live in that right now, actually. Your lifestyle might not look identical to that, but the decisions you make actually take you towards that.
Stay positive. It’s okay. You know, wherever you’re at, whatever you’ve done, it’s all good. There’s grace for it. Who are you wanting to be? What are the actions that that person takes? Step into it.
Thank you so much for this wonderful conversation, Clayton!
You can find Clayton Snyder and Allegra Edwards on Instagram: @heyclayton and @allegra_edwards. If you want to get in touch with Clayton about real estate in Southern California, check out @heyclayrealty.
As always, I’m on Instagram @pastfootforward and Twitter @AMcClainMerrill.