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Jared Nathan, at 21; former cast member of PBS's 'Zoom'

HOLLIS, N.H. -- Jared Nathan, a former cast member of the PBS children's television show "Zoom," died Thursday after a car crash. He was 21.

Mr. Nathan, who lived in Nashua, was a third-year acting student at the Juilliard School in New York, friends said Thursday. He was home on Christmas break.

"He was talented and amazing. He was the one everyone said would make it," said friend Andrea Underhill. "He brought out the best in a lot of people and could make everyone smile."

Mr. Nathan was a passenger in a Toyota Camry that crashed into a tree and overturned early Thursday morning in Hollis, authorities said. He died later at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua.

Police have arrested the driver, Gabriel King, 19, of Hudson, Mass., on a charge of aggravated drunken driving. He was released on $500 cash and $1,500 personal recognizance bail. Friends said King had been Mr. Nathan's roommate at the Walnut Hill School in Natick, Mass.

Mr. Nathan was 13 when he was selected for the 1999 revival of "Zoom," a public television show made by WGBH-TV in Boston that debuted in the 1970s. He was on the show for one season and would have been invited back had he not reached adolescence, said executive producer Kate Taylor.

"Jared was just a wonderful, wonderful kid," Taylor said yesterday. "He was a quiet leader. He was also a really good team player."

Although the show sought children with a "kid next door" demeanor, it quickly became clear that Mr. Nathan was also very talented as an actor, Taylor said. One of her favorite memories was of a skit called "Mr. Bones and Mr. Jones," she said.

"He had a dummy that would sit in his lap -- that was Mr. Bones -- and he was Mr. Jones, and they would tell jokes to each other. It was kind of like a ventriloquist, only he wasn't a ventriloquist, and it was very funny," she said. "That was something he developed."

Mr. Nathan's friends at Peacock Players Inc., a children's theater in Nashua, nicknamed him "Mr. Zoom." He performed at the theater and was a counselor at its summer camp. He also performed in shows at Prescott Park and the Seacoast Repertory Theater in Portsmouth, and was in a Papa Gino's commercial when he was 12.

" Everyone loved to be around him. . . . It wasn't that he demanded to be the center of attention. It's that by nature of who he was, he ended up the center of attention," said Craig Faulkner, production manager at Seacoast Repertory Theater.

Friends who gathered at Peacock Players to remember him Thursday said he made sure everyone felt included.

"When he was a senior in high school, I was 11 years old. He didn't let me feel left out. He was so good at taking me under his wing," said Jake Sussman. "He really got me into acting."

Mr. Nathan leaves his parents, Jeffrey and June.

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