Braeden Lemasters didn't realize just how popular ''A Christmas Story'' was until after he starred in its sequel.
''It was kind of a big shock,'' he said. ''I didn't realize how big of a legacy it had. A lot of people really like this movie. It's like a religion to them.''
The 16-year-old Howland native plays Ralphie in ''A Christmas Story 2,'' which debuts Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray. In the sequel, Ralphie is 15 years old, and instead of dreaming about a Red Ryder BB gun, the boy wants a car.
Lemasters, the son of David and Michelle Lemasters, was back in Trumbull County for a few days with his mother and older brother, Austin, to visit grandparents Carol Donnadio of Niles and Dave and Betty Lemasters of Howland, play a little golf and get some Italian food.
''California is lacking in good Italian food,'' Lemasters said.
What California does have is work for aspiring young actors. Since the family moved to Southern California in 2003 in part so Braeden could pursue acting, he has been cast in the films ''Easy A'' and ''The Stepfather,'' made guest appearances on such television series as ''NCIS,'' ''Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,'' ''Grey's Anatomy'' and ''House M.D.,'' and he was a regular on the TNT series ''Men of a Certain Age.''
When he went to audition for ''Christmas Story 2,'' he was familiar with the 1983 original, which TNT runs for 24 hours continuously every year on Christmas Eve, but never had watched it that closely. Only after getting the job did he study the work of Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in the original film that was shot in part in Cleveland.
''I wanted to keep some of his Ralphie-isms going in a natural, not over-the-top way,'' Lemasters said.
That meant making sure his Ralphie wrote left-handed and occasionally licking his lips that way Billingsley did.
Playing the main character, Lemasters said he got to work closely with director Brian Levant (''Beethoven,'' ''The Flintstones,'' ''Jingle All the Way''), an experience he said was invaluable.
Lemasters said he is happy with the final film, at least he was the second time he saw it.
''The first time, all I'm thinking is, 'Why did I do that?,' 'Why am I looking this way?''' he said.
Lemasters will appear in the fourth episode of a new TBS comedy series ''The Wedding Band,'' which premieres Nov. 10, and he is busy auditioning for other film and television roles. But he is just as interested in music. His band, The Feaver, will be going into the studio soon to record some demos.
''I'm equally passionate for music,'' he said. ''Both are what I see myself doing.''