Stephen Samouhos is a professional actor.

The 18-year-old freshman from Ridgewood, New Jersey, has acted for seven years and once recorded a radio commercial for American Airlines. At age 11, he signed a contract with the Shirley Grant talent agency in Manhattan. In one year, he went on 40 auditions and was hired to make six TV commercials. All the ads were for toy companies, including Nerf Toys, Tiger Toys, and various video game companies.

“Usually there were no batteries in the video toys,” he says. “My job was just to press the buttons and look like I was having fun.”

Samouhos — who studied acting for two years and voice for three and who can do a great British accent — landed lead roles off Broadway.

He performed at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York at age 14 starring in Hapgood, a British-style James Bond. And he performed at New York’s Tribeca Performing Arts Theater in Little Kit, a version of Oliver Twist. In community theater, he played lead roles in Peter Pan, Oliver, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

IDEA TO ACT

“Beginning when I was seven, my mother took me to New York every Saturday to see a Broadway play. We saw Les Miserables , Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon.

“I loved the thrill of the music and pretending to be somebody else. It was right then during the performances that I got the idea to become an actor.

“My mother majored in theater and my father is a mechanical engineer. I inherited both a love of music and a love of science and math. “Originally, I was intent on going into acting and giving it my all. But the acting business is fickle. One day you’re at Lincoln Center, the next day you’re out of work.

“Then I thought, acting is only one part of myself. Why not become a professional actor and come to MIT?

“I’d love to be on stage again in Boston or New York before I leave MIT. Four years is an awful long time to go without acting. “But while I’m here, I want to double major in physics and aeronautics and astronautics. I’ve always been fascinated with space flight, and space is the new frontier. I want to see where that will take me.”

PASSION AND EMOTION

“My favorite performance was as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. The beauty of doing a show like Jesus Christ Superstar is there’s such passion and emotion.

“I was so inspired when I was Judas. I knew from the music what he was going through. If you sing that music correctly, the emotions just naturally flow out of you. When Judas kisses Jesus and walks away and the guards get him, you feel it. You know how terrible he felt, but that he didn’t know what else could happen.

“I’ve gotten to know myself better because of acting. It has taught me to develop a real feel for people and to know how to present myself to them.

“Like, if you’re quiet and shy, you can learn how to act as if you were social and talkative. Then, if you’re ever in a situation where you have to mingle and talk, you know how to do it.

“Talking to you is very laid back, but if the President walked in right now, I would stand up and shake his hand with a firm grip and speak in a deeper voice to project a stronger character.

“Being an actor, you can present yourself as relaxed one minute and confident the next. You’ve got this versatility in your personality. It’s something incredibly useful.

WORKS FOR THE BEST

“Faith is a large part of my life. It gives me strength.

“If you don’t get an acting job, you have to have the confidence to keep going. All the losses have taught me if something doesn’t work out, there is a reason. It’s because something else is supposed to happen.

“I was once heartbroken because I was an inch too tall for a role in Les Miserables. But instead of being in the play that summer, I took a math class that helped me get into a higher math group in high school. Without that class, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into MIT.

“Now, whenever I want something that doesn’t happen, I feel it’s because I’m supposed to be somewhere else more important. It has taught me to think much differently about disappointment. If I have faith in myself, whether I’m an actor or a astronaut, it still will be okay.”