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Actor gets the word out on stuttering

By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News

Actor Nicholas Brendon
Actor Nicholas Brendon

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(CNN) -- Nicholas Brendon is best known for his role as the wisecracking Xander on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But a speech disorder almost thwarted the actor's rise to stardom -- when he was about 8 years old he realized he stuttered.

"I realized it, because I couldn't talk anymore," Brendon recalls. "I noticed I was having a hard time communicating and I became a little shy."

Brendon says he was determined to achieve his life-long goal, despite his stutter.

"I always wanted to be an actor, but with a speech impediment it's kind of tough. I decided to roll the dice and take an acting class, which was very, very nerve-wracking... my stomach would just be in knots."

In acting class, Brendon discovered one key to dealing with his stutter.

"They gave me eight or nine tongue twisters and I realized that as I was doing them, it was easier for me to talk." Still, he says, "When I first started auditioning I would stutter a lot because I was so terribly frightened."

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 3 million Americans stutter. While there are several treatments, such as speech therapy and facial exercises, there is no specific cure.

Brendon says his career continues to help him keep his stutter at bay.

"When I'm acting, it's easier. The lines are on a piece of paper... so it's easier to not stutter. When I'm in life, it's a free fall."

When I spoke with Brendon, I didn't notice a speech impediment and I told him so. His response: "You should be in my head right now... I've had to work on being a slow talker."

But Brendon is not slow to share his experiences with others. He has been a spokesman for the Stuttering Foundation of America for two years in a row. "I would do it every year if they ask me," he says, "because stuttering is a very lonely place to be."

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