How Rob became Regan: a Hollywood saga

To former Radford University classmates and teachers, he is Rob Burns. To casting directors and fellow actors in Hollywood, he is Regan Burns. What’s in a name depends on whom you ask.

“I call him Rob,” wife Jennifer said. Ditto for professors Chuck Hayes, Monica Weinzapfel and Burns’ brother, David, also an RU alumnus.

So where did Regan come from?

When Burns first arrived in Los Angeles, he joined the Screen Actors Guild. During the registration process, he was asked for his name. “Robert Burns,” he told them. A check of an actors’ names database revealed there already was a Robert Burns working in Hollywood.

“I asked, ‘Why don’t you just add a middle initial, so I’ll just be Robert R. Burns?’” he recalled.

No good.

“At that point they had just started disallowing that middle initial you often see in actors’ names,” Burns said. “They had so many actors complaining that there was confusion, like is it Michael Fox or Michael J. Fox?”

Burns was told he could go by his full first name and full middle name, making him Hollywood’s only Robert Regan Burns. “But I didn’t like that,” he said. “It sounds kind of pretentious, like David Hyde Pierce or Charles Nelson Reilly.”

A bit flustered by the back and forth, he developed what he thought would be a temporary compromise: “I’ll just use my middle name for now, and I’ll figure out later what I want to do.” The Screen Actors Guild registered him as Regan Burns, and the name stuck.

“Now everyone thinks I’m a girl, I mean, constantly,” he complained. “In retrospect, I guess Regan is not the most macho name in the world, but I always tell myself it’s not River or Keanu. So it could be worse.”