Shia LaBeouf Pal: 'I Have His Back'
09/04/2008 AT 06:30 PM EDT
"He's been through a lot, he's had a hard life, and he grew up with some scars. But he's a fighter," says Christy Carlson Romano, who costarred with LaBeouf in the Disney TV series Even Stevens. "I have his back."
But LaBeouf is no angel, she admits. "In fact, he's crazy like a rock star!" she says.
Doctors performed extensive surgery on LaBeouf's left hand in July following his car cash. Although he was cited for misdemeanor DUI at the time, police have said the actor may not have been at fault for the crash because the other driver apparently ran a red light.
"I'm not an advocate of drinking and driving," Romano tells PEOPLE at a Samsung event Sept. 3 in New York City honoring fashion designer Valentino. "But I think that the criticism is a little overexaggerated. In Los Angeles, even if you have one drink, that counts as a DUI."
Despite the setback, Romano doesn't think LaBeouf's rising star was tarnished.
"I grew up with girls like Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Duff, and I can tell star quality when I see it. He's got it," says the actress, who played Shia's big sister Ren Stevens in the Disney original series and will now be joining the cast of Broadway's Avenue Q.
She notes that LaBeouf still jokingly calls her "sis" but "he doesn't call me up for advice!"