How did it feel working with such a great cast? It was such a great learning experience being a part of 21 Jump Street. Jonah and Channing booked me off of my audition tape, so I was so lucky to be able to just fly out to New Orleans and start filming. When I wasn't filming one of my scenes, I would stick around and watch the rest of the cast film their scenes. I learn so much by observing how other actors work, and I took advantage of soaking up all I could on set. The crew was awesome and we had great Directors leading the way, I couldn't have asked for a better filming experience.
What was your favorite part about shooting 21 Jump Street? Did you learn anything you hadn’t known before? My favorite part of shooting the movie was getting to improv with such seasoned actors. Jonah and Chris taught me a lot about committing to your character in a scene. As an actor you sometimes forget to just have fun and see where the scene will take you and being in that creative environment reminded me how fun my job is.
How did it feel to emerge from acting with Disney to acting in a feature film? Feature films are definitely where my passion is. I love Disney and acting in a sitcom but what inspired me to want to be an actor was watching Paul Newman and Cary Grant as a kid. There is an excitement to film that gets the audience interested in a storyline and they can escape into a different world for a couple hours. That feeling when you watch a good movie is what made me want to be an actor. I always wanted to give other people that escape, give them something to think about.
So you graduated high school in 2010, you are definitely one of the youngest actors in Hollywood. Do you ever feel intimidated because of your age? Getting to work with actors you have admired and watched in movies, can be an intimidating thought, but I have worked very hard to get to where I am in my career and I get more excited than intimidated. I have an amazing family and work with really great people, so that keeps me balanced. I have always felt much older than my age, and this business makes you grow up fast. You definitely have to have a thick skin and not take yourself too seriously. I believe hard work is the key to success in any business, and I welcome any opportunity to stretch myself as an actor.
Did you have any other career plans before acting? Acting has always been my first passion, but being a Doctor intrigued me too, as my Mom worked in a hospital for many years. My Dad is an engineer, so I had thought about that field as well. I think education is really important and hope to go to college when my schedule slows down a bit. For now I am focused on my acting career.
What do you love most about acting? Connecting with an audience. It's the coolest feeling when someone comes up to you thanking you for making them laugh when they had a bad day, or saying how much they enjoyed your performance in something. People go to the movies to get away from their reality and to be entertained. To be able to impact someone in the smallest way is an honor to me.
You previously lived in Texas, how do you like California and Los Angeles in particular? I love both Dallas and Los Angeles. I still go back home as much as I can, but when I'm in LA and I am not working I like to take advantage of all the fun things LA has to offer. I enjoy going hiking, or to the beach with friends. LA has a lot to offer, but Dallas is where my family is... so it's a nice change of pace.
Do you get to visit with your family often? Or do they usually come visit you? I talk to my family pretty much every day. They usually fly out here to LA to visit me on set and hang out for a couple days. I am really lucky to have the family that I do, so I never take for granted the time I get to spend with them when they come and visit.
What piece of advice would you give to young actors like yourself trying to achieve their dreams in Hollywood? Always be true to yourself. Remaining true to who you really are is key to staying grounded and happy. As with any career, there are positives and negatives to being in the entertainment business. Focus on the positives, and don't get caught up in the negative aspects. If you're comfortable with who you are, and surround yourself with positive people you can trust, you can get through anything.
What are your hopes for the future? More films? TV shows? Theater? I would love to do more feature films, and look forward to getting the opportunity to showcase my dramatic acting skills as well. I would also welcome the opportunity to travel for a project. The change of pace would be nice, as I love to travel and explore new cities.
Do you have any new projects going on right now? I have been very busy and focused on my Disney series, Lab Rats for the past 6 months, as we are just finishing our first season. So, my priority has been making the show the best it can be. However, I am very committed to growing as an actor, and even though my schedule is very busy, I have made time to take classes at The Groundlings, which is an incredible improv studio here in LA. I also love working on dramatic scripts and since I hope to be able to do a dramatic film soon, I make sure I am constantly pushing myself to be the best actor I can be. You are never done learning as an actor, and I enjoy the creative process.
Interviewed by Jeanelle Horcasitas
Photographed by Vince Trupsin Styled by Pegah Sasani Groomed by Amber Bruehl