Thomas McDonell is turning heads in Hollywood with his stellar performance in Disney’s movie, Prom which will be available on Blu-ray and DVD soon. How does it feel to be called the next big thing? What’s it like to be cast as a young Johnny Depp? We catch up with the rising star to find out…
How would you describe your new movie, Prom?
Prom follows the story of a handful of students during the lead-up to their high school prom. We were hoping to create a classic teen film, so it’s the story of their relationships and their intertwining experiences. Tonally, the movie lies somewhere between a John Hughes movie like Pretty In Pink and a Cameron Crowe film. It’s been a great project to work on.
How would you describe your character in the movie?
I play a guy named Jesse Richter in Prom. Jesse is a loner and he’s a bit of a rebel – but he’s misunderstood because he’s dealing with a lot of issues at home. It was a lot of fun playing the rebel in the movie. However, what I really enjoyed about the character was the fact that there was a whole lot more to him than just a bad boy on a motorcycle. There’s a complexity to Jesse and he’s got many different layers to his personality.
This is your first big movie role. What did it feel like to walk out onto the set for the first time?
It felt very cool. I didn’t know what to expect, but the energy on the set was extremely positive. Everyone working on Prom was very cool, which made it very easy. To be honest, it was a dream job.
The director of Prom has described you as the ‘next big star of movies’… How does that make you feel?
He said that? Wow. That’s nice. I’m happy that he thinks that and I hope he’s right. It would be good to do some more work in movies, but I know this is a tough industry and I know it’s going to be difficult. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens because who knows what the future holds?
Did you always want to be an actor?
Not exactly. When people ask Jack Nicholson why he got into the movie business, he said, “I always knew I liked watching movies, so I fell into it.” That’s how I like to look at it, too. I have always really liked movies and I thought it would be great to work on them in whatever way possible.
What movies inspired you when you were growing up?
Oh, man… There are so many movies that inspired me in my younger days. It’s impossible to pick just a few, but I have always admired directors like Sidney Lumet. Dog Day Afternoon is one of my favorite movies ever. Al Pacino is outstanding in it.
What other actors do you look up to?
I love actors like Paul Dano, Emile Hirsch and Olivia Wilde. They are all young people that I think are great, and they have appeared in some amazing movies.
What advice would you give to wannabe actors?
If you want to become an actor, the first thing to do is practice hard. I went to art school and I crossed over into performing arts, but I tried to learn from everything and everyone around me. If you’re serious about acting, try taking classes or join a drama club. Get involved.
What audition tips can you share with us?
Auditions are tough. At times they are nerve wracking and tense, but you’ve just got to walk into the audition room and give it your best shot. It’s also important to be adaptable because the director might ask you to perform a scene in a different way. Be open to change. Be ready to mix up your performance.
Is there anything else you want to add?
It’s also imperative that you study the script before you walk into an audition room. Learn your lines and study the scene. Be prepared.
What’s next for you?
Next, I’m working on a Tim Burton movie called Dark Shadows. It’s going to be filmed in London and I think it’s going to be really cool. It’s been described as a gothic soap opera and it’s a very campy, goofy project. I play a small role in the movie, but it’s a good role. I play the young Johnny Depp!
How does it feel to be cast as a young Johnny Depp?
I’ve been doing a lot of promotion for Prom recently and everyone seems to bring up the Johnny Depp comparisons. It’s very flattering. Johnny Depp is a great actor and he’s a handsome dude. It’s great.
Do you have any other acting projects in the pipeline?
I’ve also signed up for a movie called The Spectacular Now, which is going to be very cool. It’s a great story about a very charming but problematic teenager, played by me. I’m really excited about the role because my character really reminds me of Ferris Bueller. He’s a very charming, charismatic guy who can do no wrong. I can’t wait.
PROM stars Aimee Teegarden (“Friday Night Lights”), Thomas McDonell (“The Forbidden Kingdom”), Danielle Campbell (“Prison Break”), Yin Chang (“Gossip Girl”), Nicholas Braun (“10 Things I Hate About You”), Jared Kusnitz (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”), Jonathan Keltz (“Entourage”), De’Vaughn Nixon (“Sonny with a Chance”), Nolan Sotillo (“Corey and Lucas for the Win”), Cameron Monaghan (“Corey and Lucas for the Win”) and
Raini Rodriguez (“I’m in the Band”). PROM will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD August 30, 2011.