Brennan Hillard steps out for a day of fun at the Lollipop Theater Network Inaugural Game Day held at The Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Los Angeles earlier this month.
JJJ: Hi, Brennan! Where are you calling from?
BH: Burbank but I was born in Westlake, Calif. And then I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona when I was three, hated it, and moved back here.
JJJ: Have you seen Dance Flick yet?
BH: I actually haven’t even seen the dailies (raw, unedited footage). I chose not to watch them because I wanted to be surprised. I’m just waiting and I’m very anxious. I started [filming] about a year ago. April 15th was when my first contract was written. I finished in June and it’s been a year.
JJJ: Are you currently attending school?
BH: No, I graduated early last year from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, took a year off, and worked on the film. I went on auditions and kind of just lived my life for a year. I’ll be starting community college very soon actually, so I’m excited for that. I might study management and/or marketing.
(Click inside for more of JJJ‘s interview with Brennan Hillard…)
JJJ: Is it important for you to finish college?
BH: Yeah, I would like to have a degree because most people have been giving me a lot of stuff saying ‘Well, does that mean you don’t have faith in yourself that you’re going to make it? Or are you doing it as a fallback because it’s a very tough industry?’ I’m like, ‘I know it’s tough. I’ve been doing this since I was 13.’ Do I have a doubt that I won’t make it? No. I’m very confident I will be a successful actor, I work very hard. So for the people who don’t work very hard, they’re probably not going to make it. I work my butt off.
JJJ: What were the auditions like for Dance Flick?
BH: I had to go through three different auditions. For the first one, I flew from Arizona to LA and met with Lisa Beach and Sarah Katzman. It felt like any other audition but then I got a call-back. This time, it was in front of all the Wayans at Paramount, and I was like ‘Oh Crap!’ I was very nervous but I just did my best. I went back home and my manager called me, saying ‘Just so you know, they already cast the part for Zac, better luck next time.’ Then I got a call a day later saying they fired the guy and wanted to see me. Oh my god. So I flew back and my manager asked if I know the song Fame and if I know the movie. I had no idea what Fame was! I was the only person in the world who did not know what Fame was.
[We] go back to his place, I get on YouTube and I have a half-hour to learn the Fame theme song. I’m like, ‘There’s no way to do this.’ I finally learn it, we get to Paramount and they’re like ‘We have new lyrics!’ I was like, ‘You have got to be kidding me!’ So, everyone is sitting there learning the lyrics, and I’m like, ‘Oh god, there is no way. There is no way.’ So they call me and I tell them I have no idea what Fame and I just learned the song half an hour ago. So I do it and they tell me to just go crazy. I’m a singer, so I just whipped something special up. I can’t even tell you what I sang. They loved it and two days later, I got the call saying I got. I was the last one cast in the entire movie!
JJJ: Is this your first movie ever?
BH: It is! I’m very excited.
JJJ: How exciting. Did you always want to become an actor?
BH: I actually wanted to be a singer and songwriter, so I started singing when I was 6 or 7. I started taking voice lessons and it was very hard. I started writing my own music, I write my own stuff. When I was about 10 or 11, I auditioned for American Juniors and I did that with Lucy Hale. After I got kicked off my mom put me in theatre and I fell in love, and I’ve been acting since. I was probably 12, and from there I knew that’s what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I still do singing but acting is my first priority, I love it, that is my art and that’s what I want to do.
JJJ: Have your parents always been supportive of you pursuing singing and acting?
BH: I’m very lucky because my parents are always very supportive of me. I started out doing sports — soccer, football, baseball, basketball. The only thing I didn’t play was hockey because I don’t know how to ice skate. So I was a huge sports guy, you name it I did it. Then one day, I just decided to try theatre. My dad thought it was odd but he was very supportive and he’s always been.
JJJ: Do you have any siblings?
BH: I do, I have one 32-year-old sister. She will kill me for saying her age!
JJJ: (laughs) Why is there such a big age gap?
BH: It’s quite a story. My mom had my sister very young, not like super young but she got married at around 20. The whole story is actually very vague. She got married around that time — not to my dad. She left that guy since he wasn’t good for her. I’m glad she got out of it — my mother is an amazing woman and she deserves so much better than hi, let me tell you. So she took my sister and found my dad, and my dad adopted my sister, married my mother and now we’re one big happy family!
JJJ: Is she a bit part of your life?
BH: She is my best friend. Honestly I tell her everything and anything. She is my entire world.
JJJ: Getting back to Dance Flick, what’s your favorite memory from set?
BH: Oh god, there are so many! On my first day, I was scared out of my mind, didn’t know anyone and tried to make a good impression. All the actors are eating together and I’m trying to cut my steak with a plastic fork and knife. I was just trying to be really low key but my fork snapped and hit someone. Everyone was looking at me! I was like, ‘Hey what’s up, I’m new!’ That was the very first memory I have, and it’s my favorite because it was where I made all of my friends.
JJJ: Were you the youngest cast member?
BH: I was the baby. Going in, it was a little nerve-wracking but I did have the most experience in recording in a studio, so I did know how to do that. However, going on set and acting was totally new experience for me, so I was very nervous. The Wayans, thank god I had them because they were like, ‘Just do your thing, don’t worry about it, don’t even think about it, just do it. If we need to tell you to tone it down we will but I doubt it, so just do it.’ So I’m like ‘Ok.’ Without them, I would have been screwed.
JJJ: What was it like working with Amy Sedaris?
BH: Oh my god, she is so funny! What’s so funny was, I was watching Sex and the City with my mother, who’s obsessed. I was like ‘Oh my god! That’s Amy! That’s Ms. Cameltoe!’ (her character in Dance Flick) Rewind that, rewind that!’ (laughs) I couldn’t even believe it, she is probably the funniest woman I know, and I just found out that she is releasing a book in 2010. I probably will be [the first one to read it]. (laughs) I love her and support her, she is a very funny woman.
JJJ: So your character is Zac, can you tell us about him?
BH: I do spoof Zac Efron but my name is Jack in the movie now though. It has been changed, but I do play an effeminate Zac Efron-type character. It was all in good fun, I’m a fan of Zac, he’s a good actor. I don’t hate him at all. I’ve read a lot of stuff saying that I’m mean and I shouldn’t do that but I’m a fan. So please tweens, don’t hurt me! (laughs) It’s just my job!
JJJ: Have you seen the High School Musical movies?
BH: I have, the only one I haven’t seen is High School Musical 3. I have it on DVD, I just haven’t watched it. I have no time!
JJJ: Brennan! You have to watch it!
BH: I know! I’m working on it.
JJJ: Did you watch the first two HSM films and you modeled the character off of those movies?
BH: I did, and in Dance Flick we do a spoof on the basketball scene, “Getcha Head In The Game.” Different lyrics, but, I do spoof that part. Of course I watched that scene non-stop, like, it was non-stop! We were constantly watching it, so I can probably never watch that scene again, ever. (laughs) I’m so sick of it! I had to get his mannerisms down, so hopefully I did a good job. I hope everyone likes it, I worked very hard.
JJJ: What is a Zac Efron mannerism?
BH: The one thing that I always realized is the smile he has. I mean it’s his smile, so it’s not very different but for me it’s a different type of smile, you know? Also just the way that he dances I guess, I can’t even explain it honestly, it’s just… it’s just him.
JJJ: Did your sports training help a lot for your character?
BH: It did actually, it did a lot. I had to do drills for basketball and I played basketball when I was very young, so I can dribble and shoot the ball. Can I necessarily do drills up and down the court? No. So I told Dave Scott, the choreographer, ‘Please, you can not make me do drills, it will be a complete disaster.’ Thankfully, I wound up not having to do any drills!
JJJ: Are you familiar with celebrity gossip blogs?
BH: I do, I’m a little bit addicted, I’m not going to lie. I go on Just Jared, but I also go on Just Jared Jr.
JJJ: I saw your songs on MySpace.
BH: God those are so old! I recorded those when I was 16.
JJJ: And you’re 18 now?
BH: I am going to be 19 in December. It seems like a long time ago. Those were the first songs that I wrote and recorded and I’m now in the process of writing new ones. I am writing three simultaneously. It’s mad, so I hope to be getting those out there as soon as I can.
JJJ: Do you just record to record, or do you hope to make a career out of it?
BH: At first I wanted to make a career out of it. I posted some songs and got good and bad feedback. We’ll see where it goes but right now, I am pursuing a film career and it’s going very well, so I guess we’ll see what the future holds.
JJJ: Do you have any acting inspirations?
BH: I love Sean Penn.
JJJ: Did you see Milk?
BH: Oh my god! Brilliant! It was brilliant! He was brilliant! I have nothing bad to say about him, I would love to work on a movie with him one day, him and Emile Hirsch. They are brilliant, brilliant actors.
JJJ: Did you watch Speed Racer?
BH: I didn’t.
JJJ: Emile Hirsch is in it! He’s the lead character! How could you not?
BH: I know, I know. What’s really sad is that I don’t go to movies a lot. The last movie I saw was Slumdog Millionaire.
JJJ: Did you like that film?
BH: I loved it! I am so glad it won the Oscar.
JJJ: What kind of music do you listen to?
BH: Oh gosh, let me pull up my iTunes right now! Aerosmith, my favorite band of all time, U2, Christina Aguliera, amazing, brilliant voice, she is amazing. All American Rejects, Incubus, Kings of Leon, which I want to go to their concert so bad, they’re coming in like June or July or something. Gotta love Britney Spears, I went to her Circus.
JJJ: How was that?
BH: It was life-changing. It was so good, oh my god!
JJJ: With those as your favorite artists, how do you mold your own sound?
BH: I don’t even know, that’s a very tough question. I don’t try to copy any artists, I’m just inspired by my life and the world around me. I do my thing, and that’s my sound. It started out with me writing more alternative and alternative pop songs, and now I’m going in a totally different direction. I’ve been working with Garage Band (software), which I just figured out how. I’ve been putting beats together and I’m going for a whole different kind of feel. I don’t even know what to call it. I love clubs, I love dancing, so I guess that’s the area I’m trying to get into. It makes me happy.
JJJ: Can you play any instruments?
BH: I can’t, which is really sad but if I could play any instrument, it would be piano.
JJJ: Do you have any final words before we close up this interview?
BH: For anyone reading, do not give up! I worked my but off for six years and I finally got my break. So don’t give up and don’t listen to what people tell you to do, just do what you want to do and what makes you happy.
JJJ: Excellent. Thanks so much, Brennan!
Dance Flick hits theaters THIS Friday (May 22).
Posted to: Brennan Hillard