Recently we caught up with Booboo Stewart (Nils Allen Stewart, Jr.), who plays, Jay, the teenage son of the villain Jafar from “Aladdin” in Disney Channel’s original Descendants which premieres, Friday, July 31. In case you didn’t know, Booboo’s grown up around Hollywood, where members of his family are stunt actors and coordinators. His other stellar roles include portraying a werewolf alongside Taylor Lautner in the “Twilight” franchise. Booboo has definite long-term goals for working in Hollywood. He shared a few tidbits of advice.
What attracted you to the role?
The first thing was definitely Kenny Ortega directing it! I was definitely attracted to the opportunity of working with him. He’s a legend. He’s amazing! I wanted to go in for a meeting. I read the script. Of course, it was an amazing story. It’s an adventurous story. I fell in love with it.
What did you see as the general message of the story?
My character goes through a lot of different messages and evolves. One of my favorite messages is his ability to find out what teamwork is, and how teamwork is a part of life. Then, he learns how teamwork can help you in life. Another great message in the film is definitely just to be true to yourself, and to find out who you really are as a person.
You mentioned being in awe working with Kenny Ortega?
Yes, he’s worked with so many, countless people. You can look him up and, read about him, and all the people that he’s worked with. But then, he comes out with some crazy story, “Oh, yeah, I worked with that person.” And you’re like, “No, way! I I thought I knew who you worked with. I didn’t even know.”
Did you have dance experience prior to working with Kenny?
Yes, actually Cameron Boyce and I used to dance at the same dance academy years ago, before working on this film. So, I had dance training beforehand. But, I had stopped dancing for a while. So, I put myself back in dance classes and singing lessons for a month to train for this.
Can we expect to hear some music coming from you in the near future?
Not really. Not that I’m not looking at it. Right now, acting is what I love to do. It’s my focus. I play music for a hobby. I play guitar, drums. I play piano a little bit. I play mostly string instruments from guitar.
When did you know that you wanted to become an actor? What age did you get bit by the acting bug?
I’ve grown up on set my whole life. Then, from watching my dad (Nils Allen Stewart) who’s an actor and stunt coordinator. My older sister (Maegan Stewart) was also doing stunts. I started doing stunts before acting. But, when I was 15, I saw Heath Ledger’s Joker in “Batman: The Dark Knight.” That was it! And it’s just one of those things, where when you’re younger and you wanna be a skateboarder. You think it’s really cool. For me with acting, and seeing Heath play that part of the Joker, it was like, “Wow.” And, I’ve been doing it since then. It’s only been six years. But, it’s been a really fun six years!
How did you prepare for this role?
I definitely had the dance classes. One of my friends, Kentrell Newton, he’s an amazing choreographer. He helped with my dance classes, preparing ahead of time. Doing that and catching up on my Aladdin films. I definitely did a lot of nitpicking with Jafar and figuring out what he was all about: and creating a child from him.
After reading the script, what was your take on the fascinating twist of these characters, with respect as offspring to Disney’s most notorious villains?
I knew the story was great. But, even if the story wasn’t connected to the classic characters, it had legs to stand alone because it’s a really good story.
What was your favorite song/dance number?
It’s hard to say. All the songs are great. But, there’s a number at the end, called “Set It Off.” It’s a high-energy, dance number, where we’re in front of the school performing, that song is so good. It’s so good. When I just heard the song initially, just a demo of it, I couldn’t stop singing it in my head. Even after we had played the song a hundred-billion times, it’s still a good song. It really is good. It has a nice beat. Even “Rotten to the Core” is brilliant in the beginning, when we’re dancing through the streets, and everybody sees who we are. But, “Set It Off,” does it for me in the end.
Now, you’ve done the “Twilight” movies, been in the “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and not to mention several Disney movies, who would you like to one day act with?
There’s so many people that I’d like to work with Terry Gilliam (The Zero Theorem, Monty Python franchise): he’s one of my favorite directors. Obviously the classics like Martin Scorsese (“Hugo”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”). I could go on for days on different actors and different people that I’d love to work with like Matthias Schoenaerts. He’s crazy good. He’s my favorite right now. If you’ve seen anything he’s been in like “Rust and Bone,” “The Drop” or “Bullhead” this guy’s a monster! He’s the best actor out there I think. He’s not even acting, he’s just so good. He’s amazing. It’s like a documentary. I’d love to work with him. And, there’s so many people I’d love to work with.
With every film, you experience a bit of a life-changing journey. I’m sure with “Twilight,” you probably experienced a great deal. But, training under Kenny, also considering the numerous messages from this film, what do you think you learned?
That’s a really difficult question. Watching how Kenny works is incredible because he’s so definitive. I want to direct one day. So, for me to see a director who knows exactly what he wants and needs is such a strong example. Watching Kenny control the set is cool. When Kenny’s talking, everybody listens. It’s not in a bad way, he just has a good energy about him and you want that. Kenny wants it to be as good as it can be so, you better step up. He definitely brings good strong energy to the set. He’s very passionate about what he does and you can see it.
What would you say to all the young teens aspiring to be where you are?
When someone tells you, “No,” don’t take it as a slap in the face! You have to take it, just move on and keep going strong. You’ll just audition, audition, and audition. And don’t get a part. But, it could be because you have brown hair. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad actor. So, just give it all you got so you can leave it in the room! The worst thing is when you have an audition and you haven’t left it in the room. And, you sit there worrying, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” Leave it in the room and keep going. That’s so important.
What’s next for you?
I have a film coming up on August 4, 2015 called “The Last Survivor.” It’s a drama-action about these two young adults trying to survive in this world, where the world’s run out, and it’s on water. My character has kidney failure. My character is slowly passing away. It’s a really crazy story. His name is Dean, but they call him the mechanic. And, I’m going off to do a movie called, “Pitching Tents” that’s a buddy-comedy, coming-of-age film based in the ‘80s. That’ll be really fun. We’re filming it in Connecticut. This will be fun just to film this one. There’s one actor that I’m really happy about is Jonathan Lipnicki (“Jerry McGuire”). He was the boy in (“Jerry McGuire”) and (“Stewart Little”). I’m just excited to meet a “legend” as far those big films are concerned.
I see your younger sister, Sage, is present for the interview?
Yes! We were just in a film, “Hope Bridge!” In fact all of us are in this movie: me, my dad and my sister, Maegan also with Kevin Sorbo. And, Sage has a film coming out this on October 16, “Tales of Halloween,” comes out. It’s a really awesome horror short. Recently we were in a movie together, It’s ten short films in one movie, so it’s an anthology. It’s like epically horrific and not cheesy at all. In fact, it’s so slasher it’s awesome! I love it. She’s 9.
How did you get the nickname “Booboo”?
It’s a nickname that I’ve had since I was a baby. It stuck with my whole life. He’s actually named after his father Nils Allen Stewart, Jr.
The DVD is available same day as it airs online through www.disney.com/descendants