Aaron Stone's Online Hero
On the new Disney XD television series "Aaron Stone", Kelly Blatz plays Charlie Landers, the reigning world champion in the most popular online game, "Hero Rising," as his unstoppable crime-fighting avatar, Aaron Stone. When a billionaire recluse T. Abner Hall (Martin Roach) reveals to Charlie that his favorite game is actually a test for real secret agents, the teen is recruited and his life is changed forever.
Armed with high-tech gadgets, a protective suit and an indestructible, loyal android named S.T.A.N. (J.P. Manoux), Charlie is now the real-life Aaron Stone and must balance fighting super-villains with everyday life, including school, sports and family. Convinced of the importance of his new role, Charlie must work hard to keep his younger brothers Jason (David Lambert), his mom Amanda (Shauna MacDonald), his sweet new neighbor Emma Lau (Tania Gunadi) and his other friends from learning of his new secret identity, as he learns to balance Aaron Stone's missions with his school and sports schedules.
The show's hot young star, Kelly Blatz, spoke to us about this cool new show for Disney's latest network, Disney XD.
TeenTelevision: How did you become interested in acting? Did someone or something inspire you to do it, or did you just know you wanted to be a performer?
Kelly: I grew up in Burbank, Calif. and I acted, as a kid, in commercials and stuff, but I never really enjoyed it. So, I just went back to a regular school and played sports in high school. I was always interested in movies and I remember, in my senior year, I was on my way to film school and I saw the most recent Romeo & Juliet, and something just affected me so much. I started reading about acting and I decided that I wanted to put off film school for a little bit and try acting, so I enrolled myself in the best acting studio.
TeenTelevision: How did you know that you wanted to make a career out of acting?
Kelly: Once I started in class, I just realized that it's what I wanted to do. I've tried a lot of things in my life and there was something about acting that just didn't feel like work to me. It didn't feel like it was tough. I always wanted to be in acting class every day, and I wanted to be around the studio, and watch movies, learn and read books. Other than music, I'd never had a drive like that before, where I was completely attracted to it. So, while in class, I just fell in love with it. My teachers were very supportive and very responsive, so I figured this was a path that I should go down. I just continued to study, and ended up working.
TeenTelevision: How did you originally get involved with "Aaron Stone"? Was it just through the regular auditioning process?
Kelly: I had auditioned for a Disney movie, and the same casting directors were casting "Aaron Stone", and they'd been casting for months and months. They thought I'd be right for it, so I went to the Disney building and auditioned for the producers. I walked in, and I guess they thought that I was the guy and I was what they were looking for. It was the last week of casting. And then, they told me I was going to Canada the next week, and I went.
TeenTelevision: Wow, that was quick! So you go in to audition for a movie and end up the lead of a TV show. Was it intimidating or nerve-wracking at all to be playing the title character? Does that put extra pressure on you?
Kelly: No, nothing but excitement. I don't like to put pressure on myself a lot because I feel like there's no reason for it and no good that can come out of it. There was nothing but excitement to play this character. There's no reason to worry about anything. I enjoy the project. I'm working with amazing people, and with Disney. There's no way this can go wrong. There's no reason to worry about it. I just did my best, and hopefully people respond to it.
TeenTelevision: For teens wondering if they should tune in, what can you say about the show and who your character is? What makes this show so appealing? What can they relate to?
Kelly: My character is a normal kid. He's very, very talented and very smart, and he's the best player of this game, "Hero Rising." He gets approached by the guy who created "Hero Rising," who tells him that the game is a real Secret Agent training ground, that he's the best player, he has to become this hero to save the world, and he has no other choice. I think kids will understand that and relate to it because it parallels any situation in life. Saving the world could be a parallel to supporting your family or being the pitcher on your sports team, or something like that where you're faced with a challenge, as well as balancing your life and staying true to your values and your family. He's a character that kids can emulate, in any situation in their life. It doesn't have to be just being a superhero.
TeenTelevision: What was it in Aaron that you personally related to?
Kelly: The character is very similar to who I was in high school. I wasn't a particular part of any group. I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I was friends with everybody and did everything. He's very, very similar to me, in just the words on the page. I think they saw that I was this character because I was just so similar to who he is. What also attracted me to it was that I get to be a role model to kids. I looked up to people who were superheroes, or who I watched on Disney. And, I get to play duel roles, and do such physical action and comedy. That was such an amazing experience that there was no way I could turn it down. For a lot of people, their guilty pleasure is watching the Disney Channel. This show is doing something different, where adults and kids can watch because it's shot like an action movie. It's funny. Kids are a lot smarter these days, with the Internet and everything that's going on, and they're more in tune, so it's definitely not predictable. It has very intricate storylines. It's something totally different that Disney hasn't done before.
TeenTelevision: What sort of training did you do for this, and did your background in sports make the physicality of this any easier for you?
Kelly: I had never had a background in martial arts, or anything like that, so I did train for a couple weeks, every day, before we left, and I continued to train while I was there. But, the show infuses extreme sports, like skateboarding and bike riding, and stuff like that, and I had played sports, skate-boarded, snow-boarded and rode bikes, all my life. I was just fortunate that everything they had pulled out, I happened to be able to do. And, I trained for the martial arts, so it was to my advantage, going into shooting.
TeenTelevision: Did you get to do most of your own stunts? Had you had any experience with that kind of thing before?
Kelly: I got to do a lot of the stunts. I got to mostly do all of the fights. After each episode, I was getting better and better, and having to pick it up quicker and quicker. But, I did have a stunt double who did the fights, and a stunt double who did the skateboarding, and a stunt double who did BMX. I tried to do as much as I could, and as much as they would allow me to do. By the end, I was doing a lot of different things that I thought I'd never be able to do, and learned while I was shooting the show.
TeenTelevision: Did you give any input into the development of your character or his uniform at all?
Kelly: Yeah, somewhat. With the uniform, they had last say, but they asked, "Do you like this? Is this comfortable here? Do you think that you could move in this?" So, I was there when they were making it, but they ultimately had the final decision for the look, and I was completely content with what they chose. With the character, when we first started, it was a brand new show, so we were all trying to get a feel for it. Bruce Kalish, who is the executive producer and writer for a lot of the episodes, catered to my voice and how I took it on. We sat down together and talked about it a lot. And, with each episode, we knew where we were going with it, and it was more of a mutual thing with myself and the writers, but I never wrote anything myself.
TeenTelevision: What did you think, the first time you put that uniform on?
Kelly: It was very surreal. At first, I was like, "How am I going to move in this thing?" The top piece goes into a leotard. It's all crazy, how it fits on. It was definitely very surreal. But, once I put it on and started doing scenes, I got more used to it. As Charlie Landers gets used to being Aaron Stone, I got used to putting on the suit and playing that character.
TeenTelevision: What is it like to work with the other actors on the show? What was it like to develop the bond you have on screen with David Lambert, who plays your brother, and the friendship that Charlie has with his neighbor, played by Tania Gundadi? And, how was it to work with J.P. Manoux?
Kelly: With David, we were alone in that city (Toronto), so we became very close. We pretty much became like brothers. I would help him out with anything, and he'd always ask me questions about things. We definitely created that bond, so off screen or between scenes, we'd have the same relationship that we did on the screen, and that made it very easy to do the scenes. With Tania, I had worked with her on the pilot, and she was a sweetheart. We became friends. I hung out with J.P., and he's such a great guy. He's been working with Disney for awhile, so he was in tune with what was going on and helped a lot of us out with keeping the pace going for certain things. We all definitely got along. There was no conflict, whatsoever.
TeenTelevision: What's it like to work opposite somebody who is playing an android? Is it hard not to crack up at the things that he does?
Kelly: Oh, yeah. There were definitely a lot of times where we were cracking up because of things that he said or did. He's just a really, really funny guy, and he's really talented, and he took that character and did his own thing. It was hard because he's not really supposed to be human and I'm imagining a lot of things that he's doing, like shooting out of his eye or taking off his head, during the scene. Once we'd finish a scene, we'd be like, "Wow, this is so ridiculous!" But, once you see the finished product, you can see how they totally make it work.
TeenTelevision: Had you been a gamer at all yourself, or was this something that was totally new to you?
Kelly: No, I've played video games, all my life, from when Nintendo and Super Nintendo first came out, to all of the consoles that are out now. I had definitely had a history of playing video games, but I haven't played in the last couple years, except for maybe here and there. But, having to pretend like I'm playing, in every episode, I had to tap back into being really, really into video games.
TeenTelevision: What's been the most enjoyable thing about doing the series, and what's been the most challenging thing about it?
Kelly: The most challenging was shooting 21 episodes in about 19 weeks. It was something crazy like that. The schedule was unbelievable. So, having to have that energy and be on point, every day, working all day, and having it be so physical, and being away from home, it was just really, really tough and very challenging, every single day. The most rewarding thing was finishing that six months of hard work, and seeing how people are responding to it now, and seeing how all of the hard work that we put in has made this incredibly amazing show that we're all very proud of.
TeenTelevision: How was it to shoot in Toronto?
Kelly: Toronto is a great city. It's amazing. We started there in the summer, and it was pretty hot. It's so diverse and there's so many different cultures, and they had festivals every weekend. All the people there and the crew were so great. I absolutely loved Toronto. It's a clean city with great music and great restaurants. As we went along, it started to get colder and colder. By the end of the season, we were shooting in 15-degree weather. We had heaters and heating pads in our clothes, and it was freezing. We went from it being totally hot to completely freezing, but during that time it was just a great city to be in.
TeenTelevision: Is there anything that you got to do, over the season, that you're looking forward to viewers getting to see?
Kelly: Yeah. There's a big turn, during the season, with Charlie. I got to go off and do something completely opposite, and that was probably my favorite thing to do, during shooting. When that happens, it's going to be shocking to the viewers and the kids who are watching.
TeenTelevision: Disney has an ability to turn their actors into very recognizable stars. Are you prepared for that, or are you trying not to think about that?
Kelly: I take things as they come, and I take moments as they come. It's definitely not something that I think about. I'm sure there's certain ways that people will treat you differently, but you just have to take it as it comes. I know what's important to me, so I don't think it's going to be a huge challenge for me, or something that's going to create a lot of pain. It's all positive. If you hold on to what you believe in, it's going to be fine. Just enjoy it.
TeenTelevision: When you started the show, did you know that you would be helping launch a whole new network for Disney?
Kelly: Yeah, they had told me, at the time. It was very exciting to join the show because it was not only a new show, but a new network. When the Disney Channel started, to be that first show and to be part of that whole new branding, would have been amazing. Since I was a kid, I've just been obsessed with Disney. To be a part of something brand new from Disney is just unbelievable for me, and an amazing opportunity.
TeenTelevision: Do you have any desire to also pursue your music professionally?
Kelly: Completely, yeah. It's something I'm very serious about, if not as serious as I am about acting. Things have been going very well with my music and, when I'm not shooting the show, I'm writing and recording. We just got an amazing deal. We're going to be putting out a record and playing a lot, so I'm very, very excited about that.
TeenTelevision: What type of music are you doing?
Kelly: It's with a five-piece band, called Capra. It's rock music.
TeenTelevision: If you had your choice, are there types of roles or specific genres that you'd like to do, but haven't gotten the chance to do yet?
Kelly: Oh, yeah! There are so many different types of roles I want to do. I just want to make sure I keep challenging myself. It's one thing to play something that's very similar to you, but to play something that's completely opposite of you is so much fun. I would love to do different period pieces. I would love to do something from the Kerouac era. I know they're making On The Road, but I don't think I'd even be able to audition because it's shooting while I'm shooting the show. But, I'd like to do something that's from the 60's. I'm just really obsessed with that era. I definitely want to do something very challenging, that's not always comedy. I've been able to do some stuff like that, before this show, and I really enjoy that type of work as well. It's completely different.