|Jake T. Austin plays Seth in the film “New Year’s Eve.” (Photo courtesy of Jake T. Austin)
Born in New York City on Dec. 3, 1994, Jake T. Austin is an American actor who started his career in commercials, but soon proved his talent to move on to TV and film. Austin is best known for his roll as “Max Russo,” the younger brother in Disney’s “The Wizards of Waverly Place.”
He also played the same character in the film “Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie.” He made his live-action feature film debut as “Angel Macias” in “The Perfect Game” before landing a lead role in “Hotels for Dogs,” for which he was nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film in the Leading Young Actor category.
A versatile young actor, Austin has lent his voice to several animated adventures, most recently, “Rio.” He previously was heard as “Yankee Irving” in “Everyone’s Hero” and as “Nicky” in “The Ant Bully.” And after lending his voice to “Diego” in Disney’s “Go Diego! Go!” he was nominated for an Image Award for Best Actor and for a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Voice-Over Role — Young Actor. In addition, he gives voice to the recurring character of “Bluz” on Disney’s “Happy Monster Band.”
Away from work, Austin enjoys discovering the possibilities of his YouTube channel “Jakeethekid,” and delves into scriptwriting. He has recently written and sold his first screenplay “Kings of Suburbia.” Charitably inclined, he uses his popularity to support and raise awareness for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Starlight Children’s Foundation, and Variety’s Power of Youth Initiative.
Here, he talks about his latest role opposite Abigail Breslin as “Seth” in the ensemble comedy “New Year’s Eve.”
What interested you in “New Year’s Eve”?
Working with Garry Marshall was an incredible opportunity, so that was the main interest for me. Being featured in a film with such an incredible cast was also pretty amazing, it seemed to me that I could learn something from everyone associated with film.
Tell me a little about your character, Seth?
Seth is a typical teenage boy, with a crush on Abigail Breslin’s character. He’s looking to have a fun New Year’s Eve in New York, same as everybody else, and he wants Abigail to be a part of that. But her mother, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, has different plans.
How was it acting opposite Abigail Breslin?
Abigail is fantastic, just a very typical teenage girl, very sweet and humble, considering all her success.
What did you learn from working with your fellow actors on “New Year’s Eve”?
It’s hard to pinpoint something specific, but working with Garry, Abigail and Sarah in itself was an experience. Any time you work with actors and directors of that status, you can always draw from their experience.
Did you draw any parallels between yourself and your character in the film?
Seth is a pretty typical teenage boy who likes hanging out with friends, and I consider myself to be a typical teenage boy. I think Seth gets more of a bad rep than he actually deserves in the film.
What message do you think people will take away from the movie?
I think it’s a movie that delivers a message of hope and love, but it also has dramatic threads throughout. I think that people will be inspired and thankful for what they have.
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve this year?
Honestly, I just want to be around my family and friends at home in New York.
Can we expect any surprises for your character Max Russo on the final episode of “Wizards of Waverly Place”?
I don’t want to give too much away! I will say that there will be a lot of surprise guest stars coming back to visit.
What was it like working with Selena Gomez?
She’s amazing! I love Selena, a very sweet and kind individual with phenomenal talent.
What do you think “Wizards” meant for your career and your life?
“Wizards” was an experience I’ll never forget. It kick-started my career in acting and introduced me to an amazing family on the set.
Are you good friends with all the cast and crew from “Wizards”?
I’m good friends with everyone who worked on “Wizards,” when you spend that many years working together it’s hard not to be. They are a group of really incredible people.
You just finished filming “Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn,” where you’ll be playing Huck. What was that experience like?
Amazing. Working with [co-star] Joel Courtney was incredible. He’s a great actor and a great person. And it was so exciting to be re-making such a classic as well.
Did you like making that film overseas in Bulgaria?
Bulgaria was incredible! It was great to be able to travel for work.
My whole family came and visited and we got the opportunity to travel around a bit. My little sister loved it there!
When did you first know you wanted to be an actor?
I would watch old movies when I was a kid, about 7 years old, and impersonate the actors and put on little skits for my family, I think that was when.
Can you tell me about some actors that you respect and look up to?
Robert De Niro is someone I’ve always looked up to, so it was amazing to get to meet him on the set of “New Year’s Eve.” Martin Scorsese is also a hero of mine.
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