We met actor Jason Earles, who stars as Rudy on the Disney show “Kickin’ It,” while he was at ABC offices in Manhattan recently. Before starring on this show, he was on “Hannah Montana”; he played Jackson Stewart.
Tell us about “Kickin’ It.”
My new show “Kickin’ It” is awesome. It’s a marshal arts sitcom. It would be like “Bad News Bears” meets “Karate Kid.” Did you guys see the “Karate Kid” movie? It’s a little bit like “Karate Kid,” and I play Sensei Rudy, the guy who runs the Bobby Wasabi Marshal Arts Academy, and it’s the worst dojo in the whole chain. It’s just really bad. And the kids are misfits and goofy, and there’s a chance that I’m going to lose the dojo because we’re doing so bad. And I recruit this kid Jack to come in who is like a hotshot skateboarder, and he helps me turn all the kids around and helps save the dojo.
Would you give something to have a regular life like be a lawyer or something?
No way. This is only job that I ever want to have. If I could somehow manage to avoid getting a real job for the rest of my life and just get to do this acting thing — that’s the dream right there.
If you weren’t an actor, what would you be?
If I wasn’t an actor I would probably work with animals in some way. When I was in college, I was pre-vetinary medicine for a long time; then, I just switched it to a biology major. But I would maybe work at a zoo or be a vetenanian or maybe do something in conservation biology like work at Yellowstone National Park or someplace where I could just be around animals all the time. That would be great.
What do you like doing in your free time?
In my free time, I play a lot of video games. Probably too much video games, actually. I need to go outside and exercise a little more. But the other thing I really love doing is that] since we started the show, I’ve been trying to do some marshal arts training. So Leo Howard, the main star of our show, he’s legitimately a black belt in real life. He’s been doing karate for 10 years, and he’s really good with swords, and so he’s teaching me how to do some cool karate stuff with the swords and different kicks and this cool thing called Parkour — it’s like when you run and jump over things and sort of gymnastics sort of stuff. I’ve been trying to do as much as I can with the marshal arts training, because it’s something that we could use on the show, and it’s really fun.
What or who encouraged you to become an actor?
My parents were always really, really supportive of my acting. They were supportive whether I was doing a school play or when I told them I wanted to move to Los Angeles and try to do it for a job. So they were probably my biggest supporters; and then growing up, I watched a lot of . . . do you know who Michael J. Fox is? It might be a little older for you guys. But Michael J. Fox, he was like a big role model for me because I don’t know whether you notice, I’m not a real big guy, I’m sort of small, and Michael J. Fox is like a smaller guy, and he looked young for his age. And we’re sort of a similar type. I just love always watching him in movies and on TV. He was in “Back to the Future,” if you guys have ever seen the movie.
What does it take to become an actor?
You have to be OK with hearing the word “no” a lot. Because you go on a lot of auditions, and you get told that you’re like too short, too tall or too pudgy or too skinny or not funny enough or too funny. And so if you go on a 100 auditions, you might get like 10 call backs and book one job. So you have to be able to deal with rejection really well.
How do you feel about acting and “Kickin’ It”?
“Kickin’ It” maybe is the funnest job I ever had. It’s five boys and one girl. So I feel really bad for the girl, because she gets to hang out with all of us dudes all the time. But it’s a karate show, it’s a comedy, so basically we spend all day like trying to make each other laugh, and kicking and punching each other, which is really fun. We like to play this game called Would This Hurt, and we either punch or kick each other to see if it actually hurt — and most of the time, it does. It’s really, really fun. It’s just a bunch of dudes hanging out and being silly all day.
Have you always had a passion for acting?
Yeah, I was the middle of five kids growing up, and so those kids tend to be ignored in the family. Like you’re not the oldest, you’re not the baby, you’re just sort of right in the middle. And the only way I felt like I could get attention growing up was to do school plays. Because when you’re in a play, like, you all sit in an audience and watch me, and I get all your attention. This is just sort of how it is. So that was the way I stood out from my brothers and my sister was just to do school plays, and that’s how it started, and it was something I was good at. I got a lot of encouragement from my teachers and my parents, and it just sort of went from there.
If you could be co-stars with any other celebrity, who would you choose?
I think Jimmy Fallon is really funny. So if I could do a movie or TV show with Jimmy Fallon, that would be fun.
If you lost your job as an actor, what would you do?
I would starve and try to get a job back as an actor. I would audition again and again and hope that I could change my luck. I hope that lightning would strike twice in the same place.
What was the first TV show you were in, like, maybe before “Hannah Montana”?
The very first TV show I was in was a show called “The Shield” on FX. It was a little bit more adult in nature. Like I sort of played a bad guy, like sort of a mean street kid. It was very, very different from Jackson. He wasn’t goofy at all. He wasn’t funny. He was just sort of a bad, mean kid.