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Interviewing actor Jake T. Austin, voice of Alex in ‘The Emoji Movie’

Actor Jake T. Austin with Kidsday reporters, from

Actor Jake T. Austin with Kidsday reporters, from left: Natalie LaFata, Michael St. Angelo, Mikayla Sydnor and Lauren Pallaci. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We met actor Jake T. Austin at the Sony offices in Manhattan right after we viewed clips of the new animated film “The Emoji Movie.” Jake does the voice of Alex. We have been fans of Jake since he starred as Max Russo on the Disney show “The Wizards of Waverly Place.” We asked him:

Did you relate to your character Alex in “The Emoji Movie”?

I can relate to Alex in “The Emoji Movie.” My character, Alex, is a very shy student in the film. He doesn’t have a whole lot of confidence, so he doesn’t really know what to say to girls that he wants to talk to. He only has like one really close best friend. So he’s a pretty much a quiet guy, keeps to himself, but he’s very smart. And he has to learn to express himself instead of just being on the phone and texting all his emotions. In the movie he has to learn how to be a real person. So in other words, like the emojis in the phone tell him, stop paying attention to social media. Stop paying attention to all these emojis. Go out. Live your life and interact with people.

What’s your favorite movie you ever played in?

Probably “Hotel for Dogs.” That was a movie that was about these two kids who adopt all these stray animals from the city and they put them up in a hotel so the stray dogs have a place to live. I did that movie, and it was a lot of fun because I love animals. It was my dream come true.

What would you design if you could design your own emoji?

That’s a good question. Well, there’s so many emojis. Can you guys think of an emoji that’s out there that you can’t think of? I can’t.

What was the most challenging part about playing Alex?

The most challenging part about doing this film was because it’s a cartoon; it’s an animated movie. We’re not really talking to anybody, we’re just talking to a piece of paper. So you really have to use your imagination. And use your mind to pretend like you’re doing what’s really happening. Because before we finished the movie, we didn’t even see the animation. We didn’t see what anything would look like. I don’t even know what Alex was supposed to look like. So we did the movie and then I finished it, and then months later I saw the trailer, and I was like wow, that’s pretty cool.

What kind of experience did you have on “Dancing with the Stars”?

“Dancing with the Stars” was so cool because I love the show. I’ve always watched the show and I was with my family and would always kind of pay attention to who was on the show. Our favorite celebrities were always on so we wanted to see how they did. I didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was for me, just trying to learn how to do ballroom dancing and so many styles of dance. It was a little bit difficult. So I think if you’re good at something, you should know what you’re good at. But it’s also good to try new things. And that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how well I would do.

Did you like participating in this movie ?

This movie was so much fun because I know I use emojis every day. I have a sister, she’s 15. And whenever she’s mad at me she texts me the emoji with the smoke coming out of her nose. So I was really curious how were they going to make an emoji movie and what is it going to be about.

In your opinion, what was more fun to shoot: “The Wizards of Waverly Place” or “The Emoji Movie”?

I don’t know if I can pick because I love “The Wizards of Waverly Place” and the whole cast and everyone. We had so much fun doing the movie, too, and then doing the show. And then doing this. The projects are all so different that it would be so hard for me to pick one. But right now I would say this one is the most recent one that I had a lot of fun doing. Just because it’s so new. “The Wizards of Waverly Place” was live action. But in this one it’s a cartoon. So it was a lot of fun.

If it was your choice, would you want to make a sequel of “The Emoji Movie”?

I think if people like this movie, of course, then there should be a second one. That’s what I think. So I think if you guys like it, there should be a second one.

What’s your favorite emoji and why?

My favorite emoji to use is probably the A-OK Emoji. I use this one all the time because it describes a lot of moments in my life, like just OK. Everything’s good. Like right now I would give two thumbs up — that would be my Emoji. Not the OK. Two thumbs up.

What is it like when you walk around and people know your name and come up to you and say, “Hi.”

I love when people recognize me. I mean that’s the reason that you want to entertain people, so audiences can enjoy it and people can see it. And people in different countries, can feel connected. So, I think whenever I get recognized, it’s like a great thing. It’s somebody telling you hey, you know I really liked what you did, so thank you.

What inspired you to become an actor?

I was inspired to become an actor just by wanting to imitate and wanting to entertain and make people laugh. And watching my favorite movies with my family and my favorite actors, that always made me inspired to want to be a good actor and to want to make movies and make people laugh.

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