Tonight, Wizards of Waverly Place star Jake T. Austin will be back on the Disney Channel reprising his role as Max Russo in the show's hour-long special The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex.
The 18-year-old New York City-born actor, who has spent more than half his life on camera, opened up to Latina.com about returning to the Wizards world, his upcoming ABC Family series The Fosters and his David Letterman connection.
You’ve been acting since the age of seven, more than a decade. What inspired you to pursue it as a career?
Films such as White Heat and On the Waterfront sparked my interest in acting. I've been impersonating people around me, as well as my family members for as long as I can remember, doing accents, impressions, etc.
So who were your acting role models growing up?
Leonardo DiCaprio, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, John Cazalle.
Tell us about your first big break, appearing as "Kid 1698" in a comedy sketch on the Late Show with David Letterman.
My uncle Gene works in the prop department on Mr. Letterman's program. My grandfather worked on the show as well, as a stagehand, and so did my father. I'd been invited to the set for Letterman's "Halloween Special" by my uncle, and was told they needed additional kids for an upcoming sketch. Without hesitation, I volunteered.
In 2004, you landed the voice role of Dora's cousin, Diego on Dora The Explorer and then went on the voice the character in spin-off series Go, Diego, Go! What was that experience like?
Playing the role of Diego was a great experience. The show was really interactive with the viewers and I learned the core of my Spanish in the process.
How did it feel to be part of two positive projects about Latinos?
Being a Latino myself, working on both of these projects was a way to embrace my heritage and educate myself. Additionally, my next project The Fosters, which premiers this summer on ABC Family, is a Jennifer Lopez produced drama series that centers on a same-sex couple raising biological and foster children, some of whom are Hispanic.
Wizards of Waverly Place beat That’s So Raven to become the longest-running Disney Channel Original Series and the show and its special earned a combined three Emmys… Tell us about your experience on Wizards.
Wizards was a fundamental part of my life and my career. Both the cast and crew were incredibly influential. I’m so happy that I had the chance to work with everyone again for the special, Alex vs. Alex.
It’s been more than a year since Wizards’ final bow on the Disney Channel. What was it like returning to the role of Max Russo in the new special The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex?
Reprising the role of Max was nostalgic for me. I love the character. Anytime I get the opportunity to make someone laugh, I will!
Tell us what we’ll see on The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex special. I understand it’s like a big Italian vacation for The Russo Family.
The Russos return and take a trip to Italy to visit their extended family. Trouble occurs when Alex inadvertently creates a spell, which conjures her evil counterpart, "Bad Alex.” The family is then forced to save “Good Alex,” without the help of magic.
Last year you took on a more serious role when you guest starred on Law & Order: SVU. Tell us about that experience.
Law & Order: SVU was a great change of pace for me. I filmed my episode in a familiar neighborhood in my hometown of New York City. Playing such a real role was a refreshing experience for me.
Do you foresee more dramatic roles in your future?
I would love to do any role that challenge me as an actor.
So what’s next for you?
My new ABC Family original series The Fosters is slated to premiere this summer! Also look out for RIO 2 in 2014. Thank you to all my Latino fans. Please be sure to vote for me in this year’s Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, in the category of "Favorite TV Actor."