"There is always hope..."
Writing a Broadway musical, studying and performing at Juilliard, featured in an upcoming Adam Sandler film, Pixels, Andrew Bambridge has a packed schedule! No one would know the surgeries and health battles Andrew has faced in 18 years. Because Andrew has the unusual physical status (and challenges) of a little person (dwarfism). Nevertheless, he’s playing to big crowds: performing, writing and singing for Christ.
Andrew, you're passionate about theater, acting and singing. How did these dreams develop?
I started music before acting. My older brother was taking piano lessons when he was five. I remember just sitting and listening to his lessons and wanting to be part of them. I asked my mom if I could take piano lessons, too, and that started my love for music. Soon, I began singing and acting. I went on to play a number of different instruments. Now I am studying percussion at Juilliard Pre-College.
Acting started in church. I loved it so much I pursued it in middle school, where I actually opened as Winthrop in The Music Man. I loved being on stage. I joined a community theater group, did choreography and a second production of “The Music Man." It was like Heaven on Earth.
I attended AMTC's SHINE Winter 2010 and got hooked up with managers and agents. At SHINE I realized that, "Yeah! This is the path I want to go down."
You starred in Pixels with Adam Sandler and Peter Dinklage...what was that like?
Oh it was fantastic! I play young Eddie Plant, who is the younger version of Peter Dinklage's character. He is the top guy, and does everything in his power to keep his position. He is seen as the cool, gangster of the gaming world...that's my character. It was a really fun character to play. I do not want to give too much away, but in the movie I do have a scene with Adam and Kevin James, and this scene was the first scene I did. One of the things I was not expecting was that Adam and Kevin would sometimes improvise and change the script during a shot, but never was I supposed to laugh. This was very difficult because some of the things they came up with were hilarious!
How did you book such an awesome role?
I met with one of the agents at AMTC, and he got me the audition for this particular role on Pixels. The role was actually supposed to be for someone much younger, like 13 or 14. But I was called one Thursday afternoon and told that I needed to submit a video audition by that night, or early the next morning. My parents and I spent most of the night, and the next morning, filming what we thought would be the perfect audition. We sent that in and, supposedly, the producers at Columbia loved it. The feedback was that I got them off of their chairs because they laughed so much.
I received a callback with the director, did the same read-through again, and he seemed to like my acting. At the callback, he said "Don't cut your hair!" and I knew that was a good sign. After a long month of waiting, my mom received a call from my agent and told me after school that I got the role. She told me in the car and I almost hit my head on the ceiling of the car...I was so excited.
What has Christ revealed to you most throughout your journey?
He taught me that there is always hope. There is never, "no way possible." When I first spoke with agents, they were harsh and factual. They said “It's tough, as a dwarf actor, to find roles. Because there aren't many roles out there for you." ...but God brought the role to me. I was so thankful to have the opportunity.
What challenges have you faced as an actor?
A huge challenge was being sick for two years. At the end of my freshman year, I started getting headaches, with episodes of poor vision, blacking out and dizziness. We went to the hospital and they found that there was a problem with the bone around my spinal cord. I developed constant headaches, three episodes a day, with unreal pain. I had surgery, but the pain started coming back.
After a couple of months, my church called and asked if I wanted to perform. I was hesitant, because of the episodes, but ended up doing the performance, "Praise You In This Storm." I had pain during the entire service...but when I went on stage to sing, the pain left.
Something about the music took me away from the pain. I took that as a sign that I should begin pursuing music again. I would improv on the piano for hours, and that got me through the last year of being sick. I finally got my sickness under control at the end of my junior year. It was not a fun time, but I am so thankful for what God revealed.
What is your biggest takeaway from AMTC and SHINE?
Having patience. I attended AMTC and initially thought my whole path was completely paved, and I would soon become a star. AMTC taught me that, as an actor, I have to be patient in getting roles. Because of illness and other challenges, it took years to get my first breakthrough role in "Pixels," and I landed that role through an AMTC connection.
Also, humility is vital. Before AMTC, I was a bit of a show off. As an actor and musician, the reward is so much greater when you are humble. God asks us to be humble with our gifts. Use them for the greater good, not for yourself.
Tell us about developing your character as an actor.
One of the things I had to adjust from theater to film was not doing too much. When I had my first audition, they enjoyed it but I was being too theatrical. Movie acting requires the perfect amount of facial expression. When I did the character in Pixels, I had to study Peter Dinklage. His maneuvers, expressions, how he talked. So I was on set early, watching him shoot, just to learn how he carried himself as an actor. When I studied Peter Dinklage, that helped to develop my character.
Do you have a preference between acting, music or theater?
I love musical theater. Comedic roles are my favorites, like when I played the King in "Once Upon A Mattress." I love hearing the laughter from the audience, and getting the reactions. I love building off of the reactions in a crowd, and when you do movie sets, there aren't really reactions.
My dream is to be on Broadway...but I don't want to be a Lollipop Kid on The Wizard Of Oz, or a Dwarf on Snow White. When I speak with casting directors and agents, they tell me to write a role for myself. So I have started writing a musical, inspired by my life. I am hoping to do some scenes with my school soon. I'm hoping to finish the musical in college and send it out to writers.
What is your advice for AMTC Grads who might be playing the "waiting game?"
For performers just coming out of AMTC: Be patient! Don't give up after six months. If God has a plan for your life, it will happen when He wants it to happen. This applies to every area of life. There is always hope, and you can't let go of God's promise for your life.