"My character is pretty sick... I'm Freddy the drummer..."
16-year-old Ricardo Hurtado landed a leading role on Nickelodeon’s new series, School of Rock. We sat down with Ricardo and his Mom, Ofelia, to discuss his new show, his journey through AMTC, and the hard work it takes getting cast in a program for major network television.
Describe your journey since SHINE. You have been up to a lot!
Yeah! Well at AMTC I got a lot of callbacks. One of those was from Christian Kaplan, vice-president of casting with Twentieth Century Fox. He helped me out by setting up a week in LA with agencies and management companies. I ended up signing with an agency called Coast to Coast, and a management company called Principato-Young. So while I was out there my manager (at Principato-Young) said, “All right, I’ve never seen you act before; I’m just going off of Christian Kaplan’s words.” She sent me out on an audition that same week for this Nickelodeon show called School of Rock. So I auditioned, they really liked me, I continued the auditioning process… and I ended up booking School of Rock.
When you first got your first callback from AMTC, how did you feel?
I remember what happened. My dad saw the AMTC billboard, and he was like, “All right, let’s just go audition this weekend. Let’s go try it out.” I said, “Why not?” Right? So I went. Then the next day we were waiting to see if we had gotten a callback, and we waited the whole day, but we didn’t get one! It turns out that I was one of the first performers to get a call, and my dad had his phone off for something, so we didn’t know that they had left a message. Getting that message was awesome though; it felt amazing (laughs).
What’s it like filming at Nickelodeon?
So with School of Rock, Paramount and Nickelodeon partnered together to make this TV series based off the movie. We filmed at Paramount Studios. I was out there from January until the end of May, and it was really cool. There were several other Nickelodeon productions going on there as well.
Your show is a spinoff of the hit film School of Rock, starring Jack Black. What can you tell us about the show, and your character?
The show is kind of like the movie. It’s about this class that has a substitute teacher come in out of nowhere, and he’s just a crazy teacher. We have a lot of adventures, and it’s about getting ready for the battle of the bands. So that’s the main objective of the whole show- getting ready for the battle of the bands, and hopefully winning the competition. My character is pretty sick; I’m Freddy the drummer. He’s kind of the cool laid back kid who’s trying to change up his environment from where all the kids are very strict and uptight… so Freddy likes to change that and have fun.
Were you nervous auditioning at all?
I was a little bit nervous but I was confident as well. It was a period of three months I think, of auditioning. Because I live in Georgia and all the auditions were in LA, I had to do a lot of self-taping. I remember they had me do tapes of playing the drums and guitar, actually showing that I could play instruments, as well as reading scripts. They had us testing at the last stage, and we went out to LA; they paid for our trip. We went out there, I tested well, and I got it!
How did AMTC help your career?
It’s what started my career, because before AMTC I didn’t have anything going for me; I had nothing. AMTC really boosted me into the entertainment business. The whole experience of training and the actual SHINE event really prepared me for my future in the entertainment business.
How has God allowed you to use your talents as a witness on set?
What I noticed is, when I was doing AMTC, everyone around me was a Christian. So then going to LA, there’s way less people in the faith over there. So it was different going from an environment where everyone was, to where a lot of people weren’t. I met some people on set that were Christians as well, like my friend Victor. And I think I was able to use my faith, just by being nice to others and by showing kindness and love, I think I was able to show God in that way.
Do you have any advice to share with AMTC performers?
My advice would be to put everything in God’s hands, because without God, you can’t do anything. Everything is possible with God. And as far as acting goes, my mindset is to put myself in a person’s shoes. So whatever character I’m going for, I am him. I am not myself; I completely change personalities.
A few questions for Ricardo’s mother, Ofelia Ramirez:
What have you enjoyed most about seeing Ricardo become a successful actor?
Ofelia: Wow. Well first of all, I never thought it was going to happen so fast. There was a lot of prayer and fasting. For me it is very important that we follow the will of God. Sometimes things appear to be good, but they’re not good. So I fasted and prayed, just to God to lead us, and for Him to guide us through the process. And after doing all that, He confirmed that it was the right path. So I felt great about it.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as parents through this process?
Ofelia: Just to keep Ricardo grounded in the Word. He’s a good kid… as a parent you have to guide your children in the right direction. And sometimes the entertainment business can be a very challenging thing for a child, because they are young and they don’t know how to handle things, especially fame. So for me that’s a challenge, and it will be a challenge all the time. My son has a great personality and is very humble, but it will always be something that I am going to have to keep an eye on. Keeping him grounded and always following the Word of God, the right path, and the Will of God.
Do you have any advice to share with new parents of AMTC performers?
Ofelia: Yes. Keep the Lord first. Sometimes you’re going to have opportunities that you’re going to have to check with the Lord on first. Maybe they’re good, but maybe they’re not for you. Always pray and fast, so that the Lord can give you a confirmation if this is the right path. That would be my advice. I just wanted the Lord to confirm that this was the right path for my son, because it’s not worth it that you’re going to have fame and a great career if it’s not the will of God. Just ask the Lord all the time to confirm if it’s the right way for you. Because you’re going to have so many directions that you could go… but you need to confirm which direction is the right one. And I wanted to share something about my experience on set. All the people there are wonderful people. They were so nice to me, even though I am so new to this business. But they were so supportive, and they treated us with respect. They helped me in every way, and I’m very thankful to the School of Rock cast and everybody there at Paramount Pictures. On set they were amazing, and we made long-lasting friends.