The Disney Company has consistently found new, young talent to star on its programs. Generally that talent hasn’t had much exposure before taking on their TV roles.
Jake Paul, one of the stars of the new Disney Channel series “Bizaardvark,” is an exception. Even before he showed up to play Dirk Man, Paul was known to millions through his online appearances.
The Cleveland native has a social media fan base of more than 14 million and that number continues to grow. The comedic videos he makes for Vine, YouTube, Instagram and other social media sites have had 3.5 billion views.
He’s the first Internet sensation to be hired by Disney.
Casting Paul makes sense for the series, which focuses on young people who produce their own online videos. The stories revolve around Paige (Olivia Rodrigo) and Frankie (Madison Hu), who write funny songs and create music comedy videos.
Paul’s large internet presence started when he was 10 and his father gave him a small video camera. Paul and his brother started making short films. He says the quality of his online work is varied.
“Some of it is really bad. All those videos are still online and you still look them up,” Paul says.
Once he gained a following, Paul was approached to move into acting. He decided that since he had been in front of the camera for years, there was no reason he shouldn’t try his hand in Hollywood.
Being cast on “Bizaardvark” is a big change. He spent years coming up with his own ideas and putting the results online at his leisure. Now, he’s working under the tight confines of a TV show.
“When I was making my own videos I was the actor, the writer, the director, the editor. Now, being just the actor is a little bit different, and I have to adapt to doing what I’m told,” Paul says. “I always want to put my own creative twist on it, but there’s someone else here who is in charge and they know what they are doing. I just end up doing what they say.”
The 19-year-old is not only appearing on the Disney Channel series, but he is also working on a movie he wrote with his brother, Logan. His work in social media helps with his work on the Disney series. Because the series is about those who make products for online sites, the possibilities for story ideas are massive.
“I think the beauty of social media is that you never know what you are going to get,” Paul says.
And Paul now can use his social media platforms to push his series, which he did when the show had its special debut in June after the broadcast of the original film “Adventures in Babysitting.”
The show officially launches on July 10 and all of the cast members have been spending time promoting the show through digital outlets. Paul already has an audience.
Getting to chat with “Downton Abbey” star Penelope Wilton for her role in “The BFG” was a rare opportunity. The English actor has trouble flying, so she doesn’t get to the United States that often.
The lack of travel kept her in the dark about the success of “Downton Abbey.” The series was a certified hit in England before it became the biggest thing that PBS gave the viewing public since the Muppets. Wilton, who played Isobel Crawley on “Downton,” had no idea anyone even watched the first season.
While the first season was airing in the United Kingdom, Wilton and “Downton Abbey” co-star Maggie Smith were in India filming “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
It was only in the last season that Wilton came to appreciate what the show meant to American TV. After turning down multiple requests to fly to the United States, Wilton finally made the trek to attend a dinner for supporters of public television.
“Before that, I had let the younger actors travel because they can handle jet lag much better than me. They can sleep anywhere,” Wilton says.
Wilton’s latest work has her playing the Queen of England in Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG.” She had met Queen Elizabeth several times, including being given he Order of the British Empire.
“I think that is a bit odd because I don’t think we have much of an empire anymore,” Wilton says.
Wilton may not have been aware of her “Downton Abbey” success for years, but did she know what appearing on four episodes of “Doctor Who” did for her star status? On the much beloved sci-fi series, she played a prime minister who sacrifices herself to save the world.
“I really don’t know what it did for my career,” Wilton says. “I now know what ‘Downton Abbey’ has done for my career.”
Cable chatter: The late night talk show titled “VH1 Live!” debuts at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 17. CNN commentator and BET News host Marc Lamont Hill will anchor the weekly series delivering VH1’s pop culture spin on entertainment news and gossip.
Preach on: AMC has renewed “Preacher” for an expanded 13-episode second season to be broadcast in 2017.
Life’s no “Circus”: “Never Say Can’t: The Bruce Cook Story” will air at 12:30 p.m. July 10 on NBC. This 90-minute documentary follows the life of Freestyle Motocross rider Bruce Cook, who was injured while doing a stunt as part of the Nitro Circus.