Last week we had the distinct pleasure of talking with Tony Cavalero. Tony is not new to television, with guest appearances on many shows including Hart of Dixie and The Single Life, but in the next few months you will get to see him shine. This holiday season Tony is starring in Lifetime’s Becoming Santa as Jack Frost and in 2016 he is playing lead Dewey Finn in Nickelodeon’s television remake of popular film School of Rock. As you read the interview, Tony’s passion for acting and for life (and maybe even Christmas in particular) is evident, making him not only a joy to talk to, but someone you want to pull for and support!
I got to watch Becoming Santa, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I am really excited to talk to you about that.
Oh, you got to see it?
I got to see it, yeah. They sent me a screener of it.
It was really fun! I felt like I was in on a secret or something.
You were! You were in on Santa’s secret.
Let’s talk about it! What was it like playing such an iconic character as Jack Frost?
It was a total blast and Christi, our director really let me interpret him as I wanted to, which was great. I wanted him to be, and I haven’t seen the film so I’m not sure how it turned out, but I wanted him to be a little bit blinded by the passion to become Santa, but also to be a real, grounded person who was possibly, at one time, in love with Holly. I think has become blinded by the prospect of becoming Santa. But, also, you know, obviously not taking it too seriously, because there is a lot of comedy in the film too, which is fun.
Right! That starts to answer another question. So, would you see Jack as the “bad guy” of the film, or do you see him more as just desperate?
Argh, he’s the bad guy. I hate to say it. (Laughs). He for sure is. I don’t know if we want to give it away.
That’s true. Well, he is Jack Frost, so I guess it’s not too unexpected.
Yeah. There’s an underlying…he’s mischievous, you know. The jokester. I think that kind of comes across in the character as well.
You said that they let you have some freedom in playing this character. For you, did you really want to make him very much like the typical Jack Frost like we were just talking about or were you excited to give him your own spin?
Laura Bell Bundy recommended me for the part and she knows I’m a total goofball. We’ve written sketch comedies together and worked together on Hart of Dixie. Usually when people bring me on board they kind of want my specific style of comedy, so I try to really bring that to most of the roles I get to play. What makes me laugh. So, I tried to bring that to this character as well rather than trying to shoot for any archetypes set up in the past because we’re already in this kind of magical land of the North Pole and he’s got magical powers. I think any kind of character besides me might have been a little too broad considering the story already.
So, what was your favorite part about being in this film?
The cast was really fantastic. It was a core group of six of us, really, because we’re stuck up at the North Pole. So it was really just Gabe who played Mario, Jeff who played Connor, Meredith, Michael, Laura Bell, and me. We got to become a tight-knit family since it was a really small group. And that was really special because we got to hang out a lot, do dinner and lunches together, and, I mean, it was really special to be able to sing a couple of songs with Laura Bell for the movie. That was really cool!
Fun! What are you most excited for people to see when they watch Becoming Santa?
For me it’s all about the magic of Christmas. People love watching Christmas movies and I just hope this is one of the ones that people are able to crowd around the fire in the loving room, with the Christmas tree in the background and laugh it up with their family and friends and enjoy it. I hope they just love it for what it is, a fun Christmas movie for everyone to enjoy!
Well, good! I think it will accomplish that for sure. For you, what makes acting in and creating this made-for-TV movie different from a television show like you’ve done previously or a film made for theaters?
For me, the passion is the same from project to project. I really try to bring my all to whatever I do in any capacity. It’s just, again, you’re building up skills in all kinds of different facets. Like, right now, I’m doing a super low-budget indie in Victoria, Texas, in the middle of nowhere. And, you never know what you’re going to learn and what you’re going to be able to bring to the next project that you learned from the last one.
I tell you one thing, though, I love shooting in Vancouver! I don’t know if it’s the made-for-TV capital of the world or not, but I did a Nickelodeon film up there last summer as well and it’s really a blast to be on location, particularly in Vancouver. The people are so nice and it’s such a wonderful city and you may not get all the little perks that you would with a huge budget feature film or a Paramount television show, but you get to make up for it with the closeness of the crew and the cast and you really have to be passionate about something in order to do it. I think that’s what makes the difference. At that level, you really have to have a passion and a desire to make the movie.
Well, since Becoming Santa is obviously a Christmas movie, what are some of your favorite Christmas or holiday traditions from your family and friends?
Ooh! So, I had to leave for this film the day after Thanksgiving, so my wife and I usually just go to a local tree lot to pick out our tree and then decorate it. This year I called a Christmas tree lot and we actually got to go the day of their orientation, so the Saturday before Thanksgiving we went and picked out our Christmas tree. We always decorate our Christmas tree with Love Actually playing in the background and eggnog lattes and lots of Christmas spirit in our house. We always do a photo-shoot, we have three rescue dogs, and we always do a photo-shoot every year of them with Santa. Because we’re ridiculous people!
Hey! Go for it!
And then we’ll go up to Lake Tahoe for the holidays, which will be really nice.
Well, good! That is SO fun! No wonder you are so passionate about this film, you are passionate about the holidays in general!
Congratulations on the role of Dewey Finn for School of Rock for TV.
Yeah! Have y’all started filming that yet?
We shot our entire first season, so we’re waiting to hear about our premier date and season 2. I would expect to hear about that very soon.
Great! I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about it, but I didn’t know how much you would even be able to say. For those of our readers who have not seen the movie, what can you tell us about Dewey?
School of Rock is the story of a down-on-his-luck rocker named Dewey Finn who is just a big kid at heart, who ends up becoming a school teacher to a bunch of awesome kids at this private school. He teaches them the ways of life through the language of rock and roll. It’s based off the 2003 film that Richard Linklater directed and produced and he’s also an executive producer on our TV show as well as Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Scott Rudin who produced the film as well.
Awesome! What do you think makes the television show different from the movie?
Well, obviously it’s a Nickelodeon show (laughs), so we’re going to a little more focused on our kid audience than the feature film was. But the great part about the TV show is that we’re going to have lots of different music. There’s going to be current music, some classic rock, some original songs, there’s gonna be some pop songs that maybe we turn into rock songs and we really try to stay close to the tones and the themes of the film because that’s what made it special to people.
Everyone can get behind a big kid who is passionate about the arts and wants to translate that to the kids that he’s teaching. There’s a little bit of that in all of us. I know for me, I couldn’t relate more to another character. I’m really passionate about stuff and I think Dewey is a pretty awesome guy. He finds that maybe he loves teaching more than he thought he would.
I just have one more question for you. We just talked about how the show premiers on Nickelodeon, so is the show particularly for kids or is it something adults can enjoy too?
It’s obviously a Nickelodeon show, but I feel that, like with a lot of Nickelodeon shows, they really try to appeal to the parents as well and I think this show, it’s got physical comedy, the jokes are HILARIOUS- we have these fantastic writers, Emmy award winners, Frasier, The Simpsons, they’ve written for adults, they’ve written for kids and I think this show will really reflect that. I think parents and kids will both love this show. We really try to make it so that it appeals to both of those audiences.
Be sure to check out Becoming Santa on Lifetime on December 12 at 8:00 and look for School of Rock coming 2016!