Julian Lerner can be seen playing Nando Torres in Netflix comedy feature film Yes Day, which was released last month and follows the Torres family for a day of adventures when the parents say yes to their children’s requests. For the short film Leo the Lionhearted, Julian won a Best Actor award for his leading role of Leo at the Pinnacle Film Awards and he plays Young Henry in the Apple Podcast series From Now, the younger version of Brian Cox’s character. Before the pandemic, Julian had been performing as Joey in Last Days of Summer at George Street Playhouse and he’d previously been in the cast of the National Tour of Les Misérables. Upcoming work for Julian will see him in the ABC reboot of The Wonder Years and voicing a role in the animated series Alma’s Way. Answering our questions, Julian speaks about playing Nando Torres in Yes Day, his role of Young Henry for the Apple Podcast series From Now and his time in Last Days of Summer.
How did you feel booking your role as Nando Torres in Yes Day and can you tell us about your character?
Booking Nando in Yes Day is a dream come true! When I found out, I was shocked and excited and so happy! Nando is funny, smart, mischievous, and up for trying anything!
What was it like meeting the rest of the cast for the first time and what was Yes Day like to film?
Amazing! Jen (Garner) is so funny, kind and caring. Edgar (Ramírez) is super cool, gives great advice, and I knew we would be friends right away. Jenna (Ortega) is the big sister I have always wanted and Everly (Carganilla) is so cute, sweet and adorable. I feel so blessed to have worked with and learned from such an amazing cast. We felt like family both on and off the camera.
How was it seeing the finished film when it was released on Netflix and how was it in the lead-up to the premiere?
Feeling excitement build up with teasers about the film and then the film being released was unbelievable. It is so special to be a part of a film that is bringing so many people such joy and the best thing ever that families are having their own Yes Days!
What are some of your favourite highlights from your time working on the film?
Rollercoaster scenes – I love going upside down! We rode in the front car and the camera was strapped to the front of the rollercoaster. The rollercoaster was tested several times with just the camera and no one riding to make sure it was stable. The tech side of filming these scenes was amazing and I got to spend the day doing one of my favourite things to do in the world – riding rollercoasters with friends! Kablowie! We shot this scene for about a week. We used 30,000 water balloons, and hundreds of extras to create four teams Red, Orange, Blue and Green. In addition to the cameras on the ground, we had a drone camera to capture shots from overhead. Most epic water balloon battle ever!
Who do you think Yes Day will appeal to and how has the response been to the release so far?
Yes Day is a family movie that both the parents and the kids will love. Yes Day reached number one in the world on Netflix and has been seen in over 53 million households. So amazing!
What was it like playing Leo in the award-winning short film Leo the Lionhearted, which saw you win Best Actor?
Playing Leo in Leo the Lionhearted was a special opportunity. The writer/director, Evan Tyler Johnson, wrote the short for his nephew who has hypo-plastic left heart syndrome. I feel honoured to be a part of telling the story that Evan’s family wanted to share with the world to help others.
Can you tell us about playing Young Henry in the Apple Podcast series From Now and how was it being involved?
Super cool project! From Now is a sci-fi-like podcast available on Spotify and Apple. The series begins when the USS HOPE, a famed lost spaceship, returns to Earth after vanishing thirty-five years prior. The lone survivor exits the ship the exact same age as when he left. I play the younger version of Brian Cox, and my character has a British accent!
You voice the role of Young Derek in the Audible series Escape from Virtual Island, what was the role like to voice and what was it like having this as your first regular voiceover role?
Voiceover acting is really fun. I love to sing and use different accents. In Escape I play the younger version of Paul Rudd, who is one of my favourite actors!
Before the pandemic, you were performing as Joey at George Street Playhouse in Last Days of Summer, can you tell us about it?
Joey is a bright, verbal, witty, Jewish city kid growing up in a tough Brooklyn neighbourhood. He lives with his mom and his Aunt Carrie, gets beat up regularly from a neighbourhood kid, is troubled by his parents’ divorce, and a father who is never around and lets him down all the time. Craving a dad, Joey and Charlie Banks, the third baseman for the New York Giants, strike up an unlikely friendship that changes them both for the better. Amazing cast and crew – it was an incredible experience.
How did you find the experience on the National Tour of Les Misérables?
Touring is awesome! We toured all over the US and Canada. We became one big family and got to bring the story of Les Miz to thousands of people.
You were part of the online reading of Judgement Day last year, how was this?
Jason Alexander and Patti LuPone are legends! The entire cast – unreal. It was unbelievable to be a part of this reading and super cool to be able to all work from home during COVID quarantine and be able to put the play together for people to stream directly into their living rooms. Live theatre brought to everyone’s home!
Can you say about some of the other stage and screen projects you have been involved with?
In addition to numerous national commercials and voiceovers, guest-starring roles on major television shows, appearances on John Oliver, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live, I have been fortunate to originate roles in NYC for new musicals for Jerry Mitchell, James Lapine, Tom Kitt, Michael Korie and Michael Mayer.
Where does your love of performing come from and did you always know you wanted to be an actor?
On my dad’s side, my grandmother, MiMi Lerner, was an opera singer and sang all over world including at The Metropolitan Opera in NYC and my grandfather was a flautist with the Pittsburgh Symphony for many decades. On my mom’s side, my grandparents, Edie Epstein and Wayne Bellard, were puppeteers. My mom was a dancer and my dad was a cello player. I think the arts have always been in my blood!
How do you like to spend your time away from your career and do you have any favourite films, TV or theatre shows to watch?
Singing, playing guitar, going to the skate park on my trick scooter, taking dance classes, and playing video games online with friends! I am huge Marvel movie fan. I am watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine right now – so funny! I also love magic and into Fate: The Winx Saga on Netflix.
You’ve been announced for the ABC pilot of the reboot of The Wonder Years, what are you looking forward to most for working on this?
The Wonder Years is an iconic show. I play Brad Hitman, a smart, good-natured kid with a sense of humour. I am honoured and so excited to be a part of the reboot!
We understand you will be part of Alma’s Way, is there anything you can tell us about it?
Alma’s Way is an animated series for PBS, loosely based on Sonia Manzano’s (Maria from Sesame Street) life growing up in the Bronx. I get to sing and rap in Spanish and English which is really cool! It is awesome to be a part of a series that showcases the diversity of my hometown NYC!
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