In 2021, Ethan William Childress made his major voiceover debut playing Rowley Jefferson in the Disney+ animated reboot of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and he will be reprising his role for the upcoming Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Ethan had his first series regular character playing Johan Johnson in Mixed-ish alongside a cast including Arica Himmel as Bow Johnson, and he has worked on short films Happy Place and The United States of Tomorrow. Speaking with Ethan, he tells us about working on Diary of a Wimpy Kid for Disney+, having Rowley Jefferson as his major voiceover debut and playing Johan Johnson in Mixed-ish.
What is Rowley Jefferson like to voice in the Disney+ animated reboot of Diary of a Wimpy Kid?
Definitely exciting. It’s like the minute I got behind the mic and started recording I felt this rush of energy because he’s such a fun character. He has this naiveness about him and yet he’s just so carefree and fun-loving.
Do you remember how you felt booking your role and how much did you know about the franchise before auditioning?
I was on set, filming Mixed-ish, when I got the call that I booked the role. It was so hard to not just jump up and down right there. From the moment I auditioned for the role, I wanted it so bad. Plus, I’ve read all of the books, more than once. It’s such a great franchise. Jeff Kinney has really tapped into something amazing.
How are you finding the experience working on your first major voiceover project and how is it working with Disney+?
It was really fun. Everyone is kind of super high energy so it’s hard not to feed off that and feel it yourself. Everyone is so amazing and fun. I loved the opportunity to do something different and new. I like that it was released on Disney+ so that I can just watch it whenever I want to now.
Is there anything you enjoy most about voicing Rowley and what was it like watching the completed film for the first time?
I feel like I already knew so much about the franchise and Rowley was already my favourite character, so getting to voice him was just a major accomplishment, he’s just that character that catches you off guard. I actually had a “viewing” party at my house when it was released so I got to watch it with a few of my closest friends and my family. It was a little weird hearing my voice and seeing an animated character. But very interesting to see how it all came together. For example, I would be asked to make certain noises or sounds and then hearing how they used them was pretty cool.
You will be reprising your role in the sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, how was it returning to the character and what are you looking forward to for the release?
I’m excited to be able to give life to Rowley once more. I am looking forward to seeing how it follows the book and seeing how that translates to the animation. I already appreciate how the live action movies gave their own breath to the books. There’s more room to do that in animation as that’s really how the books read.
You played Johan Johnson across every episode of Mixed-ish, how was it having him as your first series regular character?
I truly appreciated the opportunity I had to play Johan. He was diverse. He had his comedic moments and still had some serious moments. He was a deep thinker and just so easy-going. It made playing the role fun as you just never knew what was going to happen with him.
What was it like working with the rest of the cast, which included Arica Himmel as Bow Johnson, and how was it having Daveed Diggs play the older version of Johan?
The cast was so amazing. They were so easy to connect to and always provided the space to really allow Johan be Johan. Playing the younger version of Daveed Diggs’ role was great because Daveed gave me such a great place to ground Johan into and how to grow him into his own personality too.
What are some of your favourite memories from working on Mixed-ish over the years?
My favourite memories are really all the behind the scenes or off-set memories that were created with the cast. Like in-between takes we’d make videos and play games. Off set we’ve hung out together and just had fun being kids. Like going to Disneyland with Arica and Mykal-Michelle (Harris) and some of the cast from Grown-ish. Or going to the movies or other places with some of the other cast regulars like Paulet (Del Castillo) and Isabel (Myers). I feel like long-lasting friendships were formed from this whole experience
Can you tell us about the short film Happy Place and what was it like to film?
This was actual the first short film I ever did and it was so much fun. The “old man” in the film was so kind and I was shocked to see his IMDb and all the work he’s done over the years. He’s been working, including voicing characters in anime shows I’ve watched.
In 2019, you appeared in short film The United States of Tomorrow, how was this?
I truly liked doing this film. It’s different than anything else I’ve done. I still see it as a powerful film and just bold addressing the possibility of what life could be like with the way you keep seeing issues with guns in school. It’s one of those films that can make you stop and think for a minute.
Where does your love of acting and voiceover come from and how did you get into both?
Honestly, I wanted to do voiceover because of all the anime I watch. The drawing or CGI is great, but the personality of it comes from the person voicing it. So it’s like you’re breathing life into something.
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch?
I don’t really watch a lot of TV. But I do watch a lot of anime and my favourite movie is Real Steel.
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
Playing sports. Currently I am playing indoor soccer on a rec team, but I get to play with one of my best friends who I used to play competitive soccer with prior to getting into acting. I am also playing flag football. I also hang out with my friends, go to the movies, go bowling, everyday regular kid stuff.
What are you hoping the upcoming months bring for your career?
I would love to be able to do a feature film and have the experience of how it works to film a full-length movie. I’d also like to do some more voiceover work if I’m able to, and even possibly make a commercial. I am just excited for the opportunity to be able to be a part of something that I can learn from and grow from.
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