Jason Dolley of the Disney Channel’s popular series Cory in the House stars in Hatching Pete, now out on DVD with another family-friendly feature, “Dadnapped.” He found time to talk to me between finals in his college classes, and I really enjoyed our conversation, especially his frank and sincere discussion of his faith and his description of what it was like to play the guy inside the chicken suit.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Southern California, Simi Valley. I’ve lived in the same house all my life. I have two older brothers who have moved away, but I still live with my mom and dad. I graduated from high school early and now I am going to college at Moorpark community college, 15 minutes away from the house.
Tell me about “Hatching Pete!”
It has me and Michael Musso and the basic story is best friends. He is normally the school mascot and he asks my character to sub in for him one night. Pete is very shy but he blossoms in the chicken suit. They don’t tell anyone it’s him, so that’s where it gets complicated.
Is it difficult to act in a chicken mascot costume?
It is tough! Even before filming began we went to mascot boot camp. The San Diego chicken from the Padres gave us “how to be a chicken” lessons. I had a lot of fun with it and that was good because my character was supposed to have fun. It was stuffier than anything, but well worth it. I had a blast! There are things you don’t think about — you have to make your movements really big because it is all in the body language. Small movements normally people would make, you had to blow it up. I did not do everything. I’m not really athletic. We had four chickens not including Mitchell, a dance chicken to do the dance routines and Ted the pro chicken would do some of the game stuff.
And how did you get started as an actor?
My first job was an AFI short film, “Chasing Daylight,” when I was 11 and I made a couple of commercials that never aired. For me, the acting bug got started when we would play dress-up. It didn’t have to be Halloween. We’d get dressed up and we’d become the people whose costumes we wore.
What was your favorite Halloween costume?
I was Darth Vadar three years in a row!
Did you study acting?
I started taking classes when I got an agent. But I learned from the best when I did a series called “Sweet Savages” where I played the youngest boy. Mel Gibson was the director, he was hilarious and kept throwing in little things for us to do. I learned a lot.
What makes you laugh?
One of my favorite comedies is Three Amigos!. Oh my gosh, me and my brother quote that all the time. Two of my favorites are Abbott and Costello, we did the “Who’s on First” routine for our school talent show and that was the first blossoming of my acting stuff.
What actors really inspire you?
Robert Redford and Paul Newman — I love seeing them in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting.”
What role does your faith play in your life?
I think faith helps me a lot. God wants you to be where He wants you to be, and that’s where I want to be. If I do not get a part, I understand that maybe I needed to be home at that time, maybe in school, there’s always a reason. My faith is also where my core friends are, at my church, a faith-based friendship. It is a major thing.