In Cartoon Network’s latest live-action series, Tower Prep, rebellious teen Ian Archer (Drew Van Acker) awakens one morning to find himself suddenly transferred to the mysterious prep school of the title, from which there appears to be no escape. If that sounds like it’s The Prisoner for kids, it has some of that vibe, but one difference — at least in the pilot episode — is that while the school has some sinister-seeming elements, there are also hints that it might not have bad intentions at its core.
“We don’t really know what Tower Prep is,” says star Van Acker. “It could be good for all we know. We have no idea.”
That question leads into some of the mystery that will undoubtedly be explored throughout the series, as Ian and his secret group of other students who aren’t “with the program” continue to learn more about the place while they also look for a way out, each one discovering — and utilizing — his or her own unique talents to contribute to these efforts. So in a way, especially including Ian’s nightmarish first day at Tower Prep, the premise of the show surely can speak to most kids out there who may feel similarly “trapped” in their own schools.
“It definitely sends the message that you do need to stick with it and be positive and good things will come in the end,” Van Acker agrees.
The young actor may not have always realized this in his own school days, as he explains how he and Ian are similar.
“I was more of an ‘escaper’ from school, if you will,” Van Acker laughs. “That’s kind of where Ian and I are similar, is that there are so many things that he’s into and interested in, and things that he wants to do, but sitting in a classroom is just not one of them. I did my work in school, I paid attention in class, but as soon as that bell rang, I was done!”
Van Acker did enjoy athletics in school, where he excelled.
“I played lacrosse and soccer and baseball and basketball, pretty much every sport you can think of, I played,” he says. “I think that helped [with the physicality of his Tower Prep role]. I did karate and martial arts when I was younger, so that helped a lot as well coming in. I didn’t know it was going to be as strenuous as it is. We do a lot of stunts and running and jumping and fighting, all together at once, too.”
Along with athletics, Van Acker was also interested in acting.
“Ever since I was a kid, acting was something I was interested in, but it was never something that I knew was possible, growing up in small towns. I never knew that was a possibility for me until I got presented an opportunity to go to L.A. … I grew up watching movies, movies are my thing. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. You just go to a movie, relax. I could go see a movie every weekend, honestly. I’m more of a movie guy. I’d rather go watch a movie or a big blockbuster than read a book.”
Maybe one day we’ll see him in one of those big blockbusters. Until then, he stars in Tower Prep, one of Cartoon Network’s better efforts in its recent trend of live-action programming. The series premieres Oct. 19.