Something just comes over Robert Capron whenever he signs on to do an episode of R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour. The sweet, kindhearted moppet we see as Rowley in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies all of a sudden becomes a callous jerk who doesn’t care what happens to anyone else as long as he gets what he wants.
Having played a ravenous ice-cream junkie in last year’s “Catching Cold,” Capron returns to the spooky anthology series for “The Cast,” which premieres at 6pm Saturday on The Hub. In it, his character Rex takes trying to fit in way too far when he joins a couple of older guys for a night of pranks. Said older guys know better than to egg the neighborhood cat lady’s house, but Lex goes ahead full gusto. Things don’t go as planned, and Lex ends up with a cast on his arm while his accomplices take the fall.
But oh, that wretched cast. It starts to itch and itch, giving Lex his own version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” — a comparison Capron is jazzed to make.
“I know!” he says when told of the similarities with the Edgar Allan Poe tale. “I read that story and I thought the exact same thing, because the itch is like the beating of the heart in the story.”
It makes the second time Capron has had to wear a cast on his arm for a role, the first being the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. So even though he’s never actually had to wear one in real life, if the occasion ever arises, he’ll be ready. And they are very itchy, he confirms.
It’s no accident that Capron takes on roles that give him an opportunity to flex his acting muscles. At 14, he’s already a seasoned pro — maybe you caught him earlier this year as young Curly in The Three Stooges — and is always looking for the next challenge. Twice now, The Haunting Hour has allowed him that chance.
“The thing I liked about doing both of the Haunting Hours was that it was a nice change of pace from me playing, like, Rowley in Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” he says. “Because Rowley is very nice, he cares about everybody, but in ‘The Cast,’ Lex is a mean person. … He gets what he deserves.”
It’s been a good month for Capron, who also made his voice-acting debut in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. He also has finished filming a motion-capture version of Tarzan that will be released next year. He says he loves the freedom of voice acting, which doesn’t require actors to get in costume or makeup, I had to ask him whether his early teens was a good time to get into it. Anyone who ever remembers their voice breaking will know why. But Capron says it wasn’t a problem.
“I got very lucky because I recorded all my Frankenweenie lines before my voice changed,” he says in a noticeably deeper register. “So that wasn’t an issue. And for Tarzan, my voice had already changed when I did it.”
So while his career seems to be taking off, part of that may mean leaving his signature role behind. Capron says he thinks the time for a fourth Wimpy Kid movie may have passed.
“I don’t know, we’re getting kind of old for it, and now my voice is different,” he says. “Zach [who plays Greg], his voice was completely different in the third movie than the first two. If we did make a fourth, mine would be, too. We’re both getting a little old for it.”
Photo: Courtesy of The Hub