For four seasons, actor Leo Howard has starred as Jack on the Disney XD’s comedy, Kickin’ It. Now, 16 year-old Howard stepped behind the camera to direct an episode of the hit show, called “Fight At The Museum,” which airs Monday, June 30 at 8pmET/PT. We asked Leo about his career, what he thought of directing, and his fans.
How did you get started in Martial Arts?
I was 4 years old when I started martial arts. They let me into the dojo at a young age and I’ve been at it ever since. It’s just a passion of mine.
Is there a martial artist that you idolize?
Bruce Lee. I used to watch all of his movies when I was little, and he’s a total inspiration when it comes to martial arts.
How did you feel when you first heard about Kickin’ it?
I was extremely excited. I was coming off a movie I’d shot in Bulgaria called Conan the Barbarian and I got the script for Kickin It — a martial arts sitcom. And it had never been done before, the mix of the two and I said, “This is something that I really want to do.” So, I went through the audition process and eventually got it and it’s been a total blessing. It’s a blast. I have a great time filming it.
Tell me about your character, Jack.
My character is the cool guy in the group. He’s the guy when anyone’s in trouble, he’s the one they look to for help. He’s gotten them out of all kinds of crazy situations. And he’s an all around good guy.
Are you like Jack?
I should hope so, because he’s a really good dude. We have similar senses of humor. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and so does Jack. And we look alike, so that’s good (laughs).
The entire cast of Kickin’ It is young. What do you think of your costars?
When you spend 4 years working with them 5 days a week, you pretty much become family. We all love each other; it’s just a huge, big, happy family. And we look forward to going into work every day because we love each other very much. It’s a blessing to get to spend my days with such amazing people.
Do you think that directing is the next step in your career?
Absolutely. It’s definitely something that I want to pursue and continue to work at. I figured out Season 2 that I was interested in the whole directing thing. And I realized that the show was semi-realistic so I started studying and paying attention and shadowing all of our directors. I started following them around and seeing what their job entails.
And I did so much homework and spent so many hours and weeks on preparation, that when Disney gave me the opportunity to direct, I was prepared and it was really easy. It was awesome.
Did you get to choose the episode that you directed?
No, I didn’t, they chose one for me. I was told that I was doing to be directing “A Bottle” A Bottle is when the episode is really easy, so it makes directing very easy. They said they were going to give me A Bottle, but they came to me a week before and said, “we don’t actually have A Bottle episode for you, it’s a normal episode and it’s actually pretty big. Do you think you can handle it?” I said, “Yes!” without even hesitating. I read the script, there was a good amount of production in it, and it was challenging, but I’m glad I got to experience an episode that was bigger rather than smaller.
What was it like directing your costars?
They were so great. If it would have been anybody else, I would have been nervous to direct them for the first time. But they were so cool and really encouraging, that they made it easy. We were pretty straightforward, there was no beating around the bush. I said what I wanted, and they gave it to me, so it was great.
Do you have any on-set rituals of pranks that you like to play on each other?
This is kind of bizarre, but it’s a martial arts show, so we’re constantly beating up on each other. In a joking and loving way, but there was this whole season where we walked around shin-kicking each other. It doesn’t sound like fun but it was a total blast when you get into it.
Do you get a chance to interact with your fans?
I do, and I love it. When I go anywhere where there’s kids they recognize me and I get to interact with them. And I love doing events like autograph signings around the country, or even out of the country. It lets me get out there and see people who are watching the show and like it. I’m really excited to get to meet them.
images © DISNEY XD/Bob D’Amico