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08/25/2009 - By Gayle Davis
Photography By McKay Imaging
Wonder Kid Cooper Corrao
Poised, attentive, and so gosh darn adorable…those are the best words to describe 8-year-old Cooper Corrao. His star is on the rise as his modeling, acting, and voice over credits are beginning to stack up, but he remains grounded and humble, remaining a “normal” third grader whose love of soccer, summer camp, and school remain at the top of his list…alongside his budding acting career.
Lately, the long-haired lad has lent his voice to “Ollie, The Bunny” on Nick Jr.’s Wonder Pets; you may recall that oh-so endearing face from several Chuck E. Cheese’s® commercials, or maybe you caught an episode of the Independent Film Channel’s Z-Rock, where Cooper has made a few appearances. But his biggest job thus far, according to his mom, Marisa, was when “Coop” landed the Exxon commercial that starred pro-golfer Phil Mickelson that aired during the 2009 Masters Tournament.
With no formal training, Cooper treats each audition as a job and is always himself. He often goes up against kids who have performed on Broadway, but he never gives up. Cooper says if he ever hits the big time he will make sure to pay tribute to his first grade teacher, Mrs. Kramer, at Marlboro Elementary. Mom adds, “She has always been so supportive and [saw] what we see; she told Cooper to never stop because he has something special, and that he is going to be big! She promises that when he is on stage accepting his Oscar, she will undoubtedly be in the audience in a black slimming dress…and he is going to wave to her!” Cooper added that he couldn’t wait to thank her for all of her support!
Living In Marlboro had the opportunity to sit down over the summer at home with Cooper and his parents, Marisa and Anthony, along with older brother Blake and sister Skylar, to find out about all their experiences, goals, dreams, and what it’s like to be a kid in the world of acting.
LIM: You are only 8 years old and have already accomplished quite a lot! Tell us how your modeling and acting career took off.
CC: We were at the mall, and there was a sign up at a store, so we signed up and I was just lucky. I got chosen.
LIM: Mom, do you want to jump in and elaborate?
MC: Wilhelmina held an open call at the Children’s Place in the Woodbridge Mall. They were signing 25 kids for modeling contracts, so we said we would try it. We stood in line and waited, and then we got a call about 2 weeks later and they were giving him a modeling contract.
LIM: Wow! That’s exciting. Are you still signed with that agency?
CC: No, because we were only doing print and I wanted to do commercials, movies, and television shows…
MC: We were little fish in the big sea…not really doing much.
LIM: Which print ads did Cooper do while he was signed with Wilhelmina?
MC: We did a shoot for a parent magazine and a crochet magazine, and he was a fit model for UniGlow, which is no longer in business. He did those jobs during a 2-year contract.
LIM: So next you secured an agent or manager?
MC: Yes. Tamara Markowitz is our manager (from TM Talent here in Marlboro). She happened to be someone that we knew. My daughter Skylar is friends with her daughter. We met her and she looked at Cooper, then spoke to him, and looked at us and said, “I think this would be good for you.” As soon as we connected with her, within a few weeks he was on The Maury Povich Show.
LIM: What did you do on the show Cooper?
CC: It was about obese kids and regular size kids. I was the regular size kid. They paired me up with a kid that looked like he would be the obese version of me. They asked us a few questions… and I was the obese kid’s inspiration. If he lost weight, he could look more like me.
LIM: You are here with your parents. Mom, dad…how do you feel about your son acting and modeling at such a young age?
MC: I think it’s cool. I like it a lot.
AC: I love it!
MC: Everybody knows him; he’s just a likeable kid. I mean, people know us because of him…even before he was in this business. He’s just the type of person who walks into a room and you remember him. I just thought that this would be a great opportunity to show his personality and to see if it was just us thinking this, or maybe the world feels the same way.
AC: My wife does all the work. I don’t really do a lot with it, so for me
I love going into work and saying, “Hey guys! Turn on the TV and watch this. It’s my son.” I just think it’s really cool. Like Marisa said, his personality is just perfect for it. But she is in the thick of it, although I’ll give him a ride here and there when he has to go to the city!
LIM: So when you switched gears away from modeling to acting did you need to get new headshots?
MC: Yes, but most of the time when we go in for an audition they take his picture, so we are sitting with stacks of headshots. That’s the new system; they just digitally take their pictures right then and there.
LIM: How does Cooper manage his schoolwork when he’s working?
MC: Sometimes he does it in the car.We usually try to go in during the latter part of the day, when he has specials such as gym or art or something like that.
LIM: But how can you control the time of the audition?
MC: So far it’s just worked out that way. Now that I’m saying that it will probably change! But he does sometimes miss school. If he has a shoot, we will get the work from the teacher in advance and there is a tutor on the set. I think you have to be a good student to do it this way. If your schoolwork isn’t up to date before you go, you are kind of going to get lost.
LIM: How often do you get called for auditions?
CC: I am getting a few jobs lately, but I think I am going to get more soon.
LIM: What job did you most recently worked on?
CC: Oh, I did Sesame Street. There were kids in the background and we were supposed to help one of the characters that were crossing the road. We had to help him sing theABC’s and count numbers 1–40. It was a voice over.
LIM: Have you ever turned any audition down?
MC: Sometimes they film far away, like in Canada. If it were during “testing” we wouldn’t have gone.
LIM: So what is your priority? It must be challenging to find a balance between work and school.
MC: I think he likes the commercials better than the long-term commitments. He’s in and out; it’s quick. He makes friends and has a good time. He goes home and he’s a regular kid. Sometimes, like when he does theWonder Pets, we have to practice a lot. The scripts can be 25–30 pages. He has to go to the voice teacher to learn the songs. Usually we receive the scripts about 2 or 3 weeks before, so he has to practice; sometimes he has to come inside from playing to practice [and] that he’s not too thrilled about, but it all comes together and he does a great job!
LIM: So you mentioned we are with the little man who lends his voice to Nick Jr.’s Wonder Pets. Which character do you voice?
CC: Ollie, the Bunny! He tries to be a Wonder Pet, but he doesn’t fit in. He always makes mistakes.
MC: Coincidentally, our dog’s name is Ollie too!
LIM: How many times have you done the voiceover for Ollie?
CC: Four times!
LIM: Is this a recurring role that they call you back for?
CC: Yes. Ollie just visits from time to time.
MC: Maybe Ollie will stay. That would be good.
LIM: So you have no idea if and when they will call?
MC: Well, it was a contract and he fulfilled it, so hopefully they will pick it up again. But it takes so long for them to make just one episode, so I think they are a few years ahead of it actually airing. He did one last June and it just came out.
LIM: Oh wow!
MC: He still has three more that need to be aired.
LIM: Can you tell us what the cartoon is about?
CC: The Wonder Pets help animals who are in danger. Ollie is the first animal that they saved.
LIM: Do you do this acting thing full time?
LIM: Do you want this to be your career?
CC: No. I want to be a professional soccer player!
LIM: Really? So, this it just something to pass the time…
LIM: You’ve also appeared in the Independent Film Channel’s Z-Rock. Tell me about that show.
CC: Well, it’s more of a show for parents. It’s about a band with three members who sing at birthday parties, but they really want to be a rock band. I play the son of one of the girls who the singer likes. MC: So he had to go to a lot of birthday parties. I think he was in three episodes.
LIM: In this show you’ve acted alongside actors and actresses that are much older than you. How did they treat you, since you are so young?
CC: Yeah, it was great. I made a lot of new friends on the set.
MC: Sometimes he comes out, like when he worked on the Wonder Pets – the gentleman that he worked for (his name is Ed Lewis) – and Cooper would call him his “friend.” I would say, “Who is Ed?” He would say, “Ed is my friend.” So this man would walk out and that’s his friend. They treat him so well…“Can I get you something? Can I do anything for you?”
LIM: Which television commercials have you appeared in?
CC: Chuck E. Cheese’s®! Two of them have been birthday parties where I was the birthday boy, and [in] one of them I was a guest at the party. One of them is on the air now.
MC: He’s done three main character ones and a few others where he was in the background…and then he did an Exxon commercial. It was with Phil Mickelson during the GolfMasters, and they were “kids of the future.” Cooper was shown saying, “Cooper…future engineer.”
LIM: Any others?
MC: He was in a Laurie Berkner children’s video.
CC: I really liked doing that. It was so much fun! I was dressed up in a squirrel costume, and she was teaching babies their ABC’s, 1, 2, 3’s, and animals. It was just a lot of fun.
MC: At first he wasn’t too happy when they asked him at the audition if he would wear a big costume.We actually said no.When we got there it wasn’t a big costume, but it had a giant tail. At first he had a really sad face, but then he got over it. It was so cute!
CC: Yeah, I got over it!
MC: Then…it wasn’t a commercial, but he won the contest for Denny’s Childrenswear. I had submitted his picture last year, and he won and was in the Denny’s ad.
CC: Oh yeah. And I was on a Denny’s coupon!
MC: (Laughs)We are promoting Marlboro stores!
LIM: Which has been your favorite job so far and why?
CC: The Wonder Pets because it’s so much fun to watch my character and hear my voice on TV. It’s just great.
LIM: So it makes you feel good…proud of what you’ve done?
CC: Yes, very.
LIM: Do any of your friends recognize you in the commercials that you’ve done?
LIM: What do they say?
CC: They say, “That’s so cool! I know a friend who is in the Chuck E. Cheese’s commercial!”
LIM: And what do you say?
CC: I just laugh and say, “Yep, that’s me!”
MC: We just laugh. (To Cooper) It doesn’t matter; you’re just a regular kid.
LIM: Are you finding that the more jobs you land, the more auditions filter through?
MC: For us it hasn’t really worked that way; we haven’t had any that have linked together. Sometimes they say that if you do something it might link to something else, but nothing just yet.
CC: Oh yeah. I did the voice for Neosporin®!
MC: I think it was radio. And he did two more voiceovers for Sesame Street.
LIM: The acting and modeling business is not as glamorous as it may seem. The hours can be long and sometimes you have to be able to handle not getting the part or job. How do you deal with this?
MC: He doesn’t really care about the rejection; it’s more me, the mother, eyeing everyone up and down when we walk in to the room. You know, I think, “Is my kid gonna get it, or is someone else?” You know, sometimes we see the same kids over and over again, so we’ve made friends…it’s been fun! The rejection doesn’t bother him. We treat every audition as a job, whether he gets it or not. It’s just driving into the city, coming home in traffic, coming home to homework, but…
CC: It’s fine.
MC: Yeah, it’s fine.
LIM: Are you nervous when you go on auditions or do you keep it cool?
CC: Sometimes. For big auditions I’m nervous, but for little ones I’m fine.
LIM: How do you know which ones are big and which ones are small?
CC: Like for commercials or shows or movies, I would be a little nervous, but if it’s just for a voice over I wouldn’t be nervous because I can just do it over if I make a mistake.
MC: [To Cooper] I never knew that you
LIM: Do you get butterflies in your stomach, and does your heart beat a little fast?
CC: No…just the butterflies.
LIM: How many brothers and sisters do you have, Cooper?
CC: I have one sister named Skylar and a brother named Blake.
LIM: How old are they?
CC: My sister is 13 andmy brother is 16.
LIM: So, is it hard for your other children since Cooper gets somuch extra attention?
MC: Well, they are older…especially Blake. I think he thinks it’s cool, you know. She (Skylar)…I don’t know.
LIM: But really, is there any guilt?
MC: Oh, yeah.Alot of times I have to ask someone to give the other two [kids] rides to soccer practice when I’m in the city, so you have to call on favors for that. But they are older, so it’s kind of easier.And that’s why I am glad it’s my youngest child…because if I had to drag them with me it would be crazy!
AC: It’smostly Skylar, because she plays travel soccer and she’s in show choir. She does a bunch of things at school, so it’s tough when Cooper has all of these auditions.We have to scramble around and find rides for the others.
MC: And I feel a little guilty leaving them.
LIM: Are your brothers and sisters supportive of you?
CC: Well, my sister…we fight a lot.
LIM: Come on! She has to be proud when theWonder Pets comes on and she hears your voice.
CC: Yes, she is! Blake is very supportive.
MC: He, in fact, said someone in his class in high school, said, “Oh yeah. Blake’s brother is in the Chuck E. Cheese’s commercial.” He doesn’t brag about him; he was like, “Oh my god! I didn’t think people knew.”
LIM: What did you see in Cooper thatmade you say he’s something special, besides his adorable looks?
AC: I think he’s just a great kid!
MC: He’s really nice. He gets along with everyone…he’s friendly, he’s a really a good friend…he plays with anyone. It doesn’t matter who. I just think that he accepts everyone. You know, he’s got a big heart. He feels bad for people, has compassion for people… and I think that in the business itself, just being able to go in and talk to an adult makes him a better person for the job. He can talk to anyone who is in the room, so if he doesn’t get to superstardom, I think what he will take away from this experience is self-confidence.
LIM: How far do you plan on taking it?
MC: As far as it will take him!
CC: I want to do it till I’m12 or 13 and…
MC: And then what? Be a super soccer star [laughs]?
CC: Yeah [laughs]!
LIM: So, Cooper, you have a love for soccer. Tell us about that.
CC: Well, I’m on the travel soccer team, and I just tried out and made the “A” team.
CC: Thanks! We had our first practice [yesterday]. It was really fun. I play goalie, but I’m good at everything.
LIM: How many years have you been playing?
CC: Two on travel, but three in rec…so 5 years.
LIM: So you love it, huh?
CC: Oh yeah, I really do.
LIM: Do you love soccer more than acting, or do you like them pretty much the same?
CC: I love soccer more than acting [laughs]!
MC: So the ideal job would be a soccer commercial!
LIM: If you had the choice to be a professional soccer star or movie star, which would you rather be?
CC: A soccer star!!!
LIM: So what happens if you get the call to move to Hollywood?
CC: I would do it!
LIM: What about you, mom?
MC: I don’t know. Maybe.
LIM: It would be life changing for the whole family!
MC: That’s why it’s a “be careful what you wish for kind of job,” even when it’s a job that you might have to take off on an airplane for and go someplace. Being that my kids are older…sometimes it’s good, but I guess we’ll have to cross that bridge when it comes!
LIM: That would be exciting, right?
LIM: When you aren’t acting, besides soccer, what else do you like to do?
CC: I like to play basketball with my friends and I like to watch TV.
LIM: What is your favorite television show?
CC: Probably Pokemon.
LIM: Which school do you go to?
CC: I go to Marlboro Elementary School.
LIM: And what is your favorite subject?
LIM: Why do you like science?
CC: Because I like to do experiments and learn about technology and the world; it’s just cool.
LIM: Are your teachers supportive of you when you sometimes have to leave class to go on auditions?
MC: So far.
LIM: What grade are you starting this year?
CC: I am starting third grade.
LIM: Where were you born?
CC: I was born in Freehold, at CentraState Medical Center.
LIM: So you’ve lived here in Marlboro your whole life!
LIM: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other budding young actors and models in Marlboro?
CC: Yes. You’ve got to just try your hardest! You should never give up…just keep on trying until you get it!
Federici’s in Freehold
StarWars (the third one)
Favorite Musical Group:
Black Eyed Peas
when kids in school call out without raising their hand
Three People You’d Would Like To Have Dinner With:
David Beckham, Babe Ruth, and Adam Sandler
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