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Max Ehrich - Pursuing His Passion
Max Ehrich pursuing his passion… from
the top, starting with High School Musical.
Max Ehrich is one focused young man. Since the age of 4, he’s known that he’s wanted to be an actor. Dancing his way through childhood at Marlboro’s Dance Attitudes has afforded him plenty of competition wins, and definitely did not hurt his chances when it came to landing a role as a principal dance character in the hit movieHigh School Musical 3: Senior Year. The 17 year old made the switch to New York City’s Professional Performing Arts High School in his junior year; he says being in the city was a better place for him to break into the business, and he has an agent who sends him out on countless auditions. Through the years he’s landed a couple of commercials and played the lead guy in Vanessa Hudgen’s “Sneaker Night” video, but most recently, Max was cast in a recurring guest role, Randy, on ABC’s “Ugly Betty.”
Armed with enough credits, Max graduated early from his high school in Manhattan, and then made one giant leap to Los Angeles to pursue his film and television acting career. He firmly stated that he is doing this because it is his passion; it’s not to become famous, as so many people try to be by moving out to Hollywood. So off he went!
Ehrich believes things happen in life for a reason and now he has a reason to make things happen even more than before! He says he welcomes the challenges he faces, and remains fearless when it comes to the auditioning process.
This talented actor took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with Living In Marlboro, and filled us in on his exciting career [thus far] and his plans for the immediate future.
LIM: Let’s take it from the top, as they say, and work our way backwards. You are currently playing the lead role of Jason in a new movie entitled Inside Out that’s currently in the development stage. Tell us a bit about the movie and your role.
ME: Well, I can’t release too much about the plot, but it’s filming this summer in Michigan. It’s a horror film. I play the lead guy, and actually my best friend, Sarah Hyland from Lipstick Jungle, is playing the lead girl. It’s written by Paul Travers, a new and upcoming writer. There are a few big stars in it…one happens to be a 6´5” wrestler who plays one of the villains in the movie. Right now it’s an independent film, but hopefully it will get backers and become a feature.
LIM: How did you land the role?
ME: Actually, I went to an event called FearNet. Raquel Bruno, a PR person, invited me.We met this writer and producer from Big Picture Media…we talked about it, I read the script, and felt a big connection with the role.We spoke some more, I auditioned, and I got it!
LIM: How close is this role to your own persona?
ME: It’s really close. It happens to take place in a town where there is a lot of drama, [but] he stays out of it. He is dating a “fake” girl and he ends up finding out the true colors of everyone, but he stays true to himself…so that’s how I relate to it.
LIM: When can we expect to see it on the movie screen?
ME: As long as we get backers and distributors it should definitely be on the big screen. When I was reading it, it was pretty intense. My heart was pounding!
LIM: You also play Randy, a recurring role on ABC’s hit show “Ugly Betty.”
ME: I had just finished High School Musical 3 at the end of June, and was attending a sleep-away camp called French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts. I was a co-counselor there, and I was doing a show at the time. I got an e-mail from my agent saying that there was an audition for a role on “Ugly Betty.” I had seen [the show] before, but wasn’t too familiar with it. When I told people at the performing arts camp that I was auditioning for it they were freaking out! So that got me pretty excited, to audition for it.When I read about the character, I was like, “Wow! This is just so perfect for me.”When it came down to it I almost didn’t make it in time! They almost couldn’t arrange for me to get a van from upstate New York to New York City. I almost missed it by two minutes! I guess it would have been a big misfortune if I did because it was really fun. I made a really good friend…the kid who plays Justin Suarez, Mark Indelicato. He goes to my high school now. He transferred after we did this, and I am not mean to him, I don’t push him in the hallways.
LIM: Is that what your character did on the show?
ME: Yeah, I start off as this bully on the show and then we both end up having a connection…an audition for a Broadway show, Billy Elliott.We were both obviously not right for it. I am the jock and he was like, “Why are you here?”We fight at the audition and I realize that we are more similar than I thought we were, but I didn’t want to reveal that to my “cool” friends.
LIM: How many times have you been on the show so far and can we expect to see you again?
ME: Two so far. It all depends on what happens with his storyline.
LIM: What do you like most about being on the show?
ME: It’s a really comfortable set. Usually there’s a lot of tension when you need ratings, but the show is amazing and doing really well, so it had a great vibe. The director, Fred Savage, cast me, and everyone was freaking out about that. I was like, “I never watched ‘TheWonderYears’.” The first scene I did was with Lindsay Lohan.
LIM: That’s cool.What’s it like working withAmerica Ferrera?
ME: Well, I never got to work directly with her, which was really unfortunate. I saw her on the set, but never got to work with her. She is just amazing on the show. I would love to work with her. There was a scene I was supposed to do with her at the dinner table, but they had to cut it because America got sick the week before.
LIM: Now, High School Musical 3: Senior Year…what an accomplishment! Describe the audition process and how you landed that role.
ME: It was absolutely insane! First my agent had to submit me for it, and then I had to go out to Salt Lake City. I went to my hotel, and there were just loads of kids! It was a bit intimidating. I came a day early, so I went over to the studios where people were auditioning; everyone was wearing numbers. I had never seen this before.When I went in there they were calling number 800 something.
LIM: LikeAmerican Idol?
ME: Yes. Everyone was so much older than me. When I went in the next day I was number 900 something…and everyone was just extremely talented. People were doing things I’d never seen before. I just stayed in my own world because from what I learned, you never want to watch anyone. I don’t care to fall into those traps of getting psyched out. I went in and I learned the dance we had to learn. It was fun, but hard to be in a room with so many people…Kenny Ortega, Charles “Chuckie” Klapow, and Bonnie Story, the two choreographers…. They called you in five at a time. I went in for my round, I was probably in group 10, and after, Kenny came up to me and another boy in my group and said, “It doesn’t get any better than you guys.” I was like, “Oh, that’s nice!” Then I had to go upstairs to this room and be interviewed for “Disney 411” to show the interview process. It’ll be on the DVD that comes around February 13th. I got a callback and came back the next day. I had to learn a whole other dance, which was really difficult. Kenny came by and made a similar comment as before, but I didn’t want to be to over confident. Then I got another callback, and I hadto come in the next day. It was the final callback.
LIM: How many made the final cut?
ME: I mean there were still over 100 people. There were great people… some fromthe show “So You Think You Can Dance.” There were big dancers, well-known people from the first and second movie. I thought to myself, “They obviously have it.” But all I really cared about was…knowing and feeling what they were looking for. You have to listen to what the director says. They kept saying, “It’s not about who is the best dancer, singer, performer, actor. It’s about showing your personality, showing who you really are, and just being yourself.” So I did that, and Kenny came up to me and said, “I am not making this movie without you!” That was really nice, but it keptme on the edge, because I had to wait a good week and a half. I was on my way to a voice lesson back in the city. I was in midtown at a Starbucks with my friend…that’s when I got a call from my agent. He said it so casually, “Hey, so you are flying out to Utah on Monday to start rehearsals for High School Musical 3! It was fun…exciting.
LIM: What was your reaction?
ME: I was speechless. I was so excited to just do it, to be a part of that movie.
LIM: What was your part?
ME: I was one of the principal dancers, but I also got to be on the basketball team. I had so many scenes that I wasn’t expecting to have. I have been dancing my whole life, but acting is my passion, so to combine the two was just amazing.
LIM: Did your character have a name?
ME: Well, on the back of my jersey it said “Patrick, #4.” There were 18 principal dancers; we were part of the Spring Musical in the movie.
LIM: For those who might not have seen the movie, give us a brief synopsis.
ME: It’s a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. It’s senior year. The spring musical is supposed to happen; they realize they have so much to do – SAT’s, ACT’s, looking at colleges. The performers all say they can’t do the show, but in the end it all comes together. The director makes them do a musical about their time at East High School leading up to graduation. It’s really sad because they graduate in the end and all go off to different places for college. It’s a struggle for Troy (the lead character) to decide if he wants to play basketball or become an actor; he decides to do both and stay close to his sweetheart, Gabriella. Every senior in high school can relate to it.
LIM: Take us through a typical day on the set of such a high-energy movie. It must be grueling.
ME: Yeah. The big numbers are what High School Musical is known for. We always had to be on our game. We had a rehearsal process for about 8 weeks before to get everything done. On the set it’s very different than when you are in the rehearsal room, because the cameras are running and you don’t just do it once; you do it about 100 times. They might need different angles or if someone messes up it requires another take. There are a lot of 10-hour days. That’s pretty typical, but when you’re doing hard-core dances and having to act and do all that, it’s really grueling. Of course, you have a lot of breaks, and you are extremely worn out everyday, but you have this adrenaline rush…you don’t even know you are working.
LIM: Was there ever a moment when you felt like throwing in the towel, like the challenge was too tough?
ME: No, because I felt such a strong connection to the movie and being a part of it. Even now, whenever I see anything about it I feel it. That’s what happens when you work on such an amazing film or show – you get attached to it. I got attached to the director, Kenny Ortega, who happened to be one of my mentors through the entire process. He is someone I hope to work for the rest ofmy life. Imade somany [great] friends on the set…people I talk to everyday.
LIM: What challenges did you face being cast in a movie that had already produced two prior successes?
ME: The difference from the first and second movie is [that] this was a feature film, so the expectations were much higher from everyone involved with it. There were a lot of times people would get tired, but we would all pump each other…“Come on.We’re doing the biggest movie ever!” I had to pinch myself a lot. Looking back, I don’t remember being so tired. You have to think [that] you wouldn’t have been cast if you weren’t at the level they wanted you to be at. Even if you can’t do this step right, you have to think you were put in the movie for a reason. They chose me out of…millions of people all over the world who would have died to just be an extra on the set.
LIM: I’m sure you know that Ashley Tisdale grew up in Deal. Did the two of you strike up a friendship?
ME: That is one of the first things we talked about, how we are both from New Jersey.We knew a few of the same people from here in New Jersey, so that’s how we met. The first day was crazy meeting everyone…sort of intimidating in some ways.
LIM: You grew up in Marlboro, right?
LIM: How old were you when you decided you wanted to be an actor?
ME: When I was 4 when I wanted to get involved in theater. I loved being on stage. I did a lot of community theater. I was in Marlboro Productions…I did that all the time. Then I went to FrenchWoods when I was 8; that’s where I started doing all my shows. I started to get lead roles there. I give somuch credit to FrenchWoods for teachingme somuch. They put together a production in 3 weeks! I also went to Dance Attitudes right here inMarlboro forever! That’swhere I learned to dance and perform. I did a lot of competitions and learned from them. They are like my other family.
LIM: Not many guys in high school dance here on the local level. Did you face any obstacles or challenges because you’re a guy?
ME: I faced a lot of obstacles in Marlboro. I’m not going to lie. There is a big difference betweenNewYork and the suburbs. Since elementary school, a lot of kids were just not accepting of it. I mean, I wasn’t bullied, but indirectly Iwas. I just felt excluded froma lot of things. Alot of people just didn’t understand it.When people have talents, a lot of people hold themback because they care about what other people think. But I stayed strong until the beginning of high school and then I transferred to the performing arts school.
LIM: When did you transfer?
ME: After sophomore year. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily because of the bullying, but I faced many challenges. On the weekends, when they all went to parties, I would rather be dancing or acting or singing. I spend all my free time at [the] piano, singing. I taught myself how to play my freshman year. I was also working in 8th and 9th grade for the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden as a dancer. I couldn’t see a lot of my friends because I was working. So, coming back to high school as a freshman…everyone seemed very different to me. I still have my best friends though, the peoplewho stuck by me through everything.
LIM: So the kids who maybe laughed at you are now…
ME: …asking me for my autograph! Literally! But honestly I am happy with what I went through. As an actor, it made me more well-rounded. I can honestly say I did not have the easiest childhood, but people can never say that I don’t deservewhat Imay have, because I‘veworkedmywhole life to earn it and faced all the challenges that came along with it.
LIM: Do you think you’ll continue to dance professionally orwill you focus more on acting now?
ME: I can’t honestly say that this year I’ve been dancing a lot, because I’ve been busy with other things. But I still love to dance. It’s one of my passions. I will definitely continue. I’m not sure if I want to go in the direction of being a dancer at all. I think it gives me an edge. If I can act and dance in something…it’s a dream job.
LIM: So which came first…your agent or your training?
ME: Training.When I was little I had a local manager. I would go into the city for auditions…for The Music Man and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I alwaysmade it really far, but then didn’t end up getting the jobs. Rejection is the biggest thing. Commuting back and forth to the city was tough. Both my parents worked, so I had to stop auditioning for a while.My mom and I talked about it and realized that I should get my training while I was young and then go in for the auditions later. It made more sense, rather than missing school all the time, so I held off. It was really hard. Sometimes I regret it…I think everything happens for a reason.
LIM: Was there an audition process to gain acceptance to the Professional Performing Arts High School inManhattan?
ME: Yes, I had to do two monologues and a song.
LIM: Do you still receive training?
ME: My school has an alliance with theActors Institute for the acting program. My teachers come directly from there. I have amazing teachers. I also take song preparatory, and I have two days of acting technique, improv and rehearsal performance class, and one day of dance; so we basically cover everything.
LIM: It’s like FAME, right?
ME: It is FAME. It’s just like that.
LIM: So now you’re heading to the city of angels! Was it your choice to move to LA or is it for a project you’re working on?
ME: When I went out for the High School Musical 3 premiere I had a meeting with Disney and I auditioned for their upcoming pilots. I spoke to the casting director and realized [that] for what I want to do right now it’s all out there. I signed with a great manager there who I am actually living with when I first arrive. He recommended that I come out there.
LIM: What happens if “Ugly Betty” calls and says, “We need Randy back.”?
ME: Then they’ll fly me back!
LIM: It’s all about the opportunity.Are you nervous? Excited?
ME: Excited! It’s a very intimidating place, but I think if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere.
LIM: That’s what the song says! So is this your senior year?
ME: Yes. I am graduating early. I have enough credits!
LIM: Some actors dream about being a big star and some act because it’s their passion.Which category do you fall into?
ME: I want to be successful. I don’t want to be famous. Three fourths of the people out there do this to be famous. It’s not the way I was brought up. It’s something that I love doing and the fact that it can be my job…that’s why I want to do it. I would rather have steady work and not be followed by paparazzi than be followed every single time I walk out of my house.
LIM: That might eventually happen, though…
ME:Who knows? But in the end it’s not about the fame, it’s about doing what I love to do.
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