Thomas McDonell Interview - JustJared.com Exclusive
Disney’s newest pic Prom opens in theaters TODAY but before you run out and buy your tickets, JustJared.com has an exclusive interview with the hearthrrob of the high-school comedy feature, Thomas McDonell. Check it:
JJ: How long has this whole process been for you?
TM: It’s been almost exactly a year now. Last spring, I sent an audition tape to the casting people at Disney. They brought me out for a screen test, there was some waiting time, some pre-production work in California. Then we started filming in about five L.A. middle school and high schools for two months starting in July/August.
JJ: What’s your favorite scene from the movie?
TM: Having watched the movie, my favorite scene is [SPOILER!] Nolan up in a tree talking to Danielle Campbell’s character because it’s so sad. I kinda remember how that felt. But I didn’t get to film that. I really like how it came together in the end, though.
Click inside to read the rest of Just Jared’s interview with Thomas McDonell…
Thomas McDonell Interview – JustJared.com Exclusive
JJ: Do you have a favorite prop from the shoot?
TM: The motorcycle – a Norton Commando – was pretty good. I don’t have one but I’m thinking about getting one. Otherwise, … my little brother was good!
JJ: What was your childhood like growing up in NYC?
TM: It was good. I went to a really good school. I was always spending time with my brother [Nick]. We’re close in age – he’s two years above me and we lived on 84th Street for a while and then on 72nd Street before we both moved out of town. He went to college in Boston and I went to boarding school in Boston, so we stayed close together. Then I came back to NY for college at NYU.
JJ: Were you always into acting or in the arts?
TM: Yea, totally. I wasn’t into acting when I was a kid. Maybe because I was shy or it didn’t occur to me. I was always making things, I studied painting and sculpture in school. Acting sort of came later as an experiment.
JJ: Do you have a favorite piece of art you created?
TM: I was really proud of a show that was not of my work but I helped put it together. A friend of mine had a video art exhibition that we did at Best Buy. The idea was that this young video artist whose work was really great – Borna Sammak – was making videos specific for HD television screens. I had this idea about how the venue would be with all the HD screens, so we figured out a way to allow them to put on a show using all of their TVs. There’s a Best Buy on Broadway and Houston street with hundreds of TVs. We did the whole thing there and it was a damn good show.
JJ: What type of art do you personally create?
TM: That’s a hard question to answer. I can tell you about categories, influences, or trajectories but at the end, the work that I make doesn’t have very much formal consistency, which is to say one piece to the next, doesn’t look the same. One piece might be a realist oil painting, the next might be a performance, the next might be a video piece, on and on. It’s more grounded in conceptual art, which is a vast territory.
JJ: Where do you put all of the art you create?
TM: There’s nothing up right now in a show. The next one will be in Louisville, Kentucky and we’re going do a show in Mexico City. A friend and I are putting it together, it has a handful of artists who I really admire. I had never been to Louisville and I wanted to go for it. I made a sculpture but I’m still working on it right now.
I also keep a studio in Brooklyn where I make the stuff – there’s one room that’s like a messy room and another room I keep very clean, so you can put stuff on the wall and look at it. I have a lot of stuff over there and those are collectors.
JJ: Favorite spot to hang out in NYC?
TM: Café des Artistes was a very old-fashioned Upper West Side place, small bar and a restaurant. Very formal with murals and paintings on the wall of like the Hudson River. But it closed, which is too bad.
I’m going to miss the restaurants in my neighborhood now. I’m moving tomorrow but in the past couple years I’ve lived in Williamsburg, which has some good ones. East Chelsea is going to be kind of a different neighborhood to live in. I’m moving just for a change of pace.
JJ: Boarding school in Massachusetts. What was that experience like?
TM: I went for three years. I started my first year of high school in the Bronx and then went away for school. It was different. When I was 14, I was a little disappointed with the school I had been going to. I thought that if I could go to this school – that I’d heard was such a great school and it’s the best- then I’d do that. But if not, then I’ll stay in NY. But they said I could go, so I went and I regretted it big time when I got there. Because I love NY so much – the freedom of being a kid and living in the city. When I got to the school, I was assigned to my room every night and couldn’t leave. It almost drove me totally nuts but I figured out a way to visit my brother all the time because he lived close by and I could get away.
JJ: Was it a good foundation for what you’re doing now?
TM: Yes, it was a great school. Students came from all over the country and the world, so it was diverse. I made a best friend when I first got to the school – he’s this strange, tall white guy with this bright blonde hair who had spent his whole life up until the day that we got to school, sitting on an oil compound in Saudi Arabia and he was just like as weird as they come because he was very American. His dad worked for this American company but his cultural awareness was almost a year or two behind cause he was out there – he sort of got things right and wrong. He was the drummer of our band in high school.
JJ: You went to Shanghai (China) for school?
TM: I was supposed to go for one academic semester when I was at NYU. It was almost like an exchange program. That was like 5 years ago – there was this idea that Shanghai was going to be like Berlin, this really creative young hub and everything was exploding there. Turned out not to be like that. I went there, studied for four months and while I was out there, I went out for this audition for a movie and I got the part, so I stayed for the summer even though the part was supposed to shoot for six days. It shot for several months because they dragged it out.
JJ: Tell me about getting cast in your new movie Dark Shadows starring Johnny Depp.
TM: I first heard about it a couple months ago, but they had been working on it for a while. It’s an idea that [director] Tim Burton has had for a long time because he’s a big fan of the original series. I think the movie he’s going to make is going to make you aware of the original – self-aware? It’s filming right now but I might go to the end of the shoot, end of summer.
JJ: Have you always gotten Johnny Depp comparisons?
TM: A little bit but not so much as I am getting them now.
JJ: Have you met any of the cast yet?
TM: No, not yet. Never met Michelle Pfeiffer.
JJ: What was the audition process like?
TM: It was simple. I didn’t make a tape, it was more on the sort of Hollywood deal-making side which I wasn’t used to.
JJ: Your band, Moon. Can you talk about how you guys started and where you are with making music now?
TM: We’ve been playing music together as a band for about two and a half years. I had an idea of the certain amount of music that I wanted to make and I was itching to do it because I had spent this time in and out of NY going to study abroad. I had never played music before and I wanted to play live again. So I got in contact with a guy who’s a great friend of mine, now one of my best friends. He’s this technical musician and guitarist and I said, ‘I have these songs, let’s try to work on them and record demos and see what happens.’ We ended up doing it backwards, where we recorded these demos and then built up a band to go around the demos – a five-song EP that we recorded. And then we went to Boston to do it, so the guy who played on the EP couldn’t play with us, because he lived in Boston. So we got a new bassist and now there’s four of us, five sometimes but we’re going to make new music soon. We made a new song [called "Time Stand"] for the Prom soundtrack which came out well.
JJ: How would you classify the genre of music?
TM: The most recent thing that we made was the most accessible in terms of pop music but it remains a pretty straightforward electric guitar band with pop music constructions.
JJ: Do you guys produce all the music yourselves?
TM: Yeah. We’ve been going up to a friend’s studio in Boston and he has this colossal recording place in Chelsea that we sort of lucked into in a way. He’s a great producer who happens to live there so we got to go up there and record.
JJ: Which instruments do you play?
TM: I play mostly the guitar and I sing. On the most recent recording that we made for the Disney film, there were these other sounds that we fill out the space with, which are more synthesizer. And there were some funny petal stuff and distorted sort of things, so there was some of that too.
JJ: Did you learn how to play guitar on your own?
TM: I had some help along the way but the truth is, I’m technically not that great of a guitar player. I sort of just get by. I’m able to write music and play guitar that’s passable as a live performance guy.
JJ: What’s your favorite music right now?
TM: There’s a whole bunch of music in the film that’s not on the soundtrack. The soundtrack is good but for example, there’s a Smith Western song in the film that you hear for a second that someone’s playing on the radio. But it didn’t end up on the soundtrack, so that’s an example of a band I like now, Smith Western, they’re a cool indie rock band.
JJ: What’s the last movie you saw?
TM: Bugsy, a Warren Beatty movie from 1991. I was really interested in Warren Beatty and I had not seen that one and I wanted to check it out.
JJ: You got it off Netflix?
TM: I went to mother f—ing Blockbuster and they don’t have any movies in there! When I was in there, I decided I was never going to go back, so I rented a bunch of movies and kept them.
JJ: Do you have a favorite junk food?
TM: No. I like it all.