Colleges & Campus

UCF Podcast: Advice for Young Actors

In episode 25 — the 10th episode of season two of the UCF podcast, Knights Do That — we speak with Adrian R’Mante ’96, UCF theater alum and Hollywood actor, shares his journey at UCF to landing his hit role as Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramírez on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody — as well advice for young actors.

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Transcript

Adrian R’Mante: And this is me being an open book too. I don’t know any other way, but I tell you like it is and everybody’s story’s different, but for me, graduating was a huge ordeal because you can criticize me, you can tell me I’m not this, I’m not that, but you can never take away my education.

Alex Cumming: We’re back with another episode of Knights Do That. Today’s episode is an outstanding one. And it especially is for everyone who grew up watching Disney Channel. Joining me today is actor and UCF alum, Adrian R’Mante who you may know best from the hit Disney Channel show, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. We’ll chat about his journey at UCF to landing his role on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and what advice he would give to young actors. Adrian has such great advice, and I can’t wait for you to hear from him, so let’s get into it.

Adrian. It’s such a pleasure to get to come in to talk to you here on the podcast. It’s awesome having you here.

Adrian R’Mante: Thank you for inviting me. I do get a lot of these invitations, but I had to say yes to my alma mater, so here I am.

Alex Cumming: It means a lot to myself as an acting major here and I know a lot my fellow students, my fellow actors, who, when I mentioned I was speaking with yourself, they’d be like, “Oh my gosh, that’s fantastic.” It’s so cool. So I, again, I appreciate your time here.

Adrian R’Mante: That’s really cool. I’m assuming they know that I was a part of the theater program there for many years.

Alex Cumming: Yeah.

Adrian R’Mante: Ancient times. But hey, it was good back then.

Alex Cumming: Where did you have your theater?

Adrian R’Mante: We did it in the actual theater over there by the science — do you guys still?

Alex Cumming: That’s still our main theater. Yeah. That’s where we do main stage performances, but we have a section right by where the fraternity and sorority houses are that’s the Performing Arts Center. One side is theater, one side is music. So that’s where we do like our rehearsing.

Adrian R’Mante: We worked out of the main stage theater and the black box right next to it. It wasn’t really a black box, but I guess it was. We used to have acting classes there and then you had obviously like the break rooms and the dressing rooms. And we had 300 acting students. Three hundred, I don’t know how many you guys have now, but that was considered a lot back then. And so you could get lost in the shuffle, but not all of them were acting majors. Some were in production and management and things like that. But it was banging back then yet still going strong. I just did a performance March in the black box. So my shoes or stepping in where you have gone before.

When you’re pursuing your acting career in college, you always have those one performances that stand out. I had a couple, I did cabaret there, musical and I’m not a singer, but I’m a good actor. So I acted like I could sing and I fooled them all just like I fooled everybody that Esteban had an accent — that Adrian R’ Mante has an accent. I don’t, I played one. That was amazing. To this day, one of my best performances of all time was right there at that UCF Theater.

Wow. Main stage to this day.

Alex Cumming: I want to ask that you had people around you, did anybody else you worked with at UCF go on to film television stage in Atlanta, L.A., New York?

Adrian R’Mante: There’s been a few that have done things but they were so many talented actors that are still acting today. You don’t have to be in TV and film to have a career. I just chose that because a lot of people actually don’t choose to move to L.A. I chose the crazy thing. As soon as I graduated, my truck was packed up and I was on the road to L.A. right after I graduated. Wow. So that shows you, me, I’m just built different. Doesn’t mean I’m more talented than the actors I worked with. I’m just a little crazy.

And I was established in Orlando. I did, I got to do a lot of main stage productions. I did the the Shakespeare Festival, the UCF Shakespeare Festival, was my first paid gig ever. I was one of their journeyman actors. And then I did Nickelodeon locally there, back in the ’90s when Nickelodeon was filmed there, called Slime Time Live.

So my seat was wet, there, and I was having success, but I knew going to L.A. was a risk. But I had to just go for it. I don’t want to be 40 years old saying I wish, so I just went for it. But yeah, that’s how crazy I am, but I recommend it for anybody who just has that dream to be in TV and film.

There’s this one actor who I did look up to during my time. And it’s always good to have someone you look up to. In my opinion, don’t try to don’t think you’re the best. There’s always someone better than you, and you’re better than someone, always. And so, I just try to find the people that were better than me and hang out with those guys.

But I worked with some amazing actresses and who knows what they’re doing now. I don’t keep in touch with everybody. I follow some people on Facebook, as most everybody’s on because it came out first. But yeah, that’d be the coolest thing — I don’t know if you guys know this, but I did this musical cabaret and the coolest thing about it was it won an Oscar. Joel Gray, who played the emcee, the character I got to play in the musical, he won an Oscar for best actor, and he also was the actor that played the emcee on Broadway in 1963, and the stage manager. Because you guys have stage managers in your productions and they’re the boss, once the show goes up, they’re the ones you listen to. Right. So the stage manager of the 1963 production directed our production at UCF. His name is Nick Rinaldi.

Alex Cumming: Whoa.

Adrian R’Mante: So UCF was banging back in the day and man, I’m not sure now, I’m sure it is, but they used to bring some heavy hitters and some cool people, like Jim Helsinger. I don’t know if you know him, but he’s the artistic director of the Shakespeare Festival.

Alex Cumming: He’s my professor right now.

Adrian R’Mante: I remember when I auditioned for the Shakespeare Festival, it was his first show that he was going to become artistic director. He was planning on it, but he was directing Othello and he hired me. I think he was here to sit there his first year and he hired me and another UCF actor, Corey Baker. And that dude single-handedly changed my life. I don’t even know if he knows it.

Alex Cumming: On the flip side of what I asked you a little moment ago about the people you worked with once you were out in California, working on the show, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, for context. Did people from UCF reach out to you and say, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we had introductory algebra together. I just saw you on television. This is the coolest thing.”

Adrian R’Mante: The craziest thing is, I don’t know if people knew I was doing the show for a long time, because when I was on the show, they didn’t have kids. My fellow actors, they were still young pursuing their careers. I booked it in my late 20’s, early 30’s. I believe something like that. And unless they had kids, which they didn’t, you didn’t really know about The Suite Life, mostly it was parents and kids that watched the show, which now it’s crazy because the kids that watched it back in the day are having kids. It’s just nuts. But I’ve had a few people reach out to me, but these were people that I knew. Nobody like of course once you become a little famous, you get people that are your cousins. The good thing about social media? You can just click decline. Yeah, but some people did reach out to me. It was cool. I still follow some of my friends from UCF and see what they’re up to and, you probably have some really close friends now that you’ll be friends with 20 years from now.

Alex Cumming: Oh yeah.

Adrian R’Mante: Do you guys do summer productions there now?

Alex Cumming: Yes. So we have our normal season, which is we have the fall season and the spring season. And then we have Pegasus PlayLab, which is where directors and actors will come from all over people who are connected to UCF in some way or another will come here and submit shows written by students or do their own pieces. Recently, we had UCF Celebrates the Arts, which if you’ve seen the Dr. Phillips Center here in Orlando, UCF takes that bad boy over and does a bunch of shows there. It’s the coolest thing. So local arts are attached at the hip indefinitely to UCF, and the Orlando theater scene are one in the same.

Adrian R’Mante: That’s amazing. It’s so good for you guys to get a spark in your career. It’s a little tough in the TV and film business, we can talk about that, but all that experience you’re getting is invaluable. It prepares you for the world of acting, not necessarily TV and film. TV and film is something that I had to learn along the way, but the theater base that I had allowed me to be a real actor because TV and films are different. It’s just not the same process. In, in theater, you get to development, you get to develop your character, you get to really walk in their shoes. When it comes to TV and film, if you have an audition today, or you get an audition today, you have to perform at your highest level tomorrow and walk in those shoes as if you had it for six weeks while you’re preparing to put it on the main stage. You don’t get that with TV and film. They expect you to walk into the audition or self-tape now and be at that level. But you will learn that it’s a process and you learn how to. When you read the script you look at and you go, “I know exactly.” You think you do, but I have the confidence, not that I do know, but I say, “I know what they’re looking for.” So I go with my just make strong choices. I don’t think about what they want me to choose. I just make choices. Self-tape it. Turn it in and I continue on with my life. That’s the life of an actor and TV and film. Theater you get to bond more with your actors. You’re part of this play. You put it on from that many weeks. It’s pretty cool. A lot of our jobs, unless you’re doing a three month or a longer movie, or you’re on a series, it’s just usually in and out.

Alex Cumming: One of the final deciding factors of my choosing to come into the acting program here at UCF was its location in Orlando. And that I could shoot, and I have shot in Tampa, Jacksonville, Atlanta, North Florida, Miami. I just love that, I love the central, it’s in the name of the central location of that. You can just shoot everywhere. So I’m so thankful for that.

Adrian R’Mante: Yeah you’re in a prime location. I actually chose Orlando because of that. Back in the day, they actually shot some series at Universal.

Alex Cumming: I’m so curious about UCF as this jumping off point, you said you packed your truck up as soon as you graduated. I graduate in a couple of weeks, so I better get that truck ready and rearing to go. I’m behind apparently. So you’d mentioned that you pack your truck, you head out to California. Can you talk to me about the experience of pursuing your dreams out there and what the first couple of months, years were like for you?

Adrian R’Mante: And this is me being an open book, too. I don’t know any other way, but I tell you like it is and everybody’s story’s different. But for me graduating was a huge ordeal because you can criticize me, you can tell me I’m not this, I’m not that, but you can never take away my education. And that was meaningful for me mostly because I was an ethnic person, not because I play the role of — I’m trying to say, I’m a brown kid and I’m just saying there wasn’t a lot of my friends going to college. I was the only one. So I just wanted to paint that picture. So for me, when I chose to go to L.A., I knew I was going there with an education. Worst case scenario I’m going to get me a second career. I talk about this, I’m an advocate of this. You don’t put everything in on acting. And all I wanted to do was act, but that’s naive and gullible. And to me, the wrong choice, I went to L.A. knowing I would be able to have two careers. One, I was a high school English teacher. The second one was I was an actor. So, I got to go to auditions whenever I had them. And I went back to my English class and taught them how to write an essay. I do this for five years while I pursued my acting career. And so, I was good. I never starved. I had a consistent check and I had an agent. I had a manager, but that took a little bit of time. I didn’t go there right away with that. I had to go there. I had to study for the California educational skills test so I can be a teacher then all about certifications. I had to go through this process. And I just came off of Orlando doing Nickelodeon. I did a children’s play called A Jungle Book. I got paid. I was making money there. I was having success. I gave all that up to a dream. You know, I’ve always wanted to be on TV or make a movie. So when I went there, I went with a level head. I didn’t go in there desperate, trying to find an agent with the first month. Nope. I gave myself a year to settle in. I did pursue some agents here and there. And it is an absolute challenge to get anybody to take your calls or look at your headshot, look at your resume. It’s truly referral-based, that’s what I’ve learned. Like it’s referral-based if you happen to go to the gym at some point you meet some cool dude and he happens to be an agent. He’s, “Oh, I’m an agent.” “Oh, you are. I didn’t even know that I’d been working out with you for three months. That’s so cool. I’ve been looking for one.” “Have you?Very cool. Why don’t you — I’ll set up a meeting on Tuesday, you come and meet the agents at my office, just have something prepared.” “Really?” “Yeah.” “All right, cool.” You see how that happened? Yeah, that happened by chance. That’s how you get in those doors. That’s why people are social butterflies in L.A. They always trying to talk to you. People say California superficial, and it is, and the reason why it is because everybody’s trying to advance their career and they’re realizing how difficult is. I promise you would be more real if agents, casting directors, managers would actually take your call, but they’re not going to because they don’t want to waste their time with a bunch of bad actors. So they go through referrals. How are you going to get a referral? You got to meet people. You got get out there. You got to go to parties. You got to go to red carpets. You got to go to the gym. You got to just do something. You can’t sit at home. They’re not going to call you. So, I knew that. So, I was out there hustling. It took me three years to get a legitimate agent in L.A. I got hustled a few times. “Hey, give me a thousand bucks for headshots and I’ll get you an agent.” Back in the day, they used to prey on your dreams, but L.A. is so much more organized and structured and there’s laws. And you can’t just do that anymore. If you’re an agent, that’s all you can do. If you’re a manager, that’s all you can do. If you’re training, that’s all you can do. You can’t mix and dip in each pot, which I love.

So after three years of searching, I finally had to go back to my roots. I think your UCF theater students will appreciate this. So, I went back to my roots. I was like, fine. No one’s taking my call. Let me get out there and do a play or do something. So I went out and I looked in the back of the trades called Backstage. You guys know backstage.com? Back then there was the trades you go up and you go to the magazine rack and you pick up it back then it was called Backstage West. And in the back, they’d have auditions for independent movies, a spec commercial. A spec commercial is like anybody can make a commercial try to sell to Doritos and see if they’ll if buy it. That’s a spec commercial. They have those left and right. That’s why I tell actors, don’t just sit at home. You can get out there and do stuff. You never know if something’s going to pop or break, you can just be at home saying call me, or no, make your career habit. I’ve made my career happen. Trust me. I did. No one handed me anything. I saw this play. They were auditioning. It was called Piece of My Heart. And it’s about the woman’s experience in the Vietnam War. It was a play, OK? They were all nurses, girlfriends, wives of the soldiers in the Vietnam War. And it was their story. So I audition and there was only two male parts in 18 male roles. I was like, oh my gosh, if I can get this, I can really showcase my level of skills. Like I can teach because the drunk, husband, abusive boyfriend does wounded warrior. And then I got the part, I got the freaking part because I went back and I did a monologue that I did back in the day at UCF. I pulled it out of my pocket and I said, here I have this because I tell you guys have weapons in your pocket, an arsenal of things. You never know who you’re going to run into. So I pulled out this dramedy, it was drama and comedy. And that’s what this play was. I didn’t know, it was kind of luck, but I put myself in a position to get lucky. And I just happened to pick the right monologue. Well they liked me, they brought me back. I read for these after, you guys know this, but you audition with a woman at monologue, and then they’d call you back and give you different roles. It’s a considering for the play. That’s what I did. Then I ended up getting the role and by chance it got nominated for an Ovation Award. An Ovation is equivalent to the Tony awards, but just not as prestigious because it’s L.A. L.A.’s not known for plays, but because it got nominated for an Ovation Award, guess what? Agents, managers came out to watch it. Just came out to watch it. And then boom, my first ever agent gave me his card after that play and said, “Hey, call me, let’s set up a meeting I like what you did in this play.” I was like, “OK.” Called him, sat down in a chair with him, sat across me, the monologue, the same monologue that I did to get that play, I did it for him. So here’s the difference between doing monologue in a black box, then doing a monologue in an office with a dude sitting right across from you or a female, like right there. You have to change your energy. You got to fill the room out and you can’t be projecting your voice like this and he’s like right there, then they know you’re a theater actor. So you got to break it down and keep it very real. So you know how I had my hands on my tables are moving into you, looking like this, that’s what I did to him. I just set the table. I leaned into him and I started doing the monologue just like this. And I kept it very real and everything. I had like that Denzel Washington tear come out of my, eye, just one, just one. I knew I had this dude. And all the actors say it, just give me a chance. So that’s all I was saying. Just give me a chance. And I went there, he signed me on the spot. Boom. My career changed forever.

Alex Cumming: Wow. Geez.

Adrian R’Mante: That’s it. That’s my story. that’s how tough it was going there.

Alex Cumming: What an awesome domino effect of going back to your roots and the training you had here at UCF and how that came in handy all these years later to just set you up.

Adrian R’Mante: That’s 100%. That’s my true story and without my foundation at UCF, I wouldn’t be where I am today, for sure. Hundred percent.

Alex Cumming: Are there any other experiences you had from UCF or that you gained at UCF that helped you down your career even further along in your career that you had to go back and reflect on your time here?

Adrian R’Mante: Yeah, I’ll tell you one. So my last year, literally one of my last, probably my last class ever at UCF, OK? I’d already done Orlando Shakespeare Festival, did Othello and we did Taming of the Shrew. This is back in the ’90s. So I already did that and I knew Jim was like, Jim is teaching a class? And I’ve never worked with him, I was just directed by him. And he’s very good at what he does and he knows his stuff, right? So it’s man, I got to take this class. I was one of probably 20 that got into the class. And the class was called Marketing Yourself in Acting, not theater, not, commercials, just acting in general. So I took that class and long story short, that was the last class before I took the journey to L.A. and he taught me how to market myself. I don’t know exactly what was said, but let’s just say I can sum it up this way, that you know you as an actor and I’m talking to all of the theater students out there. You’re an actor. You want someone to buy your product. If we’re looking at this from business, right? This is called show business. You got to understand some business. If you look at business, business is direct, it’s not personal, it is what it is. So when I realized that he told me that now I’m basically a product and how am I going to market my product? What am I going to be? It really set me up for when I went to L.A. In LA, at first I was like, I want to play it all. I want to show them I can do so many diverse things. But that’s not how it works. In TV and film you are what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, if you look Spanish, you’re playing Spanish. I tell people that there’s two things. You are what you look like, and you are the age you look, not the age you are. Period. So I looked at that, I’m like, OK, I’m 24, 23, but I look like a 17-year-old. OK. My name is Adrian Weinberger, but I look like Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya De La Rosa Ramirez. So what am I going to do here? I got to learn how to market myself. No, one’s going to buy Adrian Weinberger to play, Roderigo or Omar. These are the roles that I look like. You know what I did, went back to the marketing class, Marketing Yourself in Acting. How am I going to market this product so I can get jobs on TV and film? So I changed my last name. Then I wanted to pick something general that would, be Hispanic, but could be Italian, could be anything. I just want you to go, “What is that?” That’s what I wanted you to say. So then when I walk in the room for the audition, whatever accents I’m doing, you believed whatever I said I was. So if I said, “What do you want me to do? You want me to sit here? I do it for you. No problem. It’s OK. I do it for you.” I’ll be Middle Eastern. I’ll be Palestinian. I’ll be whatever it is that I’m auditioning for. And it’s not, you’re not necessarily lying. You’re just playing the game and your it’s your alter ego. Hey, Beyoncé has it right when she performs on stage. So I’m performing. When I walk in that room, I’m performing. Do you want to get to know me? Go take me to dinner. Let’s sit down. We can talk. And then I can tell you the story, how I changed my last name. But until you do that, when I walk in that room, I’m whatever you’re looking for. This is marketing yourself in the business. Do you like my product? Do you like the way it tastes? OK. Then just buy it. If you want to know what’s in the ingredients, we can go sit down and talk about that later, but don’t worry about that. That was the one thing, that class, man, it changed me forever. If I had not taken that class, I probably would still be Adrian Weinberger. Probably not work as much because people are not going to sell, this Hispanic guy with a German Jew last name. So technically I’m Mexican and Caucasian technically, but just look up character breakdowns when you’re auditioning for something, it doesn’t say Mexican slash Caucasian. It’s either Caucasian or Hispanic, or Latin. These are the things you learn. I’m trying to educate some of my fellow UCF students out there. You’re going to learn this along the way, so just know what your market is, know what you look like, learn those accents. I can do so many different accents. I’m ready for whatever my agent sends me out on. I also know the age that I look and I go with that. OK. People always ask me, what’s my age. I said do you want my my actual age? Or do you want my actor’s age? But I’ve benefited from that. But I pass it on to you. I summed it up for you.

Alex Cumming: Funny, you mentioned that the final class I’m taking at UCF right now is Theater Careers with Professor Jim Helsinger and it’s invaluable. It’s just, you’re getting it straight from the man himself who’s had years of seeing it, living through it himself. And I love hearing that it stuck with you and got you to where you are. So it bodes well for another person taking this class. And I love what you’re saying here about not just taking the risk and going to L.A., but also taking the risk and forming an identity, making yourself marketable here and realizing, and learning and seeing this isn’t working, what is working, and putting yourself in that situation. So I love to hear that.

Adrian R’Mante: Your generation is the generation of social media and you guys are amazing at what you do. I love social media. It’s not something I want to do every day because I don’t need to do it, but if I was an upcoming actor, I would definitely be on all the platforms that are legit.

TikTok, YouTube, those two TikTok and YouTube, if you can put good content out there that shows your skill set, then you make it business. Agents love that. They love that. My son who’s an actor, he did Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger Force, one of his first jobs. He came close on a recent project. It was George Lopez is doing another pilot, another show called Lopez Versus Lopez. Cool. And my son did a great job and it came down to him and another kid. And guess what, kid beat him out. A kid with 15 million followers on TikTok. I can’t be mad at that. You know what I mean? It’s 15 million followers and this kid is funny on TikTok. I don’t know if he can be an act on a TV series, but let’s hope he can, but you get what I’m saying?

Alex Cumming: Right.

Adrian R’Mante: You have to do whatever you have to do to market yourself, to push yourself. In, in the thing I was going to say about social media is create a character on there. You don’t have to be you. You can have a private Instagram for just your friends. But the character that you are on your social media is not an indication of who you are in real life. You don’t need to be friends with these people. Give me something entertaining. my point is, embrace who you are. Learn the game because it is a game. Don’t hate it, learn it, and don’t get frustrated by it. And stay away from the word rejection. Actors love to throw it, or people that are not actors, “How do you deal with the rejection?” Why are we talking about rejection? I’m not trying to date these people. I was like, I auditioned, I can’t help with that I don’t look like Denzel Washington son. I can’t get the job if I don’t look like him, they tend to roll the dad to Denzel Washington. So how can I be his son, right That’s not rejection. You get what I’m saying? It was just, you’re not right for the role. So please stop using the word rejection. Just say, no, I didn’t get. You can give whatever reason you think you didn’t get it. You could say I didn’t prepare enough. Or I think I was too tall because Tom Cruise was the lead. These are things you can make up reasons to stop saying rejection. And not just the actors. We don’t say rejection that our friends say it that are not actors, they like to throw, “How do you deal with the rejection?”

Alex Cumming: Yeah, there are these quirky phrases that you get from people who aren’t as familiar with the process and the biz that’s a little pessimistic for my take. I appreciate the optimism of actors and the optimism of don’t stop when you’ve been knocked down and keep trying.

Adrian R’Mante: Yeah. And where you really knocked down. I don’t know. My son got told no for the Lopez Versus Lopez. Yeah. My wife cried because she wanted him to get it, but it’s not crying because she’s disappointed in him. It’s just, “Oh my God, he was so close. I’m so proud of him.” You can say, it says tears of joy. It’s like, he wasn’t knocked down, he was actually elevated him. It me, it’s going to make him better. You guys, that’s why I tell you get a second career. So you’re not all in and desperate for a job where you get depressed because you’re getting told no more than yes. Do you get what I’m saying? When I say that?

Alex Cumming: I do.

Adrian R’Mante: Just get something else you have passion for that you can get paid to do. And that way you never have to give up your dream of being an actor. That’s it in a nutshell.

Alex Cumming: Wow. Young actors need to hear and need to get that. So, I appreciate you sharing it.

Adrian R’Mante: Thank you. For sure.

Alex Cumming: So I’ve loved what we’ve been talking about, and now I want to jump to the impact you’ve made on generations of children, now, young adults, now adults. You played this role of Esteban in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody that has been ingrained, absolutely just chiseled in stone in the hearts and minds of Lord knows how many students.

Adrian R’Mante: Let’s just say that it’s probably one of, if not the biggest show on Disney ever and lived up to The Billie.

Oh yeah.

Alex Cumming: Oh yeah. Yeah. Then it continues to live on the show. It’ll exist forever, just because of all the love that people have for it.

Adrian R’Mante: It’s funny that you say that. It was the highest-rated pilot.s When a production makes a show, they actually, have it viewed by just random people, almost like a focus group, and they give them the people that watch the show and they do multiple groups. They ask their opinions about who you like, who you don’t like. And I promise you after, a hundred people watch an episode or maybe even a thousand, if there’s one character that’s not viewed pleasantly, they replace them. That’s the truth. And that’s another pressure that we get as actors is having to live up to the likeness of the audience. And that’s why I tell my actors, listen to this advice here, OK. Every choice you make has to be strong as an actor. Am I going to throw this chair down or am I just going to make a weaker choice whatever your choice is, go for it. Don’t half step with it. But remember this one piece of advice, and this is obviously my opinion, but it’s boded well for me, you are never performing for yourself ever. You were always performing for the audience. Always. So every choice you make is for the audience. Every, hey, open your body up, cheat out, is for the audience. Hey, I can’t see your face. It’s for the audience. Hey, et cetera for the audience. So I only say that because once I started learning that if you don’t entertain the audience, you’re not going to have a job. So do your homework, come in ready with your characters. Even if it’s an audition, what do they wear? What kind of music do they listen to? Who’s their best friend. Who are you talking to in your monologue? Who are you talking to in an audition with a scene because you talked to your mom differently, you talk to your sister. If you say with the attitude says with attitude. I don’t know, who are you talking to with the attitude? Is it mom or sister? Where’s mom is like, I don’t know. With sisters, I don’t know. Mom, you can’t really give her too much attitude because you can get restricted, get in trouble. Or boyfriend or husband, whatever, whoever you’re talking to, that’s doing your due diligence. Why do you guys think that I was from a third world country, Peru and my accent was real and I owned a pet chicken named Dudley. Why did you think that?

Alex Cumming: Very strong choices.

Adrian R’Mante: Exactly. Very strong choices. What would Esteban do? Now what would Adrian do? Would Esteban do? And once you get to know your tricks, you start making these decisions. That’s why you fall in love with the characters. That’s why you guys love Brenda Song. As dumb as she was, she’s one of the smartest girls in real life. She was such a good actress and made you believe she was dumb as rocks.

Alex Cumming: The moments in the show that people have as these catchphrases and individual bits from episodes that I’m certain you have been, requested to perform just those moments. Those are all very strong choices. You cannot deny that those are all strong choices that you made on the show. That were so strong they’ve stood the test of time.

Adrian R’Mante: Exactly. All my catchphrases came out of, just the script and making a choice. “Ah, this is a disaster!” That’s a strong choice.

Alex Cumming: Thank you. That was awesome. I love that.

Adrian R’Mante: Then after I did that, then it was the only written that one line, it was supposed to be like this, “Ah, this is a disaster.” How am I going to do that? Whatever Esteban was saving up money for his sisters Esta Carlotta quinceañera. So everybody was learning to dance. It was the ballroom episode. And that line was the first time I said it, but I said it because the director said, I can’t hear you. I need you to be louder. He said it to me three times and I’m like, fine. So I came out in a way, I just did overexaggerated it on purpose, just make it fun beause we were rehearsing and he loved it. He said, “Keep it.” And then they put it in the episode. Every episode after that, every single episode, I said, “Oh, this is a disaster,” and my long name every time. Isn’t that crazy? I was watching Kelly Clarkson for some reason the other day. And who was on there? Or Camilla Cabello, right? Yeah. And she was learning how to drive. And she said, “I didn’t know that the PRNDL had a blah, blah, blah.” And Kelly’s like, “What? Wait, wait, Wait, what did you just say?” “You know, the PRNDL that’s what London said in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. She goes, “OK, this is showing my age because I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And Camilla was saying that to the whole audience, the whole audience erupted. Like it shows you how big our show was. You know what I mean? Who grew up watching it. The stars of today grew up watching The Suite Life. So I respect and I’m so appreciative of what we left behind for young people like you.

Alex Cumming: Thank you. Because we love it. when you were auditioning for that show, do you have any memories from that process?

Adrian R’Mante: Just consistency. When I got the scripts, I made a choice. I went in there. I made a choice to make Esteban happy even when he was in trouble. I believe that’s what got me the job because they were laughing. when Mr. Moses like, :Esteban, you to get all those kids out of the lobby now or your job is at stake”, he’s like “Oh sir, yes sir. Right away, sir, I will do that for you.” opposed to “Oh Sir. Yes, sir.” And I’ll do that for you because then you’re like, oh my god he’s in trouble and you’re like this with Esteban, but if he’s happy about everything. I just got yelled at by Mr. Mosbey, he was the greatest thing ever. That’s hilarious. Opposed to, making him scared about everything. So I made the choice. This is going deep, but you guys want to know why you fell in love with Estaban. I made a choice that he was from a third world country living in America. So happy to be in America. Couldn’t wait to be an American. I don’t care. Like I have shoes, I have a job, people know my name. What am I going to be depressed about? I live in America, man. And that’s what the vibe I wanted to give off. And that I respected my elders. Do you know what I’m saying? Like, you notice, Estaban always respected when London was like, “Go over there and yell at Mr. Mosbey right now because you’re rich. You don’t need to give him any more respect, go over there and tell him that you want the window with a view and everything.” He’s like, “I can’t do that it’s Mr. Mosbey he’s gonna, he’s gonna kill me.” “He can’t kill you.You’re rich now.” “OK, I’ll do it.” And I go over there. “Mr. Mosbey, I want to talk to you about my lunch,” you could still feel Estaban’s scared, but yet standing up for himself. These are the little things that you guys fell in love with. And truth be told when I did the first audition, the casting director loved me and she said, “You’re coming back to meet the producers.” She didn’t give me a note. Usually a casting director will give you kind of notes or give it to your agent. So I just came back and made sure I did the same thing because she liked me the day before, why don’t I just do the same thing? Then the executives like me, then they brought me back the third day, and I did it for Disney execs. And on the third day audition, Wednesday callback, Thursday, Disney executive Friday night, I got word that I got the job in three days. Changed my life forever. Those three days, I prepared for those three days. You know what I’m saying? Like I came ready. It was my time. And I believe everybody listening is your time will come. It will come. Hundred percent. My question to you is will you be ready?

Alex Cumming: I love it. You have to be ready.

Adrian R’Mante: I’m glad you didn’t speak them at that set in because they’re probably going, “Damn will I be ready?” Well, beause it’s deep. You want to be an actor. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but you can’t control your passion. You love it. So do it right. But do it at your highest level. Put everything in it. Go deep. That’s why people fall in love with these wonderful characters in movies, in cinema, because you believe them and you’re like, you live through them. You fall in love with them. That’s why you cry when they die in the show. If you don’t care about them and they die, you’re like, “Ah, whatever.” So that’s why I say it’s always about the audience. It’s never about you. But I would just say the one thing I learned is the consistency. Be consistent. Don’t do any shortcomings. Don’t cheat. Just go all in on your roles.

Alex Cumming: What does it mean that this character has touched so many people all these years later?

Adrian R’Mante: Like I said, when I watched Camilla when I saw her talking about The Suite Lifelike it was second nature and she’s like one of the most famous singers out there or artists out there. How many other artists grew up watching The Suite Life? Cause he just said it like casual. So I think anybody like 30 and younger, maybe 15 to 30 years old knows the show, or you’ve been living under a rock, to know that is crazy. My friend, it’s crazy and it’s humbling and people that know me — one of the most important things you can do in life in general is be appreciative. Man, I’m one the most humble people you meet and I’m always like gracious and thankful, I do count my blessings. But if you put good energy out there, you’ll get good energy back. If you dismiss bad energy, then it will be removed from your life. That means people, you got to hang out with people that lift you up and that takes you down, not question every decision you make. Why do you want someone in there going, why you want to be an actor? like, you know, Hard that is like, why is he going to even make it? So what I say to those, to my fellow actors out there, it just goes back to this. Anybody that says that to you, if you made your decisions, you made smart decisions. Just remember having two careers will enable you to have power over that dude or that woman being negative about you. I was a high school teacher if I didn’t become a famous actor. Or if I didn’t have to go back to teaching again, I would still be a teacher to this day and still be an actor too. And my path would’ve been different probably. So I just want you to know that, but when you go all in on something I say second career parents call it a fallback, just FYI. OK. What’s your fallback. You going to be an actor, but what are you going to minor?

Alex Cumming: What are you going to do?

Adrian R’Mante: What are you going to do in real life? Uh mom, this is-

Alex Cumming: What’s your real job?

Adrian R’Mante: Oh really? What’s going to be a real job though. This is a real job. Okay. So how are you going to pay your bills? I’m telling you, you get all those questions. I get it. I get it. Your answer is, oh, I’m a high school teacher. I asked you to elementary or I run my own business or I work in a, whatever doctor’s office, whatever you got to do, you have an answer for it. Don’t just wait for people, get out there and make your career happen.

Alex Cumming: I’m loving to hear this it’s for an actor like myself, it’s marvelous, breath of fresh air. Great to hear from somebody who’s been there, done that. So I appreciate all the advice and everything you have to dispel.

In your business. What do you look for in actors and talent that you want to work with?

Adrian R’Mante: Oh for me, just someone who works hard, that’s all. If you and me are doing a scene together, “Hey bud, you want to run lines at lunch. And you want to practice what the director gave us?” These types of things, right? People that don’t have time to practice their craft, then you’re not a real actor in my opinion.

I’ll give you an example. I like working with people who work hard. OK. So you Suite Life fans out there. Remember this episode “Oh Ghosty.” Do you remember that one?

Alex Cumming: Classic. Halloween episode.

Adrian R’Mante: But that was the episode that. Pretty much guaranteed us like multiple seasons and a spinoff. That was the episode. But let me tell you something, when you’re an actor, you’ve been doing this a while you, you see the ups and downs of the industry. You can book a series or pilots and the pilot gets canceled or the pilot is do picked up and then you’re back to square one, again, you’re on a series and it gets canceled. You’re back to square one again. You get in a movie and you do the movie and you get paid and they cut you out of it. These things happen to us actors. We got to keep moving on. We knew we had a juggernaut on our hands with the Suite Life. We knew it. We had a gut feeling. This is what I mean, what I look for in an actor, Dylan, Cole, Brenda, Ashley, myself. And that was it. So me as the adult, in all kids, actually may have been 18 or 19 at the time. Brenda was like 17 or 16 and the kids were like 12. We all during that episode for three days straight, because we rehearsed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday filmed on Thursday, Friday. We knew that if we get that seance scene around the table, as perfect as we can get it, we knew that we had something here, right? So this is what I mean by working hard. And the kids did it to Dylan and Cole and Ashley and Brenda, we worked through lunch every single day. I think we got a quick bite, went back and worked that on scene. That’s why you guys liked it so much. That’s why you guys thought it was flawless, epic. It trends so many times on social media. And I know why, because we put so much work into it. If we didn’t put that work into it, it wouldn’t have, it wouldn’t have impacted your life the way it did. Something as small as this, do you remember when Esteban said, “Don’t ever say that word pizza.” And it was the ghost voice in Esteban, it sounded like it was coming through Esteban. We made that up during rehearsal and we showed it to the director and he’s I love it. So we’ve had the ghost Irene, whereas right off stage, and she did the voice as I went. And she was saying it off stage something as simple as that. So I would say, I, for me, I like to surround myself, I look for hard workers. It’s not about your talent, you’re talented because you got the job. It’s rare that you see a bad actor these days on TV. You do see them, but it’s rare. It’s pretty good. You can not like look at Netflix and think they have bad actors. They have amazing actor on Netflix and amazing, excellent on Hulu, Apple TV is to new age. Not just CBS, ABC, NBC Fox, it’s across the board. Euphoria, not that I’m a fan of it, but my wife likes that show. But the acting is phenomenal. Do you know what I’m saying? And they’re all young actors, a lot of them in the actors on there are amazing. But I know that those young actors are working their ass off outside of their own scheduled rehearsal. That’s why, they want to see that you have a track record. If they’re going to pay thousands of dollars to get on there and their movie or their TV show. That’s why it’s a double-edged sword when you’re an upcoming actor with no TV and film. Cause how do you get them to prove yourself? that’s what I had to deal with. You just got to keep pushing, get those, one-liners get those smaller roles because there’s less risk for them. And then someone’s going to take a risk on you, someone will. And the questions go back to my other one before. Are you ready? Will you be ready? Be prepared. Be ready. Don’t get ready. That’s my advice.

Alex Cumming: It’s fantastic and it just rings as true now, as it ever did. anything else you see that you wish young actors knew? People who are maybe still in school and want to keep pursuing this career?

Adrian R’Mante: This changed so much because of the pandemic and I think for the better. I would just, this is a couple of pieces of advice that I would give these young actors. So of you are going to have success right away and some of you are not. That’s why it’s good to have a second career, right? So for those of you that have success right away, save your money. Don’t spend it, don’t lease, own. Because then you can always sell that thing you bought that you own at least get some of that return back. I’m getting deep, but it’s true. I have a lot of friends in L.A. that I met back in the late ’90s and I’m still friends with today, they have booked great shows and you guys know them. You watch them, the guy, I know that guy. Yeah. These are my friends. And I’ve seen some of my friends that the world sees them as rich and they’re not because they spent through their half a million dollars for this series gone, because they spent it. So, I would say incorrectly, I guess I don’t want to be too harsh on them beause some of them may think, “Hey, you talking about me.” But I would say, manage your money properly. Invest into yourself, always get good headshots. This is my advice about head shots. Don’t go the cheap route. Don’t try to go to Walmart or the mall, do your research on the photographer. Why does everybody pay $100, $800 for headshots? He’s obviously worth it because people are paying it and he’s helping people get jobs because here’s my advice about headshots. A headshot gets you in the door, your skills in training book you the job. Call me that on Twitter, please tag me Instagram. But I’m telling you, you’re never going to get the opportunity and agents never going to see you a casting director. They’re never going to see you if your headshot looks, let’s just say ghetto fabulous. You got to get great headshots or you’re never going to get in the door. So that’s a good piece of advice that I would say, and get on social media and here’s something that is happening. And if you don’t know how to do it, you’re going to be behind the eight ball, but you need to learn how to professionally self-tape. You gotta learn how to do it. Self-tape your auditions.

I honestly care about young actors, even if I never run across you, because I was you. You know what I mean? I was in your shoes and I think it’s only fair to pay a forward because it goes back to appreciation. I just appreciate what’s been given to me and to see my kids now doing it and I still do it. I’m not as active as an actor. I’m kind of a little bit more picky because it’s not about, I’m not in a position of desperation. I’m a position of just like enjoying my life. Now I am in my mid-to-late 40’s. So and I’ve been started when I was 17. It’s a long career, so I’m not retired. I’m just, picky, a little more picky. You as a young actor coming up, just do everything. But you can always say no if it compromises your morality. But I would say always do the audition. Just because it’s experience, and every audition you do, even if you don’t feel you’re right for the role. Every audition you do is going to make you better the next time. Period. I promise you. Can go on and on about advice, but those things are things you need to think about now while you’re a student of acting.

Alex Cumming: Being a student now is so exciting. It’s the strange energy of daunting and exciting because there’s this whole new age of social media that’s coming up, that hasn’t been fully oversaturated, that there’s still room to grow in and develop. And I so look forward to seeing what actors that take full advantage of it and become like the next generation of great stars, hoping to get to come up with them. I want to ask you one more thing. What’s one thing that you are still hoping to do in your personal life as a performer?

Adrian R’Mante: Okay. I’m a dad now. So if you asked me this question 10 years ago it’d be different. Okay. But now I have a five-and a seven-year-old who are my life, on top of my wife. It was very emotional for me because as you get older, you understand. When I say you don’t want to be 40 saying, “I wish,” because then you’ll live life from that time on with regrets. Like, “I wish I would’ve done that, man. Why didn’t I do that? Look at this kids are doing great, right?” So I went hard. I went for it. I said, I’m going to L.A., I’ll do this. We’ll see what happens. You know, Jim Helsinger asked us to write where we see ourselves in five years or 10 years. And in my essay that I wrote I said, I’m going to own my own actor studio one day with Al Pachino and I’m going to be in a movie with Al Pachino. Well I accomplished two of those three. I have my own actor studio now if you ever want to look that up, it’s CGTV L.A. and I’ve worked with Al Pachino in a movie called Simone.

Wow.

But I never opened up a studio with Al Pachino. That’s the only thing I haven’t done, but those were my goals and it’s in papers, documented me saying this. And this was good for you guys. Even if you’re not in Jim Helsinger’s class, why don’t you write down what you see yourself in five, 10 years and see what happens for you. Because five years happens quickly. Ten years, a little bit takes a little time, but it does happen. It’s good to reflect on where your mind was at the time. So 10 years ago, my mind was somewhere else. But now if there’s something I could accomplish that I think I can die after I do this would be in a show or a movie with my kids. That’s something that would be awesome. Either it was the series or it was a movie because I haven’t done that, OK. So I didn’t win an Oscar. Acting is not about winning Oscars. Those are, subjective anyways. Who’s to say that Denzel Washington’s performance was better than Leonardo’s performance in these two movies. That’s all subjective. So if you want to get award and makes you feel great and go for it. I used to dream that. But as you get older and you realize life is not about awards, life is about what did you leave behind. What’s your legacy? So what are you leaving behind where you grow up? What impact are you having on this? For me I, choose projects that are, I’m not saying goody-goody, I’m just saying like they have a purpose. And so for me, I would love to do projects that are high level projects that leave an imprint I’m doing with my son or my daughter will be amazing because then I’ll have that forever.

Alex Cumming: I look forward to seeing it come to fruition. Adrian, my friend, it’s been such a pleasure and honor. God, I wish someone would’ve told me all those years ago, watching the show and before I came to UCF, an individual like yourself came through program that I went through as well. And you are somebody that UCF, the theater program loves, they look up to, they appreciate, they honor. They are thankful that you are a part of the legacy and a part of the history of Orlando theater, because Orlando’s got a lot of amazing people. And thank you for being a part of it. So I so appreciate your time and talking with me. I hope to see you on set one day.

Adrian R’Mante: Hey, that’ll be awesome. You keep doing what you’re doing being an impact and set yourself up to succeed. You got this and seem like a great guy. UCF was a life changing opportunity for me. I’m sure it will be for you and all the students there. So just work hard and remember to appreciate what’s been given to you. And yeah, if things get hard, it’s good to have outlets to express yourself and I always say that acting as the root of all professions.

Alex Cumming: That’s good stuff. Yeah. And this episode, this interview we’re recording is my final episode as host as I’m graduating. So again, it was such an honor to have you on my final episode to get to talk with you. So, thank you again.

What a cool guy. It’s clear that his experiences during his time at UCF have played a role in his success today. And I had so much fun learning more about Adrian and his connections to the Central Florida area. And I hope that you did too. It was a great way to wrap up this season of Knights Do That — having an alum and celebrity on. I’ll have one more episode for you all reminiscing on my time hosting Knights Do That, where I’ll be sharing some of my favorite episodes, but until then, Go Knights! Charge On!

Nicole Dudenhoefer ’17 | Podcast by UCF Social
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Tags: College of Arts and Humanities Department of Theatre Knights Do That podcast UCF Alumni

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