This week, popular entertainment network Nickelodeon debuted Wallykazam!, a brand-new TV show with a twist. It’s the network’s first animated series targeting preschoolers that embeds a literary curriculum into a full-length story. The show cunningly squeezes in the literacy lessons via Wally, a troll who waves his magic stick to make words come to life. Some Baltimoreans may recognize the voice of wordsmith Wally as that belonging to 12-year-old Thomas Langston, a sixth grader at Gilman School.
Roland Park resident Langston is no stranger to the entertainment business. He appeared in Clint Eastwood’s feature film, J. Edgar. TV credits include a role as Tommy in an episode of Law & Order: SVU as well as a young Thomas Adams in the HBO production John Adams. He’s also acted in many regional theatrical productions. Recently, BaltimoreFishbowl caught up with Langston on one of his rare days off (thanks to inclement weather) to find out what it’s like to split time as a professional actor and a middle school student.
Tell me a little about the character Wally in the new series, Wallykazam!, whose voice belongs to you.
Wally is this outgoing troll who loves to play with his pet dragon, Norville. He loves to have these neat adventures with his friends, and he always tries to think up words that help with his adventures. His magic stick helps words come to life.
How do you prepare to play Wally?
Usually I have something to drink. Then I just warm up my voice and act like myself.
This is hardly your first foray into acting. How did you first get introduced to it?
I don’t remember when I first started to act. I was very young, maybe four or five. I just like to do it. My mom and uncle were actors when they were kids.
What’s been your favorite role to date, and why?
Wally. It’s just really fun to do this voiceover stuff. I love it.
Who’s your favorite actor?
Currently, either Clint Eastwood or Jennifer Lawrence.
Does acting feel like work to you, or something you do for fun?
It definitely feels more like enjoyment. It doesn’t feel like work at all. I do it for fun, mainly.
What’s it like to be working on a TV show in New York one day and then sitting in a classroom in Baltimore the next day?
It’s a confusion thing. But after the first five minutes of my first class, I snap right back into it. It’s fun to be working, then the next thing I’m at school.
How do you keep up with your schoolwork when you’re busy acting?
I usually get the schoolwork and do it while I’m working; I study with a tutor in New York. I don’t mind that I miss school. Gilman is fine with it as long as I keep up with my work.
There aren’t too many other kids your age in Baltimore who can claim the same experiences you’ve had. Do your classmates treat you any differently because you’re an actor?
(Long pause) I don’t really think they do. I feel like they treat me like anybody else. Some people have a little more respect for me because I have a job.
Is there anything you feel you miss out on because a lot of your free time is spent acting?
Every once in while I miss an event at school that I really want to go to. Other than that I don’t miss much. In fifth grade, I had to miss a field trip to JA (Junior Achievement’BizTown® allows students to test out the free enterprise system by running a simulated town economy for a day). I also had to miss a wrestling finals match last year at school against my classmate, Peter Heubeck.
A lot of kids dream about becoming actors when they grow up. What do you see yourself doing when you grow up?
Acting. And some other job that I can do when I’m not acting.
Do you have any advice for kids who think they’d like to be acting on TV or in the movies one day?
Be practicing. If they want to act, they have to be good at it. And get their family to help them. I wouldn’t be acting if it weren’t for my grandma and grandpa. If they didn’t take me [to New York], I couldn’t get there by myself.
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