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Thomas McDonell: Prom’s Bad Boy

Feb 09, 2011

By: Lynn Barker

Which type of guy is the hottest? Usually, it’s the artsy, dark, broody, soft-spoken, thoughtful boys. Kidzworld is out on the high school football field set of Disney’s new Prom movie watching a confrontation scene between Thomas McDonell’s character Jesse and high school brass, who don’t like this motorcycle-riding, outspoken “bad boy” ‘tude.

Thomas is a New York actor new to L.A. and the studio tapped him to star as lead opposite Aimee Teegarden in the new film. Prom centers on thirteen students who come from a variety of school cliques. Everyone from unpopular sophomores to seniors who rule the school is covered. Director Joe Nussbaum watched a load of audition tapes and matched up various actors to get the perfect mix. Thomas and Aimee had that certain something together.

We’d like to introduce you to Mr. McDonell. He’s got that James Dean, James Franco vibe but he’s a real original. Picture this cutie dressed as the bad boy we all love in white tee and jeans. His long, dark hair is whipping up in the breeze on the field as he approaches us and sits down.

Kidzworld: You are pretty new to all this. So how did you get the part in Prom?

  • Thomas: Well, I was in New York and started going on a bunch of different auditions. I made a tape and sent it out. I came out to do a test and that was it.

Kidzworld: What is your character Jesse like?

  • Thomas: He is the outsider character, sort of a loner. He has trouble and problems with his family and gets in fights but he’s not a bad guy. He’s just misunderstood by the school. He doesn’t like school but doesn’t know what he likes, exactly. He doesn’t want to be in school. He wants to graduate but doesn’t know what he wants to do when he does.

Kidzworld: He’s just an angry dude?

  • Thomas: Yeah but he changes pretty dramatically by the end of the film.

Kidzworld: Is this hot, long-haired look you or just for the film?

  • Thomas: [big smile] A little bit of both.

Kidzworld: Did you go to prom?

  • Thomas: Yeah I went to prom when I was eighteen finishing school with my girlfriend at the time in Massachusetts.

Kidzworld: How did you ask her to prom?

  • Thomas: I think we just decided we would go together. There was some talk about whether or not to go and whether it would be any fun. It wasn’t that much fun for me but we decided together to go.

Kidzworld: What do you do when you aren’t working?

  • Thomas: Here in California? I just came here. I live in New York but, while I’m here, I live by the beach so I go and get in the water.

Kidzworld: How did you get into acting?

  • Thomas: I always wanted to. It was just being interested in movies first then thinking maybe I could be in them. I came from a different direction as most actors out here but I was in one play in high school. I was in Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” and we went to the Edinburgh Theater Festival with it. That was fun. It was the only live theater I did back then.

Kidzworld: Was it a regular high school you went to?

  • Thomas: I went to art school and was in a performance art kind of thing at first and their auditions were really fun.

Kidzworld: How would you describe Aimee in one word?

  • Thomas: A Pro or “pro”.

Kidzworld: What is your favorite scene in the film?

  • Thomas:: My favorite so far is a scene in the art classroom. I have a lot of scenes with Aimee. They are in there reconstructing the decorations that were burned and it’s sort of how they get to know each other better. It’s a short scene but a lot happens there.

Kidzworld: Who would be your celebrity dream prom date?

  • Thomas: Hummm, maybe I better not comment on that one [another sly smile].

Kidzworld: Had you watched Aimee on “Friday Night Lights”?

  • Thomas: A little bit and there’s a lot to watch. I’m still catching up.

Kidzworld: Did you two get to go anywhere to get to know each other before you were paired in the movie?

  • Thomas: Not really. We did audition together and it felt to me as if they picked the pair together. I don’t if that’s true and, happily, the film was shot in chronological order so we’ve gotten to know each other through filming. We filmed the stuff where they don’t really know each other and don’t like each other in the beginning then we know each other better and tomorrow, we kiss!

Kidzworld: Are you looking forward to that?

  • Thomas: Oh, I think it’ll be easy.

Kidzworld: What should a girl never do on a date with you?

  • Thomas: I don’t mind even chewing gum and cell phones. I’m easy going.

Kidzworld: You are new in town but anything coming up for you?

  • Thomas: Not films but I’m going back to New York after we finish and work on some of my own things, then come back if things work out. [Note: Since our chat, Thomas is rumored to be in The Spectacular Now, based on a novel. It centers on a high school senior who lives only for the moment. As a project, he begins to date a social outcast, a girl trying to plan for the future, but begins to realize he has the power to permanently impact someone's life.]

Headshot of Thomas McDonellThomas McDonell Headshot

Kidzworld: Do you have an ambition to direct or write as well?

  • Thomas: Certainly. Both. Making movies is the coolest thing to do.

Kidzworld: Are you ready for heartthrob status and what may come with this film?

  • Thomas: No. A lot of people have a lot of good advice about that. I don’t know if I’m taking it in. People who give advice on that often aren’t the people who should be giving it. One of the art director girls here asked me if I was ready for how this might negatively affect my life. I was like ‘Uh, no’.

Kidzworld: What would you ask someone like Zac Efron about what he went through for example?

  • Thomas: I guess how to not go crazy. A lot of people are thrust in the public spotlight and behave badly and act like jerks. The idea is to avoid doing that and that’s not hard I think.

Kidzworld: They are here to take you back to set. Quickly, what music are you into?

  • Thomas: Genghis Tron. It’s an indie band.