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EXCLUSIVE: Nolan Sotillo Stars in Red Band Society

Sep 15, 2014

By: Lynn Barker

19-year-old actor and musician Nolan Sotillo played a sweet and naïve high school student in Disney’s Prom movie a few years ago. Now he takes on the role of Jordi Palacios in the new FOX TV series “Red Band Society” about a funny and quirky group of teens facing serious or even fatal illness with grace and bravado. Red band refers to the plastic hospital wrist bands everyone gets when admitted and facing treatment or surgery.

Official cast pictureOfficial cast pictureCourtesy of FOX

You’ll identify with one or more of the gang as they form friendships and romances, go through teenage struggles and changes all while carrying the added burden of their various maladies. Jordi is outspoken and simply won’t take “no” for an answer. He walks into the hospital where the kids basically live and demands that a certain doctor treat him. His life both improves socially and goes sadly downhill as well from there.

We got on the cell for a chat with Nolan who was driving around Atlanta on a break from his set.

Kidzworld: Jordi seems determined and just refuses to give up. He just walks in and gets the doctor he wants to treat him. Will that refusal to take “no” for an answer be tested in the show?

  • Nolan: Yeah, I think so. I think he becomes like the hero. Jordi, from the first scene, refuses to take “no” for an answer. That’s one of the most fun parts about playing him is knowing that. There’s something very powerful about going after what you want seriously.

Nolan Sotillo as JordiNolan Sotillo as JordiCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: He is also clever. He is the one who is able to get beer for the gang for their party. Will the group get out of the hospital from time to time and will Jordi be a big part of that?

  • Nolan: Definitely, the gang will get out of the hospital. I guess part of growing up is sneaking out. I think Jordi wants to be part of something and he fits right in with these guys even though he thinks he’s not going to and comes in with this attitude that he’ll keep to himself but learns that it is always great to have other people to lean on.

Some of the friends at the hospital rooftop partySome of the friends at the hospital rooftop partyCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: Jordi was a real outsider then had to face the loss of his leg to cancer. Did you talk to any amputees or young people with serious illnesses for research?

  • Nolan: Prior to filming the pilot, I did not have the chance. When I was a lot younger, I did some work with St. Jude’s (Children’s Hospital) but then we went on a “Red Band” tour across the United States and we went to a bunch of hospitals and had the privilege of meeting kids who are suffering or going through these different situations. That was a great experience because you know that (their illnesses) may be what they are most known by but it’s not who they are. It was inspiring to meet kids like that.

Jordi (Nolan), Dash (Astro) and Leo (Charlie) visit comatose patientJordi (Nolan), Dash (Astro) and Leo (Charlie) visit comatose patientCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: Jordi plays guitar and is singing at the rooftop party in the pilot episode. Will he be doing more of that?

  • Nolan: I imagine it’s a part of him but I don’t know if you’ll see him playing. I’m sure he will be eventually. Can’t give any spoilers.

A younger Nolan with his guitarA younger Nolan with his guitarCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: You also played guitar and sang in Disney’s Prom film. How is your own music going? Is it on the back burner or will there be an album?

  • Nolan: I think there may be an EP but right now, it’s definitely second to the acting. I want to focus on making “Red Band Society” as great as it can possibly be. I’ve had the opportunity to play a couple of songs on the first two episodes. It’s still a major aspect of what I do.

Kidzworld: It seems like there is an attraction between Jordi and the Emma character (played by Ciara Bravo). Will that become more evident in the show?  His roomie Leo is jealous.

  • Nolan: You will definitely see more of the attraction between Jordi and Emma (a character with an eating disorder) and Leo and Emma. There is a love quadrangle going on with Kara (a cheerleader character with a failing heart) added. 

Ciara Bravo as EmmaCiara Bravo as EmmaCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: That is going to be very interesting! What was the audition process like for you on this? Lots of call backs or easier than that?

  • Nolan: There was no callback. There was an audition then I went straight to a screen test. It was honestly crazy but I felt great going in because I loved the project and I felt I understood what they wanted. Supposedly the story goes that I was the only one they saw as Jordi so it was a matter of time I guess.

Dave Annable as Dr. McAndrew with Nolan as a sick JordiDave Annable as Dr. McAndrew with Nolan as a sick JordiCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: Has the young cast done anything to bond? Did you hang out in Atlanta before the series started and do you now? What do you do?

  • Nolan: Once the series started, when the pilot happened, we were staying in hotels so we pretty much just walked around the hotel together to get to know each other which was fun but now that we’re living here, we definitely hang out a lot. I guess not knowing anyone else in a big city, it forces you to hang out. Charlie (Rowe who plays Leo) and I and Dave (Annable who is Dr. Jack McAndrew) play tennis together and play soccer in the park. We get to watch concerts so it’s great. Obviously music is big in the cast. We are all big fans of different artists. At the moment, I’m gonna go with Maroon Five as my favorite.

The Red Band Society CastThe Red Band Society CastCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: Every show has its jokester or major prankster. Who is it on your show and tell me something they did.

  • Nolan: There are definitely jokes. I would say Astro (who plays Dash). He’s funny. When they call out “rolling, sound, speed” on set he’ll mock the guy “sound is speeding..” He’s always goofing off but it is in good humor. It lightens up the mood on set and makes the day seem a lot shorter. It’s great to incorporate some pranks.

Nolan Sotillo as Jordi with Charlie Rowe as LeoNolan Sotillo as Jordi with Charlie Rowe as LeoCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: How do the actors achieve a balance between dealing with serious illnesses and dealing with the problems that all teens face?

  • Nolan: I think, having gone and met kids that are really going through these situations, it’s not their primary focus; at least they don’t want it to be.  We’re all teens in the cast and we understand what’s going on because we’re still going through the tribulations that our characters are. I definitely think that that balance is what makes the show so great. We try to walk that thin line.

Charlie Rowe as LeoCharlie Rowe as LeoCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: How is working with Octavia Spencer who plays nurse Jackson? She was so great in The Help. Jackson seems tough but really cares about the kids. Does Octavia talk to you guys between scenes on set?

  • Nolan: She’s great. I’ve only shot two scenes with her so I can’t tell you much on my personal experience with her. But, when she’s there on set, she’s always a joy and she’s very loving and nurturing too. It’s great to have someone who is so talented who is willing to have you look up to them and ask them questions because you can learn from them.

Octavia Spencer as Nurse JacksonOctavia Spencer as Nurse JacksonCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: Here’s is heavy question: These teens are all in the hospital because of serious illness. Can you imagine what it must be like to be afraid to get close to anyone because they or you might die?

  • Nolan: I think that’s not as much a part of Jordi’s mental process. I don’t think he’s thinking as much about that because he’s that never-say-die type of person but that does affect how these characters interact with one another. It borders on “It’s all or nothing” because if this is the last time we’re going to see each other, we might as well make the most of it. It’s powerful and moving to have the stakes so high. But from another point of view, it’s heartbreaking to see someone afraid to connect because they’re scared to love something they might lose.

Nolan with Octavia Spencer on setNolan with Octavia Spencer on setCourtesy of FOX

Kidzworld: Why will tweens and teens really get into watching “Red Band Society”?

  • Nolan: I think you develop an immediate connection to each and every one of the characters and that causes you to fall in love with them and it will make you want to watch us more. “Red Band Society” is inspiring, funny and an uplifting story that makes you want to make the most of your life, love and live to the fullest and that’s a great message.

Red Band Society PosterRed Band Society PosterCourtesy of FOX

Watch “Red Band Society” on FOX starting Wednesday, Sep 17th!