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Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

Duluth teen Ricardo Hurtado nabs key Nickelodeon 'School of Rock' role

By RODNEY HO, originally filed Thursday, March 10, 2016

Ricardo Hurtado, a 16-year-old Duluth teen, was interested in show business so he performed in a showcase before a group of agents and management companies.

Christian Kaplan, a senior vice president for casting at 20th Century Fox, liked Hurtado's look and feel. So he flew Hurtado to Los Angeles for his very first audition: the role of Freddy in a Nickelodeon version of the beloved 2003 Jack Black comedy "School of Rock."

And in a land where rejection runs rampant, Hurtado landed the role.

"I had never taken an acting class before," Hurtado admitted. "I was overwhelmed at first. The other kids on the show have a lot more experience... It's crazy to go from nothing to something like this!"

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He said he became more confident as the production moved forward over five months and 12 episodes, but his natural talent is obvious in the first episode. He is, in fact, the first person anyone sees, videotaping himself skateboarding through the hallways of a prep school into his classroom. There, his teacher tries the board herself and falls over a desk.

Enter Dewey Finn (Tony Cavalero), who in the original film is a slacker who takes on the persona of his roommate to become a substitute teacher. They smooth out the story line this time around. He merely takes over for the injured teacher and instills music into his lessons to teach the kids Shakespeare.

From there, he decides to create a secret band before lunch break and rock out in the classroom without any other teachers noticing the ruckus. Soon, they're performing the Romantics' "What I Like About You" without a single moment of rehearsal. Mind you, this is Nickelodeon, so realism is generally not necessary.

"This is nothing like my regular school," he said. "A lot of things we were doing on the show, we'd get expelled!"

According to Nickelodeon, these middle-school students "find themselves navigating relationships, discovering unknown talents and learning lessons on loyalty and friendships."

Although "School of Rock" is 13 years old, Hurtado was familiar with the movie going in. He figured his drumming ability and resemblance to the actor who played Freddy in the original film helped him get the role. But he's also a natural actor who didn't appear at all out of sorts in the first episode.

The School of Rock band gets to play numerous songs on the show, both classic (The Who's "The Kids are All Right") and current ("Lips are Movin' " by Meghan Trainor). Hurtado's favorite: Walk the Moon's recent pop hit "Shut Up and Dance."


"School of Rock," 9:30 p.m. (after Kids' Choice Awards), Saturday, Nickelodeon

Show's regular airtime will be 8:30 p.m starting March 19

SCHOOL OF ROCK SEASON 1 GALLERY: Pictured: Lawrence (Aidan Miner), Tomika (Branna Yde), Freddy (Ricardo Hurtado), Summer (Jade Pettyjohn), Zack (Lance Lim) in SCHOOL OF ROCK SEASON 1 on Nickelodeon. Photo: Michael Elins/Nickelodeon. © 2015 Viacom International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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