Growing up isn’t easy, especially once you hit adolescence. It’s a subject that has been explored in countless film and television projects throughout the years, many of which have inspired new generations of content creators to take their own stab at their awkward childhood. The most recent foray into this genre is Go90’s “Play By Play”, a coming of age comedy that follows an ESPN sportscaster as he gives a play-by-play of his early years. The thing that sets the show apart from other cinematic trips down memory lane is the performance by the talented young actor at the center of it all, Reid Miller.
We recently sat down with Miller to discuss his closeness to the character Pete, how he felt about being the lead in the series, and why he wants to play a superhero.
TrunkSpace: Did you feel any pressure going into “Play By Play” knowing that you were going to be the lead and carrying the project?
Miller: Definitely, it was more of a happy nervous because I was just incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in such a great project, let alone headline it. But I do think there was a large level of nervousness because I did know that I would be carrying the show, but luckily I was working with some amazing people and they really helped me do that.
TrunkSpace: We know comedy can be really hard, just to find those perfect beats and the right timing. Did that side of the performance come easy to you?
Miller: Yeah, I think it definitely gave me some comfort because I love comedy, especially smart comedy. I definitely feel like all of my previous comedy gigs were preparing me for this.
TrunkSpace: What’s great about “Play By Play” is that the comedy is so grounded in reality and it feels like something that anybody can relate to, whether they’re going through it now or went through it in their adolescence.
Miller: Absolutely, and that’s what really drew me to the project to begin with. I read it, and I’m only 17, but even though it’s set in the 90s, I feel that Pete isn’t even like a character that I play and that I just play myself, you know? That also really helped guide my performance because I’ve been through everything he’s been through.
TrunkSpace: And you mentioned it’s set in the 90s, but the experiences Pete goes through are timeless.
Miller: Absolutely, I totally agree with that.
TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you felt like, in a lot of ways, you’re just sort of playing yourself, but does that mean that you knew who Pete was right away?
Miller: The moment I started reading the pilot, I kinda knew right off the bat who he was. Not only because he was written so well, but just because as I said, I relate to him. He’s the small guy. He kinda gets messed with because of his height and everyone looks down on him because of it. They don’t believe he can be a successful athlete, but he doesn’t really care. He has such a vision of who he wants to be and that allows him to really push forward and not let that affect him and I’m the same way. Being as small and as young looking as I am, I think it has hindered me in certain departments. I was bullied when I was younger, so just kind of that in and of itself, I totally bonded with him and I knew who he was.
TrunkSpace: With that said, did “Play By Play” allow you to go places with the character that you hadn’t before with other characters?
Miller: Absolutely, I totally feel that. In the pilot for instance, when he’s dealing with his struggles with the fact that the girl he likes is with someone else, I’ve been through that. But there was something about portraying that that almost opened up these other smaller doorways in me that I never knew were there that made me have to take a second and think about my own life. Pete really helped me grow.
TrunkSpace: That must be hard in front of an entire crew because you’re basically dissecting your own struggles at the same time as dealing with them as Pete?
Miller: Yeah, because it’s like, Pete’s only just a little younger than me and I feel like I’m going through all of these things as he is and yeah, you’re right, I think it was definitely tough at first having to kind of become vulnerable with the fact that I’m dealing with everything I had already dealt with all over again except now in front of a crew and with people that maybe I didn’t know quite as well. I believe that doing that actually helped me bond with my castmates even better and now we’re great friends because of it.
TrunkSpace: It seems like one of the most difficult things is for adult writers (or writers’ rooms filled with adults) to write kids in a realistic way. It seems like they are not always successful capturing the voice of kids, but with “Play By Play” they seem to have really done that.
Miller: I know, it really blew my mind when I read it because I totally agree with you. There are just sometimes, like some scripts that I’ve gotten, where they don’t really know how to write like kids. It’s almost as if they don’t understand how they act these days or how they acted… as if they forgot what it means to be a kid. But Kevin Jakubowski is such a great writer and he managed to really capture not only what it means to be a kid, but the struggles and how it feels to be a kid.
TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you were bullied growing up, has somebody else come to you and said, “Wow, what you’re portraying here… I get it and I relate to it.”
Miller: I have. Like when I went to the premiere for instance. The moment the pilot ended, I had tons of people… adults, younger adults, teens… coming to me and saying that this show, yes it’s incredibly relatable and I totally feel like this is what I went through, but it touched them in a way that no other show like that had in a very long time. For me that was a big moment because as an actor and just being in this industry in general, you only want to make content that people can relate to and connect with and the fact that I, and along with everyone else on the show, managed to do that definitely is incredibly rewarding.
TrunkSpace: Knowing that the project is near and dear to you and that the performance is something that you’re very proud of, in this day and age where there’s so many different platforms, is the biggest struggle just getting people to know where they can see “Play By Play?”
Miller: Absolutely. It’s a definite struggle I think because, as you said, there are so many new platforms and it can get confusing. YouTube now has YouTube Red where they’re doing their own scripted content. I just recently saw something about another upcoming digital platform.
Go90 has so much potential and I think that the shows are getting so much better. I hope that that “Play By Play” will help put it more on the map than it may be right now.
TrunkSpace: We saw something interesting that you wrote on your Twitter page, which was, “You can’t wait for things to happen, you go after what you want.” What is it that you want with your career and are you going after it?
Miller: Yeah, I think for me, I do have a very clear picture of who I want to be and what I want to be doing in this career and in this industry. For instance, one of my biggest dreams is to play a superhero.
TrunkSpace: Well, you’re living in a good time period for that. (Laughter)
Miller: I know. (Laughter) I think companies are more open to younger actors playing these roles. Like Shazam! They’re making a Shazam movie. I want to do it. I’ve been shopping myself around for Shazam for two years now. If you go on my Instagram you’ll see where people have made fan castings of Shazam with me and it’s so cool to see that. I definitely think that “Play By Play” will help me in that regard in the sense that my character is so wholesome and he is quite innocent but we see how he evolves as a character.
TrunkSpace: He is sort of Peter Parker before the super powers.
Miller: He really is Peter Parker before powers! He’s innocent. He just wants to get the girl and have that kind of fairytale-ish ending. I definitely think that this project and my other projects that I’m working on will help me, hopefully, towards playing the other roles that I want to play such as a superhero.
New episodes of “Play By Play” premiere Tuesdays at Go90.