Know the people you look up to. Do not just idolize someone from TV because they make you laugh. Look for more things in common than just that. I worked on a commercial once with someone I looked up to A LOT and in person didn’t find them to be very “nice.” But guess what? You can’t expect people to be nice to you all the time, especially on set with so much going on. You still have to find a way to work with them and keep your character focus.
I had the pleasure to interview 13 year old actor Luké Barbato Smith. Luké showed a pure interest in the arts at the age of 3. At age 4 this triple threat (singer, actor, dancer) would land an agent and book his first audition; a Disney Playhouse commercial. He made his TV debut on The Goldberg’s in two classic episodes. Debbie Allen worked on the stage with him and later requested him into a scene on Greys Anatomy that she directed, because she had a vision of a child in a scene where there wasn’t one. You might have spotted him on Rachael vs Guy or in a Chris Brown music video, as well. Luké has been credited in the LA Times twice for his theatrical contributions. Somewhere in this hectic schedule he dedicates his time to charities, is obsessed with his Novation Launchpad and will talk your ear off for hours about firefighters, nursing and the medical field. Lingo he picked up on set of Greys Anatomy? Your guess is as good as mine.
Thank you so much for doing this Luke! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Aww! It’s so cool to spend this time with you. North Hills, California is where I grew up. Mom calls me an old soul that could walk into any room and connect with it. I’ve always loved to take things apart and put them back together. I’m super curious about life, things and people — always have been.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Mom says my passion for acting started at three years old watching “Bindi the Jungle Girl” and me stating out loud that I, too, wanted to be on TV. I’ll take her word for it. She says I continued to nag her about it until at the age of four she decided to let me give it a try.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened since you began your career?
Debbie Allen was auditioning for “Freeze Frame Stop The Madness.” My manager sent the audition notice and my mom kept ignoring it because Ms. Allen was looking for singer/dancers. At the time I couldn’t dance due to some physical challenges I was struggling with. Ultimately, I went to the audition. Ms. Allen heard me sing and said she had lots of people that could dance but could not sing like that. She hired me for the show and started teaching me to dance at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. After only a few months of dance, my balance and posture started to improve greatly! I ended up doing “Freeze Frame” at the Wallis Annenberg and the Kennedy Center. With the added ability to dance, I was able to book the National Broadway tour for “Fun Home”.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Um, I almost missed the cue to get in the coffin back stage; it wasn’t because of focus, I was still getting dressed. Presetting the wardrobe before starting a scene is crazy important. Now I know why my Mom is always bugging me to hang my clothes up or to keep my room clean. When we forgot to preset our costumes, the rhythm gets thrown off so easily.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m currently playing Edgar AKA “Little Boy” in “Ragtime” at the Pasadena Playhouse directed by David Lee. I’m thrilled to have the honor of opening the show. Since pilot season just started, I’ll be doing a TON of auditions!
I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Our world and neighborhoods are made up of different kinds of people, so entertainment should be the same. The neighbor in a wheelchair, my gay uncles, the different skin colors of kids in every school — Everyone should be able to see an image of themselves in entertainment. All the theatrical shows I have worked on have had a big social message! “Freeze Frame” was about gun violence in our communities. “Fun Home” dealt with the challenges of being gay, past and present. “Ragtime” deals with racial issues, financial inequity, and the whole immigrant issue. Less fighting, less hate, less gun violence is the reward if we focus on what we have in common, not on what divides us.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community, society and the industry can do to help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
There needs to be more shows and movies that show the rainbow of cultures that exist and they need to be interacting together in more positive ways.
a) More inclusion of women in boss positions will change the vibe on harassment in the workplace.
b) Friendly cop programs for kids would be nice. Depends on where you live, but the stories of violence against the police and vice versa doesn’t feel natural.
c) More feel good stories.
What are 3 things I wish someone told me when I first started and why. Please share a story.
a) Know the people you look up to. Do not just idolize someone from TV because they make you laugh. Look for more things in common than just that. I worked on a commercial once with someone I looked up to A LOT and in person didn’t find them to be very “nice.” But guess what? You can’t expect people to be nice to you all the time, especially on set with so much going on. You still have to find a way to work with them and keep your character focus.
b) A big acting tip I have learned is… “Don’t be like your character, you need to be your character”. Standing in a scene saying words is not enough. Feel what you are going through in your hands, in your feet and live it.
c). Don’t be afraid to ask questions from your director. It’s been so cool to learn how important my feedback is appreciated during rehearsals.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Keep going and push through. Not every job is yours, so think of auditions as the actual job. Any calls after that are just a reward, but stay positive! Stay hydrated, rested and eat. Sometimes we get so excited about the auditions in our head that we do not eat well before. You need to have balance and you need to allow time for other activities; I’m still learning that one. Have fun in your down time with your real friends who are not in show business.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would it be?
If I won the lottery I would help sick children, work to find a good home for every foster child out there (I am adopted), and my last breath would be spent helping animal shelters and animal conservation.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am super grateful to English Filmmaker David Yates for picking me for my first TV show. I always felt heard and appreciated by someone of his caliber and that has stayed with me. I am grateful for Cartoon Network for allowing me to voice the lead character of “Summer Camp Island.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?”
I can push through anything. This is in relation to acting or real life insecurities.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with and why?
Michael Jackson, Will Smith and Chris Pratt. I love their work. I would love the opportunity to know more about them personally. I imagine they would be very interesting and fun to be friends with.