WHEN I GROW UP: Niles Fitch Makes the Leap from Pride Rock to “This Is Us”

niles-fitch-interview

Welcome back to When I Grow Up, where we interview entertainment pros with Broadway kid roots!

Niles Fitch made his Broadway debut in The Lion King after touring with the show across the country. After adding an Off-Broadway credit to his name with Our Lady of Kibeho, he began popping up on shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Army Wives, and Best Friends Whenever. Currently he reoccurs as the teenage version of Randall Pearson on NBC’s breakout freshman series This Is Us follows a group of people whose lives intertwine more than audiences expect. The show garnered a nomination for Best Television Series – Drama at the Golden Globes and NBC has already renewed the show for a second and third season. We are so excited to interview Niles via email to discuss his Broadway career and This Is Us! Catch the season finale tonight at 9/8c on NBC.

How did you entertainment career begin?
I always liked to take pictures and started print modeling in Atlanta at 4 years old. My first job was a Back to School ad for Parisian dept. store.

Niles taking his last bow with The Lion King

Niles taking his last bow with The Lion King

What was a typical day like while on tour versus on Broadway?
On Broadway I was living at home so I caught the subway to and from Times Square every day. On tour I was in a different city every month and I lived in different apartments and hotels on the road with my family. There were more rehearsals because of different staging at the different theaters. Both were a lot of fun.

Describe your Broadway debut
At first I was a little nervous because it was Broadway, but when I got on stage it immediately felt natural and fun just like the tour shows. My Lion King tour family was very supportive and sent me a debut big gift of fruit and my new Lion King Broadway family made me feel welcomed.

Did you get to interact with other Broadway kids?
The other Lion King kids and I interacted a lot.

Now let’s move on to “This Is Us.” What is the audition process like for someone to play a younger version of a main character?
Exact same as other auditions. I guess the difference would be the young actor is asked to read for the role because he/she resembles the adult character.

How often do you get to see Sterling and Lonnie?
Worked with Sterling in Season 7 of Army Wives so had met him before, but haven’t seen him in person yet during This Is Us. Just text messaging between us. See Lonnie when we film on the same day and off the set for events. Glad to be the teen version of them, both are the BEST!

Niles with his castmates - Back row: Mandy Moore (Rebecca), Logan Shroyer (15 year old Kevin), Niles, Hannah Zeile (15 year old Kate), Milo Ventimiglia (Jack) Front row: Parker Bates (9 year old Kevin), Lonnie Bates (9 year old Randall), Mackenzie Hancsicsak (9 year old Kate)

Niles with his castmates – Back row: Mandy Moore (Rebecca), Logan Shroyer (15 year old Kevin), Niles, Hannah Zeile (15 year old Kate), Milo Ventimiglia (Jack)
Front row: Parker Bates (9 year old Kevin), Lonnie Bates (9 year old Randall), Mackenzie Hancsicsak (9 year old Kate)

What was it like filming the scene in which teenage Randall has a panic attack (view a brief clip here)?
Difficult at first because I wanted to portray what some people experience and make it look real. When we started filming it got easier and easier. Mr. Milo was really supportive too. He treated me just like a dad would treat a son in that scene, with a lot of compassion and love.

There are so many people who feel a personal connection with “This Is Us”. Is there a fan encounter (either online or in person) that sticks out among the rest?
Met the Twitter This Is Us Fan Crew at a screening and they were really awesome!

Is there any other area of the industry you want to try next (producing, writing, etc.)?
Photography and Directing

Do you have advice for kids or teens who want to pursue acting?
Read a lot. Don’t overthink it, always be yourself. Bring your unique self to every role.

SPEED ROUND

Favorite thing to do in NYC
Catch the subway everywhere.

Favorite food to eat in NYC
Pizza

Broadway dream role
Mufasa in The Lion King

If you could swap roles with anyone on Broadway (male or female) right now for one night only, who would it be?
Mufasa in The Lion King

If someone wrote a musical about your life, what would it be called and what would be the name of its show-stopping number?
The Early Years of Niles Fitch
Showstopping Number – Way Back When by Brenda Russell

Thank you SO much to Niles and his mother Nakata for taking the time to answer our questions! You can catch a sneak peek at tonight’s finale below.

INTERVIEW: LYRICS FOR LIFE Unites Kids and Teens to End the Stigma

Photo Credit: Kids of the Arts

Photo Credit: Kids of the Arts

On Saturday March 19th, dozens of talented kids and teens gathered at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in LA for Lyrics for Life, a benefit concert presented by Kids of the Arts for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (http://afsp.org). This organization strives to prevent suicide as well as provide resources to those suffering from mental illnesses. It also assists those affected by suicide by bringing hope, love, and support. We talked to many of the night’s performers about the important evening!

QUESTION: What makes you the most excited about tonight?
 

(Note: You can either listen or read a transcript of all the interviews below!)

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I’m really excited to see all the amazing performers come together as one big group and just support this amazing cause.

Lexi Underwood (The Lion King)

I’m really excited to watch all my friends perform and get to see what songs they’re doing and getting to support this cause, too.

Issie Swickle (Annie)

Helping with the cause!

Jillian Shea Spaeder (Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn)

Helping with the cause and it’s fun singing in front of everybody!

Jamie McRae (H-E-B commercial, The Fine Bros)

I like making people smile when we’re on stage.

Carolyn Dodd (Game Shakers)

Spreading awareness and spreading positivity and I think that’s really all that matters and it’s a great way to spread love.

Jordan Mazarati (Supergirl)

It’s just such a great cause. That’s what make me excited. And to perform!

Joy Kate Lawson (A Little Princess)

I’m excited to perform!

Peyton Ella (Sound of Music LIVE)

I’m excited to perform and we get to use our talents for a good cause and that’s the most amazing thing you can do.

Raquel Wallace (Dream Street)

I agree with everyone. I mean it’s great that we’re performing to prevent suicide and mental illness. So that’s great that we get to do the things we love and support a cause.

Madisyn Shipman (Game Shakers)

I think it’s great because this show is so important with this cause especially for young people because so many people deal with mental illness and are afraid to speak up because it’s not talked about with young people so I think it’s cool to have so many young performers standing for this and it’s been successful in New York so it’s so fun to kind of follow it to LA.

Alex Davies (I Don’t Need To Know)

I’m just excited to be performing for a special cause, especially since [suicide] is an event that’s been happening a lot around the world and it needs to be stopped.

Michael Keith (Macy’s, Verizon commercials)

Well I think that suicide is a cause that can be prevented and all we need to do is fund the research for it.

Casteen Legaspi (FASO Children’s Ensemble)

Well I’m happy and excited to help suicide prevention and supporting this new cause.

Sophie Nack (Truth Be Told)

All the people in the audience and having them here!

Emilie LaFontaine (Les Miserables at Musical Theatre West)

I’m just so excited to be a part of this. I was watching the rehearsals earlier and everyone is so talented. Like, it’s crazy. Like, literally, everyone is just so talented and so I’m just excited to listen to everyone perform.

Jaidyn Young (Annie)

I am most excited to raise money for such an amazing cause. I think [suicide] is a big problem and I think that it’s really an honor to be a part of it and to be able to raise money for [suicide prevention].

Brooke Besikof (Carnegie Hall soloist)

I know it sounds cheesy but I’m really glad that this is for charity. I get an opportunity to perform. Performing isn’t super rare but it’s not super often but nonetheless it’s really special when I get a chance to do it for a cause instead of just pleasure, which it always is.

Major Curda (The Little Mermaid)

Well, I get to sing in front of people I act with, sing with, dance with, and it’s a great cause.

Shane Davis (Matilda)

I love performing with all these great people. They’re amazing performers and I’m really lucky to be working with them.

Lilly Mae Stewart (Annie)

Seeing all the amazing talent. All the kids are absolutely amazing.

Darielle Loprete (Lyrics for Life stage manager)

It’s really fun. I’m definitely on the older end but I remember when I was their age and performing, so that’s really cool to see younger people already getting involved in such an important cause and performing for something that means a lot to a lot of people.

Heather Braverman (Take It Off)

What makes me the most excited about tonight is my performance is – well, I’m singing “Reflection” in Chinese and English, which is really cool because I kind of got to learn a new language. But what makes me the most excited is it’s for a really good cause. All the money is getting donated, so it’ll be really nice to see all of the people that are being helped from this concert.

Chelsea Chiu (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

Same as Chelsea, it’s for a really good cause. And there’s a lot of famous people performing, like Piper Curda and all those people!

Erica Delos Santos (Violinist)

Seeing all the people here to see us!

Scarlet Spencer (WowWee commercial)

Well I’m so excited for all the performers, obviously. Me, and my friend Maddie [Shipman] are also hosting tonight so that’s gonna be really cool. And we’re also performing. It’s gonna be a really fun night and I’m stoked for it!

Casey Simpson (Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn)

I think just the fact that this is for such a good cause and there are so many talented people here. Just all of us being able to come together for such a great cause – something that I’m super excited about for tonight.

Riley Curda (Jane by Design)

Just being able to perform with all these other talented people and it’s fun and it’s for a good cause.

Saylor Curda (I Didn’t Do It)

I’m really excited. This is the first time this is being done here in LA and watching the rehearsal and see everybody else do it, it’s really coming together and seeing the whole thing fall into place makes me really excited to be part of it, too.

Glory Curda (Sam and Cat)

I just love singing in general and I love performing in front of people so I’m really psyched to do that.

Kayla DiVenere (Helix)

There’s a lot of great talent here and it’s gonna be so fun to see them perform. I’m telling you, I saw during rehearsals. These people are awesome so I’m really excited, but I think everyone is going to be excited about this. I think it’s gonna be pretty awesome.

Daniel DiVenere (Warm Bodies)

I feel like it’s a really good cause. There’s so many good performers tonight and I think it’s really cool that we got this entire group to come out and we’re all very talented and it’s just really exciting to be here and to be a part of this.

 

Kelsi Taylor (Singer)