Discovery: Spencer Lofranco

Published January 17, 2014

ABOVE: SPENCER LOFRANCO IN JAMESY BOY.

Spencer Lofranco’s first-ever audition landed him the lead role in Jamesy Boy, an indie with an impressive cast including James Woods, Mary-Louise Parker, Ving Rhames, and Taissa Farmiga. The film, which comes out in theaters today, is based on the life of James Burns, a working class boy from Pennsylvania who spent his adolescence in and out of a juvenile detention centers. “I was playing a character that I understood,” explains Lofranco. “James and I have similar pasts, and we’ve gone through similar experiences growing up.”

Things having been going pretty well for the 21-year-old Canadian actor ever since: this Spring, he’ll appear in At Middleton with Taissa Farmiga (again), her older sister Vera Farmiga, and Andy Garcia. When we talk on the phone, he is in Australia about to begin work on Angelina Jolie’s WW2 film Unbroken. Lofranco will play Harry Brooks, the ill-fated pretty boy on protagonist Louis Zamperini’s B-24 crew.

AGE: 21

HOMETOWN: Toronto, Canada

ACTING AMBITIONS:  I decided I wanted to be an actor when I was 17. I was always funny guy, always trying to make people laugh and always the center of attention. I guess I was being an actor my whole life. I finally realized what I was doing and it was just getting me in trouble. I went to summer acting classes. Then I did a year conservatory at New York Film Academy and then that’s when I got Jamesy Boy.

My mom growing up was a dancer, an opera singer, and she also did acting. Growing up, sometimes my mom would take me to auditions and I would sit in the waiting room with her. My dad didn’t want me to be an actor; he wanted me to be a hockey player and become a lawyer. That didn’t happen.

AUDITIONING PHILOSOPHY:  Auditioning is an interview process. There are so many people that are right for roles, and you’re not going to get every one. The most important thing is that you make a good impression, show you’re a professional, and move on.

JAMES BURNS THE MAN VS. JAMES BURNS THE CHARACTER: James was very involved [in Jamesy Boy] because it was based on his life. Me and James had developed a relationship prior to filming and we had trust in each other. He was on set and there were certain time where we would just talk if things weren’t going right or if I really wasn’t capturing what I wanted to capture. [But] I would usually to go Trevor [White], the director. The work with James was mostly done beforehand. I felt like, yes, I was playing James, but at the same time I was also playing a character that I knew very well. James and I were both troubled and we were sent to institutions for juveniles—I was sent to a military high school and James had been institutionalized when he was very young. My parents were divorced; his parents weren’t together. There was a lot of drugs and alcohol and abuse in his family growing up. There were just a lot of similar things that we had to deal with, so we could to relate each other.

ANOTHER LIFE: James didn’t really have his father around; his father had left him. Thankfully, my father sort of saved me. James grew up a lot more quickly and felt like he had his this responsibility to take on the world, whereas I was just lost and confused growing up. I needed something to put me on track, and my dad really enforced that and helped me. Playing James made me reconsider my own experience, but also his story is inspiring. The messages that this movie tells are important to me because I’m still not perfect; I’m still trying to be better.

ANGELINA JOLIE, AN ACTOR’S DIRECTOR: I haven’t really worked with her yet; today’s going to be my first day. But what I’ve heard is that she really respects the actor and wants the actor to be comfortable. Comfortable isn’t really the right word—you shouldn’t be comfortable. I guess she wants people to know that they’re safe and there’s going to be another take—it’s all good. That’s the type of attitude she has.

THE REAL WORLD: Growing up, Angelina Jolie was my dream girl. Now I’m going to shoot a movie with her. [laughs] It’s crazy.  I tell people and they’re like, “Yeah… okay.” They don’t even believe me. I met these girls the other day and they were like, “You’re not actor,” and I’m like, “Okay…” Then they start looking you up and all that stuff. It’s something I’ve got to get used to, I guess. Sometimes I’ll say I’m artist, or I’m a lawyer, or I’m in school for engineering, because in L.A., everyone’s an “actor.”

BACK-UP PLAN: If I weren’t an actor, I would probably move to Africa and help support the effort over there; help the kids that are in need and do my best to give my love to the unfortunate.

THE FUTURE: I want to do real-life, candid films. I don’t want to be thrown into anything that could jeopardize my career. I want to be wise about what I choose. Actors whose choices I’ve liked are Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, River Phoenix.

JAMESY BOY IS AVAILABLE ON VOD AND OUT IN LIMITED RELEASE TODAY, JANUARY 17.