[Reporter Cassandra Hsiao with Justice Smith and a black Santa from the set of Paper Towns] With a large fan base of Nerdfighters and last year’s success of “The Fault In Our Stars movie,” it’s no surprise that the world is eagerly awaiting the release of “Paper Towns.” Based on the book by John Green, Paper Towns stars a cast of fresh new faces—among them, Orange County School of the Arts’ very own alum, Justice Smith, class of ’13.
Paper Towns is Smith’s first movie, and the journey has been incredible, to say the least. He describes everything in his past as stepping stones that have gotten him to where he is today, and hopefully will continue to propel him forward in the future. His high school career as part of OCSA’s Acting Conservatory marked the very beginning. Students at OCSA attend academic classes in the morning, and conservatory classes in the afternoon until evening.
“OCSA taught me a lot of what I know. I don’t think I would be where I am if it wasn’t for OCSA,” reflected Smith. “I think constantly being in class everyday and working that muscle over and over really helped give me confidence and what I need to go out and work.”
Smith credits many of his teachers in the conservatory for his success today, including Ms. Sebelius who inspired Smith’s love of Shakespeare, Mr. Paul, the conservatory director at the time, Mr. Uribe, and Mr. Nathan.
In his senior year of high school, Smith was selected to be part of the prestigious YoungArts program, joining the likes of Viola Davis, Kerry Washington and Josh Groban.
“I got to go to YoungArts because of OCSA,” he explained. “Mr. Paul introduced me to that and I sent in my audition tape. They flew me out to Florida, and it was a weeklong intensive with all these awesome masters and renowned people. YoungArts was a great experience. It gave me all these other opportunities. I got to be on a Master Class on HBO because of YoungArts. I got to fly places and speak at places because of YoungArts. I really owe a lot to them. It was amazing. I got to meet lots of great people and lots of great teachers.”
[Cast of Paper Towns]
One thing led to another and before he knew it, Smith landed the role of Radar for Paper Towns. Though official publicity for the movie has not started, the cast is already experiencing love from fans who call themselves Nerdfighters. Their motto is, “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome,” popularized by author and vlogger John Green and his brother, Hank.
“When I was out in North Carolina there were a lot of people who were extras on set,” said Smith. “They were fans of the book, so they wanted to take pictures and talk. They were super supportive. John Green’s fans are super nice and awesome. Nerdfighters are smart kids who are passionate about something.”
Working with Green was an experience he’ll never forget. The author put great trust in the cast of fresh faces, which encouraged the actors along with the fans’ support.
“From the moment I saw Justice’s audition, I knew we’d lucked into the perfect Radar,” said Green. “I didn’t yet know of course that he is brilliant and charming in life as well as in character, but I am so grateful that he will forever more be Radar to me.”
Smith’s future looks bright and promising—and his family couldn’t be prouder. Though his role in Paper Towns certainly kicked his career off to a great start, it did not make him exempt from family chores—his mom still makes him take out the trash. The people in his life still treat him as the Justice Smith they’ve always known.
“I have lots of new relationships but all my old friends still treat me the same. I’m just a whacky weird kid,” he said.
Keep your eyes peeled for more of Smith in the future!
“I’ve always wanted to be in a coming-of-age movie and I feel like I did that. I have a lot of dream roles in plays because I’m fascinated with plays,” he mused. “[In movies], I would love to play a superhero. They’re doing a new Spiderman right now and I don’t know what their take is on that but I would love to read for Miles Morales.”
Catch Paper Towns in theaters June 5, 2015!
Follow Justice Smith on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JusticetheSmith