A Manalapan High School graduate is making his way up the industry ladder after landing a feature role in a family film. Michael Dean, known to his friends and former classmates in Manalapan as Michael Lazewski, began his acting career at the age of 12.
After scoring a slam dunk on his first audition for a commercial, Dean, 25, has been in the Screen Actors Guild union since 1994. He has appeared in almost 40 national commercials, on the hit television soap opera "All My Children" and in several films.
Dean was recently cast in the film "Citation of Merit," which is expected to start shooting in 2008. He will appear with Kathy Bates, Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford. The actor also recently wrapped shooting on the movie "Death Without Consent," in which he played a small role.
The Manalapan native's real break in the film industry came in 2004 when he was cast in the family movie "Rounding First," a coming-of-age story that is said to be similar to the 1986 hit "Stand by Me."
According to the film's Internet Web site, 12-year-olds Joe, Tiger and Chris break out of summer baseball camp to secretly trail Joe's parents, who have lied to him about a mysterious trip they are taking.
During the course of the movie the boys must piece together clues, avoid their parents, dodge the police, trust a stranger and not destroy their friendship. In an adventurous road trip in their last summer before junior high school, "Rounding First" is set in the summer of 1980.
The film was written, directed and co-produced by Jim Fleigner.
In speaking of Dean's performance, Fleigner said, "Michael was a breath of fresh air on our shoot. Much like his character in the film, he wasn't there at the start nor at the end of production, but he came in and provided a jolt of energy and enthusiasm when we needed it.
"Michael plays Rascal, a mysterious stranger who plays an integral role in shepherding the three boys during their journey. Michael brought the perfect degree of menace and boyish enthusiasm to the character. Besides, I can't tell you how many times female audience members of all ages ask about 'that good looking stranger.' That's Michael!"
"Rounding First" has made its way around the country, appearing on the film festival circuit in Hawaii, Arizona, Florida and California.
On April 1, New Jersey residents will have a chance to view the family film at the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park. The film festival will take place at the Paramount Theater, Asbury Park, from March 31 through April 2. "Rounding First" is scheduled to be shown at about noon on April 1.
Sam Semenza plays Chris Corwin, one of the young boys in "Rounding First." Semenza can also be seen in the HBO series "The Sopranos," and he has appeared in films such as "School of Rock" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." Matt Borish plays Eugene "Tiger" Pierce Jr. He has co-starred on the CBS-TV series "Hack." Soren Fulton plays Joe Koerner. He has appeared on the "George Lopez Show," "Oliver Beane," "Crossing Jordan," "Frasier" and "Charmed."
Other members of the "Rounding First" cast include Deborah Lee Johnson, playing Martha Koerner, who has recurring roles on "New York Undercover" and "Law and Order"; John Michael Bolger, playing Gene Pierce, who is best known for his work in "Third Watch" on NBC; and Michael E. Knight, playing John Koerner, who is a three-time Emmy Award winner for his work on "All My Children."
Dean, who plays the rebellious stranger Rascal, said the low-budget, independent film was shot in Allentown, Pa., and the post-production work was done in Los Angeles.
About Rascal, Dean said, "My performance is a character I like to play. He's edgy, he has character."
When asked what his favorite scene in the film was, Dean said, "anything where I'm holding a gun." He also enjoyed scenes that included stunt driving and an intimate scene in which he is being interrogated.
As for the film in general, Dean said he knew he was interested in auditioning for the part when he wanted to read the script a second time.
"Who doesn't want to do a movie about being a kid?" he said.
Dean said he enjoys making family films and would only take a role in a movie that had meaning.
"I wouldn't want to do things I didn't love," he added.
Although Dean referred to acting as his passion, he said it is only one of the many things he does in his professional life.
After graduating in 2003 from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., with a degree in business and aviation, Dean became a certified commercial pilot. He also owns an asphalt company, Seal Coating Specialists, in Manalapan.
Dean said because there is a lot of rejection in the acting industry, he understands that he has to have other interests he can fall back on to ensure that his future is taken care of.
"From what I've learned, you just take it as an experience. It's hard, it's a lot of competition, it's a lot of rejection. For the 99 times you get rejected, you get accepted once," he said. "[During an audition] you only have a minute-and-a-half to make an impression."
Dean is planning to keep reading scripts with an eye on trying to land a lead role in a feature film. He said he wants to continue to develop his craft as an actor. He attributes the success he has enjoyed thus far to having a good team, which includes an agent, a manager, and most importantly a great family.
"Half the battle is having good support," he added.