By Brian Cain
Throughout his performance art studies, Andrew Burrill had always been told to finish big.
So, he was ready when it was his turn to audition for the lead role of Tommy Pickles in the Los Angeles Broadway musical Rugrats: A Live Adventure.
“The other 6,000 people that auditioned finished the required pirouette, pirouette, pirouette, step, ball change, pirouette with a generic dramatic pose,” Burrill said. “But I slid forward about 10 feet, threw my arms up in the air and winked at the director.”
Internationally-acclaimed director Andy Ferrara, who is spearheading the adaptation of the hit Nickelodean cartoon, responded to Burrill’s unique maneuver with an “Okay. Thank you.”
“Whenever they say that, you know you’ve been cut,” Burrill said.
He had made it through a first-round singing audition and received a call back for a second audition that included more singing, acting and finally dancing.
“I’m not the strongest dancer,” the 2011 Louisa County High School graduate said. “Singing and acting are my strong points, but I did my best.”
In Hollywood, real life often mimics a good movie script—there’s always a twist.
A week after the apparent unsuccessful audition, Ferrara called Burrill and offered him the lead role in the play.
“That never happens,” Burrill said. “I was excited and very grateful. It’s a big deal to be working with him.”
He said that the first thought he had after receiving the good news was of his mother, who recently passed away.
“She was my rock,” Burrill said. “And all I was thinking about was how proud my mom would have been and how she would have bought 15 tickets to the show.”
The play opens at the end of March and will run for two weeks at the California State Theater followed by another week in San Francisco.
Landing the lead role is one of several jobs the young actor has landed in a short span of two months.
He performed as a soloist during the Video Music Awards’ tribute to Michael Jackson and made a brief appearance in a Modern Family episode.
“It was for only about four seconds,” Burrill said of his role in the television show. “But I was on there and I was proud of myself.”
In the acting business, four seconds can make or break a career and Burrill made the most of those few seconds.
The appearance paved the way for him to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which is a major accomplishment for someone who is starting a career in Tinseltown.
“Getting into the union is the biggest obstacle in Hollywood,” Burrill said. “But I did it. A lot of people work their entire lives and never make it into the union.”
Becoming a member of the unions opened other doors for Burrill.
He has appeared in a commercial for the Center For Greater Good, performed in front of RK Records music executives, made an appearance on the red carpet at a Golden Globes after-party and has landed work in several music videos.
Burrill was a dancer in a Wale and Lloyd rap video and he has a lead role in an upcoming Nickelback rock video.
“It’s amazing going on set and seeing artists doing what they love to do,” Burrill said. “Plus the food is amazing and you can take as much as you want. It’s crazy.”
Commercials and music videos aside, Burrill continues to focus on his goal of earning a role in a feature film, which means landing more important acting jobs along the way.
Several weeks ago, Burrill auditioned for an episode of the CBS primetime television show The Mentalist.
“I think I did pretty well,” he said. “But out here, it’s all a waiting game.”
One thing Burrill didn’t wait for was a degree in performing arts.
Although he attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, he didn’t stay there long.
While at the academy, instructors took notice of Burrill’s potential and told him he should be acting instead of attending school.
“They said I should follow my dreams,” Burrill said. “All of them told me that school would be there for me later.”
The young man took their advice and headed west after completing two semesters at the academy.
Although Burrill resides in Hollywood, he still calls Louisa home.
“I miss all the people,” he said. “Everyone from Louisa is so supportive.”
In May, Burrill is coming home to offer his support to those who helped him along the way and to those who were in his shoes less than a year ago.
“I am going to be there on the opening night of Hairspray in Louisa,” he said. “I will be there to support Jelita Hopkins and my Louisa family.”
Burrill said he has a special message for those young aspiring Louisa County actors.
“Never give up and never let any person destroy your goals,” he said. “Don’t get discouraged. If one door shuts, there are millions of other doors. So, never stop knocking.
“And finish big.”