Most people might not recognize the name Lucas Cruikshank, but kids definitely know his face. In fact they might be wearing him on a t-shirt. Lucas plays Fred Figglehorn, a high-pitched, hyperactive, eccentric six-year-old boy with his own YouTube channel that garners millions of views per episode.
‘Fred,’ which once had the distinction of being most subscribed YouTube channel, has crossed over to television with an appearance on ‘iCarly.’ Cruikshank has been able to make his character into a very profitable franchise with merchandising, an upcoming feature film, and a Christmas album called “It’s Hackin’ Christmas with Fred” out on November 10.
16 year-old Cruikshank shows that for a new generation, a teen making web videos in his back yard in Nebraska can have worldwide success and perhaps make it all the way to Hollywood. With an upcoming role in December for ‘Hannah Montana‘, we talked to Lucas about his YouTube success, getting recognized, and his future in entertainment.
It’s amazing you’ve been able to parlay this YouTube character in to acting opportunities in television and film. Did you always have a plan for this or did it just evolve on its own?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be an actor and a creator in show business. But I lived in Nebraska so it seemed so far fetched, like a dream. I never thought it could actually happen. Then, with YouTube, I was just doing it for fun with family, friends and cousins. I wasn’t expecting anything to happen from it. I was doing it for pure fun. Then tons of people started watching it and it just spread. Now luckily I’ve been able to live my dreams because of it.
So tell me a little bit about your role on Hannah Montana.
Well the ‘Hannah Montana’ episode is my first TV appearance on a show for acting without having to be ‘Fred.’ He’s a whole different character who has nothing to do with ‘Fred.’ So my character and Hannah Montana do an animated movie together.
How did this role come about for you?
I’ve been with meeting with the Disney Channel for a year. Whenever they want to try out new talent they put them on a show to see how they do and what else they want to do with you. So yeah, they put me on there. It was really fun to be on ‘Hannah Montana.’
Who did you get to do scenes with?
All my scenes were with Hannah Montana. I never had any scenes with the Miley Stewart character; it was always just Hannah Montana with the wig. She [Miley Cyrus] was really cool and it was really fun working with her and the entire cast. It was a really fun week.
How did you prepare for your first big acting role?
They sent me the script like half a week before we started shooting, so I had time to go over it and memorize the lines. We had three days of rehearsal. During those three days the producers gave us notes and gave us advice on how we could make our parts funnier and better.
Did Miley Cyrus give you any tips?
Yeah, she gave me a few things. If I forgot lines, she gave me hints on how to remember lines. She was really nice.
What do you see yourself doing in the future? Do you want to keep acting or do you want to keep writing and maybe directing?
I hope after the future ‘Fred’ movie I can branch out and do other things, pick challenging roles. I think after a few years when I get to know the whole movie process, I think it’d be cool to get with a writer and write a script. I think it would be really awesome to be a writer as well as an actor.
Did you create ‘Fred’ with the intention of having a kid friendly show?
No, I didn’t. I was really young when I created ‘Fred.’ I was like 12-years-old. So that’s probably why it’s so popular with the tweens, because it actually was created by a tween. So yeah, I was just making it for kids my age and they kept on watching luckily.
What else do you think it is about Fred that makes him so popular with the tween set?
I think they like the randomness of it. They might just like someone doing a bunch of weird stuff and that’s what ‘Fred’ is. Also he’s relatable. He doesn’t fit in; he didn’t have a dad on father’s day — so kids can relate to some of this stuff. Even though it’s silly and weird, there are some more serious parts of the episodes.
What brought that out in the character? Why did you choose to not give Fred Figglehorn a father?
I’m not really sure. The first ‘Fred’ video, it was a character with a weird voice and I just knew he’d be weird. As I kept making more videos I kept adding to the character, like how his mom is all crazy and a partier; his dad is in prison; and he doesn’t have very many friends — all that just kind of came in as I kept making videos.
Have you seen anyone walking around with the ‘Fred’ t-shirt on?
Yeah, I’ve actually seen that a lot. I’ve seen kids wear them at the mall or the amusement park and I’ve said, “Hey nice shirt.” It takes them a while. They’ll say, “Oh thanks.” Then all of a sudden, they’ll turn back and go [laughs], “Oh my god! You’re Fred!”
How long are you going to keep up your ‘Fred’ series?
I’m not too sure how much longer ‘Fred’ will last. Like any character or series it can’t go on forever. Maybe the movie will be the last thing. I think the movie is going to be really good. I think it will be a good ending point. I think that’ll be the end of the videos, but I think ‘Fred’ will live on through licensing and stuff in stores. There’s even been talk of animation; so ‘Fred’ can live on even after I’m too old.
Right because if Fred starts sporting a five o’clock shadow, it might be weird.
Yeah [laughs], I definitely don’t want to be doing it for too much longer. It could start getting weird. It would kind of be like Pee-wee Herman or something.