By: Amrie Cunningham
ABC’s new show HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: GET IN THE PICTURE starts tonight and I had the chance to speak with one of the “Faculty Members”, Montre Burton, about his role as mentor, and how you can live life to the fullest just by being you.
Tell me about HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: GET IN THE PICTURE!?Montre Burton: So I am a faculty member and what I do is mentor, encourage, challenge, nurture the students and what happens is I went across the country. There were six of us cohosts and I am one of the cohosts. We actually went across the country discovering new talent and ultimately looking for the next star. I would go to the southeast region, so went to Virginia, which is great because that’s where I’m from, North Carolina, Tennessee, Orlando, I went to Wisconsin, so I go to all these little different small obscure towns where it’s literally population 1, and it’s like Montre, and that’s it. I would go to these small towns and go to the high schools and see them perform, or go to their dance recitals or go to open mike night and find the talent and send them to the semifinals in Orlando. Then from there we have the open calls, where we saw literally thousands of kids. Plus we also saw the people I discovered in small towns. From the best of the best, the people we saw at the open calls and the people we found on the road, we sent them to Utah, which is where we are right now. And then literally, every day, acting singing, dancing, all trying to be the next star.
I didn’t realize that you were searching for the talent; I didn’t realize that it wasn’t just the open call, so it seems like there is a better possibility for an undiscovered talent.?
Oh yeah, we have been all over this country! The six of us, they took 3 for the west and 3 for the east and they split the three of us across the entire region. We went to about 9-10 different states a piece.
Have you been traveling for ever now and you’re happy to kind of be somewhere and relax for a bit??
Oh my gosh, so happy! I am so tired of freaking hotel food, airplane food. I would fly to a state on one day, literally go around the city talking to everybody, which you’ll see on the show. I would literally be walking around, asking where to go to find talent, like, oh where’s the best place for talent in this town, and the people are like “oh you should go here” or “oh you should come to my school.” Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it would be a hot mess. And we went to see people who sent in tapes. The people we saw in these small towns were either referred to by their acting teacher or their drama teacher or their music teacher or their dance instructor. There are people that were referred to us in addition to everyone else. It’s been amazing, especially for me, because this is how I started out. I started out as a young kid in the south, singing at church, acting, and doing my thing. In middle school, I’ve always been a performer, singing, dancing, and playing the violin. In high school, I went to an arts school. In college I did musical theatre, and I thought, ya know what, I want to be on TV, and in between that I was doing nothing but Shakespeare. It would have been so great if I was a 15, 16 year old kid, and have these people come and be like, hey, ya know what, you are great. This is what you need to work on, and work on it, and someday you’ll be what you want to be!
What is some of the best advice you got as a kid that you’re able to give kids now??
To always remain confident. Always make sure that you find reasons for no one to tell you why you can’t do anything. You try to eliminate the reasons or possibilities for someone to tell you no. it’s all about knowing who you are as a person and being confident in that. Trying to literally find a way to live your life extraordinarily everyday. It took a long time for me to see that on the inside. I could hear it and process it, but you have to really know it deep down and that way, you’ll always make sure that you’re the best person you can be.
Is there anything that surprised you about dealing with these kids??
To be honest, what really blew me away, some of the kids that are from small towns that never were really experienced to diversity, aren’t experienced to a lot of culture, they were never encouraged to involve themselves in the life of art. Some of these kids literally never acted before or never sang in public, they’ve always followed the track of wanting to be a doctor or a lawyer. You find, we’ve given them an outlet to where they can be who they really are. They get up there, never having performed ever, and they get up there any blow us away, and we’re like, “wow, what, wait a minute now! Where is all this talent coming from?” I am from Virginia and a city I went to Stoneridge, VA, I had never heard of it, and I grew up in VA my entire life. It’s a small developing community and we found some great talent in Stoneridge.
How does the show work – does America vote or do you guys decide??
It’s all us. It’s completely us. Because all of us have different expertise. What happens is that the six of us get together and we figure out who is ready to move on and who we feel is a part of the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL family and who is ready to move onto that next level, who will ultimately be our next star.
What do you see yourself doing after this??
After this, I will, because I always do everything, so I will continue to ultimately do more film. More television. And also coming out with my own CD. I also want to, with my production company that I just formed, I want to find a way to encompass everything. I’m that type of performer where I’ve always sang, I’ve always acted, I’ve always danced, I’ve always done film and TV and have a strong basis in musical theatre, so I wanted to form a production company where it really allows you to do that. I want to be that person that can do a Broadway show, or producing a Broadway show, and doing a TV show, and making a film.
It seems like there are a lot more people that are having to choose, to be an actor, to be a singer, and not both. It sounds like that kind of production company might benefit a lot of people.?
I would definitely, because the thing is, there are so many different talented artists in the world anyway. What happens is that we usually choose our niche, and I’ve done it myself. Someone tells me that I’m only an actor, or I’m only a singer or you only can do theatre, or you’re only a classical actor, or you’re only a film actor. People try to limit you and put boundaries on you. The more that I’m in this industry, the more I realize that it’s actually the opposite. The moer that you bring to the table, the better, because you are a full fleshed out, you’re a multilayered person. You have a lot of different things going on; why let other people hold you back. As long as you’re attacking it 100%, why not. Some of the most amazing entertainers in the world are people who can do everything.
That leads me to my next question, actually. Who are some of your favorites, who do you look to to model yourself after??
Honestly, I love the old greats, like Syndey Poitier, and Montgomery Clift, and coming more modern, Denzel Washington, Will Smith. And then when you look on the Broadway realm, someone like Taye Diggs, who like myself started out in musical theatre, and now he has a career in film, he has a career in TV. And I envision myself, especially because of my personality, and what I’ve trained, I’m like a merger of Denzel Washington and Will Smith.
What are some of your favorite TV shows??
I was a TV fanatic. I grew up watching THE COSBY SHOW, GROWING PAINS, FAMILY MATTERS. Those were the shows that I used to watch. DALLAS and FALCON’s CREST, that only old people watched ha! Now I love like BROTHERS AND SISTERS on ABC is a great family show. That’s one of my favorite shows. Anything that’s exciting. The one thing that I have to come home and watch every Sunday night is for sure BROTHERS AND SISTERS.
Is there anything else you want people to know?
Definitely, it’s all about finding a way to be yourself and remain who you are, in no matter what you’re doing in your journey. That’s the great thing about this show. It’s not just about who is the most talented kid, it’s about really stressing upon people, in order to be the best artist you can be, you have to be the best person you can be. The more that you are yourself in whatever you do, it doesn’t matter whether you want to be a doctor, lawyer, actor, singer, doesn’t matter, the more that you are, the more that you bring all of yourself into what you’re doing, that is how you get the most amount of success. You’re free to create, you’re free to be you. You’re happy and confident, and happy with what you’re doing, because that’s contagious. You really want to be infectious, you want to infect someone with what you have to offer. You want to make sure that if you’re going be a freaking janitor, be the best janitor that you can be and if you’re going to be an actor, be the best actor you can be. Whatever you do, find a way to attack it 100%.
There are great kids. You’ll see these people who are so happy and so committed and they aren’t taking this for granted, and they’re working to be better people especially at a young age. The people that don’t necessarily win this competition, they are going to have something that they can take with them on the rest of their journey. When they go back to their small towns or they decide to do something else, they’ll have this with them for the rest of their lives.