Check out our interview with talented “The Wonder Years” actor Julian Lerner who returns for his role as Brad, who is the lead (Dean Williams played by EJ) nerdy best friend for the second season.
Julian can also be seen in New York City Center’s Oliver! as The Artful Dodger and also be heard in the animated series “Alma’s Way” for PBS which is a show inspired by writer’s Sonia Manzano (Maria from Sesame Street) childhood growing up in the Bronx.
His previous credits include Netflix’s YES DAY opposite Jennifer Garner, Edgar Ramirez and Jenna Ortega and Netflix’s POTTERSVILLE opposite Michael Shannon, Judy Greet and Christina Hendricks.
Follow Julian @julianlerner
Hi Julian, please tell us a little about you.
Hi! I am an actor and musician from NYC!
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Energetic, melodious, funny
How did you get started into acting?
My parents had a dinner party when I was 7. A friend of a friend who came to the dinner was the VP at an agency, and halfway through the dinner party, he asked my parents if I was interested in acting. I went into his office the next day and read sides, sang a song and did back handsprings down the hallway (I was super into gymnastics at the time)! I signed with the agency that day!
How has this changed your life?
This encounter had a huge impact on my life by opening up opportunities and introducing me to the world of preforming arts at a young age. I am blessed to have found my passion early in life.
What is the best and worst part of being an actor?
The best parts of being an actor are being able to embody different characters, bring stories to life, and having the opportunity to explore and understand diverse perspectives.
How do you prepare for a role?
I find the character’s physicality and voice. I consider how the character moves, speaks, and holds themselves. I experiment with physical gestures and mannerisms.
Tell us about your work in ABC’s hit “The Wonder Years” and about your role as Brad?
The Wonder Years is a coming-of-age comedy that tells story of The William’s Family during the late 1960s, spotlighting the ups and downs of growing up in a Black family in Montgomery, Alabama, and the friendship, laughter, and lessons along the way. I play Brad Hitman, Dean William’s best friend. I relate to Brad – we are both Jewish, goofy and love our friends. I am honored to be a part of telling this story.
How did you get the role and how challenging was the casting?
Casting and filming the pilot for The Wonders Years took place during the pandemic. The entire casting process was done on Zoom. I submitted a self-tape audition, had a director’s session with Fred Savage, and a chemistry read with Elisha Williams (Dean) and Amari O’Neil (Cory) on Zoom. We didn’t meet in person until we all got to Atlanta to film the pilot.
For the film Yes Day, I was doing an off-Broadway musical in NYC during the audition process. The show was 6 days a week, so I flew to LA on a Sunday night after the show to do a director session on Monday morning and back to NYC Monday night to be back in time for the show Tuesday. Then I flew the following Sunday/Monday to read with Jennifer Garner. It was all very exciting!!!
How was working alongside such a talented cast on the set of “Yes Day?”
I had the most amazing time playing Nando in Yes Day! Nando is an up for anything kid with an amazing family. The family’s Yes Day brings them on the coolest adventures that we all got to do during filming! No stunt doubles!
Jen Garner showed me how a movie family can become a real family. Edgar Ramirez helped me understand how to center myself. Jenna Ortega taught me what it means to be young, generous, focused, and professional. I am so thankful to have had and to continue to have the opportunity to learn from such amazing people.
What other projects you have been part of?
I recently played the Artful Dodger in Oliver in the NY City Encores production on Broadway and also voice the character of Lucas in Alma’s Way on PBS Kids.
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
Playing a character that is different from me is a rewarding challenge. It allows me to step out of my comfort zone, push boundaries, and delve into the complexities of someone else’s experience and perspectives.
If you weren’t acting, what would you be up to right now?
Which fictional character would be the most exciting to meet in real life?
The Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist
Can you name 3 actors/actresses you would love to work with?
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day Lewis
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The ability to touch people’s emotions and connect with audiences. Making a positive impact whether it’s providing escapism, sparking conversation, or challenging social norms, acting can be a powerful tool for social change and influence.
What’s your advice for the newer actors?
Continuously learn and grow. Embrace feedback and be open to constructive criticism.
What would say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?
I have had amazing teachers and worked with unbelievably talented performers and mentors. Every lesson, every rehearsal, and every performance, whether they go good or bad, provides an opportunity to learn something new and become better at this craft and as a human being. I have learned how to get up when I fall down; when to be tough on myself and when to be kind, how to play well with others, and to try not to worry about being the best, but rather the best that I can be. And maybe most importantly, that there is always more to learn.
How would your best friend describe you?
Funny, energetic and kind
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
Be the best version of yourself. Rejection is part of being an actor. Often, a role isn’t booked because casting wants someone taller, shorter, dark hair, light hair – in other words, things out of your control. If you go into the process being the best version of you, whatever happens, you can feel confident in what you brought to the table.
What book should every entrepreneur read?
U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life) by my dad, Daniel Lerner
What’s next for Julian Lerner in 2023?
What is your favorite healthy food?
And your favorite cheat food?
What is your own definition of happiness?
Being able to pursue my passion, have fun and cherish moments with friends and family.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Stevie Wonder. He is my musical idol, and his music resonates with me in a profound and unique manner.
Best advice ever given?
When I was 11, Edgar Ramirez helped me understand how to breathe and center myself even when so many people are watching. I was filming a scene with a large of amount actors involved and was overwhelmed with getting it right and not keeping everyone too long. Edgar helped me realize taking a moment is ok.
Do you support any charity?
Yes! Action – a network that connects the healthcare community around the world to improve outcomes for heart failure patients, specifically children. You can learn more: #takeactionthursdays actionlearningnetwork.org
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
Making meaningful movies and telling powerful stories.
What is your favorite song to belt out in the car/for karaoke?
Something To Say Stevie Wonder
What do you think of social media?
Platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube enable people to showcase their creativity, talents, and passions. I do think it is important to maintain a healthy balance and practice digital well-being.
Where can we follow you?
Instagram & Threads @julianlerner
Book: Something’s Off Virgil Abloh
Quote: “When I think of music, I think of music in its totality, complete.” Donny Hathaway
Movie: The Shining
Tv Series: Ted Lasso
Favorite Food: Sushi
Travel Destination: Paris
Sports Team: The Steelers
Photo Credit: Tony Duran