2003-05-07 / Front Page
Marlboro youngster enjoys excitement of acting roles
Jason Ortiz, 12,
Marlboro youngster enjoys
excitement of acting roles
Jason Ortiz, 12,
stars in ‘Spider-Man’ sequel
By jeanette M. eng
MARLBORO — In 1998, Donna Ortiz came across an ad for a model search competition. Today, her 12-year-old son Jason is enjoying his new role as Henry in the upcoming sequel to Spider-Man and as a hockey player in a national Domino’s Pizza commercial.
This explosion of success was unexpected for the Marlboro resident. Nevertheless, it was not achieved without years of hard work on the part of Jason and the family behind him.
The ride to Jason’s current show biz status began in 1998, when his mom came across the ad from Model Team. From that fashion show, Jason was picked up by the Ford Modeling Agency in New York.
For the next year, Jason’s grin appeared in ads for Foot Locker, Toys R Us, Kids R Us, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and even on the box of a Roseart toy. Jason also appeared on a Live With Regis and Kathie Lee back-to-school fashion show, the NBC television series Third Watch and he won an IQ test on the Howard Stern radio show, which pitted him against a model.
After a year of print ads, however, the blossoming talent was itching for the bigger bucks and bigger times. So, in 1999, Jason joined J. Mitchell Management in New York. Since then, he has appeared in commercials for the Chuck E. Cheese play centers, HIP health care, Nickelodeon, Major League Baseball and his latest roles in a Domino’s commercial and the movie Spider-Man II.
It hasn’t been an easy road for Jason, however. He has been calling himself the "comeback kid" ever since he got his new roles for a reason — because only a month earlier he had been turned down for the starring role in a new WB network TV show. That was discouraging for Jason, but having come into the industry at the age of 7, this young model/actor has come to terms with the downs of show business.
"I just tell him, ‘Jason, go do your thing and then forget about it,’ " his mother said, explaining the mentality that she and Jason must maintain. "In the beginning, he was so hard on himself and would keep dwelling on the fact that he didn’t get it."
Ortiz says that in this business there is no use thinking about the failures, because there will be so many. In the beginning, many aspiring actors are warned that not one success may come out of the first year. They may go on 100 auditions and not get one job out of it, Ortiz said.
But it is the words of professional agents such as the one who told Ortiz, "If you’re willing to walk that pavement and pound that pavement, he [Jason] will be something," that reassure her they are doing something good.
For the single mom, however, helping Jason realize this dream is no easy task. She described the sacrifice as time-consuming, expensive, involving much travel and as simply "not an easy thing to do."
One look into all that was involved with the role that Jason was turned down for may shed light on her words.
The producers for the WB network pilot, a remake of the old ABC-TV series The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, called on a Monday to let them know they wanted Jason to screen test for the role — the next day — in California. Jason, his mom and his 9-year-old sister, Suzanne, arrived the next day alongside six other hopefuls for the role.
From there, the elimination process began. For the next few days, each boy met with the show’s producers, directors, writers, the lead actor and finally with representatives from the network. They were also required to take a class. After four days, Jason was sent home with no role.
"It was so crazy and hectic," Ortiz said.
In the midst of Hollywood, Jason, a sixth-grader, could not forget about his original role as a Frank Defino Central School student. On the set in California, Jason studied in a trailer with a teacher to keep up with his schoolwork. Ortiz often picks up Jason right after school or early in order to get him to New York for a 5 p.m. audition. And when Jason has to miss several days of school, Ortiz has to get the work that he will miss.
This "regular kid," as his mother refers to him, also enjoys being a part of two baseball teams. Having played since the age of 4, Jason said he was "born to play baseball" and often has practices or games at nights. Therefore, when the son and mom do rush into New York City for an audition, they will usually have to rush back by a certain time as well.
"It’s worth it for me, though, because he likes it," Ortiz said. "I’m just trying to give him more opportunities in life."
In the case that often must be, the young actor is the driving force of his dreams while his mother sees these dreams to reality.
According to Jessica Schoenholtz of J. Mitchell Management, a child’s passion is the key to his or her success because there are so many sacrifices the youngsters have to make.
"We only want the ones who already want it themselves," she said.
Even after the disappointing loss of the role for the WB network pilot, Jason shows no signs of stopping and even regards this as his favorite moment thus far.
"This is the closest I’ve ever been to such a big thing," Jason said. "I would have made a lot of money and it was really exciting."
Ortiz is not sure where things will lead, whether Jason wants to do this forever, or just for now. What she does know, however, is that he enjoys it and has a good attitude about it.
"Jason always says that he’s doing it for us; so that he can make enough money to put him and Suzanne through college and help mom," Ortiz said, noting that her son’s generosity is always apparent.
"My mom taught me to save my money for college, so I’m trying to save about $25,000," the sixth-grader explained matter-of-factly.
With a promise to a cousin who wants a tennis bracelet with Jason’s first big role, the young actor often says, "I gotta get this [role] because I have to get Sabrina her tennis bracelet!"
In the eyes of a young boy, however, acting is simply fun.
"I like the free food," Jason said. "They give you eggs, bacon and pancakes in the morning and cold cuts for lunch - as much as you want!"
In the hustle of it all, Ortiz has made it a point to keep her son’s priorities straight.
"I try to keep him in check and down-to-earth," she said. "I tell him that his dreams are great, but that he needs to have a back-up plan too."
With an ultimate dream to be a professional baseball player, Jason has decided that his back-up plan is to be a lawyer.
And for now, why not do a little acting?
Even on the set of Spider-Man II, an opportunity that put Jason face-to-face with actors Tobey Mcguire and Kirsten Dunst, Jason stayed to sign an autograph for every youngster who wanted one.