KidsPost: Local Gaelan Connell

Gaelan Connell plays a high school student who manages a band in "Bandslam."
Gaelan Connell plays a high school student who manages a band in "Bandslam." (By Van Redin)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mop-top actor Gaelan Connell has come a long way from his days playing with his band, Exist, in his parents' Silver Spring basement. Suddenly, he is the star of the movie "Bandslam," which opens Friday. That's him on the movie poster, posing alongside Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Michalka. That's him in the gossip columns, kissing Hudgens (for the movie, of course!).

But it hasn't gone to Connell's head. His big brothers, Brendan and Shawn, make sure of that.

"They call me and they're like, 'You know, Gaelan, brother to brother, no matter what you do, you're not going to be cool,' " he says.

Luckily, being cool wasn't in the job description. The tween comedy follows kids at a New Jersey high school that is fanatical about one thing: the annual "American Idol"-style band competition, called Bandslam. Connell, 20, plays Will Burton, a high school nerd who is tapped by a beautiful, popular classmate (Michalka) to help her form a band that could win.

"This character I'm playing now in 'Bandslam' is a little too close to home, being awkward and nerdy," jokes Connell, who used to play competitive chess, make home movies and play cello. "Will has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, but his mom is his best friend."

"This is just me, re-creating my life," Connell says.

After graduating from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Connell went to New York University to study filmmaking (he was sure that with his hair, he'd be better suited for something behind the camera). But when he heard about "Bandslam," he decided to audition for the role of Will. He got it even though his only previous movie role was in "Chocolat," almost 10 years ago.

So, how was it working side by side with Hudgens and Michalka and getting to meet Zac (as in Efron)?

"Once you really break through the bubble, they're more than normal," Connell says. "They've had so much scrutiny put on them, I think that they know more than others who they are."

-- Lavanya Ramanathan

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