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Ronnie Kroell interview

Ronnie Kroell first came to our attention when he finished as runner-up in the first season of the US show Make Me A Supermodel.

Since then he’s gone on to enjoy a successful modelling career and is now making his first foray into the world of acting.

His movie debut is in the fourth instalment of the hugely popular Eating Out series, Eating Out: Drama Camp, in which he stars as new character Beau.

We caught up with Ronnie to find out about his role in the movie, discuss the experience of moving into acting and to talk about what he’s achieved in his career so far.

How are you doing today?

I’m doing well thanks. It’s a gorgeous afternoon here in New York City.

Don’t make me jealous! It’s a miserable day here in the UK.

(laughs) Well hop on a plane! Come on over.

‘Eating Out: Drama Camp’ is out on DVD here in the UK. Tell us a bit about the movie.

Eating Out: Drama Camp was really my first breakout role in a feature film. I found out about the casting through the casting director who emailed me and asked if I would put myself on tape for a couple of roles in the film. I got a call back and ended up Skyping with Chris Salvatore and the producers in L.A. After that they offered me the part of Beau which I eagerly accepted because I thought it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the acting world and get some hands on experience. It really was a blessing and a great crew to work with.

Q. Allan Brocka is an incredible director. I learned so much whilst I was on set and I felt like I worked with an incredibly talented cast of individuals. We had a lot of laughs, I made some new friends and it was a brilliant experience. I’m just thankful that it was my first experience dabbling in the acting world.

Your character Beau comes into the movie and causes a few ructions…

(laughs) I wanted Beau to be a character that was naïve, fun-loving and loveable; you kind of want to root for him. He really pines for Casey throughout the movie and he’s got this dumb innocence about him. He loves sleeping in the nude (laughs) which I thought was so funny. Throughout the movie I’m just walking in and not paying any mind to anyone else around me and just dropping my trousers and getting into bed. I really wanted to be this character that people wanted to root for so the unrequited love he feels for Casey is returned in some way. It was fun – he was the boy-next-door type.

The ‘Eating Out’ movies are incredibly popular. Were you nervous about getting involved or just really excited?

I’ve been in the entertainment industry for a long time now – since I was 15 years old. I think there’s always a certain level of nervousness. I don’t get scared any more but there’s always nerves, especially trying something that you’ve never done before. There’s always the risk of failure but if you don’t take any risks there’s no success either. I went into it being a sponge and wanting to learn about acting – the craft and how things work on a set – and I went in asking lots of questions leaving myself open to being vulnerable.

I think as an actor, just in the short time that I’ve had acting so far, it’s a very vulnerable experience. In modelling you work on a runway and pose for a camera but when you’re acting you’re really digging deep into your soul and experiences in life. You’re trying to bring around the emotion of being sad or you’ve lost someone, or you’re just trying to giggle and be happy. You have to draw upon something in your life to bring that character to the real world. There’s a certain amount of emotional and intellectual honesty that you have to have with yourself. If you as a person in real life are not being honest with yourself you can’t really expect to be honest as any character you might play.

Even in my personal life, having that experience and doing Eating Out and thankfully right after I did another movie called Into The Lion’s Den, I’m digging down deeper into myself and learning things about myself. I see the world in a different way I guess. I’m a little bit more in tune with reality.

I always watch the ‘Eating Out’ films and they look like so much fun to film. Are they as fun as they look?

They’re a blast (laughs). They’re definitely hard work – we work 12-15 hour days and it can be gruelling at times because you’re trying to get the right shot. We’re all coming together as a team to make this final product something special, something our audience are going to enjoy and not feel like they’ve wasted their time.

There’s the gruelling element that a lot of people don’t see or necessarily understand. The great thing about being in the entertainment industry is there’s a lot of spontaneity and there’s a lot of new experiences. It’s really hard to live a mundane everyday life when you’re in this business because you’re working on projects for a time then it’s over and you have to move on to the next project. While you’re mourning the project ending you’re transitioning into a new project. The cool thing is when you get to work with someone you worked with three years ago and you rekindle those old friendships, catch-up and see what they’re doing. You get to find that comfort in seeing how much you’ve each grown since you first met. On Eating Out we were filming in a Jewish camp, called Camp Shalom, and it was a real kids’ camp in Malibu California.

One night we decided we were going to spend the night there, bunk down, tell ghost stories, be silly and get to learn more about each other. It was an incredibly bonding experience. It made our interactions on and off film that much deeper and I think that much more interesting to watch.

What was the experience like as your first proper acting role? Were you happy with it once you were finished?

I felt like I’d accomplished something. I ventured out to try something new and I wasn’t sure yet because my nerves were still on edge. You never know how you’re going to look. I’ve had the benefit of doing reality TV several years ago and having that initial shock of first seeing myself on TV. This was the big screen and film festivals so I was really nervous about how it was going to come across.

Getting to go to the Out Film Festival in L.A. last month was such an awesome experience. I wasn’t nearly as hard on myself as I have been in the past. I watched it and there was a certain element of comfort. I was thinking ‘this is really well done. They are all so talented.’ On films obviously it starts with the director’s mood and his take on things because he sets the pace for the entire film. Then of course it’s the talent you work with. Then there’s the other part of the process like colour correction, editing and making sure everything is smooth and properly put together. I have no regrets. I have no qualms about it. I feel really good about the movie overall.

There was a funny part when it aired on Logo here in the States and I decided to watch it with my parents. For the most part my parents are very open-minded, loving, liberal individuals that are like ‘go into the world and do what you want to do as long as you’re not hurting anyone and you’re doing what you love’. All was fine and dandy and you could watch their facial expressions then there’s this scene at the end of the movie where my character has a little three-way kiss action and I just looked at my parents’ faces. I watched as they turned all shades of red and they were trying to muster up some vote of confidence and encouraging words (laughs). I just looked at them and said ‘it’s ok – you don’t have to say anything’. Then they went to bed!

I’m not sure I could have watched that with my parents….

They’re really awesome parents. What can I say? It’s taken some time. It didn’t happen overnight but I’ve been out now since I was 15 years old and my mom caught me kissing my first boyfriend in the backyard. The first couple of years were a little challenging but over time you realise that family is the most important thing in the world. In those relationships nothing can really come between those bonds unless you let it. I’ve had my parents at Pride Parade, they love all my friends and love to throw parties. They stay in touch with my friends, even though I don’t live in Chicago any more, to see how they’re doing.

Tell us about your next movie ‘Into The Lion’s Den’ with Jesse Archer which you mentioned earlier. What can we expect from that?

You guys are in for a real treat. There really isn’t a movie in the LGBT genre of this nature that’s a really good thriller. This movie I wouldn’t even say was a gay film. It’s 75% thriller, 25% LGBT themed. It’s awesome. Going right from Eating Out to being trusted with a lead role was exciting and again nerve-wracking. I was juiced up and my batteries were charged up after the last movie. I wanted to keep going with this and see where it takes me.

This movie has a lot of blood, there are sex scenes and there’s camaraderie between three really good friends that are trying to escape their lives in L.A. They go on a road trip and my character is trying to find himself, find a reason to live and find what he’s passionate about in life. Jesse’s character is the slut of the group. There’s another character called Ted who’s the trust fund baby of the group and we’re all on this adventure across America together. You get to see our friendships unfold and see how we interact with one another. You also get to see how we behave and how we look after each other when things get really tough. We take a wrong turn and there are some characters that are out to get us. It’ll have you sitting on the edge of your seat for the entire film.

There’s some really positive messaging underlying the thriller which is cool.

Let’s talk a bit about your career before ‘Eating Out’. I first saw you in ‘Make Me A Supermodel US’…

It seems forever ago now! 3 years ago….

You were always my favourite on the show  What was that experience like?

Aww thank you for that! Well that was really my first pivotal moment in my life because I’d lived for 24 years in Chicago and I never saw myself leaving the city. I loved what I was doing and I had great aspirations but I never knew that I would leave the city. When I auditioned for Make Me A Supermodel it was a last minute thing.

I was on a website called Craigslist and I was having a cup of coffee looking for jobs when I saw this casting that said come down to this nightclub and audition. I did and not even a week later I got a call that said I was in the Top 40. I fell off my seat and they told me they would fly me to New York for two weeks where I would compete to be in the Top 14. Come December they came to my house and handed me a golden envelope, much like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and told me I was in the Top 14. They did it with all my family and friends around me. It was an incredible moment.

Chills went up and down my spine and I was getting ready to embark on this adventure with no clue what to expect or what was going to happen. When you spend three months away from your family and friends – everyone that supports and loves you – and you enter into a world where people are your competitors, producers are out to make great television and no one is really your friend you learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about the things in your life that you may have taken for granted. Not only did I go through model boot camp but it was good experience and good training as a person; interpersonal relationship skills, handling conflict in the house, learning patience and discipline.

I got exposed to the great city of New York that I’ve called home for the last three years. I owe it all to Make Me A Supermodel because it gave the courage after the show was over to make the jump. I talked to my friends and talked to my family and said ‘if I don’t do this now I may look back with regret’. I’m thankful that I came to New York and I’m actually about to embark on another journey, moving to Los Angeles in October, to start the next chapter and do more film work. I’m spending the last couple of weeks I have here in New York saying ‘see you later’ to everyone and all the places I’ve come to love. I’m gearing up to continue to keep learning. I think once you stop learning and stop being serious about life and who you are that’s when you stop living.

I’ve become too comfortable in New York so I’m ready to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself in different ways. Hopefully I’ll be able to leverage any continued success that I have with my projects to continue the work that I really do love to do which is help other people realise their dreams and empower them never to give up.

Well you were robbed on ‘Make Me A Supermodel’. You totally should have won.

(laughs) Thank you. I think I actually did better by coming runner-up because I didn’t have to be bound to a lot of the contracts that Holly (the winner) did. I had a lot more freedom to do what I wanted. I’m not upset (laughs).

It’s fantastic to see that you can place as the runner-up and turn that into a successful career. I was reading about your philanthropy and you do so many great things. It’s really exciting isn’t it?

It’s brilliant what fame can do to be honest. A lot of people handle fame in different ways and you accrue different levels of fame. It really is all one big game but the greatest thing I’ve learned about fame is that once you do create a name for yourself certain doors open to you, certain people will talk to you that wouldn’t have talked to you before or it would have taken you a lot longer to get your foot in the door. I certainly don’t take that for granted. I leverage it to do my own work, to make me happy but in the last year I’ve been able to raise money for a human rights campaign that’s been fighting at the legislative level for equality.

Just recently I was able to raise $2500 for the American Cancer Society and get really active with them here in New York. Those are the things that fame really helps out with the most. People want to listen and when you have that window it’s really important to know how to use it. I think sometimes people don’t use it and I think that’s kind of a waste.

It’s so important to remain grounded I’ve founded and continue to do the everyday things that make you who you are and spend time with the people who remind you who you’ve been all this time. There’s an element of fame where you can get involved with certain things that can sweep you away and you can get lost in the glamorous aspect of fame. That’s the demise of a lot of people’s careers unfortunately. A lot of really talented people fall into really overdoing drugs or get so far strung out that they don’t even love themselves any more.

Truly in my heart-of-hearts even to this day I humble myself to those experiences and I ask my friends and family around me to keep me in check. We all get lost in our work sometimes and forget to take a moment to breathe, say thank you and appreciate nature – be thankful for the everyday simple gifts that we’re given. We take some things for granted and I like to be reminded of that.

‘Eating Out: Drama Camp’ is available on DVD through TLA Releasing now.

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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