At nine years old, Leo Abelo Perry has a vision for where his life and career are heading, and the actor and activist knows he wants to continue to make an indelible mark.
The Black-ish actor is currently starring with Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union as Luca Baker in the hilarious new remake of the 2003 family comedy, Cheaper by The Dozen, an original Disney + movie that premiered on March 18.
The uplifting time-honored story is a fresh take on the 2003 hit family comedy about the Bakers.
This time it centers on the raucous exploits of a multicultural blended family of 12 that navigates through a chaotic home life while simultaneously running the family’s unique breakfast restaurant.
In addition to his burgeoning acting career, Perry is passionate about shedding light on social injustices through his kids’ podcast focused on activism called The Activators!
Even at this young age, it is clear that Perry doesn’t shy away from fighting for causes that are near and dear to his heart. “I interview activists who are changing the world by using what they love to spread more love,” he told Monsters & Critics.
Read on for this third-grader’s take on working with Disney, playing a twin, advice he received from the pros, and why his movie has a family feel.
Monsters & Critics: Why did you want to make this movie?
Leo Abelo Perry: Having 10 kids around me was great. I had the chance to hang out with more kids that I’d never met before, so that was fun because I love making new friends. I also wanted to do this movie because then I could see myself on the big screen.
M&C: Tell me about playing a twin in this charming movie.
Leo Abelo Perry: It was really fun. I love it because I got to have more time with my twin, and you really connect with my twin.
M&C: What did you do to prepare to play this character?
Leo Abelo Perry: I watched the first movie after I got the part, so I learned from some of the actors in the first movie, and I think that really guided me.
M&C: What do you do in your free time?
Leo Abelo Perry: I play basketball a lot. I love to play tennis, too. I love to dance.
M&C: Is there any favorite type of movie that you prefer? Superhero movies?
Leo Abelo Perry: Yeah, probably The Avengers, and out of those, I would say, Black Panther.
M&C: Tell me about working with Zach Braff. Did you know his movies before? And what was it like working with him and getting to know him?
Leo Abelo Perry: It was crazy getting to know him. I had watched like two episodes of Scrubs. Working with Zach was the most fun. He’s like the kindest person. It was amazing to work with him. It was the best opportunity I ever had.
M&C: Talk about working with Gabrielle Union?
Leo Abelo Perry: Gabrielle Union was also great. She gave us a lot of advice. I’m very grateful for her advice, and I think her advice made me a lot better at acting. She helped us focus, which can be hard on set.
M&C: Do you keep in touch or do you think you will with the little girl that played your twin and some of the other siblings?
Leo Abelo Perry: I keep in touch with Mykal-Michelle Harris, who played my twin, Luna. Actually, I see her and talk to her all the time. We play Minecraft together. It’s like we are like best friends now; she’s great. I also talk to Christian and Sebastian Cote, who played the other set of twins.
M&C: How much eating goes on during those food scenes?
Leo Abelo Perry: I would say about five packs of Doritos, six mints, and three packs of fruit snacks between each scene. Yes, I eat a lot. I don’t know why, but I am a very hungry person. Also, the Craft Services are amazing.
M&C: What were the most difficult or challenging aspects of making this movie?
Leo Abelo Perry: The most challenging is when you have all the cameras, and anywhere you look pretty much, you’re looking at a camera because it’s like cameras here, cameras here, cameras here, and cameras here. Then it’s like if I look over here, I’m looking at C camera, if I look over here, I’m looking at X camera. It’s crazy; it’s hard to focus.
M&C: And the most fun part?
Leo Abelo Perry: The most fun part is hanging out with all 10 kids. I feel like we really bonded as a family. We were like an actual family.
M&C: Has anybody ever told you that for nine years old you’re pretty ambitious?
Leo Abelo Perry: Kind of. Not all the people that I’ve met, but some people.
M&C: Do you have your next movie or TV show yet or anything coming up in the works?
Leo Abelo Perry: I don’t have anything yet; I’m still working on it.
M&C: If you decided not to be an actor what else would you want to pursue?
Leo Abelo Perry: I’d probably want to be an NBA player. I love Steph Curry.
M&C: If you were talking to somebody your age or even older about pursuing a career in TV or movie, acting, what advice would you give them?
Leo Abelo Perry: I would say that even if someone tells you that you can’t do this, you can always pursue your dreams.
M&C: Do you hope to work with Disney again?
Leo Abelo Perry: I very much hope to work with Disney again. They are the best. It’s like when you’re with Disney, you can just like be yourself.
M&C: Do you know what your next project is?
Leo Abelo Perry: My next project is my podcast, The Activators. I have been doing it for one season, and we just got the second season. Hollis, this one kid, does Juggling for Jude, where she raises money for cancer research. She plays soccer, and she juggles a ball. She’s juggled like 1,600 kicks. It was like one hour and 45 minutes of just juggling consecutively; it was crazy.
M&C: Is there a message that you think people should get or could get from the movie?
Leo Abelo Perry: Don’t judge people based on what their family looks like. A family’s a family. It doesn’t matter if you have ten kids or one; it’s a family. It’s just like the best thing ever. And family is just like if your heart was cracked open. Family brings love.
Cheaper by the Dozen is currently airing on Disney +
For more Disney+, check out Exclusive: Why Cristina Rosato of Turner & Hooch loves canine companions