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June 20, 2018

A Q&A with the star of 'It,' Jaeden Lieberher, (who's from Philly)

Young actor remembers summer camp, Coach Steve and growing up gritty in South Philly

Anyone from Philly who watched the MTV Movie & TV Awards Monday night may have recognized someone familiar in the cast of “It,” the horror blockbuster that crushed box office expectations and has been one of the hottest movies of the year.

The "It" cast won the golden popcorn award for best on-screen team, and Jaeden Lieberher, originally from Philly, stars as the movie's main protagonist, Bill Denbrough. 

With box office sales climbing upwards of $700 million, Lieberher, 15, is shining as a young actor, already having projects under him such as “St. Vincent” with Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy, “Midnight Special” with Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst, “The Book of Henry” with Naomi Watts and Sarah Silverman and “The Confirmation” alongside Clive Owen and Maria Bello.

Lieberher’s father is Wes Lieberher, former executive chef of Vintage Wine Bar in Midtown Village, now corporate Executive Chef of the J Fall Group, an up-and-coming restaurant/hospitality management company based out of Los Angeles, Calif. He is known in L.A. for opening the nationally recognized Beer Belly in Koreatown and for putting Philly-inspired grub on the map on the west coast.

Jaeden Lieberher moved to L.A. with his mother, Angela Martell, when Jaeden was 8 years old, yet he remembers Philly well, he said.

“We always walk through our old neighborhood in South Philly when we go back to visit. I have great memories of going to Marian Anderson for summer camp, after school, and sports,” he told PhillyVoice.

“I played baseball there for three years with Coach Steve. He even put me on the traveling team, though I wasn't very good.”

PV: How has life changed since moving to L.A. and finding fame?

J.L.: I never thought that when I moved from Philly to L.A. almost seven years ago, that I would become an actor, work along such talented people, and get to travel around the world with my mom. Our lives have changed so much and I feel very lucky.

P.V.: What, if anything, do you miss about the City of Brotherly Love?

J.L.: Life in L.A. is great, but we travel so much that I'm away from home a lot. I miss Philly all the time, but I get to visit often. I especially miss my friends and family and the changing seasons.

P.V.: What was your favorite part about working on “It?”

J.L.: "It" was pretty much the first movie I did with a group of kids my own age, and it was incredible. All of us became best friends right away. It can get lonely being on set for months, but we hung out all the time and it was the best summer of my life. We still talk every day.

P.V.: Did you ever think you would come this far in Hollywood at such a young age? 

J.L.: I think there is still so much to learn, but I am really grateful that I've had all these amazing experiences and found something that I really love and want to do for the rest of my life.

P.V.: And finally, what does it feel like to win this golden popcorn award, and what are your future aspirations in the world of acting? TV? Movies? Something else altogether?

J.L.: I feel very honored that our fans voted for us and saw our genuine chemistry and bond on screen. I just hope to keep getting good roles in interesting projects, and to keep learning from the actors and filmmakers I work with. One day, I would like to write and direct as well.

“We didn't move to L.A. with any Hollywood aspirations, so I was pretty surprised when Jaeden became interested in acting because he's quite shy,” said Martell.

“To think about all that he has experienced and accomplished in the last five years, yet still remains so humble and sweet makes me very proud.”

If you come into a new place with that Philly attitude, you have a leg up on everyone because you know you’re going to come in and give every ounce of your sweat to find success.”

Wes Lieberher echoed those sentiments. He said neither parent had any intention of getting their son into acting.

“I always knew he had a star quality about him, but I think everyone thinks that about their own kid,” he said.

It was only when they introduced Jaeden to some folks in the industry who suggested they let him go on some auditions that mom and dad agreed to give it a try. 

"I told him he should only keep doing it if he loved it, and it turns out he did, and he was pretty damn good at it," said Wes Lieberher.

“I think our time in Philly was integral for both of us in our respective careers – as different as they are – in that Philly gives you this hardworking grit that no one else in the world can really compete with, in my opinion. So, if you come into a new place with that Philly attitude, you have a leg up on everyone because you know you’re going to come in and give every ounce of your sweat to find success.”

Catch up with Jaeden Lieberher’s happenings by following him on Twitter here.