By Chuck Barney Contra Costa Times
When Buddy Handleson was 3, his parents tried to get him to do some modeling, but he hated it.
“I’d actually run from the cameras,” he recalled.
Buddy, who grew up in Danville, Calif., isn’t running from them anymore. Now a savvy 13, he has landed a major role in “Wendell &Vinnie,” a new live-action sitcom, which premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday on Nickelodeon.
Buddy is Wendell, a young geek who is book smart, but socially inept. “iCarly” alum Jerry Trainor plays his uncle, Vinnie, a carefree bachelor who suddenly has been thrust into the role of legal guardian for his precocious nephew. Plenty of odd-couple shenanigans ensue.
Buddy previously had backup parts in Disney’s “Hannah Montana” and “Shake It Up.” But this is a big step up for him. He took to the phone recently to field some questions about his latest showbiz adventure.
Q. So what’s the coolest thing about being a TV star?
A. Well, this is my dream. It’s my passion. I guess the coolest thing is that I actually have fans and have gotten to meet some of them. That’s unbelievable.
Q. When did you first realize that you wanted to do this?
A. During my first auditions (starting at the age of 7). Even if I didn’t get the part, I felt an adrenaline rush. I’d get lightheaded. I really enjoyed the auditions and being able to express myself through acting.
Q. What attracted you to the role of Wendell?
A. It’s a part that matches me almost perfectly. In “Shake It Up,” I played an extremely smart guy, a little too smart for me. I had trouble pronouncing some of the words he said. Wendell’s intelligence is more in the middle, and that’s just right for me.
Q. In the first episode, we learn that Wendell isn’t into things that “typical” boys are. He loves homework. He enjoys Sondheim and scrapbooking, and the closest thing to a “sport” that he engages in is calligraphy. Are you anything like him?
A. I’m like him in that I enjoy reading a lot. But I like to play video games, too, when all he wants to do is homework. I do my homework, but I don’t prefer it.
Q. Besides video games, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not busy acting?
A. I like hanging out with my friends and staying in my pajamas all day and watching TV. … I’m a big fan of “The Walking Dead.”
Q. Isn’t that a little scary?
A. When I first started watching, it was pretty creepy. I’d get a jolt when a zombie jumped out. But I got used to it.
Q. A lot of kid stars have had trouble handling their fame. How do you intend to stay grounded?
A. My parents and friends help me. My mom says that, if I ever get a big head, she’s going to pull me out of acting, no matter what. Even if I’m 18, or 25 and married. I also have a friend that keeps me in line. If he thinks I’m getting a big head, he pretends to pull out a needle and pop it while making a “whoosh” sound.
Q. You shoot your show on the Warner Bros. lot. What fun things are there to do when you get bored?
A. We’re right across from “Ellen,” so I like to see what guests she brings in. One day I went out there and took a picture of Justin Bieber’s shiny blue Ferrari. I knew it was his, because a security guard stared at me the whole time.
Q. Can you picture a day when you’re driving around in a shiny blue Ferrari?
A. Actually, I’d prefer a white Maserati instead.