Jonathan Lipnicki on Finding a Second Act After Child Stardom

The cute kid from 'Jerry Maguire' is grateful for his '90s roles, but is moving on: "I want to live in the present, and I'm ready for people to join me."
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The cute kid from 'Jerry Maguire' is grateful for his '90s roles, but is moving on: "I want to live in the present, and I'm ready for people to join me."

Jonathan Lipnicki is entering a house of horrors in Circus Kane.

The film, now on VOD, centers on a reclusive circus master who will give $250,000 to anyone who can spend a night in his new house of haunts. A group of fame-craving social media stars take him up on his offer, but soon learn they will be fighting for their lives. Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray direct the film from a script by James Cullen Bressack and Zack Ward, based on a story by Sean Sellars.

Lipnicki plays one of the social media stars, whom he describes as "a smartass" who has a good heart. 

In a conversation with Heat Vision, the actor also discusses moving on after rising to fame as a child star in Jerry Maguire and how a video poking fun at his role in the movie changed his life.

What got you involved in a movie about a killer circus master?

This kid named James Cullen Bressack with a ton of followers on Twitter follows me. I was like, "who's this guy?" I followed him back, because it says he's a filmmaker. He was verified and had the little blue check mark. He hit me up and said, "Hey man I'd love to work with you someday." I met with him and we really clicked. He approached me with a crazy clown movie. I'm scared of clowns. I felt like I was facing my fears a little.

On a small budget movie like this, it must be an intense shoot.

It was a couple weeks of go, go, go. I actually really like it that way. I'm not a person who likes to sit very still much. Also when you are moving that way, it lends itself to the work because you are already ready to go. It's a good amount of running around and sweating.

That must be different than when you were a child actor, where there are limits on how much you could work.

I don't know if it's changed. You had to get a minimum of three hours of school during the workday, which is great they have that for kids, but at this age I'm ready to work. I have a lot of energy.

What has the process been like of transitioning from being a child star?

I took kind of a break. It wasn't really traditionally a break. I was still auditioning here and there. I was kind of in an awkward phase, and I wasn't as confident in myself, and the best thing as an actor you can bring to a role is yourself. When you aren't confident in who that person is, you're not going to be the best actor. Truthfully, I wasn't the best actor for a while. I started going to acting classes right when I started doing high school. I've been in acting class since. Doing that and doing some theater has given me some confidence. It's humbling, because there is always so much to learn. I think that was the key for me. I'm always trying to level up and work more.

I was sort of re-introduced to you thanks to a funny Screen Junkies Father's Day video you did where you addressed your Jerry Maguire history head on. How did that come about?

There were two videos I did in that vein. The first one made a big impact in kind of jumping into people's consciousness. I made a video about a bad audition I had, "You Used to Be Cute." That helped a lot. It was me poking fun at myself and I feel you can't take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day, you got to be able to laugh at yourself. And the Screen Junkies video, I got to show that again, it was me having fun. I was having such a great time. I definitely think that helped a lot. Then I got to work on Screen Junkies again on their first digital series [Interns of FIELD]. These are all steps, and as I said it's a marathon not a sprint. I'm auditioning for everything. I couldn't be happier.

What is auditioning like for you these days? Is it still "You Used to be Cute?"

I've kind of turned my blinders on. That was a really bad case. It's not so much what I hear in the audition room, but there's a lot of stuff where you can't escape, sometimes people talking about your past. It's one of those things I've embraced so much, but there's got to be a time where I say, "Yeah I'm so grateful for that. It's amazing, I wouldn’t know what I want to do with my life, but I've got to move on." I love what I do so much that I want to live in the present, and I'm ready for people to join me.


Check out the trailer for Circus Kane below. And for more from the actor, his recent credits include teen comedies Loserville and Pitching Tents and he also produced the Denise Richards and Dolph Lundgren action movie Altitude. He is also appearing in season two of the Verizon go90 series My Student Body President.