Philip Johnson was just a regular teenager until he was spotted by Rosie O’Donnell, comedian and former host of the award-winning talk show The View. According to The Associated Press, the 17-year-old senior student at Cass Technological High School was eating lunch at a popular downtown eatery called Small Plates when O’Donnell saw him and asked whether he would like to try out for a film, thinking that he had a face that belonged in pictures. He took a screen test the next day and won the title role.
Now, Philip Johnson will be working with the former View host in America, a film based on the E.R. Frank book of the same name about a 16-year-old boy in the foster-care system. O’Donnell, whose recent credits include Curb Your Enthusiasm, Queer as Folk, and Nip/Tuck, will be playing the therapist to the title character, and will be serving as executive producer to the project as well.
“I thought it was just somebody who looked like her,” Johnson, who had never acted before, told the Detroit Free Press. “I didn’t think it was actually her. I mean, what’s Rosie O’Donnell doing in Detroit?”
O’Donnell, who was in town to work on America, told Entertainment Tonight that she sensed “a soulful kind of stillness” in Johnson.
“It still hasn’t hit me,” said Philip Johnson, who remains shocked by the unexpected turn of events during a break in shooting at a former homeless shelter in the impoverished Detroit enclave of Highland Park. “I won’t even realize it until it comes on TV; then it will finally hit me, I think.”
In addition to America, O’Donnell will also try her hand at primetime with her new show called Rosie’s Variety Show, which will debut a one-hour live event from New York at 8pm ET/PT on November 26, serving as a precursor to a regular variety skein fronted by O’Donnell that would bow in the new year. This marks her first potential regular TV gig since her stint on The View, where she boosted the show’s ratings and attracted controversies with her liberal views and strong personality.
-Kris De Leon, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
Source: Entertainment Tonight, The Associated Press
(Image courtesy of The Associated Press)