An actress and acting coach by profession, Kenda Benward served as her son’s acting coach during production. “Billy is an awesome role for any actor, adult or child, to play because he has a range of emotions that he plays at any given time,” explains Kenda Benward. “He is not just playing one objective. It’s a story about a struggle of trying to find your place and confronting your fears. As Billy, Luke has to play someone who was popular, and now that he is in a new place, is intimidated easily.”
Six-year old Ty Panitz is featured as Woody, Billy’s annoyingly perfect and naturally popular little brother who adapts to their move with great ease, becoming the center of attention at his kindergarten in just one day.
“Like all younger brothers, Woody doesn't know what to make of his older brother,” says producer Mark Johnson. “He's bemused and also really irritated by him. At one point, he sings a song that couldn't be sweeter, except he puts his own lyrics into it. The punch line is basically, ‘I wish my brother were dead!’”
Panitz got the role by singing “God Bless America” at his audition. He and co-star Hallie Kate Eisenberg’s off-screen friendship was echoed on-screen in their roles of little kid and baby-sitter.
Eisenberg plays Erika Tanzy, an early bloomer who towers over her classmates in an awkward fashion and offers Billy friendship, a calming influence and advice that he’s not sure he wants. As the lone girl in the story, she is the outside person looking in who seems to have a better sense of what’s going on than everybody else.
“Erika’s very sensible. She's certainly more composed and world-wise and watches these boys with puzzlement,” comments Johnson. “At one point, Erika makes the unoriginal comment that boys are pretty weird. I think that's what this movie is so much about.”
“Erika's very practical and she's mature beyond her years,” agrees Eisenberg. “She's very smart. I loved that the character was so different from the boys.”