My guest on this very special Hometown to Hollywood podcast episode is director, producer, and choreographer Kenny Ortega.


Kenny Ortega has directed many iconic film, TV and theatre projects,

but he is best known for his work directing Newsies, Hocus Pocus, This is It, High School Musical 1,2, and 3, and Descendants 1, 2, and 3, as well as creating choreography for Michael Jackson, Cher, Madonna, Gloria Estefan, and Elton John. He has won three Emmy awards and two Directors Guild of America awards, among many others, and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He recently produced and directed Julie and The Phantoms for Netflix.

In this very inspiring conversation, Kenny Ortega shares how he began in the industry, how he made the jump from choreography to directing, his approach to directing, what he looks for in an actor, audition advice, casting, advice for both parents of young actors as well as for actors, and so much more.

Some of my favorite quotes from our conversation:

  • “I couldn’t be one of those people that sit on the sidelines and go, ‘I wonder what it would have been like had I pursued what I love in this world.’”
  • “I worked as a choreographer for some of the most incredibly gifted, talented, and GOOD human beings… they taught me that I could be successful and also have a heart.”
  • “Learn to pick up choreography quickly so that you can then surrender yourself to the work, and what’s behind the movement is YOU… your spirit, your soul, your heart, your personality.”
  • “I wanted my actors to feel brave, and fearless, and confident, and feel that they could have a voice with me.”
  • “I’m always seeking for every performer—dancer, singer, actor—that they have that ability to surrender themselves to the work.”
  • “Go online and watch audition tapes, they’re there.”
  • “I look for heart. Promise. Truth. Imagination. Wit.”
  • “When you’re walking into an audition—whether it be in the room with a director, or virtually—bring your truth.”
  • “Read The Hollywood Parents Guide by Bonnie Wallace… I’m telling you, there aren’t any other books! It’s an incredible book, and I highly, highly recommend it to any parent who has a child that wants to enter into the business, or that is already in the business.”
  • “Get a good education. Learn everything you can because it ALL comes in handy for an actor.”
  • “Don’t let anybody tell you what you can do. Or can’t do.”
  • “Imagination is everything. And imagination can create reality, but you have to work for it. And you have to study for it, and you have to soldier for it, and pay your dues for it.”
  • “Quit getting angry and get better. Don’t get lost in frustration. Get lost in study and dedication. And perseverance.”
  • “There can’t be a B Plan when you want to be an actor. Because it requires too much. The A Plan requires too much for you to share yourself with a B Plan.”
  • “That child still lives within me… had it not been for that little boy who refused to let go of his dreams, who refused to let anybody stop him from what he pursued… I will be grateful to him for the rest of my life for what he gave to me. This gift that I own today.”


Follow Kenny Ortega HERE:

Instagram: @kennyortegablog

Twitter: @kennyortegablog


It was an amazing honor to have the legendary Kenny Ortega recommend my book, The Hollywood Parents Guide. Even though it was written several years ago, it is still the best book available for parents of young actors, whether they are just starting out, or down the road a bit. If you’d like more one-on-one advice and support, book a consultation with me. In a single session you can get your questions answered, as well as some you might not know to ask-!