News article on student Brett DelBuono and A&E's "The Cleaner"

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Sunday, March 9, 2008:

Is this the big one?
Young Brett DelBuono lands a spot with Benjamin Bratt on A&E’s ‘The Cleaner’

By Pamela H. Sacks
Telegram & Gazette Staff

He is five inches taller than he was when he made his first movie, and his voice is deeper. Brett DelBuono is now 15, and his acting career is beginning to take off.

“There’s heavier stuff, more dramatic because you’re at an older age,” Brett said the other day as he reflected on his current on-screen pursuits.

Two years ago, Brett had just finished shooting a small role in “Balls of Fury” with Christopher Walken, a big-screen flick that was released last year. He had also landed minor parts in pilots for two TV shows, neither of which took off.

But the young actor kept on auditioning, making tapes at his home in Westboro and turning up in person when he was in Hollywood.

Just as the writers’ strike got under way last November, Brett was booked for a recurring role in “The Cleaner,” an edge-of-the-seat drama starring Benjamin Bratt. Brett has been cast as Bratt’s son, Ben Banks, and has been told that he will be in eight to 10 episodes. The series is expected to start airing on A&E in August and is produced in conjunction with CBS.

Is this the big break?

“I don’t know,” Brett said with a shrug and a wide grin. “It’s at least a big step for me. It’s an interesting show. The cast is great. I hope it will take off.”

The producers are optimistic enough to have signed Brett to a seven-year contract.

“The Cleaner” is about a recovering drug addict, William Banks, who, with the help of two assistants, rescues young people in the grip of addiction. He delivers them to rehab and takes down drug operations. Brett plays a normal teenager who resents the time his father spends away from the family. “It’s all based in truth,” Brett said, adding that the real William Banks is always on the set.

Brett is thrilled to be working with Mr. Bratt.

“He’s a really nice guy,” Brett said. “He’ll knock on my trailer door and say, ‘Hey, you want to go rehearse?’ He’ll talk about the scene and give me pointers.”

The young actor lives with his family in a modern Colonial on a hilltop. Brett and his mother, Debbie DelBuono, have been dividing their time between the coasts for three years. Brett has two older brothers; his father, Gary DelBuono, is a vice president at Travelers Insurance in Hartford.

Last week, Brett and his mother headed back to Los Angeles. They have an apartment in a 1940s complex in Studio City, at which several episodes of “I Love Lucy” were shot. Brett had been summoned to do publicity shots for “The Cleaner.” Around Hollywood, he said, it’s common to see splashy promotions for new shows.

Brett, who has curly hair and a wide open face, is bubbly and full of good cheer when he talks about the tryouts and the competition he faces for parts. He’s not even testy when he mentions the good movie role he recently missed out on. After a series of auditions, it came down to him and another young actor.

“If you’re not called back after the first audition, that’s one thing,” he said. “But when you come so close, it’s a killer.”

Brett’s career started five years ago when his mother saw an article in the Telegram & Gazette about auditions for the movie, “Freedom Park.” The family comedy was set in Central Massachusetts and made by actress/producer Andrea Ajemian, who lives in Rutland, and Jon Artigo, her business partner. Brett was 10. He tried out for the lead role but wasn’t quite the right type. Mr. Artigo was so impressed that he wrote in a part for him.

Even then, Brett already was an experienced performer. He had taken years of dancing, singing and acting lessons and been in half a dozen community theater musicals. After “Freedom Park,” mother and son got serious about the big time. Mrs. DelBuono signed up her son for the TVI Actors Studio intensive training camp in New York City. Brett later attended the same program in Los Angeles. He came away with both a manager and an agent.

Brett goes to school online. Child-labor laws require that he study at least three hours a day. If he is going to have a long shoot on a particular day, he can bank school hours ahead of time. Until he turns 16, his mother must be on the set with him when he is acting.

Brett has already had a taste of the quintessential Hollywood life. He walked the red carpet for the premiere of “Balls of Fury,” stopping to answer reporters’ questions and greet fans.

Asked what he thought of this year’s Academy Award winners, he laughed as he offered his stock reply: “Everyone who won deserved it.”

With a twinkle in his dark brown eyes, Brett went on to explain: “It pays to be cautious about what you say about an actor or a movie. You never know what the connections are.”