Best known for playing the popular hunk Xander on the summer camp-set Disney Channel series “Bunk’d,” North Shore native Kevin Quinn is also starring in the 100th Disney Channel original movie, “Adventures in Babysitting” (premiering Friday) — playing the potential love interest of the film’s star, Sabrina Carpenter.
The young actor, who recently turned 19, called from his Los Angeles home recently to reflect on growing up in the Chicago area and graduating from New Trier High School — which has turned out so many actors.
“It’s so cool to be part of that New Trier family,” said Quinn. “I’m lucky to have gone to a school that turned out people like Virginia Madsen, Charlton Heston and Rock Hudson — and a lot of the greats.”
Hoping to build a similar career, Quinn realized at a very early age that he wanted to become an actor. “It really just happened by chance. A friend convinced me to audition for a community theater play in Winnetka. I just fell in love with it, but I had no interest in theater before that. Just doing that first play made me realize this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
“So, yes, I got started nice and early. By 13 I was doing those community plays. By age 15 I had an agent. By 16 I got my first professional theater role at Steppenwolf, playing Billy in ‘Lord of the Flies.’ That was an amazing process, and then I was in ‘Henry V’ at Chicago Shakespeare [Theatre]. Those were two of my most memorable experiences I had,” said Quinn.
Around the same time he was exposed to working at two of Chicago’s most acclaimed theater companies, Quinn also auditioned for the 12th season of “American Idol,” becoming one of the youngest contestants that year on the long-running musical competition series. The Chicago native made it to the Hollywood Group Round finals, and ended up being among the top 60 male singers on the show that season.
Looking back on that time, Quinn noted that being so young “meant I really didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t understand the whole process and what was involved. … If I was doing it now, I’d be more cognizant of what was happening and might have gone further. But, for being 15, I look back on it and feel pretty proud — plus it did open the door to other opportunities,” including his starring role on “Bunk’d” and this new Disney Channel film.
Since “Adventures in Babysitting” is based on the original 1987 movie, starring Elisabeth Shue, Quinn understandably did watch the first “Adventures,” but not until he was about to shoot this new one.
“We were up in Vancouver, where we filmed the movie, and it was the night before principal photography was to start. I was in my hotel room and watched the original one and thought this was pretty cool — that we were going to do the remake,” said the actor.
As for personal experiences with babysitting, Quinn noted he was pretty lucky — back when he did that occasionally for family friends in Wilmette. “Yes, kids can be a handful,” said Quinn with a laugh, “but the kids I babysat were good kids — plus I was always very good at entertaining them and keeping their minds occupied. … There was a local grocery store by the Linden L stop. If all else failed, I’d just say, ‘Let’s ride our scooters and go get a candy bar!’ No surprise, that worked every time,” he added with a chuckle.
In the new “Adventures in Babysitting,” Quinn’s character Zac becomes upset when there’s a major miscommunication between himself and Carpenter’s Jenny character — after her cell phone is inadvertently switched with a phone belonging to Lola (Sofia Carson).
While that specific thing hasn’t happened to Quinn in real life, he is very familiar with phone messages or texts being misinterpreted. “I’m really a thoughtful person, so I sometimes I will over-analyze the littlest things, and put too much into it.”