At 22 years old, UM senior musical theater major Thomas Jansen has landed the coveted role of Daniel Hunter, the protective older brother of four on Nickelodeon’s newest TV series, “Hunter Street,” premiering 7 p.m. Monday on Nickelodeon.
Jansen began acting when he was 12 years old, grabbing roles in high-school plays until he was admitted into University of Miami’s theater program, in which he continued taking center stage. His most recent feat was playing a comedic female character, Mrs. Bumbrake, in a joint production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” by the UM theater department and the Arsht Center.
Since then, Jansen has been giving his all to Nickelodeon. He took off half of fall semester to work in California on the new series, where he is one of the oldest cast members on set. “Hunter Street,” based on a popular Dutch television show “De Ludwigs,” revolves around a family of five foster children living in Amsterdam.
Landing the role was a surprisingly smooth experience for Jansen.
After finishing his junior year, Jansen got a call directly from the Nickelodeon casting agency, in which he was asked to audition for the role. The next day, Jansen sent the agency an audition tape, to which Nickelodeon responded by flying him out to Amsterdam for a live audition.
“It was the most surreal experience,” Jansen said. “It was a dream. I am so lucky.”
After getting the part, Jansen’s professors allowed him four months off from his senior year fall semester. Since his classes revolved around acting in front of a camera, he reasoned that working in Los Angeles would give him the same training as class.
Jansen said that everything he took to the big screen was learned from the UM classroom.
“We did a lot of Shakespeare training, which is about making the right words and telling a story as clearly as possible,” Jansen said. “To make a show for kids, you want to make sure you emphasize the right words so the audience understands the story.”
Unlike his outlandish roles at UM, Jansen considered playing Daniel Hunter to be a much easier role because he could better relate to the character, instead of constantly changing his personality to fit roles like Duke in “As You Like It” and Will Parker in “Oklahoma.”
“At UM, I was forced to play a lot of roles that are not necessarily my type,” Jansen said. “For ‘Hunter Street’ I was cast in a role that is similar to who I am, so I was allowed to put a lot of my own personality in the role.”
When playing a challenging role, Jansen said he gets into character by separating himself from the character. He would take a few seconds, close his eyes and then step into the world of the character.
While Jansen now has his hands full finishing his senior year at UM, he plans to move to Los Angeles after he graduates to do more television work instead of pursuing a career in theater.
“After doing ‘Hunter Street,’ I discovered TV, and film is something I really enjoy,” Jansen said. “Everyday I’m doing something different.”
Doing something different from others is what motivates Jansen. Figuring out a goal that satisfies him and pursuing it is how he stays true to himself amid the chaos of playing many different roles.
When choosing to do something different, Jansen said he reminds himself that “If you do the same thing as everyone else, you end up in the same place as everybody else.”
Watch the first episode of “Hunter Street” Monday night on Nickelodeon at 7 p.m. For more information on the new series, go to Nick.com/hunter-street/.