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Michael Russnow

Michael Russnow

Posted: August 4, 2008 03:59 PM

Mitch Reinholt of American Teen: How a Supporting Player Upstaged the Film's Stars


I watched the affecting American Teen over the weekend and was intrigued over the similarities between the high school experience shown and my own adventures decades ago. The technology has changed -- we didn't have cell phones and texting to amuse us, though, truth be told, the telephone had been invented, as had TV and a new device with the name Xerox.

However, the point of this piece is not to review the documentary film, which I urge you to see, but to demonstrate how stars are born if given half a chance. You don't have to be the lead, as Mitch Reinholt certainly wasn't in this movie. As a matter of fact you hardly saw him until half the film was over. He was little more than a glorified extra in the locker room, consoling his basketball colleague Colin, one of the featured four students, and at one point was given a moment to gripe that Colin was a bit selfish passing the ball.

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Indeed other supporting kids were seen and heard much more during the course of the film, yet you still had to wonder about the really good looking guy on the basketball team. Well, sure enough our curiosity was rewarded when he made a play for Hannah Bailey, first among equals of American Teen's stars. It was almost amazing how a rush of "at last" came forth, while the audience rooted for the pairing of the odd duck girl -- somewhat reminiscent of Juno, though without the pregnancy -- and this movie star handsome, rich jock with an infectious smile and a personality to match.

Suddenly, he was the one to watch, and we were disappointed at the outcome, which is all I'll say so as not to give too much away. What I will divulge is that, while the film's writer/director Nanette Burstein stuck to the four students she'd focused upon throughout the graduation ceremony, during the end credits Mitch was the only other kid added to the four stars in the "What are they doing now" section. And his information was put forth as the penultimate one -- just before the principal teen, Hannah Bailey, who'd narrated much of the film.

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Mitch is part of the national tour, along with Hannah, Colin, Megan and Jake -- the so-called main students at least until the film was edited. They all spent much of the summer in Hollywood, and in spite of the fact that Mitch is presumably poised to become a junior at Indiana University, I cannot believe producers, agents, managers and casting folks who have seen the film and/or met all the main participants at the varied screenings would not have reached out to him. At the very least to do a test for the next Gossip Girl or reincarnated Beverly Hills 90210. Mitch is the one who's being gossiped about on Facebook and other Internet blogging, and now apparently in the Huffington Post!

What all this shows is that star power is something indescribable. Yes, being a hunk helps, but Mitch showed vulnerability in spite of his 6-4 athletic frame and was extraordinarily likable with loads of charisma.

I'm reminded of an experience at a Broadway show many years ago. I was about to see Grease, whose star at the time was Jeff Conaway, and a friend of a friend had a featured role. So, my focus should have been on the lead actor or at least my friend's friend, but the actor who played Doody, the goofy sidekick, had me riveted.

At the end of the show, I went backstage to see the friend of a friend and I inquired about this actor, who I was told just came in from the Chicago production. I thought nothing of it afterwards, but a year or two later I was reading an article about one of the stars of Welcome Back, Kotter, John Travolta, who said, among other things, he'd been in Grease on Broadway.

The light bulb lit on top of my head and I fetched the old program I'd kept. Sure enough it was John Travolta I'd seen. There was no reason for me to have noticed him that night except for the magnetism he'd portrayed. The rest is history, and while I'm not saying Mitch Reinholt will have the career of someone as talented as John Travolta -- nor do I know if he even wants to try -- who knows? After all, a pretty face has done wonders for the likes of the otherwise monotoned actor Mark Harmon, who was additionally blessed with a famous family.

Mitch Reinholt has got a foot in the door. The question is whether he will open it to the inevitable knock.