The show takes place at a Bobby Wasabi Martial Arts Academy in a local strip mall, the worst dojo of the entire Bobby Wasabi chain. When Snyder’s character, Milton, and his buddies Jerry and Eddie (Mateo Arias and Alex Jones) befriend the new kid in town, Jack (Leo Howard), they realize that Jack’s karate abilities might be the key to keeping Bobby Wasabi from shutting down.
With season two well underway, Snyder continues to enjoy playing the honors student who ditches his French horn for karate class, but also appreciates the opportunity to let the character grow. Check out what Snyder had to say about where he hopes to take Milton in future episodes as well as building his career and following his dream in the interview below.
You got your first role at just 18 months, but when was it that you realized acting was something you truly loved and wanted to do as a career?
Dylan Riley Snyder: I never actually realized that it was something I wanted to do. I just followed the acting adventure to New York as a challenge to see if I could. My only goal when I left Alabama was to spend six months in New York looking for representation. Several years later, after achieving things I never thought possible, I’m still enjoying my hobby, acting. My career one day will be hopefully to become an engineer. So I haven’t actually followed my dream; I’ve achieved my goal.
Was there any convincing needed to get your mother to move to New York?
Yes! My mom told me I’d be sacrificing a lot at a young age by leaving home, being away from my friends and family. After a year and Hurricane Katrina while I was working on a production of “Assassins” at the University of Alabama, a professor suggested I consider going to New York for a short time. I negotiated with my parents that since my school wasn’t in session due to the damage done in the hurricane, why not try it out for a six-month trial period? If nothing came of it, at least we could say we tried and had an amazing adventure in the process. I believe that since it was a short-term opportunity they decided it would be doable. Unfortunately/fortunately, it’s now been seven years.
What was the plan when you got to New York? Were you aiming to break into TV, movies, Broadway or maybe a little of everything?
My goal was merely to get representation and hopefully go on some film auditions. Although all of my experience was in theatre, the professor from U of A suggested film due to my “naturalness.” Broadway just kind of happened. I was a lean boy soprano that they were looking for in “Tarzan” the musical. While working on Broadway, I managed to do some radio voice-over commercials and a little print work. Since the end of the show, I worked in another straight play, non-musical, and a film with Allison Janney, before landing the television role.
Are you studying the craft of acting at all or are you learning through experience?
My early years were spent in theatre with university students and there I studied and focused on all the aspects of theatre from the directing, choreography to other actor’s style and incorporating my character to blend with them. In an Off Broadway show I did with the wonderful actor Bill Heck, “Orphans’ Home Cycle,” I portrayed his character, Horace, as a young boy. I watched his mannerisms, his walk, and the pacing of his speaking. It was wonderful during a panel discussion with the audience that several commented on the flow of our characters. It was only then he realized how much he was under my microscope. On “Kickin’ It,” I had never done comedy so my study victim is Jason Earles.
At this point, is there any one piece of advice you’ve been given that you think will stick with you throughout your career?
Oh my god, I still thank this director to this day! When I was working on the production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” when I was six as the character Dill, the director, Paul Looney, had watched me perform in a production of “Peter Pan.” His explanation to me of the differences of the plays was, “Okay kid, you can’t get by with looking cute anymore. You’re gonna have to act!” I stay in contact with all of the directors I had back home because I feel like they’re my steppingstones of acting.
How has it been going from the stage to film to TV? Does one format come more naturally to you than another?
My directors have always said I had a natural delivery and that film was going to be my forte. I’ve worked harder in theatre due to the projecting of my voice and the training I did in voice and dance to become a triple threat. However, theatre really helped me in television due to the performance of staying in character even when not the subject. Our cameramen questioned my mom about my experience in theatre because they said they could shoot me from any angle and that it made their job easier. It was funny that they could tell without seeing my resume.
And how’d you get involved with “Kickin’ It?” Milton was your first comedic role, so do you remember what you did in the audition to make them think you were right for the part?
I was living in New York. Just had completed a long run Off Broadway and was called in to my agency to be put on tape for a new show. The role was for Milton, a socially awkward genius. I went into the audition just wanting to have fun. I’d never done comedy before and had just spent over a year doing a very dramatic role, so I figured I’d go for broke. I love improv so when I was asked to imitate a character or do a special talent, I actually made them laugh with my choices.
And how about the karate? The show is in season two, so are you legitimately good at it now?
I’m really good at pretending to be better than I am. I think my dance training has really helped me in the choreography of karate. I catch on quick.
How’s it working with Leo Howard? His action scenes in “Conan the Barbarian” and “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” are pretty incredible.
It’s great! We bonded pretty quickly from the mix and match audition session and stayed in contact over the several months it took to find out if the show was going to be picked up.
Did he teach you anything?
He still is! I’m working out with him and Jason. They’ve trained longer than I have so I’m constantly learning, especially in a headlock!
Are there any rules on set as far as the action goes? Are you allowed to mess around when the cameras aren’t rolling or are the people in charge afraid you’ll get hurt?
When we aren’t on set we’re usually back in school getting our other work done.
In so far as messing around, we have Nerf wars and go on attack to either the writers room or other shows like “A.N.T. Farm.” Mess around fighting, it’s not usually done. Sometimes during lunch when our stunt coordinators are there they’ll warm us up with gymnastics, but the fighting is left for work time.
How is it shooting season two compared to season one? Is it kind of like coming home, knowing exactly what you need to do when you get to set?
It is like getting back to a routine. The only difference I have is with having Milton grow as a character and not keeping him the same. The work routine is pretty stable – school, rehearse, producers run, taping. Weird thing is having the shows that you’ve recently taped begin airing, so it seems as if time’s moving faster.
And how about your relationship with your co-cast and the crew? Are you all one big family now?
It fell into place right when we began shooting our pilot. Great chemistry! I think my favorite part is when the crew brings their kids to the set. It makes me feel part of their family as well.
Any hopes for season three? Maybe a certain situation you’d like to find Milton in or side of him you’d like to explore?
Keeping my fingers crossed for season three! I know the fans want another season of “Kickin’ It.” Milton has a big following of kids who relate to him. I’m trying to keep him off the really nerdy, silly side and more relatable. I’d like to see him in more physical comedy and fights. The shows the I’ve enjoyed are the ones where all of us break into a great battle. Milton is a mix of MacGyver and Ben Franklin.
And how about beyond the show? Do you have your eye on anything? Maybe a movie or hope to head back to Broadway?
In so far as acting, I’d love to do movies, which was my first goal from the start. The path that Matthew Broderick and Ed Norton have set is pretty impressive. As an actor, I just love the work and want to do it.