INSIDE EDITION's Hidden Camera Investigation into a Child Acting School
Could your child be the next Disney superstar like Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez?
You might think that if you heard a radio commercial that's airing around the country, which asks: "How would you like to be on the Disney Channel?" The ad also says, "This weekend a world-famous agent will be in your area looking for kids ages 6-17," and "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
And thousands of families are flocking to these auditions like the one INSIDE EDITION attended at an office building in Secaucus, New Jersey.
The auditions are held by a company called ACT, the Academy for Cinema and Television. The office where the auditions were held in New Jersey was packed with young wanna-be actors and their parents. 17-year-old Sarah also attended, but she has no interest in acting. She's there with an INSIDE EDITION producer who is posing as her mother.
First Sarah was briefly interviewed. Then it was time for her audition. She was asked to read a few lines for a restaurant ad.
Sarah admits she's not much of an actress. But on top of that, INSIDE EDITION asked her to intentionally flub her lines.
She was pretty awful, but the folks at ACT apparently didn't think so. The next day Sarah got called back for a meeting with Lindy Kwock, National Director of ACT.
"I want you to know from my heart that if I did not feel that your daughter had the potential I would not have you be making this investment," Kwock told INSIDE EDITION's producer.
So what's this about an investment? There was no mention of that in the radio commercial. It's only at the audition that you learn that ACT is an expensive acting school, and they wanted us to pay $6,900 for 12 days of group lessons.
"It's a sad joke," says Connie Greene, who worked for ACT in 2009. She says they decide who gets a callback based on the parent's ability to pay.
"We looked at jewelry, we looked at the shoes you wore, we looked at your clothing. It had nothing to do with talent, it had to do with, could they pay for the school."
She says parents pay because they think the company is associated with Disney.
"They somehow and some way make it seem like you're going to be on Disney, that they're actually recruiting and trying to find talent for Disney," Greene says.
But a Disney spokesman tells INSIDE EDITION they have no association whatsoever with ACT.
Adrian R'Mante plays the wacky bellhop Esteban on the hit Disney shows The Suite Life of Zach and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck.
He runs an acting camp for kids in Los Angeles and says those radio ads for ACT are misleading. "The problem is you get everyone coming out of the woodwork because they think they will have a shot for Disney, and the truth is they're not, they're just not," he says.
R'Mante used to be a paid spokesperson for ACT until he says he severed ties in June 2009 after learning about numerous complaints against the company.
But INSIDE EDITION found ACT representative Lindy Kwock using R'Mante's name to sell classes just a few weeks ago!
"Here is where we bring in celebrities to work with our children. Celebrities like Adrian R'mante, Taylor Lautner, so you really get the best from the best," she told our undercover producer.
"That is so shady. I hate that. That is my point. Now, do you see why I disassociated myself? I don't do anything for that company; I haven't since June of '09," says R'Mante after seeing the hidden camera footage.
The owner of ACT, George Gammon, declined to be interviewed on camera. Instead he sent INSIDE EDITION a statement saying he's had many success stories and "ACT gives kids and teens an opportunity to learn about the entertainment industry...We work with several top casting directors and agents..."
But Greene says, "This is a child's dream you're playing with. He's getting rich and fat over it. Do the right thing, which is tell the truth, announce it the way it really is. Don't put it as Disney because Disney has nothing to do with it."
INSIDE EDITION asked Mr. Gammon for the name of any student who got a job with Disney. He didn't provide one. The company has an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau in Arizona, where it's headquartered.