Caleb McLaughlin wowed R&B enthusiasts as a young Ricky Bell in BET’s The New Edition Story on Tuesday (Jan. 24).
The Stranger Things star isn’t new to the world of performance, considering he got his start on Broadway as Young Simba in The Lion King, but he insists immortalizing a living icon in the highly-anticipated miniseries wasn’t an effortless feat.
“I sing and I dance, but he’s a ladies man,” the fifteen-year-old actor told the Huffington Post. “And I’m a ladies man too, but I’m not as slick and smooth as he is. But I became to be more slick and smooth as he is by learning the character.”
To Caleb and the entire New Edition Story cast’s excitement (and sometimes dismay), the original bad boys of R&B were on set regularly as co-producers of the film, which took ten years to hit the small screen. “It was challenging to please Mr. Ricky, but what actually helped a lot was Mr. Ricky being hands on in the project,” he explained. “I would call him and ask him some questions. I would look up YouTube videos to see his mannerisms and his dance skills. So that’s how I became the character.”
According to the man himself, he nailed it. “That kid [Caleb McLaughlin] is making me look good!” Bell live-tweeted on Tuesday (Jan. 24).
That kid @calebrmclaughl1 is making me look good! #NewEditionBet
— Ricky Bell (@MrRickyBell) January 25, 2017
@MrRickyBell it was an honor to portray you. Thank you. #NE4LIFE
— Caleb McLaughlin (@calebrmclaughl1) January 25, 2017
The New Edition Story marks the second foray into the ’80s for the newly-inducted “NE 4 Lifer,” who didn’t plan to take on back-to-back projects set in an era before his time. “I never really thought that I would be doing a bunch of 80s stuff,” he mused. “But it’s great because I get to learn more than my era and I can learn from people’s mistakes back then. It’s pretty fun. And I get to relive my parents’ childhood.”
We’ll be keeping an eye out for the talented teen’s next leap in the business.