Rick Malambri Exclusive

The leading man in the dance film Step Up 3D and former model, Rick Malambri also knows a thing or two about looking stylish in this exclusive feature. By Dino Moriartie

Rick Malambri is from a place in Florida nicknamed “Destin” and born in 1982, he was literally “discovered” by a model talent scout on the streets, while he was a university student (majoring in digital media/computer graphics). He quickly ended up on the runways of New York and Europe.

Previously working with Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger and Abercrombie & Fitch, he gave that all up for a career as an actor on the big screen. With a small role in Universal Soldiers and another alongside Bruce Willis in last year’s Surrogates, among others, it was almost inevitable that he would make the transition to leading man. And that is exactly where he is in Step Up 3D, as well as others that are in the pipeline.

DA MAN spoke with Rick and gained some valuable insights into possibly the next big thing in “Tinseltown.”

DA: What can you tell us about Step Up 3D and the part you play in it?
Rick Malambri:
In Step Up 3D, I play a character named Luke Katcher, who is an aspiring film director inspired by dance. The film follows Luke, and a group of dancers—which he lives with—on a journey to win a huge underground dance battle that could possibly save them from some troubles they have found themselves in. It’s a high-energy film packed full of dance, with a nice heartfelt story involved.

DA: How do you feel about working in a movie that portrays a new phenomenon like these dance ‘battles’ as shown in the film and others on TV like Dancing with the Stars?
I think it is amazing and I feel extremely privileged to be a part of it. I think dance is making a huge name for itself in today’s entertainment world, and people are becoming huge fans of it. It’s a perfect time for a movie like this, and especially with it being shot in 3-D.

DA MAN: How did you get interested in becoming an actor?
I truly became interested in acting at a later stage in my life. I never knew, as a kid, that this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always thought I would be doing something more practical, like something to do with architecture or graphic design.

Rick Malambri

DA: What did you do as a kid?
I had this weird fascination with taking things apart and then putting them back together. I remember when my mother or grandmother would get me something new; I would just demolish it instead of playing with it, then figure out how to put it back together and make it new again. I did the same with my G.I. Joes. I would take them apart and swap bottoms with upper torsos and create new G.I. Joe characters, then I would build forts for them and blow them up [laughs]. I had a crazy imagination back then. As I got older, I got into the art of drawing and computers, which stemmed from my first love, computer graphic design.

DA: What part of Florida are you from?
I am from a small town called Fort Walton Beach, which is also better known as ‘Destin.’ It’s known for its beautiful beaches, on the Gulf of Mexico. The sand is so white and so fine that it looks like snow and squeaks between your feet. It’s a big tourist spot during spring break and the summer.

DA: Are you now based full time in Los Angeles?
Yes, I am now fully committed to Tinseltown. I love Los Angeles, although I live in the valley, which is just north of Hollywood. It’s the perfect spot and feels more like home to me.

DA: Do you ever get the jitters on set?
I think the jitters are something everyone gets from time to time. But it’s like going into your big game, or an important meeting. At first, you feel a little anxious, but if you have prepared yourself for it, the jitters go away the moment you are in it, and you just own it.

DA: What do you do to prepare and get better as an actor?
Practice. You can never practice enough. I continually take classes and get coached on projects before I go in for a role. You have to understand the ins and outs of a character to truly portray what and who that person really is. It takes a lot of time and dedication to break down those characteristics and make strong choices for their every situation.

DA: With more and more actors becoming fashion ambassadors (and you’ve modeled for fashion houses), what is your take on the fashion industry?
Fashion is a funny thing. I never really understood it. It’s always changing and it’s something that is hard for a guy like me to keep up with. I just find myself leaning more toward the classic look. It seems to be a safe choice and you can never go wrong with it. I’m always a firm believer in ‘you make what you wear look good by how you wear it.’ So if you feel good in it, you’re probably going to be just fine.

DA: Your first film was Universal Soldiers. How do you think you have grown and developed as an actor since then?
Wow [laughs]. I hope you never watched that film. Honestly, I had never had any 
acting experience when I made that film, and I was asked to do it as a favor for a friend. We shot it in one week, I think, for US$25 a day. It was a fun thing to do, but I seriously hope I have improved tremendously from that effort.

DA: As far as acting goes, are you satisfied with what you’ve achieved so far?
I would say I am very grateful for what I have achieved so far. I am very fortunate to have been given an opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful film, as well as be welcomed by such an amazing company as Disney.

DA: Which movie genre do you consider yourself to be best at?
Since I am in an early stage in my career, I haven’t been able to play around too much with different genres, but if I had to choose I would like to play roles like Leonardo DiCaprio or Johnny Depp do.

DA: What are the factors around the set that you believe will boost your performance as an actor?
I love when a director understands what he wants in an actor, what he wants in 
his/her character. I find it easy to take direction from a person who has a true understanding of how they want a scene or character to play out. When you are able to work with truly visionary people, it really shows the talent in the final outcome.

Rick Malambri

DA: You recently got married. How are you balancing that with your career?
I balance my personal life and my career very easily. I have a wonderful wife who is very supportive of my career, just as I am of her career. When you truly know you have found the one, it just works. And my wife’s Korean chicken is absolutely to die for.

DA: Which project have you enjoyed most up to this point?
I would have to say Step Up 3D, it’s the biggest project I have done in my career at this point. Working on this film was not only an enjoyable experience, but it was also a huge learning experience for me.

DA: Where do you see yourself 10 years in the future?
Hopefully, still making great movies with a nice, steady career.

DA: What was your best subject at school?
I always had a thing for math and science. But If I had to choose one of those now, it would be science. I am a huge technology geek.

DA: What keeps you awake tossing and turning at night?
When I have an idea of something creative, if I don’t write it down or create it right when I think of it, I’ll forget it. And for some reason a lot of those things come to my mind right before I fall asleep or in my dreams.

DA: What are you most proud of?
That I have followed my dreams and I have never given up. I think that is a huge part of creating happiness in life, to do the things you have always dreamed of, because nothing is impossible in this life.

DA: What is your favorite sport/hobby apart from dancing?
I am a huge surfer. I have been surfing since I was a kid growing up in Florida. Apart from that, I am also a really big nerd. I’ve been a computer geek since the age of seven, when I got my first computer. It was a 386DXII. It was then that I fell in love for the first time. I spent so many hours on that thing. At the age of 11 I built my first computer and started to learn how to do my art on the computer, along with other things, like writing code and designing. It is still something that I truly enjoy.

DA: What is the biggest thrill you get from acting?
It is thrilling because it is about using emotions and experiences to tell a story in a form of art.

DA: What is the best thing you’ve ever bought?
My iPad [laughs]. It goes everywhere with me, it keeps me organized.

DA: What’s your favorite film or book?
Right now I am really into this book series called The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins. It’s a trilogy about post-apocalyptic America. They are making them into a movie series and it’s going to be amazing if it is anything like the books. You honestly cannot put them down once you start, and the third book of the series comes out August 24. I can’t wait!

DA: What tattoos do you have?
The tattoo on my left forearm is an astrological sign for Scorpio; an “M” shape with a scorpion tail on the end, which represents my astrological sign as well as my last name. There is also a Japanese-style wave surrounding it, representing Scorpio as a water sign because I grew up in the water surfing. And it is something that truly represents me. The tattoo on my right arm is the Korean letters that spell love.

Rick Malabri

Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack and Eric Silverberg

To see the full feature with more full-size images, click here for the DA MAN August/September 2010 back issue.