Home Film Hunter Payton Mendoza talks ‘A Genie’s Tail’ and more – Exclusive Interview

Hunter Payton Mendoza talks ‘A Genie’s Tail’ and more – Exclusive Interview

by Conor O'Brien
Hunter Payton Mendoza

Hunter Payton Mendoza is a 16-year-old actor. You might recognise Hunter from his guest star role as ‘Jordan’ on the Disney Channel hit series Raven’s Home, or for appearing in other popular TV series such as LA’s Finest, A to Z, and Criminal Minds.

In 2020, Hunter has also starred in the feature film A Genie’s Tail, playing the role of “Ryder”. He appears alongside an ensemble young cast including Jake Paul and Laura Marano.

Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.

Hunter Payton Mendoza (HPM): Yeah, of course.

You’re a young actor, with a growing career. How did you first get started in the industry?

HPM: I started when I was about 6, actually. I remember I went to a fairground and I was messing around, having fun dancing. This one guy who had this acting studio was like: “Hey! Do you want to maybe come to the acting studio, see what’s up? We’ll give you a free class. If you like it, you like it.”

I was like: “Sure.” We went there and I ended up loving it ever since.

To what extent has the pandemic affected your 2020 plans?

HPM: Honestly, it’s mainly affected things like going out to events. Filming’s really rough because… auditions that I’ve gone to, they’re either going to film it when they get the chance or it’s going to be years and years later. Acting has taken such a slow turn now. On top of that, I was going to be a ‘scare actor’ this year, going through horror mazes for Halloween. That got cancelled, obviously, which kinda sucks.

Out of everyone you have worked with, who has inspired you the most?

HPM: Who’s inspired me the most? Honestly, on Genie’s Tale when I worked with the Farley brothers, such nice people, oh my goodness. They were the funniest people on set I’ve ever met and they had this drive to be like: “Oh the take’s messed up, let’s do it again.” I liked their motivation, it was really cool.

Let’s talk about your film A Genie’s Tail. What can you tell us about the project and your character in it?

HPM: It’s a super family-friendly movie with Laura Marano (Disney’s Austin and Ally), Jake Paul (YouTube personality), and the Farley brothers as I mentioned before. It’s about these two kids finding a genie lamp and the genie takes control of their dog, a little bit. It’s this crazy adventure that they go through and I am the bully, the evil one. I’m trying to mess with the genie, get out of it what I want. It’s just a really fun movie, lot of comedy.

You mentioned Jake Paul and Laura Marano. How was your experience of working with him?

HPM: They were so nice. Jake Paul is super down-to-earth and quiet on set. He’s so kind on set. Laura Marano was just a total sweetheart, so nice. They were both really awesome to work with, really cool people.

What are you most looking forward to, about the film coming out?

HPM: I’m really looking forward to seeing… there’s a certain scene, can’t say too much about but it’s really goofy. I actually learned skateboarding just for the movie. It’s a really goofy scene where I’m getting chased and I really want to see how that turned out because I didn’t get a chance to see the final cut of it. It’s really goofy and funny, I just really want to see that scene.

You have also appeared on television – Raven’s Home is one example. How was your experience of being on a Disney Channel show?

HPM: It was awesome. All the people on set, the main actors and the co-stars I was with were so cool. They were so chill, we were just all relaxed and making jokes on set. How they film is really cool. We record everything first and go through with it. Then, we do the audience recording. The audience recording is only in front of one set piece. So, all our scenes there are the only ones that the audience really sees, which was really cool. We did all the filming three days beforehand, go in and do the whole filming. It was really fun.

Being only 16 years of age, how familiar were you with That’s So Raven or Cory In The House?

HPM: I loved Cory In The House, that was like my shtick. They had a lot of reruns of it while I was, you know, watching Disney Channel and that was such a good show. It kind of became a meme, a while ago, because of how good a show it was. I was familiar with that world, a little bit.

You’ve also guest-starred on shows such as Criminal Minds and LA’s Finest. Do you prefer doing drama or comedy?

HPM: It’s a lot of two extremes – either I am crying or making a silly joke. It’s two extremes, but very awesome.

In 2018, you won the award for Best Minor In A Lead Role at the Malibu Film Festival for Father’s Day Breakfast. What did that accomplishment mean to you?

HPM: It meant a lot because obviously, when you’re first filming it, you don’t think of: “Oh, this might get me an award later on.” You don’t really think about that. How I approach a lot of my acting roles is that I am very in the moment. Last minute during a scene, I will make a choice. I usually tell my co-stars: “I might make a choice, just go with it.” It feels natural. A lot of the time, those are the scenes we use.

Father’s Day Breakfast was a very emotional film because it was about a deaf father and having to deal with that kind of attachment. It was set in 1980s, I think and was a very one-on-one, trying to seek my father’s approval. The actor who played the deaf father was actually deaf in real life, so I had to learn sign language to communicate with him. It was a really good movie. I loved it, probably one of my favourites that I’ve ever done.

How important was that authenticity in Father’s Day Breakfast, with your co-star actually being deaf in real life?

HPM: It was really important because there was a lot of parts in the movie that wouldn’t have worked. First day of filming, I kind of forgot he was deaf. It made it a lot more personable. When I was sitting with him, I remember this… on set, you want to build chemistry so that it’s more realistic.

We were sitting on a swing together and I barely knew any sign language at all. The way we were communicating was playing ‘rock, paper, scissors.’ We built a bond by laughing at the inconsistencies. It was fun and would have been a very different experience if he wasn’t really deaf. I think it would have been a less authentic experience.

Away from acting, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

HPM: I love doing parkour. I do that all the time, actually. Recently, with the virus and everything like that, I can’t really go out into the normal spots that I do. I found this wall on my property that’s probably twice my height and I’ve been practicing flips off of that. I’ve been really focusing on myself – working out, parkour. I can’t wait for when the gym’s back open and try crazy stuff.

We are all living in tough times, with the pandemic. If you could offer advice to people around your age right now, what would it be?

HPM: I would give the advice to take this opportunity. A lot of people are saying they’re bored, they don’t know what to do, it’s scary. I’ve taken this time to better myself in a lot of ways – focusing on working out, finding new hobbies. I would say take this time to reflect while you have the time to think about yourself. What do I want to change? What do I need to change? And, who do I want to be after this is all over? You have the time now to focus on those aspects of yourself and make yourself feel better.

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