McCulley, who was born and raised in Cleveland, has rocketed into the world of television, music videos and motion pictures faster than you can say, “lights, camera, action!” The 6-foot-4 teen landed a small role in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1,” to be released in November 2014.
He recently completed a music video starring upcoming pop star Lexi, to debut later on MTV, Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. Over the weekend he went back to Atlanta to shoot scenes on the set of “Devious Maids,” a Lifetime series, where he is cast as a college student in one episode. So to say these are busy and exciting times for the young man who always dreamed of acting as a profession, would be an understatement. That’s all fine, according to McCulley.
The modest, soft-spoken youth who favors a young Leonardo DiCaprio, said he feels blessed to be able to follow his dreams and pursue a craft that has fascinated him since childhood.
“I’ve always loved acting and I’ve always loved movies,” McCulley admits. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do. When I got a role in ‘Hunger Games,’ everything started falling into place. I watch three or four movies a week. My entire life is movies. I would re-enact them with my friends when I was little. I could always remember the lines. My parents would ask me, ‘How do you do that?’ I never really understood how. But I could go through a whole movie or TV show. That’s how I started my love for acting — watching movies and being inspired by the actors.”
Whereas most people in the film industry may start out with bit parts in commercials or television and work their way up to films, McCulley said his experience has been just the opposite. First, he landed a part in “Hunger Games,” then a week later was invited to be in a music video. Another week later he had landed a role as a regular on Nickelodeon, followed by a part in “Devious Maids.”
“That’s very fast. So I feel very blessed to be able to do all of that,” he said.
With his father being pastor of River Worship Center, McCulley was able to create faith-based plays and perform them at church, which he says gave him a creative outlet and the confidence to perform in front of a live audience. He said what he likes most about acting is “getting to be someone else and studying that character.”
“This gives you a chance to escape the real world and be someone else for a while. It’s fun!” said McCulley, who’s gotten most of his acting roles online and by word-of-mouth. Having done some print and runway modeling for a few hair shows, including Clairol, McCulley said his parents, Machelle and Patrick McCulley, are “very supportive.”
Although he did theater for six years in Chattanooga, he said he never had the opportunity to pursue acting as a career because of the distance between Cleveland and Atlanta. Now that he is older, McCulley drives himself to auditions in the Peach State.
“Following your dreams is the biggest thing,” he said. “If you don’t do what you love you’ll be miserable. They say ‘Once you find out what you love to do — choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ That’s true for me. I act in a lot of things and I don’t consider it work. I consider it fun.”
The Cleveland Christian School graduate is currently at Cleveland State taking a course in the field of emergency medical services as a licensed emergency medical technician, or EMT. Now that he has landed a paying role on a new televised sitcom, McCulley may soon be re-evaluating his options.
McCulley, 18, said he would not forget his roots or his faith-based training when accepting roles, adding, “I think, as a Christian, Hollywood definitely needs more Christian people there. That could be my ministry — my acting — to let my light shine in a place that needs it more than ever. What better place to do it than in a place that needs it the most? I have already been offered some roles that I had to turn down because it didn’t fit my beliefs. I don’t think that will be an issue for me. I would rather wait for the next opportunity than compromise and do something just for a paycheck.”
For McCulley, the wait may have paid off already in his latest role on “Keller Nation.” According to information on its official website, after Keller Boyce, a popular member of the hit teen boy band sensation, The Love Puppies, is kicked out of his group by the record company for lip syncing, he is forced to go back to a normal life at Retro Junior High School, where he then decides to return to fame by starting a whole new crew.
Along the way back to stardom Keller encounters new and old friends, including Courtney Valentine, his best friend from before he was famous, Vida Fischer, the controlling, yet clumsy know-it-all who happens to be his biggest fan, Phoebe McIntyre, the violent, yet lovable, punk girl, and Aden Pierce, the awkward ‘theater kid’ who has a speech impediment that causes him to ‘rap’ and create ‘beats’ when nervous. McCulley plays Roger Grape, a close friend and band member of Ben Summers, Keller’s new archenemy.
Each episode will focus on Keller’s adventures back at Retro Junior High School, as he meets a unique assortment of students — from the theater nerd and bullying hipster to the musically inclined and the socially awkward. Ultimately, Keller Nation entertains families with original music, comedic dialogue, and kid-friendly moral messages.
To see behind-the-scenes videos of “Keller Nation,” visit the Keller Nation Official Website: http://pressleysa.wix.com/kellernation.