Sam Lerner chats about Project Almanac

Sam Lerner Project Almanac screenshot 1:10:15

Welcome to yesterday as  group of teens discover secret plans of a time machine, and construct one themselves. They go back in time to correct mistakes.  However, things start to get out of control and people are bound to be hurt.  Michael Bay‘s latest film “Project Almanac“, directed by Dean Israelite, is set to hit theatres on January 30.  I had the opportunity to chat with the talented Sam Lerner about his role as Quinn Goldberg, his acting career and “Project Almanac”.

Project Almanac poster 1:10:15

Sam Lerner headshot 1/10/15

As the son of actor Ken Lerner along with sister actress  Jenny Lerner and uncle actor Michael Learner, it only seemed natural that Sam Lerner would eventually follow in his family’s footsteps.  Sam Lerner got his start in show business at the age of 9 under the wing of Hollywood talent manager Susan Curtis, who he continues to work with to this day. He spent his childhood alternating between auditions and school, baseball, basketball, skateboarding, and Hebrew School.

Four months later, Sam’s big break came when Barry Levinson cast him in the movie, “Envy”.  Soon after, Sam booked his first television pilot, which then lead to ongoing work in television, movies, video games, and school and synagogue plays.  He has worked with such producers as Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and Michael Bay and directors such as Barry Levinson, Brett Ratner and Gil Kenan.

Additional film credits include “Monster House” and “Walk Of Fame”. TV credits include “Suburgatory”, “The Secret Saturdays”, and “NCIS to name a few. He was nominated for an Annie Award for his voice acting as Chowder in “Monster House”.

As Sam has makes the transition from child actor to teen to adult actor, we are sure to see more of this brilliant young actor on tv and the silver screen.

Project Almanac screenshot 3 1:10:15

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Sam: I’m the same way. It’s a really cool topic to do a movie about.

Tell us more about “Project Almanac” and the plot.

Sam:  It is about a couple of high school kids who want to go to college. David Quinn wants to go to MIT specifically. He ends up getting in but he doesn’t get the financial aid. He is upset about it. He stumbles on how to build a time machine. They decide to get tools from Home Depot, put it together and start using it.

It is not like a time machine where you can to back to the Stone Age. You can go back a few weeks ago at most. You use it when you fail a test or you mess up with a girlfriend or boyfriend. You say something wrong and you can go back and change it. You start having fun with it, but repercussions start happening with it when you start changing the past.   It affects the future. We realize there are problems with it and it all gets crazy from there.

I notice there are all these disasters.

Sam: It takes a little bit of a dark turn.

Tell us more about Quinn Goldberg.

Sam: He’s fun to play. He is David Raskin’s (Jonny Weston) best friend. He is this loud mouth crazy kid. All he cares about is hanging out with girls and going to parties. They’ve been friends since they were kids, but David is a lot more shy and reserved than him. Quinn brings the fun out of David. He is encouraging him to have more fun. It was awesome because they let me improvise all the time while we were shooting. That was a blast.

Project Almanac screenshot 2 1:10:15

Do you see a lot of yourself in Quinn’s character?

Sam:  Certain things. There are certain times where whenever people are down, I rile things up. “Let’s do this! There’s a party over here!”   Quinn is a little crazier than me. I’m a little more reserved than Quinn.

A little less wild?

Sam:  Yes. He’s just crazy. There is a scene where he takes his shirt off and is running around getting painted by all these girls all over his body. He doesn’t care.

How did you get involved in this project?

Sam: It was a big audition process. I remember receiving this e-mail that Michael Bay is producing a film called “Almanac”. They changed the title to “Welcome to Yesterday” and now it is “Project Almanac”. At the time it was just “Almanac”. It seemed pretty cool. It was this high profile project where they wouldn’t send you the sides without you signing a document disclosure agreement. That was a big deal.

I must have gone eight separate time in terms of callbacks. It was a big audition process. It was a six month audition process from the first day I went in on it to the day I got it. It was so nerve wrecking because I wanted it so bad. It was on November 2012 where I was clueless if I was still up for it but in May  2013 I found out I got it. I was so excited.

Was that was one of the most grueling audition processes you’ve ever been through?

That has been by far the worst. I’ve been acting for a while, but this was insane because I was always thinking about it. I would call my manager and say, “Hey heard anything yet?” and she’d say, “No, we’re not going to call again! They aren’t going to give us any information.” They would say we’re still up for it. You can keep your hopes up and they can just release you and you are right back to square one.   It was a huge payoff when actually getting it because I waited so long.

That is something to be commended for. Congratulations on that!

Thanks a lot!

Sam Lerner Suburgatory 1:10:15
Sam Lerner as Evan in “Suburgatory”, 2014.

You’ve been acting for a while. Your father has an acting studio and your sister is an actor. Would you say they were influences on you getting into acting?

Sam: Yes, 100%. They made it completely normal to pursue. I have friends who are actors who are trying to break into the business and their parents want them to go to college or medical school.  “I want you to be a lawyer or have a normal job”. It is a crazy business to be in. But my dad was doing it and his brother Michael Lerner is also an actor. They supported me 100%. It was like “We trust you and if you work hard, then go for it.”  They made sure I had a normal childhood. I went to public school my whole life. My mom made sure I graduated with my high school diploma. They were definitely influences on me. They made me feel comfortable in choosing this profession.

It’s great that you had a great support team.

 Sam:  My parents have been the coolest. I was a child actor so they used to drive me around to auditions after school. Time and time again, they are the reason I am what I am.

If you had to say who your role model is for acting, who would it be?

Sam: I would say my Dad. He has also been through everything. He has been acting since he was 28 years old. He is now in his 60’s. Anytime I have a question or confused about something, he is an acting teacher, so he would help me with my auditions. It was like I had a free acting teacher.

Sam & Ken Lerner 1:10:15
Ken Lerner & Sam Lerner in a Wells Fargo commercial, 2011.

Were there any specific events in your childhood that made you realize acting was what you wanted to do with your life?

Sam: As far as a specific event is involved, I’ve always liked performing in school plays and musicals. I felt comfortable speaking publicly so I thought why not give it a shot.

My parents thought if I can balance school and acting, I can make enough money to go to college if I ends up not wanting to do this when I got older. As I got older, it kind of changed. When you are a child actor, you need charisma and say the line.  When you get older, you realize it’s a tough job.  There’s a lot of hard work involved. I started to care more about the work and going to acting classes.

There are transitions from child actor to teen actor. Would you say it was a smooth transition?

Sam: There was a period of a few years where I didn’t work. From  fourteen to sixteen, I wasn’t working much, but it was cool because I had to focus on school. It was smooth in some ways because I had all these connections because of my manager since I was nine years old. I knew casting directors-“I remember you because you were that little kid!”

It was harsh because I had to learn my lines and really work at this.   Maybe I wanted to go skateboarding or play basketball, but once I started caring about acting and realized the work that goes into it, that was a tough transition because there were so many other people that were working harder than me. I realized I had to get back into class and put fire under my butt and start going for it.

Sam Lerner Monster House 1:10:15
Sam Lerner at “Monster House” premiere, 2006.

For young actors that are trying to break into this very competitive business, what is your biggest piece of advice?

Sam:  Work every day. It is like anything else.  You have to work at it. In this business, people think it can come easy. It can, but if you want to sustain a career, you really have to work hard at it.  There are always going to be people working more than you. You have to level with them or beat them. Work on it every day and practice.

You are a testament that if you work hard, you can do whatever you want, and be in this great movie!

Sam:  I’m excited! This was a big payoff for me in terms of hard work. I was in class for three years straight without taking a break. I was doing some tv stuff here and there, but this was a big deal for me in terms of setting goals. I wanted a project that would take me to the next level, and it came. I’m hoping the film does well and people can see that.

Do you have upcoming projects beyond “Project Almanac”?

Sam: I play a character Jeb Schwartz.  It is a recurring role on “The Goldbergs” for ABC.  I’m playing one of Barry Goldberg’s friends. It’s a fun show. It is the perfect job for me. My friends consider me the mischievous person so my friends said “You need to be on the show because you’re so Jewish”.

This role was made for you.

Sam:  It was basically made for me.

For “Project Almanac”, what distinguishes this movie from other time travel movies?

 Sam: It is very grounded. The performances are really good.  It makes travel seem very real. It is one of the realest time travel movies I’ve seen.

 And when does the movie premiere in theatres?

Sam: January 30, 2015.

Thank you so much for your time Sam!

Sam: Thank you so much.

Sam Lerner headshot 1:10:15

“Today is better the second time around.” We all love a good sci-fi movie about time travel, and this film boasts a twist on the usual plot of turning back the clock.  It also makes you think about whether having the chance to improve your past really is the key to enhancing the future.  Playing with what was never meant to be touched can lead to disastrous consequences.  Be careful what you wish for. . . Make sure to check out this exciting new movie in theatres on January 30, 2015!

Official web site:


Twitter:  @AlmanacMovie / #ProjectAlamanac


Sam Lerner is on social media!

Twitter:  @SammyLerner


Photos by Sami Drasin Photography

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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