FRESNO, Calif. (MCT) – "Cloud 9," a tale of young love told against the backdrop of a fierce snowboarding competition, has all the elements that make Disney Channel movies so popular: an interesting location, cute and cuddly animals and a sweet romance.
Dove Cameron, star of the Disney Channel's "Liv and Maddie," plays Kayla, a prima donna snowboarder who gets dropped from her team. Once she realizes her success has been a sham, she turns to Will (Luke Benward), a former snowboarding champion who gave up the sport after a major injury when attempting an improbable move called Cloud 9. He would rather tend to the eccentric dogs boarded at the kennel where he works.
The pair find a way to help each other.
Benward says he enjoyed the snowy location shoot in Park City, Utah, and working with all of the scene-stealing dogs. It's the romance part of any script that's always a little awkward for him. Those issues were dealt with before the work started.
"The audition for this movie was the weirdest audition experience I have ever had," Benward says. "They had me and Dove read separately and then together to see if we had any chemistry."
The weird part came when they had to read the scene in front of a table filled with Disney executives. They were told to do the scene again, but, this time at the end, Benward was asked to walk away, turn around and return to kiss Cameron. That threw both actors for a loop because they generally don't do intimate scenes until they're in front of the cameras.
In the end, the kiss worked so well the pair got cast. And it helped Benward get past his nerves.
"When you do stuff like that on camera it can be really awkward because all of these people are standing around watching and you are supposed to be showing all of this emotion," Benward says. "Because we had already kissed, it made us more comfortable when we got on the set."
The romance part ended up being a lot easier than the snowboarding part.
Benward had learned to snowboard when he was 13 and traveled to Colorado with his father, Aaron Benward of the country duo Blue County, for a cancer research benefit. But there also was a snowboarding boot camp for the entire cast before filming started.
Benward's got enough skill on a snowboard to get around, but he was never able to master one key move.
"Most of the movie deals with half piping," Benward says. "They tried to teach us how to drop into the half pipe, but it's a lot harder than it looks. The experts ended up making us all look good."
Although he's only 18, Benward, a Tennessee native, already has a long list of TV, film and commercial credits, including his current work on the ABC Family series "Ravenswood." He jokes that he was born into this line of work because his father's a professional singer and his mother, Kenda, is a part-time actress, model and acting coach. He's the grandson of Contemporary Christian artist Jeoffrey Benward.
Benward's first acting role was in the 2002 film "We Were Soldiers." He's best known for playing Billy Forrester in the movie "How to Eat Fried Worms." As for his musical roots, Benward released a five song EP in 2009, "Let Your Love Out."
"I grew up singing, but now I am more focused on acting," Benward says. "It's more of a passion for me."
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