You’ve already seen Ryan Ochoa play some iconic characters on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, and now the star has a very exciting breakout role in an indie drama film. The 22-year-old California native played Lanny in the Disney XD show Pair of Kings and Chuck Chambers in the fan-fave Nick series iCarly – and soon, you’ll get to know him as the Eli, his leading role in The Samuel Project. J-14 caught up with Ryan to find out what it was like working on such a touching film, and he opened up about everything from what his character goes through in the movie to what the cast dynamic was like on set. And for teens, he truly believes they’ll relate to this film on a deep level.

“After I read [the script], I could relate to the characters and was inspired by the story. Being a kid myself, and not just because I am in the movie, I feel like it is going to inspire kids to pursue their dreams, the same feeling I got once I read the script. What I also like is how it may open up the eyes of our generation to connect with their family more,” he tells J-14.

The Samuel Project connects generations in a really powerful way. You see, the movie follows the story of high school senior, Eli, who has a dream of becoming an artist. And so, he has his grandfather, Samuel, become his subject for an animated art project of his. Through his experience working on the piece, Eli learns that when his Jewish grandfather grew up in Germany as a kid, a young woman saved him from being captured by Nazis.

“My character Eli, an aspiring artist, struggles to convince his father and grandfather, that his passion for art is not an impossible career. He believes in his artistic ability and would do anything to show it,” he explains.

Seeing as the movie has a small cast, Ryan went on to explain that everyone on set really got close fairly quickly.

“I myself really connected with every cast member, every one of them was cool in their own way, and had their own separate passions, which I connected with,” he says. “Philippe Bowgen, who plays Eli’s teacher, takes his fitness seriously, just like me! You already know we had talks about working out every morning.”

He even knew his castmate, Mateo Arias, long before working on this film.

“I did a movie with his brother ten years before this one, so we were already really close before production started, which made our dynamics on and off set even better. He is also a musician like me, so we were jammin’ all around anytime we could.”

The Samuel Project will hit New York City on Sept 28, 2018, and will be released nationwide on Oct, 5.