Fallbrook native Leo Howard has been displaying his black belt martial arts skills in front of the camera since he was 8 years old. Now 13, Leo stars in the new original series Kickin’ It, premiering on Disney XD this Monday, June 13. Leo also plays the part of young Conan in the upcoming summer blockbuster Conan the Barbarian. Leo opens up to San Diego Magazine about his intense training routine, his character on Kickin’ It, and how he spends his limited free time here in San Diego.
Why did you decide to begin acting instead of competing when you were 8?
It really was just a passion. It was meant to be. At four years old I started martial arts. Bruce Lee really was my inspiration as an actor who did martial arts. At one tournament when I was seven years old, my mom said, "Where do you think this is going?" I said, "I want to be an actor and be in the movies like Bruce Lee." Thanks to my parents I was able to follow my dream.
What do you think are your similarities and differences to your character Jack on Kickin' It?
Jack helps turn around the Bobby Wasabi Martial Arts Academy. He’s cool and energetic. Everybody likes Jack though he does make mistakes—usually pretty big ones. He’s mischievous and good at encouraging kids to do what they want to do. We are pretty much alike. It’s very easy for me to get into character. One big difference is that I can’t skateboard to save my life!
What does your training routine involve on a typical day?
It depends on the day. I try to get in as much training as I can. There are days I’m training 14-15 hours and days I’m not training at all. I’m doing fight scenes almost every single week now. I do extreme martial arts so it’s acrobatic and high-paced.
Who has been most interesting or inspiring to work with so far?
There’s been a few. Jason Earles has been an ultra-inspiration for me, he’s helped me with comedy skills and I’ve helped him with karate. Ron Perlman in Conan the Barbarian and Stephen Lang both encouraged me and gave me good advice.
What are your favorite things to do in your free time?
There’s not too much free time lately. I’m learning the guitar so that’s what I pretty much do in my spare time. I like ‘80s rock 'n' roll and I love Van Halen.
Favorite place to eat when you're home in San Diego?
Two of my favorites are Italian and Japanese. I’m guaranteed to like those.