Posted on Monday, February 13th, 2017 by Blake Harris
In 1979, an inventor/entrepreneur by the name of Scott Olson patented an idea for single-line roller skates. Not long after, with the help of his two brothers, Olson began to manufacture something called “Rollerblades.” With a sleek design and fun neon colors, these inline skates appealed to a generation of leisure sports enthusiasts.
By 1987, inline skating had grown into a $10 million market. And by 1994, that number had skyrocketed to $650. Unsurprisingly, in the midst of this boom, a couple of producers thought it would be wise to make a movie centered around rollerblading; specifically, a movie centered around a rollerblade-lovin’ California teen who suddenly finds himself exiled to Cincinnati. That movie was called Airborne and that teen was played by Shane McDermott.
Currently, McDermott is a real estate broker and artist living in Galveston, Texas. But he was kind enough to spend some time speaking with me about his acting days and the making of Airborne.
How Did This Get Made is a companion to the podcast How Did This Get Made with Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael which focuses on movies This regular feature is written by Blake J. Harris, who you might know as the writer of the book Console Wars, soon to be a motion picture produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. You can listen to the Airborn edition of the HDTGM podcast here.
Synopsis: Teenager Mitchell Goosen (Shane McDermott) loves to surf and rollerblade. So when he’s forced to leave sunny California for chilly Cincinnati, everything in Mitchell’s life is instantly turned upside down. Well, everything but his love for extreme sports that is.
Tagline: Man Wasn’t Meant to Fly! Kids Were!
Part 1: From Modeling to Movies
Blake J. Harris: Thanks so much for speaking with me, Shane. Where are you living these days?
Shane McDermott: I’m in Galveston, Texas. Been here since, oh by, since 2003. It’s a very interesting little town. A walkable city. Has a lot of history; a lot of great stories. Right on the water. Turned out to be a really good place to live. And look at me now: I’m married, two kids [laughing]…
Blake J. Harris: Excellent. Well why don’t we start by you taking me back in time to when you were a kid? Tell me about how you first got into acting.
Shane McDermott: I was young—I was 10 or 11 years old—and I was living in Texas at the time. The way it played out was I was a Ford Model. At that age, there was a good deal of business for however big [meaning age/size] I was; but the work was in New York. So at about age 11 I moved to New York City and started doing the modeling stuff. But as I got bigger—
Blake J. Harris: —Wait, tell me more about that. What was it like to be a 10-11 year old model? What an unusual life…
Shane McDermott: [laughs] Well it was…it’s funny. How do these things kind of happen? It was just one of those situations where the opportunity presented itself. And my mother at the time seemed to be very interested in the kind of New York experience. And at that point my father, actually, there was a job opportunity up in New York. So the modeling ended up working out perfectly. We ended up moving to Roosevelt Island. And of course this was New York back in the day, when Dinkins was Mayor, so it was sort of a different New York. It was just a different city…
Blake J. Harris: Yup.
Shane McDermott: But it was a great experience. You know, you just jump around from different job to different job and of course you’re going to school at the same time. I went to this school…what was it called? Professional Children’s School. It was one of those schools that’s kind of set up for actors; so you had the flexibility in your schedule to work and audition. And for two years it was crazy! You just go from job to job throughout the day. And of course, in the afternoon (or whenever you could), you got to homework.
Blake J. Harris: Awesome.
Shane McDermott: The memories of that time are a little bit fuzzy, but I look back on those memories fondly. And I miss New York a lot.
Blake J. Harris: I assume that at some point, while you were living in New York, you made that transition from model to actor. How did that happen?
Shane McDermott: That is one of the things that is crystal clear in my mind. The first opportunity I ever had to act was Ethan Allen furniture. It was nothing more than: fade in, you see a nice living room and then a bunch of kids come in and are having a good time. That was the extent of the commercial. So that was the first commercial I ever did. It was just when I was getting to big; I guess you grow out of size as a model. But of course at that point you have all these people who are helping you find work. And they start encouraging you to go toward acting. You’re doing all this modeling print stuff, so they say, “you should try commercials.” It really was commercials. So I did Ethan Allen furniture, Stove Top Stuffing and then I got Swans Crossing. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that show. It was kind of a kid’s TV show. And that was the first step into I guess what you’d call “more acting.” We shot 65 episodes in 3 months.
Blake J. Harris: Wow.
Shane McDermott: [laughs] Yeah, it was crazy. Very intense shooting schedule. And there were a lot of talented people on there. Sarah Michelle Gellar. Brittany Daniel. There were a number of great actresses on there and that was really the first TV show I did. And then Airborne came a little bit after that.
Blake J. Harris: Is it true that you were a good rollerblader and that was part of how you got the job?
Shane McDermott: [laughs] Well, when I was younger—especially during the summer—the way I would get around to auditions is I would rollerblade. And, you know, I was pretty good; I’d go down the streets and I’d skate in the streets to get to my next audition. And that’s really how when Airborne came up, it turned out to be something I was very excited about because I roller-bladed so much during the summers in New york City. And I remember I went in there and Mitchell Goosen was a great character. Very California, very laid back and then of course you have me as a New York City kid. And actually, at the time, I very much looked it. Because it was summer time, I was tanned. Had my rollerblades. I think I actually rollerbladed to the audition. Who knows, maybe the producers and directors got a kick out of that.
Blake J. Harris: Ha.
Shane McDermott: But I do remember auditioning for the part. And I did have my rollerblades with me because afterwards I went out and skated through the city for a bit and the director was there. Rob Bowman. And just kind of started off…it was of course one of those auditions that you always want it to go that way; everything just fits into the right spot. And the next thing you know they booked me. Which was crazy for me because I’d never done a feature before. And to star in a big film like that…I mean, I had no idea what to expect.