Be prepared to see Gabriel Conte like you've never seen him before


Be prepared to see Gabriel Conte like you've never seen him before. The young social media star may be best known for his viral Vine videos which have garnered over 1 billion loops, but Conte's latest project is showing off a different side of him. Conte will be staring in FOX's live production of "The Passion," the Tyler Perry musical that will follow the final hours of Christ's life. This is no easy feat -- not only will the entire production be broadcast in real-time to millions of TV-goers, but Conte will also be acting alongside some of Hollywood's biggest names including Chris Daughtry, Seal, and Trisha Yearwod. But if anyone is up for the challenge, it's Gabriel.

Not only does his theatrical background prepare him for the role, but so does his personal life. It is not everyday an actor can resonate with their script on a spiritual level. Growing up, faith played a crucial role in his life. So when the opportunity to join "The Passion" cast landed in his lap, Conte knew that it was the perfect role to kickstart his professional acting career. As he notes, "I think the biggest preparation was growing up in a Christian family that taught me the value of the Bible. So when I came to this, I already had this mindset of what it was all about and what the purpose was."

In anticipation of "The Passion," which premieres this Sunday on FOX at 8 p.m. ET, we caught up with Gabriel Conte about his newest project, how he decided to go from social media to on-screen acting, and more!

Talk to us a little bit about your background before you became a social star. You first started out in theater, correct?
Yes, I started with theater in like middle school, around 7th or 8th grade. I always wanted to act, but I always thought theater was kind of lame until my brother ended up doing it. After I saw him I thought I would give it a shot. And I just fell in love with it. I was doing plays and musicals all throughout high school, but then I graduated high school and thought acting and performing was a fun high school thing and nothing more. The summer after I graduated was when I hopped on Vine and that was just for fun at the time. I went to Florida Atlantic University for a year and during my fall semester, all I was basically doing was making Vines and the only class I enjoyed was my theater appreciation class. My mom was like, "You're dumb, you clearly want to act and be a part of the entertainment industry," and I realized she was right.

So I decided to audition to a bunch of different schools in Florida -- which is where I'm from -- and I got into all of them, but I decided to go to Florida State University because they had the best acting program. I committed there for the year of 2014-2015. With Vine at the time, I started seeing what people were doing there with sponsored posts and thought it would be a cool way to make money while I'm still in school. That was the case for a little bit when I left to go to Florida Sate, but during that whole year, things just started to pick up and it snowballed. And that whole year, I was in all these acting classes so it was a good year of preparation for me before I came out to L.A. Once I finished that next year at Florida State University, I came out to L.A. during the summer of 2015. I was planning to go back, but things just ended up going so well that I stayed. And I've been here now for about eight months.

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the hood 🤓 (photo:@markdohner)

A post shared by gabriel conte (@gabrielconte) on Feb 8, 2016 at 11:03pm PST

How has social media influenced or effected your acting career?
Oh gosh, it's been tremendous. Even just making funny, small videos definitely helps, because it's always keeping my mind in a creative mindset. I'm always constantly thinking about how to tell a story or how to create a video. Even something as small as Vine helps with that creative mindset. And as far as the numbers go and having a large following, the larger following you have more opportunities there are that are readily available. I guess those are the two ways it's influenced me the most. It brings together opportunities while also simulating that creative energy, even if you're not on a traditional acting set.

How did your role on "The Passion" come about?
I initially heard about the project and was interested in learning more about it because of the specific topic and the role faith plays in my life. So, my manager (Kyle Santillo at Scale Management) reached out to the production team to see if there was anyway I could get involved. After a couple of weeks of going back and forth with their team, I was able to get a role on the show. It turns out the production team actually knew about, and liked my videos prior to even meeting me. And then I went to New Orleans for about a week just doing rehearsals and going through a few of the different locations. It was so good for me because I came from a more traditional acting background before I became active in this whole social media world. It was an incredible feeling to go back to my roots and learn so much from other talented performers and singers.

Faith plays an import role in your life. How have you resonated with the creative material you were given on "The Passion?"
It's honestly so great. I got a question several times when I was doing interviews in New Orleans, which was "How did you prepare for getting into this role?" And I think the biggest preparation was growing up in a Christian family that taught me the value of the Bible. So when I came to this, I already had this mindset of what it was all about and what the purpose was. It really meant so much to me honestly. And I would sit in on some of the scenes, and just think, "Wow, this is unbelievable."

There's so many projects out there you have to do where you don't know know anything about it and have to research everything from the ground-up. I came to this with just so much preparation before-hand. One it's a blessing to get into character, but it also means so much more to me personally. There are really no words, I could ramble about it forever. I just can't wait for people to see it.

How has it been like getting back into the ringer with live performances?
It's been awesome honestly. I haven't done it in a while, but I've wanted to. It makes me feel like when I used to perform live shows, because that's where I started. I had no idea how to do TV or film acting -- that was so foreign to me until I could get into it. But what I'm doing now is going back to my roots and that's making me feel really nostalgic. It's a great feeling.

Where do you see yourself and your career in the next five years? Do you think it would be more acting based?
I see myself acting on television and movies and even working on my own projects, whether they be writing a series or a movie. That would be something that I'm working towards. I want to have my own project that I can direct and star in.

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DAD HAT 😂 photo:@jonmelson

A post shared by gabriel conte (@gabrielconte) on Jan 24, 2016 at 1:55am PST

How have fans reacted to news of "The Passion" since it's not your typical acting gig?
They love it! Especially with "The Passion" because I'm not shy about telling people what I believe online, so all of may fans know what I do believe. To be on something like "The Passion" as my first big project makes them so excited. The announcement came out so long ago, and still there's so many supportive tweets. I feel like I'm doing something right. Especially in entertainment where people can get so lost, I think everything that's happened feels so right. And just seeing how my fans have reacted has just confirmed that for me.

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