For Bell, 21, that means a chance to develop his fledgling directing skills (he made his directing debut with the spinoff TV movie “Drake & Josh: Really Big Shrimp”) while still pursuing his acting and musical careers (he recently wrapped teen tour Nextfest and is shooting Dimension Films’ “Superhero” spoof opposite Leslie Nielsen).
For Peck, who turns 21 next month, it means moving away from teen fare into edgier, more adult projects. Peck next stars opposite Ben Kingsley in “The Wackness.” “I play a drug dealer who gets therapy sessions from Sir Ben’s drug-addled psychiatrist in exchange for pot,” he explains gleefully.
Bell and Peck first met as part of “The Amanda Show’s” ensemble before headlining their own show. “It was a total education, doing sketch comedy, writing and being forced to play five different characters with dialects,” Peck recalls.
“Ending it is bittersweet,” notes Bell, an Orange County, Calif., kid who began doing commercials at 5 and whose credits include “Jerry Maguire” and “High Fidelity.” “It’s like graduating high school. You miss all your friends, but now I can do my music more and other stuff. I can’t wait to tour again.”
Bell, who plays “the Tobey Maguire character, except I’m a dragonfly” in “Spider-Man” sendup “Superhero,” is also keen to direct again.
“I’m ready to challenge myself in different ways,” says Peck, who grew up in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and describes himself as, “a sort of character from birth. I started doing standup comedy at 9 after my mom read about an audition for Sid Gold’s kids agency. He told me to get an act together, so I did, making observations about school, life, my mom — all the torments in a 10-year-old’s day — and that really built my confidence.”
That’s served him well in negotiating “the tough move” between teen stardom and adulthood. “So many kids rely on cuteness, and when that dissipates, they’re stranded,” notes Peck, who made his feature-film debut in “Snow Day” and later won an Independent Spirit Award for his role as a bully in “Mean Creek.” “Thank God I was never blessed with that cuteness. I always had to rely on technique and hard work, and that’s helped me so much.”
Recent breakthrough: “Nextfest surprised me,” says Bell. “I had a song, ‘Makes Me Happy,’ in ‘Big Shrimp,’ and at the start of the tour it’d get the normal response. But by the time ‘Big Shrimp’ aired, people went crazy for it.” For Peck, “‘The Wackness’ — it’s the first movie I’ve done which has totally engrossed me.”
Role model: Bell says, “I’d like to be like Dean Martin and do TV, movies, music, all of it.” Peck picks Ben Kingsley: “He’s this Oscar winner and big star, and he took the time to help educate me about this business and life.”
What’s next: Bell is about to start writing songs for his third album for a spring release. Peck is making “Drillbit Taylor” with Judd Apatow and Owen Wilson.