Utkarsh Ambudkar is a man of many talents. Best known as an actor on TV shows like Ghosts and movies like Free Guy, he’s also an accomplished rapper and singer under the stage name UTK the INC, even appearing on Broadway in Freestyle Love Supreme. And now he can add screenwriter to his multihyphenate credits with Disney’s World’s Best, which premieres on Friday, June 23rd, only on Disney+.
“It wouldn't have worked without Manny [Magnus],” Utkarsh said in an interview about the key ingredient to making the film work. World’s Best follows Prem, a 12-year-old math genius whose interests shift to music after discovering that his deceased father (played by Utkarsh) was a famous rapper. “ Finding him was such good fortune, because we have somebody who's an exceptional dancer, been dancing since he was four, singing since he was three, plays five different instruments, understands drama, the introversion of Prem, and also, when he picks up a microphone, you just see him blossom into this superstar/rockstar type of thing.”
While World’s Best is designed for an all-ages audience to enjoy together, Utkarsh had his 12-year-old self in mind when he was writing the script. Since he didn’t have a character like Manny to connect with in media, he had to find the courage within himself to break out of the norms placed upon him. “The point of my youth was breaking out of a box and jumping over boundaries and showing people that people who look like me could do different things. But then, for today's generation, you have Manny, who's been supported and encouraged by his mother since he was literally a toddler. And here he is now, this sort of supernova force, who's capable of so much more. So I think people are going to really connect to the music. And parents, kids, the family element has no gender, it has no culture, it has no race, or ethnicity. It's family. It's just love.”
By the way, Manny Magnus was on the same call during which Utkarsh showered him with so much praise. “I just learned a lot from being the lead in a Disney movie,” the young actor revealed about this experience. “This is the biggest project I've done so far.” As Utkarsh pointed out, it came with a lot of hard work leading up to landing the part, but once it was his, Manny still had his work cut out for him. “I read the script a bunch of times, as many times as I could with my mom. And I guess, both the introverted and extroverted sides of Prem are also kind of in me as well. I kind of just had to let them out at the right time.”
You can hear from Utkarsh Ambudkar and Manny Magnus directly in the video version of this interview.
World’s Best premieres Friday, June 23rd, on Disney+.