Tait Blum is an actor in Home Team. Home Team follows Sean Payton. Sean, who, two years after a Super Bowl win when he is suspended, goes back to his hometown. He finds himself reconnecting with his 12-year-old son by coaching his Pop Warner football team. Tait portrays the character of Connor Payton. The film premieres on Netflix on January 28th. YEM was able to speak with Tait about what his audition process was like. Tait also shares about his preparation for the film, and funny things that happened off camera.
Young Entertainment Mag: From what we read you are active in go-kart racing and Jiu-Jitsu, what was the transition like to playing football for this role?
Tait Blum: I’ve always loved football! I had some prior experience as a quarter-back and a quite a bit of football knowledge going into Home Team, so it felt natural. I also knew that the real life Connor was a good athlete and I wanted his role to be played authentically, so I decided to hire a receiver coach to hone my route running and catching techniques.
YEM: What was it like to work alongside seasoned actors like Kevin James and Taylor Lautner? Was there anything you picked up either in life or in terms of your acting that you learned from them?
Tait: It was an incredible and memorable experience. I looked up to both of them as actors, and was honestly a little nervous to meet them, as I hadn’t had any chemistry reads or in-person meetings prior to day one of shooting. Everyone knows Kevin for his comedic roles, but Kevin has many more layers to him. Yes he’s extremely funny and quick, but surprisingly present and emotionally grounded too. This truly helped me feel the authentic emotion Connor was experiencing throughout the film. Taylor is also a really genuine, kind, humble person even though he, too, is a larger-than-life star. I can’t say enough about Taylor as he always seemed truly interested in us as “Coach Troy” but was also just as positive a role model when the cameras were off. I guess you could say, he was like coach Troy on and off camera.
YEM: Were you familiar with the true story that HOME TEAM is loosely based on before filming?
Tait: I was aware of the situation regarding the Saints Super Bowl win and Sean’s suspension but I was not aware that he coached Connor’s team until my first audition. The true story aspect of Home Team was what really resonated with me and made me interested in the project.
YEM: What was the audition process like? What was the first thing you did when you found out you got the role of Home Team?
Tait: In most auditions, the process is usually long and overall, a lot of work. For Home Team, we moved along pretty quickly relative to other projects. Originally, I passed on the audition because I thought I was too old to be considered. When the age range expanded and the casting directors explained the full story to me, I wanted to be involved. I first submitted a self-tape, then was called into a work session with the casting directors, followed by two more callbacks with the directors after that. When I got the “You booked it!” call from my managers and the casting directors, I was in shock for the first minute or two…then I ran around my house shrieking, yelping and carrying on like I had won the Super Bowl!
YEM: How has this role differed from roles you have done in the past like WISH UPON A UNICORN, “Shooter”, and “For All Mankind”? What are some things that you learned from those roles (acting wise) that you brought with you to Home Team?
Tait: In “Shooter” and “For All Mankind” there was a parent/child dynamic that kind of carried over to Home Team, but no two characters are ever the same, so I think that what you take from other sets is what you learn from the other actors and their experiences. I used to get incredibly nervous to the point of making me physically sick, and on a number of occasions I’ve thrown up…a LOT. But filming Home Team, I feel like I was the most relaxed I’ve ever been in one of the biggest role I’ve had. I guess I understand myself more as an actor, you could say.
YEM: Were you able to meet Adam Sandler during the shooting of this film? What was that experience like and did he give you any tips?
Tait: Sadly, I was not able to meet Adam while shooting because he was shooting another film overseas :(. Can I say one more thing? Jackie Sandler, who played my Mom, was incredible and she took special time to make me feel so supported throughout the film. One day, she invited my Dad and I to have lunch with her and we had the best time…she did not need to do that, but it was who she is. I hope to meet Adam one day soon, but hard to imagine he is as cool as Jackie…haha
YEM: How much fun was it to just play football as part of your job?
Tait: I’ve always loved playing football, it’s been one of my favorite sports since I was little. The fact that I got to play football, not just for fun, but as a part of my JOB was amazing! I played as often as I could on set, whether it was on breaks, after lunch or just in my spare time with my dad. The other kids and I would throw the ball whenever we could, mostly one-on-one routes and challenge each other to football duals. I am not so sure the producers were super thrilled to see us risking injury, but we survived.
YEM: During your preparation for the movie, was there anything you watched, read, or listened to help get you into character?
Tait: I did research on Connor and the real life “Warriors” prior to shooting. I wanted to see how Connor talked and get a sense for the overall feelings the Warriors had towards coach Payton. I studied the script to try and familiarize myself with the complete backstory before going on set.
YEM: What was the most challenging thing about this role and how did you overcome it?
Tait: The hardest part about any role, is the preparation. Once you’ve put in the time, being on set feels natural. Aside from the acting, the New Orleans’ summer weather was the most challenging obstacle! With the humidity, rain, and massive thunderstorms, weather delays are an expected norm. It got crazy hot, making the turf fields blistering…you feel like your cleats are melting! In fact, one day, we measured the temperature on the field and it registered at 160 degrees! Needless to say, running football plays in FULL gear in the heat and humidity got pretty insane, but I have a new level of respect for the kids who actually play on those fields season after season!
YEM: Was there anything funny to happen off camera?
Tait: Too many funny things happened on a daily basis, because the entire cast was hysterical! Something that stuck with me was the first scene I shot with Kevin, Rob and Jackie, where Connor was talking to Sean after a game. Kevin and Rob were riffing and improvising multiple takes. The result of each take was so different and unexpected, and watching them come up with new lines spontaneously was HILARIOUS! As much as I wanted to crack up, I had to stay in character!
YEM: What is your favorite movie? And if you were to play any role in that film what would it be and why?
Tait: Ooh, that’s a good one! I have multiple favorite movies! 1917, Blade Runner 2049, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood and The Grand Budapest Hotel! If I had to choose just one movie to play a character in, it would be K from Blade Runner 2049 (as an adult of course)! I just think he’s such a deep character, with a great backstory making him compelling to watch. Plus, working on set with people like Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins would be an absolute dream!
YEM: What are some things that help motivate you to keep acting?
Tait: Well, I don’t look at loss as rejection, I look at everything through a lens of, “I am where I’m supposed to be”. I honestly love acting, and anything associated with the industry, and so any opportunity that I get is a gift. I’m motivated to keep acting because with each script, rehearsal, audition and role, I’m growing and learning in my passions.