Local 5th-grader relishes working for ‘Peanuts’

A Pocopson Township Elementary School fifth-grader’s road to fame began inauspiciously with a tonsillectomy.

King Alex Wunsch enjoys his moments on the throne during a sketch on 'Saturday Night Live' that included host Jim Carrey (right).

Alex Wunsch strikes a kingly pose during a 2014 Halloween sketch on 'Saturday Night Live' that included host Jim Carrey (right). Photo courtesy of the Wunsch family

William “Alex” Wunsch said he was home from school for a week at age 6 after having his tonsils removed. “He was the worst patient,” confided his mother, Juliet Wunsch, explaining that her high-energy son quickly tired of the sedentary routine.

The next thing she knew, he was on the phone and said, “Yes, my name is Alex; yes, my mom is right here,” and handed the receiver to her, initiating a series of events that would ultimately lead to Hollywood.

Next week, instead of trick-or-treating in Pocopson Township, the 11-year-old will be collecting candy in Tinseltown with fellow cast members of “The Peanuts Movie.” The producers are flying him, his 9-year-old brother Korey, his mother, and his father, Kurt, to California for the movie’s premiere on Nov. 2. It opens to the public on Nov. 6.

Alex supplied the voice for Shermy, one of Charlie Brown’s close friends in the animated film based on the beloved comic strip of Charles Schulz. The screenplay was written by Schulz’s son, Craig Schulz, and the team of Cornelius Uliano, and Bryan Schulz, the cartoonist’s grandson.

Kurt and Juliet Wunsch (from left, top) pose with their sons Korey and Alex at an event in Florida n 2011, where Alex landed a manager. Photo courtesy of the Wunsch family

Kurt and Juliet Wunsch (top, from left) pose with their sons Korey and Alex at a 2011 event in Florida, where Alex landed his first agency contract. Photo courtesy of the Wunsch family

The call that jumpstarted Alex’s journey came in response to a TV commercial touting an opportunity for children interested in launching a television career. After getting approval from his parents, he found himself at a cattle call in Philadelphia, where his outgoing personality set in motion a series of events that attracted an agent and then a manager.

Since then, Alex has appeared in several commercials, touting products that range from health care to trampolines. He even found himself ensconced on a throne during a Halloween-themed sketch last year on Saturday Night Live. He played an imperious king, who received counsel from his servant-slave, played by comedian Jim Carrey.

“At the time, he didn’t even know who Jim Carrey was,” his mother said. “Now he’s one of Jim Carrey’s biggest fans.”

Alex said he was very familiar with the Peanuts gang long before he traveled to New York to audition for Pig-Pen’s voice in the movie, which he didn’t get. He said he grew up watching the Charlie Brown Christmas and Halloween specials each year.

“I didn’t have the right voice,” he said matter-of-factly of the Pig-Pen tryout. But then several months later, he got another call, and he was tapped for Shermy.

Alex noted proudly that while Shermy, reportedly named after a high school buddy of Charles Schulz, isn’t as well-known as Lucy and Snoopy, he was “the first character to have a speaking role” when Peanuts made its comic-strip debut in 1950.

In the strip, Shermy proclaimed: "Good ol' Charlie Brown . . . How I hate him!” Alex certainly doesn’t share that sentiment; in fact, he said he’s eager to help Shermy return to prominence in the Schulz pantheon.

Alex Wunsch is shown in the costume room as he awaits a fitting for an AT&T commercial. Photo courtesy of the Wunsch family

Alex Wunsch is shown in the costume room as he awaits a fitting for an AT&T commercial. Photo courtesy of the Wunsch family

Alex said he’s also enthusiastic about visiting Hollywood, meeting the other cast members, and seeing the movie. He said his role required him to stand by himself in a glass-walled sound room with headphones and read lines for a total of about four hours, periodically getting instructions to change his inflection. “It seemed perfectly normal,” he said of the experience.

His impressions of the final product have come only from the pages of dialogue he received for the auditions, his speaking parts, and the movie’s trailer. “It will be fun to see it,” he said.

Juliet Wunsch said she’s not surprised by her son’s drive, describing him as exceptionally verbal since early childhood. “Everything he does is directed by him,” she said. “Obviously we support him, but all he has to do is say ‘I don’t really want to do this’ and it won’t happen.”

Her husband, Kurt Wunsch, added that he is extremely proud of the choices his son has made.  "It takes a lot of  follow-through work and even disappointment to achieve what he has," he said.  "It is extremely exciting to be a part of what we call William's wild ride."

For his part, Alex said he’s enjoying the experiences and appreciates the fact that he is surrounded by relatives on both sides who are immersed in the arts. His parents’ relationship started at a theatrical lighting company where his father, now a lighting design consultant, worked. His mother, a theater professor at West Chester University, came in to rent some equipment and was instantly smitten. Alex’s  grandparents pursued successful careers in art, music, and photography.

“I really want to do this,” Alex said of his theatrical ventures, acknowledging that rejection is sometimes part of the process. He said he tends to put auditions out of his mind once they’re over, and if he gets a call, it’s a pleasant outcome. If he doesn’t, he’s already moved on.

Whether he pursues an acting career is uncertain, said Alex, who earned a black belt in karate and also enjoys computer programming and science, especially inventing things.

In the meantime, here’s a tip for any Hollywood producers interested in luring him to the silver screen: His favorite food is cheese fries.



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