At a recent New York autograph signing by the cast of the Disney Channel series "Wizards of Waverly Place," David DeLuise kept hearing the same thing from young fans: "I wish you were my dad."
"I tell them that we can write a script and then their dad will act just like me," said DeLuise in a telephone interview. "Of course my real daughter is standing behind me just rolling her eyes."
What has caught the admiration of so many young fans is DeLuise's fun-loving and caring portrayal of Jerry Russo, the dad to wizards played by Selena Gomez, David Henrie and Jake T. Austin on the cable series. Maria Canals-Barrera plays their mom, Theresa.
The fans will see a different side of DeLuise's character in the Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie," which debuted Friday. (It will air repeatedly on the network. Check local listings.)
As the story goes on the series, Jerry gave up his magical abilities when he decided to marry a mortal. A miscast spell turns back the romance clock to the time before Jerry and Theresa met, which means Jerry gets the old magic back.
While the children run around trying to reverse the spell to get back their parents, Jerry gets some use out of his magic.
"It was really fun to have my own wand. It was really cool because it had a handle. I am sure it'll be in a toy store one day and I'll have to buy one," DeLuise says.
He uses the wand a lot because the movie has more than 300 special effects, more than the series.
Another change between the TV show and the movie: The series is shot entirely on a soundstage in front of a studio audience but the two-hour movie was produced during six weeks in Puerto Rico, as if it were a feature film.
The switch from the TV style of shooting to a feature film approach was not that difficult for DeLuise, who has been in the movies "Dracula, Dead and Loving It," "Kicking and Screaming" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights."
DeLuise, 37, began his career at the age of 8 when he played the son to his real father, Dom DeLuise, in the television movie "Happy." He jokes that he had to audition for the role. Now it is his turn to be the veteran actor surrounded by youngsters.
"We have exceptional kids who are all super funny and super nice," DeLuise says. "We got lucky. Selena has something you are just born with that is magical."
© The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)