Teen goes from Detroit diner to Hollywood

Nov. 23, 2008 at 4:24 PM

DETROIT, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- A 17-year-old boy about to star in the Lifetime network movie "America" says he was simply sitting in a Detroit diner when he got his big Hollywood break.

Philip Johnson said his life took a major turn last month when actress Rosie O'Donnell approached him in a Detroit eatery and asked him if he had any interest in auditioning for the movie, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.

"I thought it was just somebody who looked like her," the rookie actor said of the chance meeting. "I didn't think it was actually her. I mean, what's Rosie O'Donnell doing in Detroit?"

O'Donnell happened to be serving as an executive producer on "America," along with Larry Sanitsky, and soon Johnson was cast in the lead as a teenager in the foster care system.

Despite his lack of acting experience, Sanitsky told the Free Press that Johnson was a pleasant surprise to work with.

"I think people will be really impressed when they see him," Sanitsky said. "He's doing an absolutely fantastic job."

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