Four former Disney Channel stars are hitting the New York stage this season, and while JONAS L.A. alum Nick Jonas (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), Hannah Montana favorite Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (Godspell) and That’s So Raven headliner Raven-Symoné (Sister Act) are leading lighthearted Broadway musicals, former Phil of the Future star Raviv Ullman chose a darker, off-Broadway path with the New Group’s Russian Transport.
After his three year stint on the hit Disney show as Phil Diffy, a teenager whose family time travels from 2021 to the early '00s, the Israeli-born actor is now playing Alex, the son of Russian immigrants in the ensemble drama by Erika Sheffer. Alex, a tough Brooklyn high school student curses, sells drugs and participates in other illegal activities that would make Mickey Mouse faint.
“My career is [now] more focused on storytelling,” Ullman recently told Broadway.com of transitioning to more serious roles. “I am older now and I’ve been privy to more of life’s experiences, not necessarily what Alex goes through, but I was younger [while starring on Phil], and Disney does a great job of protecting their audience in a positive way.”
In his teen years, the 26-year-old Russian Transport star used the stage name Ricky Ullman “to land more generic roles,” noting his birth name, Raviv, didn't score auditions for all-American teenage boys as effectively as Ricky did. “Now the only actors I can think of that are named Ricky are all Latin, so I don’t know how we [decided] on that,” he said, with a laugh. Ullman is ready to leave Ricky behind and embrace the future. “This is a really exciting part of my life. I moved out to New York over the summer and I think this is the beginning of a new career for me. Not that I’m embarrassed of anything in the past, but it’s not all fun and games anymore.”
Russian Transport runs through March 10 at off-Broadway's Theatre Row. Click below to flashback to a clip of Ullman from his Phil of the Future days.