Though Wizards of Waverly Place (2007-2012) aired on the Disney Channel for a brief four seasons, the show left a lasting impact on a generation.
Fans of the funny and heartfelt show will be excited to hear that David Henrie, the actor who played big brother Justin Russo in the series, is hosting an exciting challenge on Hyype Space that gives fans a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to meet him in person.
And the best part? Entering the contest means supporting a vital childhood cancer charity called the Anna Schindler Foundation.
David joined me to discuss the details of his challenge, what he's been up to since Wizards of Waverly Place ended, and what inspires him in the entertainment business.
Diving Into David's Career in Entertainment
Maya Capasso: What was your favorite part about playing Justin Russo in Wizards of Waverly Place?
David Henrie: I'm a big brother in real life. I have one little brother, so playing a big brother on screen was meaningful. I've carried that spirit on and off the camera.
We were like one big family when we made the show. I think fans felt that chemistry. And to this day, I'm still the big brother of the group.
Selena (Gomez) and I are probably the closest of anyone, but we all keep in touch. Having family both on and off the camera was a blessing.
MC: What have you been up to since starring in Wizards of Waverly Place?
DH: A ton! I've been enjoying going behind the camera. I just directed a film called Boys of Summer, which will come out later this year. And that's got Mel Gibson, Lorraine Bracco, and Mason Thames in it.
It's a fun, family-friendly movie about a group of kids teaming up with a detective to hunt this witch that moved onto their island. It's like Hocus Pocus meets The Goonies meets Stranger Things. I had a blast directing that, and getting to work with some big names was such a joy.
So getting to go behind the camera has been a lot of fun. I got to write for Wizards of Waverly Place, and that was my first venture into the behind-the-camera world. It gives me a lot of joy to go behind the camera.
I got to write and produce a show on Netflix called A Tale Dark & Grimm, which is on the platform right now. That was a blast working alongside some talented other writers and producers.
I still act too. I've got a movie coming out with Dennis Quaid called Reagan. That'll be out later this year as well.
I've been keeping busy and working on a slate of films and TV shows that I can't wait for people to see.
What's the Hype Around Hyype Space?
MC: Can you tell me a bit about Hyype Space? What is it, and what makes it so fun?
DH: Yeah, absolutely. It's a challenge-based app where celebrities create challenges around nonprofits, charities they love, or different brands, and they get to pick winners who get prizes.
So for this challenge, it's called the Wizards of Waverly Place Incantation Challenge. Fans will craft their most clever spell, it has to be an original one, and the winner will be the one that gets the most ‘Claps,' which is equivalent to likes.
So whoever's challenge has the most Claps, they're the winner, and they're the ones that will get to come to a golf tournament with me for the nonprofit that we're benefiting, the Anna Schindler Foundation. It's a wonderful nonprofit that helps families with children with cancer.
MC: Tell me more about your current Hyype Space challenge.
DH: When thinking of the challenge, I wanted to do something engaging and fun. And one of the things that were fun about Wizards of Waverly Place was the spells. And the spells were always creative and original. They had no rhyme or reason as long as they were fun.
So, for instance, you have random spells like Edgebonotoosis, which references the band U2. It's just a funny random thing. Then you had spells like McReary-Time Reary, which was named after one of the writers on the show, Gigi McCreery.
In that vein, I wanted fans to create their own spells, and I wanted to hear how original people could be and see how much fun they could have. Whoever gets the most Claps will be the one that wins and gets to come out to the golf outing with me at the Schindler Golf Tournament.
I'm watching the challenges already, and people are doing a good job. There are some really fun ones. I'm looking forward to seeing who gets the most Claps.
Supporting an Essential Charity
MC: What exactly is the Anna Schindler Foundation, and why is it so important to you to support it?
DH: It's an incredible nonprofit created to support families of kids with cancer. I met the founders a couple of years ago. I played in their golf tournament, and I learned all about it, and I just – I have little kids. So the charity's mission resonated deeply with me.
For years, I've visited kids with cancer, especially while doing Wizards of Waverly Place. It was just always so near and dear to my heart. So this organization is also near and dear to my heart. They make such a difference.
I didn't realize how much financial assistance families need because they rack up these huge bills when they go through childhood cancer treatment.
I also didn't realize that families get broken apart because they must travel long distances to get to the hospital. Not everyone happens to live right around the corner from the hospital. And so people drive in from towns ten hours away. Sometimes you've got to split the family up for that because someone has to go with the kid who needs treatment, and then someone's got to stay home with the rest of the family and do their day job.
I didn't realize that families had to rent homes near the hospitals because of this massive travel distance. So one of the things that I love about the Anna Schindler Foundation is that they provide Anna's Homes to families in need. These are home settings for families to stay at while their children undergo treatment at the hospital.
I thought it was a beautiful thing to create that home environment near the hospital and do it at a really low cost so that families can afford to be there while their kid's going through treatment.
It's a beautiful organization, and I wanted to create a challenge that people can have some fun with that also raises some awareness and donates proceeds to this great organization.
Finding Inspiration Through Storytelling
MC: What inspires you most in your career in the entertainment industry?
DH: What inspires me about entertainment is that it has the potential to shed light on the truth in a way that's fun, engaging, and entertaining. And it can help us make sense of the brokenness in the world around us.
There's a lot of brokenness in the world around us, and great stories can help make sense of that and elevate the individual. We can all recall experiences watching something powerful and then not even knowing it, but that slightly changes our life. That's what inspires me.
The power of stories inspires me, and I'm driven to make stories that entertain and elevate. It drives me, and I'm constantly striving to direct, act, produce, and do whatever I can to create content that makes sense of the brokenness around us. To show people a good time and leave them with an impression that makes them want to elevate themselves and those around them.
David's Hyype Space Challenge Details
Once fans enter David's incantation challenge on Hyype Space, they can vote on other fan entries to ultimately decide the winners of the challenge.
The first-place winner gets a round trip for two to Post Falls in Idaho to join David Henrie to play in the 13th Annual Anna Schindler Foundation Memorial Golf Tournament in September 2023.
The second-place winner receives $200 plus a Wizards of Waverly Place script signed by David Henrie. The person who comes in third place will get $50 and a signed script. The challenge runs through Tuesday, March 14th, so get your entry in ASAP!
This interview was edited for clarity and length.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Maya (she/they) is a queer entertainment and culture journalist. They cover interviews, reviews, roundups, news, and more. She loves horror, history, and creativity. They hope their writing both entertains readers and inspires them to think critically. Her favorite pastimes include needle felting, gaming, and drawing.