Nobody was as excited as Lucas Cruikshank’s mother when the Columbus teenager received a telephone call from his manager gauging his interest in playing an alien on television.
“My mom is a big fan of ‘Mork & Mindy,’” Cruikshank, 19, said in a phone interview about the hit TV series, which ran on ABC from 1978 to 1982. “And I love Robin Williams.”
Not that Cruikshank is comparing himself to the Academy Award winner, but the premise of the new half-hour Nickelodeon sitcom, “Marvin Marvin,” is similar.
Cruikshank plays the title character, a teenage alien with special powers, who has been sent to Earth by his parents in order to protect him from evil invaders on his home planet, Klotoon.
Under the supervision of his new human parents, Bob (Pat Finn) and Liz (Mim Drew), Marvin tries to adjust to life on Earth as a typical teenager. Helping him navigate this new territory are Marvin’s human siblings Teri (Victory Van Tuyl) and Henry (Jacob Bertrand) and his mischievous grandfather, Pop-pop (Casey Sander).
“Marvin Marvin” begins a 20-episode season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on Nickelodeon.
“It’s been fun to play Marvin,” said Cruikshank, who is starring in his first lead role since Fred Figglehorn, his enormously successful YouTube character, which appeared in three movies and a TV series for Nickelodeon. “It’s just because I can do so much with him. Anything he does can be justified.
“Plus, it’s a really good family show,” he added. “The story lines in the show are stuff people can relate to.”
Cruikshank first garnered national attention with his YouTube character, Fred Figglehorn, a squeaky-voiced 6-year-old prone to temper tantrums. He created the character for a Halloween video and uploaded it to a YouTube channel that he had started with two cousins.
Fred was a huge success, which prompted Cruikshank to start a video series and set up the Fred channel in April 2008.
By the next year, the channel had more than 1 million subscribers, making it the first YouTube channel to achieve that, and was the most-subscribed channel at the time.
Cruikshank introduced Fred to TV audiences through appearances on Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” series. Those led to three movies and a short-form TV series on the cable network.
“It’s so weird,” he said. “I feel like all this stuff has happened so fast. I sit back and look at the journey I’ve been on. … It’s so crazy the way it’s worked out. My fans on YouTube helped me make this happen.”
After the “Fred” movies, Cruikshank wanted to continue to work as an actor. He told his manager of his desire.
“He said, ‘Okay, we’ll work on that,’” Cruikshank said, thinking not much would come of it. “Then it actually happened.”
Cruikshank graduated in May from Columbus Lakeview High School and moved to Los Angeles two months later.
He said he’s retired Fred “for the time being.”
“I’ve been doing Fred since I was 13,” he said. “I think right now my focus is trying new things and showing my fans a different side of me, showing them that I can do other stuff.”
The same way Williams once did. After Cruikshank landed “Marvin Marvin” he went online and watched “Mork & Mindy.”
“I thought it was funny,” he said. “Total genius.”