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Justin’s Cracker Barrel Commercial – The Rest of the Story

I thought about abandoning the audition and going home. We had already waited for an hour in a lobby full of other little boys outside a meeting room in the Nashville Hutton Hotel, and I had a crazy night ahead of me with 3 other boys’ activities back in Nolensville.

And, along with my angst over the recent firing of Brad’s wife, I had forgotten to bring a hat for Justin to wear in his audition, one of the express instructions on the email. And with the lobby packed full of a zillion cute little boys wearing fedoras and ballcaps and sombreros, what were the chances they would pick my hatless son for their national Cracker Barrel commercial?

They finally called his name, he auditioned behind closed doors, and came back out. “How was it?” I asked. He shrugged. “It was fine.” And that was that.

We raced back to Nolensville for our crazy night. I was annoyed to have wasted so much time on such a long shot.

But then, a few days later, I got another email from our agent, Kristin at AMAX Talent: Callbacks! They wanted to see

At his school program that night
At his school program that night

Justin again. So, again I rearranged my work schedule, picked him up early from school, and drove downtown to wait in a different lobby packed full of a cute little boys. He was sporting a stylish little outfit he put together, complete with a woolen cap and red “gangsta-style” suspenders.

But this time I had an even crazier evening ahead of me with boys activities in Nolensville. A band concert, a school program, an NJHS induction ceremony, and a husband out of town. I was nuts to try to fit in a callback downtown.

We waited and waited. I looked at the time on my phone a hundred times. Checked the list of boys- still at least 7 ahead of him. This time, I really was going to have to leave. Finally, I approached Terri Minton, the assistant for Jimmy Kup Casting at the desk. “I’m out of time. Is there any way you can get my son in?”

She did, and then even let me go get my “well-loved” minivan, pull it around to the front of the fancy hotel, and brought Justin down to me. Aside from being an angel in disguise, did she know something I didn’t know? I was sure it was still a long-shot waste of time on a ridiculously crazy day.

They don’t tell you if you don’t get the job- you only get notified if you DO get the job. I put it out of my mind and expected we wouldn’t hear back. But then, a few days later, we got another email. The production company, thesweetshop, wanted “First Option,” meaning they wanted us to save the dates of the shoot just in case they picked Justin. Wow- I knew it must be down to a couple of boys. But I still thought it was a long shot. And then came the final email- they picked him! I just about fell out of my chair.

Justin was elated to miss school again- being the star of a national commercial was rather secondary. Although, I assured him we would bring along his schoolwork in case there were down times during the shoot.

Cracker Barrel commercial
The crew prepares outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant

When we arrived, Justin had to have his hair and makeup fixed just right…Cracker Barrel Commercial

meet his co-star…Cracker Barrel Commercial

and then was whisked away to the set.

Cracker Barrel Commercial
On the restaurant set

If you’ve seen the commercial, you know it’s the story of a little boy who spies a cute girl while he’s eating pancakes at a Cracker Barrel with his parents.

Actually, he spies a cool hat in the store, just past the girl.Cracker Barrel Commercial

He tries on the hat and it instantly becomes part of his permanent wardrobe.

He wears it while fishing…Cracker Barrel Commercial


Cracker Barrel Commercial
(a selfie just to prove I was there)

Eating ice cream (I got to hand him the ice cream cone through the window)…

Walking a horse (a really cool shot they didn’t end up using in the final commercial)…

cracker barrel commercial

and pretending to be Zorro.

cracker barrel commercial
I love the lighting in this shot

It was quite the odd thing to have a crew of 30 people following your son around and hear him being called “hero boy” on the walkie talkie. As in, “We’re ready for hero boy on the camp set!” I hoped he didn’t hear that. Oh, but he did.

“Did you hear that, Mom? I’m hero boy!” Justin exclaimed. So much for teaching my kids humility.

And then they raced him on a golf cart to his next location on the farm.

cracker barrel commercial
Justin in the car before he pretended to fall asleep

In the last shot, Justin is asleep in the car, still sporting his hat. It’s precious, and reminds me to treasure these sweet years with my youngest.

The commercial was directed by the talented Kathi Prosser, who impressed me with her kindness to Justin and her professional way of communicating her decisions firmly but respectfully to her crew members. As a communication trainer, I’m always observing leaders on the sly, looking for the strategies they use to motivate others.

kathi prosser
Justin and Kathi

As it turned out, my crazy schedule-finagling wasn’t a waste of time after all. In fact, it was an experience of a lifetime for this mama- and even more, for one little hero boy who will never forget it.

Watch the commercial here:

2 thoughts on “Justin’s Cracker Barrel Commercial – The Rest of the Story”

  1. Jacqueline Metz

    How awesome! “Hero Boy” is adorable and to think I know his Grandma Nancy! It’s fun to have these opportunities. I’ve done it, too, but I have never seen the movie! Memories…enjoy each and every one God gives us!

    1. That’s really neat that you’ve had opportunities like this, too, Jacqueline! Thanks for sharing. Grandma Nancy is a gem- give her a hug for me- and for hero boy 🙂

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