Upon first glance, he may seem like just your average dog–loving, saxophone–playing, aspiring BBB student, but Regan Mizrahi (C '22) is all of that and more. Playing the voice actor of Nickelodeon’s animated character, Boots, on the show Dora the Explorer for seven years, Regan has lots to say about his acting experience as well as the lessons he’s learned from his time in the spotlight.
Growing up in Closter, New Jersey as the great grandson of a radio personality and the son of a doctor and actress, Regan exhibited the signs of a brilliant actor at an early age. Debuting at the age of three as a Macy’s baby model, he quickly became acquainted with the world of acting. “I’m one of three kids and we were all involved in the business professionally in some way. My sister with theater, my brother and I with acting. It really was something I was just born into doing,” he says.
From guest starring in SNL skits alongside Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake to playing minor characters in shows like Blue Blood and White Collar, Regan found a love for acting as he continued to expand his repertoire. “I worked my way up from smaller acting jobs to bigger ones, and it came to the point where I would be doing three auditions a day,” Regan describes. “I enjoy acting because of the opportunities it gives me to explore different parts of myself. One of my favorite quotes relates to this, which is, ‘The great thing about acting is that you can push the pause button to do other things and press play when you’re ready.’”
While pursuing his acting dreams, however, Regan still managed to live the life of a typical New Jersey child. “My parents still emphasized academics over acting, of course,” Regan elaborates. “My regular schedule was I would go to school, leave early in the morning, drive to Manhattan for auditions, come back for recreational sports (which I was not very good at, but my parents wanted me to do), eat, and then go to sleep or hangout with people occasionally.”
While juggling casting calls and math homework, Regan managed to stay highly motivated and always aimed to make the best of his limited time each day. The lessons he’s acquired from his busy lifestyle continue to repay him favorably. “Acting has helped me immensely with my people skills and being able to be comfortable going to interviews and talking to people in general,” he says. “My time management skills have improved immensely because of acting and it has helped me a ton at Penn too.”
It wasn’t until Regan turned seven that he got offered the role of every kid’s dreams. “I had about three rounds of interviews for the role of Boots. The first was on the phone, so they could hear my voice, and the following two were auditions.” Watching Dora the Explorer himself while growing up, Regan was shocked when he discovered he had landed the role as Nickelodeon’s beloved monkey, being still to this day the most competitive role he has ever auditioned for.
“One of the things that really stood out to me was when I sat down to sign my contract for Nickelodeon, they explained to me the importance of portraying a childhood icon. All of my actions influenced the children who watched the show and it inspired me to become more involved in charity events.” And he did just that. From attending an LA children’s book festival to becoming a bedside reader at local hospitals, Regan passionately dedicated his time towards providing Nickelodeon fans with an animated character they could look up to, both on and off the screen.
Of course, fame always seems to come with a price. “When I was younger, I was actually bullied for being Boots,” Regan says. “People saw me as like, ‘Oh, you’re on a preschool show, that show’s for babies, why are you doing that?’ and it was really tough for me being in that situation.”
Because of that experience, he decided to start his own anti–bullying initiative, called Young Performers Against Bullying. Organizing fundraisers with local schools in his area, the campaign aimed to collect donations towards instituting better anti–bullying programs in public schools. “Instead of being a victim, I wanted to be stronger for those watching the show and be proactive with it,” Regan says.
Although the curtains have closed on Regan’s time as Boots (thanks to puberty), a new kind of adventure has just begun for him here at Penn. “I always knew that when I went away to college, I wanted to experience new things that I hadn’t had the time to experience previously. That’s why I’ve become involved in activities aside from acting here,” he says. Already, Regan has become an active member on campus, becoming a tour guide in Kite and Key, a member of SPEC Connaissance and the Penn Neuroscience Society, and playing the Alto Saxophone in Penn’s Wind Ensemble.
To those of you hoping to someday get your own shot at acting, take some wise advice from Boots himself: “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Auditions can be daunting, but they are also such a fun experience that you can learn so much from. I’ve been rejected many times, but I’ve learned how to put my best foot forward and move on from it.”
Like his animated character, Regan always manages to look on the bright side. Whether it be while he’s giving tours on Locust Walk or putting his sociable personality to good use, wherever you find Regan, you’re sure to find him with a smile.