LSU alumnus Calli Nguyen grew up watching “Wizards of Waverly Place” on the Disney Channel. Now she’s learning to act with David Deluise, who played fun-loving dad Jerry Russo on the show.
Besides acting, Nguyen is a first-generation full-time medical student. She graduated from LSU in May 2022 and completed a one-year biomedical and health equity program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where she is studying to become a pediatric cardiologist.
While studying for her finals during her final semester at LSU, Nguyen discovered ABG Studios, a theater program where students can learn from former Disney and Nickelodeon stars. The program, founded by former Disney actor Deluise, is based in Los Angeles and offers virtual classes with in-person workshops.
Although he had no formal acting experience, Nguyen decided to apply and was accepted into the program.
“I started acting more and it turned out that I loved it, because I’m literally living Calli’s childhood dream…I never really thought I would have a passion for acting because that my whole life has been all about healthcare, medicine, science, taking care of other people, but I felt like acting was something I could really do more for myself and put myself first” , she said.
Two members of his family passed away in a short time during his last semester at LSU, in what Nguyen described as a difficult few months. She found herself struggling with her mental health, but found that acting helped her overcome the pain.
“I was going through such depression, a lot of things with my mental health… I was always trying to graduate and finish my classes, and acting was really kind of an escape from it all, like ‘oh, maybe that I can have another passion,” Nguyen said.
After only a few months of training, Nguyen took part in an AGB Studios showcase, where dozens of talent agencies watched her self-tapes. Nguyen received eight callbacks – the most people in his program. Soon after, she signed with AEFH Talent Agency, which she described as “one of the top talent agencies in California.”
In addition to taking medical classes at Baylor, she participates in virtual classes with various actors. So far, she said she learned from Deluise; Jennifer Stone, who played Harper Finkle in “Wizards of Waverly Place”; Anneliese van der Pol, who played Chelsea Grayson on “That’s So Raven” and Amber Frank, who played Taylor Hathaway on “Haunted Hathaways.”
Nguyen also maintains a following on TikTok, where she posts vlog-style videos about her life and study routine. His account has nearly 648,000 likes, with one of his most recent videos receiving 1.7 million views.
Nguyen said her time at LSU prepared her to handle a busy schedule and persevere.
“I’m able to balance all of that and really push forward because of…my mindset…I was always able to push forward, finish my classes, get my graduation with all A’s, and I couldn’t have had that mindset had LSU not helped me earn those resources and basically pushed me,” she said.
Although managing acting, content creation and medicine can be difficult, Nguyen said her passion keeps her motivated.
“I strongly believe that your passions will move you and drive you to anything you want to do in life, and that’s really been my motivation – those are my passions – and so for me…it’s really a matter of balance,” she says.
Although Nguyen is open to a career in acting or medicine, she knows both would be full-time jobs. If it came down to that, Nguyen said she would choose a big role over school because while medicine and healthcare would still be there, she thinks acting is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I go where my passion takes me… The one that gives me the most opportunities and the one that opens the most doors for me, that’s the path I’m going to take,” Nguyen said.
Deluise believes dedication and hard work is the reason Nguyen was able to receive so many callbacks during their showcase.
“Calli took this seriously – it’s very important. She invested in her craft and it paid off,” Deluise said in an email interview.
Deluise said he sees “a lot of success” in Nguyen’s future with medicine and acting.
“It’s good to make all your dreams come true. We are all very proud of her,” he said.
Michelle Tran met Nguyen at Baylor College of Medicine, where they are both in the same program. Over the past few months, Tran has seen with her own eyes how Nguyen balances her busy schedule.
“She’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, honestly. She’s been through a lot and she was kind enough to tell me, and I can see her hard work is going to pay off. “, she said.
Tran said she and Nguyen bond as content creators and often talk to each other about the stress of being a student while managing a social network.
“It was good to have someone to talk things over with, especially since not many people we know are in the same position as us… We just had a test today and our group stayed. up until 2:30 this morning, and it’s really good to have people who are equally motivated and committed to doing the same,” Tran said.
Nguyen’s mother, Phi Oamh Nguyen, said her daughter had always wanted to do medicine. When she started expressing her interest in acting this year, Phi Oamh Nguyen fully supported her daughter and wanted her to have another passion, so she wouldn’t focus on school all the time.
“I support [Calli Nguyen] 100%. I know she is still studying… She is the first in the family [to go to college]so we know how determined she is,” said Phi Oamh Nguyen.
Phi Oamh Nguyen said she never worries about her daughter pursuing acting while a full-time medical student and no matter what, she knows she will succeed.
“[Calli Nguyen’s] a very determined girl, very focused, so whatever she sets out to do, she plans it very well and she just goes for it,” said Phi Oamh Nguyen.