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From Austin & Ally to Coppertop, Calum Worthy's on a roll

When Victoria native Calum Worthy took up acting, he didn’t realize his job description would include saving lives.
Claremont grad Calum Worthy in Austin & Ally, which starts airing new Season 3 episodes tonight at 6:30 on Family Channel.

When Victoria native Calum Worthy took up acting, he didn’t realize his job description would include saving lives.

Abby Wetherell, a 12-year-old Michigan girl who was mauled by a black bear, told Fox News this week she survived the attack by playing dead. She said she remembered the technique from an episode of Austin & Ally, the Disney series Worthy stars in.

“I’m just doing what I can,” deadpans the actor whose character Dez, Austin’s offbeat pal, confronts a bear on a camping trip.

“My character can never remember whether to be loud or play dead, so he does both, and she remembered that,” Worthy said in an interview this week.

It was another example of the escalating attention Worthy, 22, has been getting, and not just for his zany antics on Austin & Ally, which starts airing new Season 3 episodes tonight at 6:30 on Family Channel. The Claremont grad is starring in The Coppertop Flop Show, Disney’s new web-driven series showcasing his signature wackiness. He also appears opposite Anna Kendrick in Rapture-Palooza, the raucous horror comedy now on Blu-ray and DVD, and stars in a new series of McDonald’s commercials.

While the genial, hard-working redhead is excited about the roll he’s on, he’s also grateful to hometown supporters and Disney for taking a chance on him.

“I’m at the stage now where I’m willing to go 100 miles an hour, as long it goes with my values,” says Worthy, who tries to “drink a lot of green juices and run a lot” to maintain his stamina. Aside from Austin & Ally’s week-long shoots, his hectic schedule includes flying to various cities for promotional appearances and finding time to write and shoot Coppertop.

Worthy plays an exaggerated version of himself and his own quirks in the short-form video series. Episodes so far include vignettes like his self-mocking King of the Beach, in which the pale-skinned actor playfully raps while strutting like a buff beach bum; and Food Enthusiast, featuring his over-the-top reaction to peas and meatballs in a fancy restaurant.

Two actor friends, Meaghan Martin (Camp Rock) and model Grant Linden, appear. Disney star Debby Ryan (The Suite Life on Deck) also appears in upcoming sketches of the series, which airs on Disney Channel and its online presence, YouTube and on Family Channel starting next month.

“It helps that we’ve been drawing the ‘ginger’ audience from the get-go,” said Worthy, who has been inundated with tweets from redheads.

Worthy created the Coppertop series with L.A. producer Kelly May and two other homegrown talents — Derek Baynham and editor Morgan Waters, the Belmont grad who Worthy helped make his first sketch for his CBC series.

“It was so cool having these three kids from Claremont and Belmont now working together in California,” said Worthy, who with Baynham and May struck a deal with management company Principato Young Entertainment (Reno 911, Arrested Development) before successfully pitching it to Disney.

Worthy says his inspiration goes back to his days as a Royal Oak student, when he bought a Panasonic video camera and made a sketch series, Teenage Funk, just before YouTube began to take off.

“We were always trying to make features and TV movies in our backyards and bedrooms,” he recalled with a laugh. “Our parents had no idea what we were up to.”

Worthy, inspired by Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, MadTV and Funny or Die, said he fell in love with short-form comedy’s online potential.

He said he’s grateful Disney executives, who loved the idea but asked them to prove themselves first, gave them so much creative freedom and had enough confidence to expand it into a TV series.

“Hopefully it will reflect what kids today think is funny,” says Worthy, noting it’s normal nowadays for kids to make their own films on their smartphones and score YouTube hits. “It’s been cool, but also terrifying, figuring that all out.”

Meanwhile, Worthy is capitalizing on other Disney-driven opportunities to prove his mettle as a scriptwriter. Shooting the McDonald’s commercials with director David McNally (Coyote Ugly) in Toronto was another story.

“You work here now?” laughed Worthy, mimicking young Austin & Ally fans who spotted him behind the counter when they came into the McDonald’s where they were shooting. To his astonishment, he’s been deluged with Facebook messages since appearing as a chipper McDonald’s clerk.

Although he’s slowly getting used to being widely recognized, Worthy admits it still takes him by surprise. “I’m always worried no one’s going to show up,” he confesses, revealing his wacky, increasingly popular character becomes “more grounded” in Season 3.

He realized just how popular he has become during a recent solo whirlwind trip to Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh. “The first thing they yelled out was ‘Coppertop!’ ” said Worthy, who was mobbed by 3,500 fans in Pittsburgh. “I thought, ‘Omigawd. I just came up with this idea a year ago, and now kids are yelling it out.' ”