Arts & Entertainment

West Orange Student Stars in New LeBron James Nike Commercial

West Orange High School senior and actor Dane Clarke II
West Orange High School senior and actor Dane Clarke II portrays LeBron James through CGI

WEST ORANGE, NJ – Those who have seen Nike’s new commercial featuring a young LeBron James getting his first tattoo, “Chosen 1,” in Las Vegas, have seen West Orange High School senior and actor Dane Clarke II portraying James through computer generated imagery (CGI).

“Chosen 1” was the name of the article that appeared in Sports Illustrated on Feb. 18, 2002, featuring James as a high school junior.

The commercial takes place in Las Vegas in August 2002 and features James (Clarke II) entering a tattoo parlor to get his first tattoo. After questioning the young man’s choice, the tattoo artist prepares to ink the words “Chosen 1” across his upper back. Actor Marcel Byes portrays the tattoo artist.

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As the 45-second commercial ends, the screen goes black and the words “Always Believe” appear on the screen with the Nike swish.

When Nike debuted the commercial in a Tweet, it explained the message of the commercial, saying, “It’s one thing to put words on your back. It’s another to live up to them.”

As of June 1, the commercial already had 5.4 million views on YouTube, and Clarke was excited to share the story.

“I was getting ready for a fitting for an Instagram commercial I booked, and my agent emailed me last minute seeing if I can make it to a Nike audition to play LeBron James as a teenager,” he said. “I rushed to NYC and stopped at the Nike audition first, but I was barely thinking about it because I was hyped that I booked an Instagram Ad.”

A few days later, Clarke’s agent emailed him saying the he got a callback for the part.

“I left school early to go to NYC and I auditioned for the casting director, and he put me on Skype for the producers,” he said. “I felt like they really liked me because they were cracking jokes and having fun on the webcam. Monday afternoon during lunch period I was in the library studying and I got the email saying I booked it and that Nike was flying me and my mom out to Los Angeles the next morning. I jumped out of my seat and everyone stared at me in the library.”

Clarke and his mother flew to L.A. on May 1, shot the commercial on May 3, and returned to West Orange on May 4.

“We shot for 10 hours and an hour of that was doing the facial scanning for the CGI/Motion Capture,” said Clarke. “I had to get my face scanned while doing certain facial expressions so that they could match it to LeBron. It was definitely an experience.

“Shooting the commercial was crazy since I got the chance to work with one of my favorite directors, Hiro Murai.”

Murai works with Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) on the hit FX TV show “Atlanta,” and recently directed the politically charged “This is America” music video starring Glover. 

Clarke is already an established actor and continues to work in the industry. He is going to be in “another commercial soon for a popular department store for ‘Back-to-School,’” he said. Over the summer, he will be attending his friend’s movie premiere and red carpet event in NYC. 

“I just finished writing a cartoon that I plan on producing, so I am getting that ready and I will also be working with Thomas Hughes on a short film that he’s been writing for a while,” he said.

Clarke and Hughes were part of West Orange High School’s “10-Day Film Challenge” team, which won best film statewide and will move on to the national competition this month. 

Clarke will be attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for acting in the Stella Adler Studio in the fall. 

Follow Dane Clarke II on Instagram at @lieutenant.dane. 

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