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Feb 5, 2019 11:58 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Montauk Second-Grader Stars In Super Bowl Commercial

Francisco starring in the Dream Big CBS Sports commercial.
Feb 5, 2019 1:01 PM

Francisco Gabriel Estrella can often be spotted hitting the books in Patricia Cusimano’s classroom at the Montauk School, playing first base for his Little League team, or hanging around downtown Montauk with his family. But that’s nothing compared to the millions of viewers who saw him in a starring role in a commercial for CBS Sports, with the theme of “Dream Big,” during the network’s broadcast of the 53rd Super Bowl on Sunday.

The next day, 7-year-old Francisco was at home after school tossing a squeaky green ball to his 2-year-old Shih Tzu, Max, while his mother, Cynthia Neat, beamed with pride over her young television star.

“I like being early to my classroom, but today everyone kept stopping me to ask about the commercial, so I was a little late,” Francisco said. “Everyone was telling me, ‘I liked your commercial.’

“My teachers were really excited,” Francisco went on. “They wanted to know all about it.”

Ms. Neat said her cellphone seemed as if it might explode on Sunday—all her friends were texting and posting on Facebook about the commercial.

In the “Dream Big” ad, promoting CBS Sports, Francisco’s character lies in bed watching sports on his television. After he falls asleep with the TV on, he is whisked away to a dream world where he dons the traditional green jacket given to the winner of the Masters golf tournament, cuts down the net after his team wins a national collegiate basketball championship, and hoists—or tries to hoist—various trophies, ending with the Lombardi Trophy, in a rain of victory confetti.

The last scene shows him back in his pajamas, standing triumphantly on his bed as if he’s won the Super Bowl.

“Dream big, kid, dream big,” says CBS’s Jim Nance from the TV screen.

Bagging a spot in a commercial during the Super Bowl is an accomplishment even for seasoned actors. Sarah Jessica Parker starred in a Stella Artois beer spot, while Charlie Sheen made a cameo in a Planters Peanuts ad, and Kristin Chenoweth performed in an Avocados From Mexico commercial.

The Super Bowl is regarded as one of the biggest television events of the year, which means advertisers are willing to pay incredible amounts to reach a huge audience. According to CNBC, the cost of a 30-second advertisement during Super Bowl LIII was $5.25 million.

Years ago, Ms. Neat planned to take her daughter, Ariana, 13, who was 9 years old at the time, to acting and modeling classes in Melville. Ariana did not want to pursue the classes—but Francisco said it was something he’d be interested in.

He didn’t end up in any classes, but Ms. Neat did take Francisco to a talent management company in Melville to have them look him over. They decided to have him start to audition for roles. Before long, Ms. Neat received a call about an upcoming audition in Manhattan, one they said Francisco would be perfect for.

Ms. Neat and her son did not know that the audition—Francisco’s first—was for a Super Bowl commercial. Francisco was up against 98 other kids, many of them more experienced.

“He went in without knowing what the commercial was even about,” Ms. Neat said. “All of the other parents were saying, ‘We’ve been going to auditions since our kid was born.’ He’s never taken acting classes or anything.”

“You’re supposed to say the line that they give you. If you get a callback, that means they like you,” Francisco explained.

“The producers picked me and one other kid, but I got the main role,” he said. The other boy can also be seen in the commercial, playing Francisco’s caddy and celebrating after he sinks a winning putt.

Ms. Neat received an email that said the producers loved Francisco and wanted to see him again the following day, because they’d narrowed down the candidates. Ms. Neat, her husband, Francisco Estrella, Ariana and Francisco had originally planned to visit relatives in Puerto Rico on January 3 and 4, but that quickly changed when Francisco was chosen to star in the spot that was being filmed on those days.

“The producer came out and said, ‘I want to be honest with you. We saw 98 kids, and we love Francisco.’ She kept saying this is a really big deal, and let us know it was for a Super Bowl commercial,” Ms. Neat recalled.

Ms. Neat and Francisco both said the filming was a great experience.

Francisco worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each of the two days. He and his mother were given the star treatment, and he even had his own dressing room.

“Everyone on set was fed beautiful meals,” Ms. Neat said. When the servers asked Francisco what he wanted for lunch, he smiled brightly and said, “Mac and cheese.” The next day, a big bowl was waiting on the set for Francisco.

“We had a great time,” Ms. Neat added.

A scene where Francisco’s arm falls and hits the bed took an hour to shoot, Ms. Neat said. They tried it so many times that Francisco got cozy in the bed and fell asleep.

“It took 16 hours to shoot this 30-second commercial,” Francisco said. Most was shot in front of a green screen with the effects being added in after filming Francisco, his mother said.

Francisco said that when he figured out millions of people were going to watch the advertisement, “I got really excited.”

To their surprise, CBS began airing Francisco’s commercial early Sunday morning. “We didn’t see the commercial, because we were at Mass,” Ms. Neat said on Monday. “One of my girlfriends called me and said she saw him in the commercial already.”

“I was so excited,” Ms. Neat said. “All of my friends started calling.”

Francisco plans to continue acting, and he wants to start modeling. He is currently signed up with the same management company, and they want to keep him auditioning.

“They said with his look he can be Latino or Italian,” Ms. Neat said, adding that he is also bilingual.

“I didn’t understand at first how big of a deal this whole thing was, but now I know how awesome this is for him,” his mother said.

But for now, Francisco is happy attending second grade at the Montauk School, where he brings home A’s and plays baseball as a catcher and first baseman.

On Monday afternoon, he came home from school just like any other day, picked up a Fruit Roll-Up from the kitchen, and went off to do some homework.

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God Bless! Great job son.
By mtkfishman (73), montauk on Feb 7, 19 8:04 AM
Way to go Francisco!!! ����������������
By scApa (2), East Hampton on Feb 14, 19 4:29 PM
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