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Mario’s First Starring Role Alongside Hilary Swank in ‘Freedom Writers’

NEW YORK, Jan. 3 – R&B sensation Mario steps into his first starring film role in Freedom Writers, the real-life story of teenagers in gang warfare-plagued Los Angeles whose lives are changed through writing. Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank stars as the inspirational teacher who reaches Mario’s troubled teen Andre and his classmates. The Paramount Pictures/MTV Films movie premieres January 4, 2007 in Los Angeles and opens January 5, 2007.

Mario’s first serious film role is one that is close to his heart. His character’s struggle to deal with an incarcerated brother and drug-addicted mother struck a chord with Mario, who dealt with his own mother’s drug use for much of his childhood.

"I came from the same mentality as my character in Freedom Writers," Mario explains of his approach to the role of Andre. "Thankfully, like Andre, I was given an opportunity for change and I recognized that. This movie really shows people that regardless of your situation, you have the right to free yourself."

While his character Andre finds an outlet for his frustrations in writing, music is what inspired Mario, who became a star at the young age of 15 when he released his debut album, 2002’s Mario. His platinum follow-up Turning Point spawned a #1 single "Let Me Love You" and launched Mario from teen sensation to bona fide R&B star. Now 20 and with his first serious film role under his belt, Mario is prepping his third album, Go!, due out in March 2007. The album will feature songs produced by Pharrell Williams, Akon, Polow Da Don, Scott Storch, and more.