HUNTERSVILLE – Justin Smith grew up hoping to grace a movie poster one day.? It was little more than a childhood pipe dream, the 23-year-old Smith said.

Until it came true.

Smith, a Huntersville resident, stars in “Petey the Movie,” a new independent comedy film premiering Aug. 17 at the CPCC Halton Theater in Charlotte.

It’s been a whirlwind six months for Smith. He’s on his first movie poster and attending his first premiere after spending his weekends filming scenes for “Petey” in between his shifts as a waiter at Taco Mac in Huntersville.

Smith had just a handful of days in between shoots to memorize his lines, but the Nashotah, Wisc., native got the job done. Smith is no stranger to changing things on the fly, anyway.

He graduated from Miami (Ohio) University with a degree in creative writing after he spent two years studying business.

“I focused on a backup plan,” Smith said. “I didn’t do a lot of acting in college.”  

It hasn’t stopped him from furthering a career that began in sixth grade when Smith performed in his school’s rendition of “The Sound of Music.”

The sound Smith heard earlier this year that changed his life wasn’t music. It was a phone call from Charlotte-based ForteJr Productions, a company Smith met at a casting call last year.

Producer Fred Forte Jr. offered Smith the lead role in “Petey” after declining to put him in a movie a year ago. They’d kept him on file afterward.

Forte recognized Smith’s hopes of success. Forte blogged on the ForteJr Productions site about how he’s driven to succeed.

“To have a dream is like planting a seed,” Forte wrote. “Of course, it must be watered with faith and prayer and hard work, but it also must be cultivated with support.”

Smith said he’s gotten plenty of support since he began filming the movie.

“They’ve been great people to work with,” Smith said of the production company.

Prior to the opportunity, Smith was in commercials for Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Verizon and Window Nation while taking acting classes at The Actor’s Lab in Charlotte.

“I try to look at things with the feeling that something’s going to work out,” Smith said. “You keep up hope that maybe it’ll be your time.”

It’s worked out well for Smith.

He plays Peter Adams, a character Smith described as “a hopeless romantic, looking for love in all the wrong places. He’s an awkward guy until he meets Cupid, and then he’s coming to grips with suddenly having the power to get women.”

The movie co-stars “No Limit” Larry Mims of Power 98 radio fame, and Tara Gulledge, who had a role in “Necessary Roughness.”

Smith said the opportunity to star in the movie was an unexpected, pleasant surprise. Being on the poster was just icing on the cake.

“It’s been great to see everything come to fruition,” he said.