Joshua Rush is happy to be voicing the title character in DreamWorks’ new animated Where’s Waldo? series — just don’t actually ask him to find Waldo.
The 17-year-old actor tells PEOPLE that despite leading the show, which premieres on Universal Kids July 20, he still struggles to track down the explorer in the iconic books author and illustrator Martin Handford first published in the ’80s.
“I remember getting my first Waldo book at age 5 from my grandma! I tried FOREVER to find him and just couldn’t! So I gave up on it, sadly,” Rush admits. “When I got the role, I tried looking for the book, but I had never really gained those skills from the Waldo books in the first place, so I couldn’t find it!”
Despite his lack of sleuth skills, Rush does give life to the character in the show, which follows a 12-year-old Waldo and his best friend Wenda (voiced by Haley Tju) as the two inquisitive young adventurers travel the globe on international travel missions.
“Waldo is definitely a character that so many people know about, think about and might have their own ideas of a personality of,” Rush says. “This Waldo isn’t exactly the same as that of the books, but he shares a curiosity and a knack for getting lost! I was just excited by the idea of being able to bring someone like him to life.”
With over 40 credits to his name, Rush — who broke ground when he played the Disney Channel’s first openly gay character in Andi Mack — has had experience voicing an animated character before.
What’s the biggest challenge? “Definitely moving around!” he says. “Since I started as an on-camera actor, I often struggle with not moving around! So I always take my shoes off before I walk into the studio, that way I can jump, run, and generally wiggle around with no sound.”
Working with Tju, another actor with voice-over experience, helped too.
“Haley is a great costar!” he says of Tju, 18. “She’s incredibly talented and super fun to be in the booth with. In voice-over work, we’re often all alone in the studio, but with Haley, we’re able to work together, play off one another, and joke around. It’s so much fun!”
But mostly, Rush is excited for fans to see the variety of cultures Where’s Waldo celebrates.
“Right now more than ever, despite being so interconnected, we are incredibly divided,” Rush says. “I hope kids will see the cultures all over the world that we showcase, and learn to celebrate them, rather than fear or be angry towards them.”
“Everyone is going to love the show, not just kids!” he adds. “It shows exciting people going all over the place, going on exciting adventures and finding awesome magic keys.”
DreamWorks’ Where’s Waldo? premieres on Saturday, July 20 (at 10 a.m. ET) on Universal Kids.