Child actresses. They’re adorable, precocious, feisty, gifted. Some of them play on cute and peak before they’re 12. But the multi talented ones – with a lot of luck and great parenting – and of course, the right parts – can blossom into true dramatic movie stars: Jodie Foster (who started at 2), Natalie Portman (3), Mila Kunis (11), Elle Fanning (3). And lest we forget, Elizabeth Taylor (9).
Now a newish child prodigy is about to get her big dramatic turn. Fourteen-year-old Storm Reid headlines Disney’s all-star A Wrinkle in Time, their hundred million dollar budget adaptation of the 1963 Newbury Medal young adult fantasy book. As Meg, the protagonist of the Madeline L’Engle’s classic novel – a mishmash of quantum physics, innocence and spirituality – she is, SPOILER ALERT: saver of not just the planet – but the entire galaxy. And Storm as Meg Murray has a much more significant role than those of Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine in the Ava Duvernay directed epic.
“When I think about it that way,” the very composed teen – though more young lady – laughs, “it’s very nerve-wracking! I know I got to be part of something huge. I just love sharing the film’s message. I think people will be touched and
For those never exposed to the much-loved novel, it’s one of the best of the myriad stories of light triumphing over dark – and individuality beating trouncing conformity. Basically, it’s the movie we all need right now, as we watch our neo-fake news autocracy implode when as it gets faced with truths.
Storm started booking commercials at age 3; she already knew she had a calling. “I really don’t know where this came from,” she ponders. “I went to my mom one day, and said I wanted to be on tv – that I wanted to be a superstar. I think it was destined; that’s the only way I can explain it. And I’m grateful to have the talent to do so. I think talent comes from God. My mom was shocked – ‘oh lord, what is happening?’ – but she came around when she realized I was serious. ‘If you’re grades are good, and you’re having fun with it, then fine.’ Right away, she enrolled me in classes, she took pictures of me, got an agent.”
After her commercial breakthrough at 3, Storm’s youthful career had an uphill trajectory: at 9, she was co-starring with Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Twelve Years a Slave, in the midst of booking spots on NCIS, indie films and the pint-size tv circuit.
“When I was younger,” Storm starts – “Oh, I guess I’m still young!” (giggles) – “I went to acting classes with kids my age. Now I go to class that’s all adults. It’s pretty fun – and much more challenging.”
She grew up in Atlanta, but moved to Southern California a few years ago with her mom, who’s helping her devote her career to acting. Of course, she does home schooling, has tutors on set, and at 14, her voice still has a sweet girlish edge –but her earnestness, respect and reverence for adult wisdomcomes across almost louder. “Thank you, ma’am, so much, forthe opportunity,” she says about landing her first big magazinecover on LaPalme.”
She refers to director Ava DuVernay as “Ms. Ava,” and her co-stars as “Ms. Oprah” and “Ms. Reese.” When asked about her entourage, she laughs. “Entourage? I wouldn’t call them
that! But I have a great team: agents, managers, publicists, makeup, hair and wardrobe stylists – I’m grateful to have them.” Spoken like the pint size pro she is.
She had, like most kids her age, read A Wrinkle in Time in 6th grade, and was haunted by the character she’d wind up inhabiting. “I knew who Meg Murray was, the history of her story – Meg’s so peculiar – weird – awkward. I saw the fierceness she didn’t see in herself. But I didn’t think I would ever play her because she’s Caucasian in the book. “
But two years later, she got called to audition for DuVernay – and it all clicked. “I wanted to share Meg’s challenges, to show the light within her,” she says. “Getting to play her as an African American girl is so moving. When I went into the audition, I said, ‘Storm go in there and do your best, impress Ms. Ava.’ I was really shocked when I did book the film. It was almost too good to be true.”
Meg is your classic high school misfit at the start of the book – insecure, geeky – when some mysterious strangers (the iconic Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which) launch her into a time/galaxy journey to battle the dark evil force keeping her scientist father prisoner in another, and much creepier, time zone. Not exactly your perky cutesy Bobbsey Twins heroine, she’s stubborn, impatient, and listens to no one.
No problem for Storm. “I actually prefer the dark heavy stuff. Of course, I loved doing Nickelodeon – a fun experience and you make a lot of friends. But I really love the heavy dramatic stuff – tell somebody’s story in depth. Drama is my favorite genre.”
Storm finally got to see the finished print three weeks before release – at Oprah’s house, with the rest of the cast. Just a little catered get together in a private screening room in your average mega manshion. “She doesn’t act like she’s Oprah,” laughs Storm. “She just comes on the set, does her work, treats everyone well –she is an amazing mentor to me now – and I hopea friend.” But she still refers to her as “Ms. Oprah.”
Meanwhile, DuVernay liked Reid so much she cast her in the Jay-Z/Beyonce video she directed after the film, Family Feud. “No, I didn’t get to meet them,” laments Storm, who isn’t in any scenes with the world’s most famous couple. “But I hope to meet them soon.” At this rate, she’ll be dining with them at Nobu Malibu pretty soon – at a front table.
Just another case of kid actor syndrome – 14 going on 40?
“Um – I think kid actors may grow up faster, with the responsibility of having to do school work, learn all lines,” says Storm, in her young wisdom – “but in a life sense, it’s about the people you surround yourself with – what you’re doing outside of acting. If you’re all about the nice things and fame, you can grow up faster. But if you’re doing what you love, and being a regular kid off the set – you can be okay. I’m still hanging out with friends, watching cooking shows. It has to be a good balance – acting and being a regular teenager and human being. It’s not about getting so much attention ALL the time. We’re still kids and we won’t be perfect all the time.”
Meanwhile, Storm’s already completed a sci-fi horror flick, Only You, in which she stars with David Oyelowow, going on an international press tour for Wrinkle – and picking out pretty dresses for her red carpet romps.
“And you know what?” she says sweetly. “I’m still having fun.”