'Dumbo' star Nico Parker on mum Thandie Newton, 'The Vampire Diaries', and seeing an elephant fly

'Dumbo' star Nico Parker on mum Thandie Newton, 'The Vampire Diaries', and seeing an elephant fly

The movie teenage star has Hollywood parents, but while she's just starred in a massive Disney film, she loves nothing more than chilling with her friends

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Dumbo is Nico's first movie, but she's not unfamiliar with Hollywood.
Photo: EPA

Teenage star Nico Parker says life is kind of quiet when she is not acting but she doesn’t believe she will become a celebrity one day. Nico – who plays Milly Farrier in Dumbo, her first film – is one of the two kids who finds out that the elephant can actually fly.

Here, the 14-year-old talks about how she started her acting career, about school, and offers some advice to budding actors.

What was it like acting with the elephant?

Obviously, it wasn’t acting with an elephant! It was a guy named Ed, who was acting in a suit. He was in a green suit and he would run around. When it was Ed it was something where they would put up a piece of tape and you would stare at that tape. Or – when he was flying – you know those cat lasers? They would put those dots around the room and you would watch a red dot fly. It was difficult but a lot of fun.

What inspired you to act?

My mum is an actress [Thandie Newton] and I got to watch her a lot growing up. It was not all her [influence] that made me want to become an actress. I think it was just starting the filming and it looked like something I could do and I really enjoy this.

What do you like to do when you are not acting?

It is kind of boring, but I like hanging out with my friends. We get obsessed with a TV show and we all watch it. Have you seen The Vampire Diaries? You should watch it, it is great.

What was the most difficult scene for you?

There is one where I am with Michael Keaton [who plays] the bad guy. We were on set and it was really cold, it was see-your-breath cold. Because of that, it made it a bit difficult to pretend to cry. It looked nice, but that was difficult.

Was it hard to memorise your lines?

At the time, I didn’t find it difficult and I don’t know how I did it. I would get the scene and then learn the lines sometimes in an hour, sometimes less.

Did you ever act in school plays?

I have – I did a lot of really, really bad school plays. I never had a main part in a school play, but I have been in them.

What movie, when you were young, was so good that you would watch it over and over again?

There were so many, but one was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I love that movie. We used to watch that a lot. Oh, Pixar films and Finding Nemo was on a lot in my house.

What was your favourite scene to film in Dumbo?

You know the bit with all the fire in the coliseum? That was so much fun. For the adults it was stressful because there was fire and two kids running around and stuff, but I really liked it.

Do you go to school or are you home-schooled?

I go to school – in London, a school in LA, and then a performing arts school.

If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be?

Beyoncé! Easily! I am obsessed with her.

Are you friends with any actors?

Yes, but more so through my parents than through me. Like the cast of Mamma Mia, I know them because my dad [British director Ol Parker] did it. And a lot of movies and TV shows my mum has done, I know people from them.

Did you get to keep any special items from the set?

I tried so hard to take them. Like the character Millie had this key that her mum gave her and I tried really hard to take it, but they caught me trying. I made the effort.

Are you excited that now you are going to become famous?

I don’t think I’ll become famous. I am, however, excited that people are going to watch Dumbo and I’m hoping they will love it and enjoy it.

What advice would you give others who want to go into acting?

You don’t properly understand how much fun it is until you are actually in the situation. It is just an uplifting experience because you are with all these incredible people.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne


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