*Article originally published on Variety Latino on 5.27.15
Isabela Moner is not your typical Nickelodeon kid, she’s not only talented and charming but also has a long resume behind her – this isn’t her first rodeo, if you catch my drift.
Raised in Cleveland, Ohio from Peruvian descent, at the age of 10 Moner made her debut on Broadway in the revival of Evita and on television as a singer in The Next Big Thing New York. She gained the lead role in the acclaimed film The House that Jack Built, appeared in numerous theatrical productions such as Little Miss Sunshine as Rosa Maria, became Annie in Annie and Young Cosette in Les Misérables. Fans also got a chance to see her in NBC’s Growing Up Fisher and soon in Nick’s upcoming movie, Splitting.
Now, at the age of 13, Moner joins the ranks of Paola Andino as a lead Latina actress in a Nickelodeon show and is ready to have her big break starring in the brand new series 100 Things To Do Before High School as CJ Martin.
I got a chance to talk to the soon-to-be tween queen about her new role, the actresses she looks up to and of course, what is on her list of things she has to do before high school.
Tell us about your character, CJ Martin?
CJ Martin is the creator of the list [100 things to do before high school] with her two best friends Crispo (Owen Joyner) and Fenwick (Jaheem Toombs). She creates the list because she feels like they are drifting apart, they are getting older and they’re going to be in high school soon. So she creates this book to make them closer. My character is optimistic, determined and super positive. She believes that if you do good things for others, good things will happen to you.
How much do you relate to CJ?
I feel like I can relate because we really care about our friends and relationships. I also believe that you should be kind to everyone no matter what. I think that everyone deserves a chance.
How is 100 Things To Do Before High School different from any other Nickelodeon show?
In the show, I look at the camera. I break the fourth wall and I talk to the viewers to make it more intimate, personal and relatable. It’s very interesting. I don’t think I’ll ever get to do that again and it’s single camera so it’s more up-close. We also don’t have a live audience.
What have you learned from the early days of filming? What has been the hardest part?
I have learned a lot about being on set. It has been a great learning experience and I feel like I know a lot more about filming. The hardest thing for me is probably memorizing my lines for each scene but that’s why we have a dialogue coach to help us with that. One of the most fun things is probably being on set with my friends. Owen and I are really close now and we kind of have that brother and sister relationship. We’ll constantly be hanging out outside of being on set. Which is weird because you would think we would be sick of each other now but no, we’re so used to each other.
What were some of your favorite Nickelodeon shows growing up?
I would have to say some of my favorite Nickelodeon shows were Zoey 101 and iCarley. When I was younger I would watch Dora The Explorer and now I’m in Dora and Friends, I voice the character of Kate. I got to meet Fatima Ptacek, the actress who does the voice of Dora and I was such a fan girl. Who knew [this would happen]!
How awesome! So what has been the hardest part of trying to make it as an actress?
You definitely have to be all-in. You can’t just be sort of liking acting, you have to really [want it] and I know I want to do this for the rest of my life. I knew that once I got to the audition process that would be the hardest part because you get turned down so much. But you have to know that it is not your fault. The hardest part for me [right now] is being away from my family. I’m from Ohio and my family is back home, well half of my family, my brother and my dad, and it’s hard to be away from them for so long.
I bet! But tell us, what would you like to accomplish in the future?
I want to continue with my music. A lot of people don’t know that I can sing and when the show comes out I think it would be great to release some music. Right now I’m working on some YouTube covers and soon I’ll be releasing a single. I’m excited for that. Some of my goals are to play on stage. I play the ukulele and I’ve got like a million ukuleles that I cannot wait to play.
Who is your role model in Hollywood?
My role models change very often but right now I’m fan-girling over Debbie Ryan. I love how edgy she is with her music and acting. Debbie’s Instagram is on point. It’s gold! I also love Jennifer Lawrence because she’s accomplished so much at such a young age and has gotten her Oscar. She’s amazing!
So I have to ask… What are some things that want to do before high school?
Well, I’m already in high school but I wrote down a list of things that I want to do before I graduate… For sure I want to go to Italy. I want to go to prom. I want to camp overnight at a beach or someplace with no phone, no wifi. It sounds terrible but to me it sounds great to not have those necessities that we have in life and just be like a cave man. I would also like to go Alaska and see the Northern Lights that would be cool. And maybe learn how to cook something. (Laughing) Honestly, I’m good at microwaving things.
Don’t miss Isabela and the premiere of 100 Things To Do Before High School June 6th at 8 PM on Nickelodeon.