Fourth-grader Maya Tanida talks about her acting career, having recently started voicing the character Willow on the Nickelodeon show "Nella the Princess Knight." [Matt Parker/Seacoastonline]
The show follows the adventures of Nella, a princess with traditionally feminine qualities – pretty hair, rides a pink horse – as well as the courage, sword and armor of a knight. Maya Tanida, 10, of Hampton Falls, portrays the character Willow in the series.
Maya and her mother, Jillian, said few details could be revealed about Willow before her characters debut on Friday 10th February 2017. A second episode featuring her character is scheduled to air Tuesday 14th February 2017 on Nickelodeon USA.
Maya told Seacoastonline.com she has enjoyed tackling the voice of Willow and put her own spin on the character, mixing her own qualities with Willow's. "Willow is basically me, just a little different," said Maya.
For Maya, who has been professionally acting since she was 7 years old, landing the role of Willow was a big milestone.
Maya has also appeared on Sesame Street, the Netflix show Jessica Jones, the Sprout Network and two nationally televised commercials.
Maya Tanida, 10, of Hampton Falls, recently landed her first recurring role on a television show, voicing Willow on the Nickelodeon cartoon "Nella the Princess Knight." Courtesy photo.
Maya got the acting bug at age 3 when her family lived in Hawaii. Her mother's friends brought her to a casting call on the Hawaii's north shore, and she got a call back for some modeling gigs.
When Maya's family moved to Hampton Falls three years ago, Jillian met April Nicoll, mother of Seabrook child star Jackson Nicoll. Jackson has appeared in several movies including Bad Grandpa, The Fighter, and the Nickelodeon Movie Fun Size.
April Nicoll told Jillian that Maya had talent and encouraged her to take the next step in pursuing acting roles. It was not long before Maya had a manager and agent.
Asked how many auditions she went to before landing a role, she said, "I can't count." When she finally was picked for a My Little Pony toy commercial, she was ecstatic. She recalled the day her manager called her mother with the news, as well as watching herself on television for the first time.
"I was amazed," said Maya. "I was just really excited and happy, and just mixed emotions about it, but all good."
That one role created momentum for Maya, as she began to receive offers for other jobs. On Jessica Jones, she played a small part named "girl one," a young girl practicing her lines for an audition, much like she does in real life.
"I was just really proud of myself for making it to a commercial, then to a TV show," said Maya.
Maya's next gig was on the network Sprout, which airs children's programming. She was featured in 60-second highlight segments of the network's shows.
It was after that she appeared on Sesame Street, a show she had grown up watching. In the Valentine's Day episode, which will air on PBS Feb. 14, she and another boy sing a song with Elmo and give cards to each other.
Jillian said Maya's success so far is no accident. She preaches to her daughter that preparation combined with luck leads to good opportunities, and Maya said she takes that advice seriously. When she gets a new script, she locks herself in her room until she has it down. Often, Jillian said, Maya asks her mother what else she can work on to be a better performer.
Jillian said she tries to keep Maya's life at home separate from her acting work, which is often in New York. Maya said there have been times when parents have said they recognized her on television, but Jillian said most of Maya's friends at school do not really understand what level Maya has reached or how hard she works.
Whatever happens next for Maya, Jillian said her career in acting has built a foundation for success.
"Her next part of her journey, whatever she experiences after this, it's going to be so beneficial, this experience she's had," said Jillian. "She's not afraid of rejection, she knows how to speak in front of adults and meet people...; I think there's so much that she's gained."
Maya said acting has become her passion and one day she hopes to land a role on a Disney Channel show.
"There's definitely times where it's harder than others, but I never really am like, 'I want to quit,'" said Maya. "I think if I work hard and do my best, that I can definitely do it. I don't have to push too hard. I just have to do my best."
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Additional sources: Google.co.uk, IMDb.
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