Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Fort Myers, Florida's Sophia Forest talks about 'I Am Frankie' role on Nickelodeon

"Feels like things are getting real" is the opening line to the catchy theme song for Nickelodeon's hit new show, I Am Frankie.


Sophia Forest, 12, in downtown Fort Myers. She plays Jenny Gaines in Nickelodeon's "I Am Frankie."
(Photo: Amanda Inscore/SWFL Parent & Child)

A budding acting career has definitely gotten real for Sophia Forest, 12, of Fort Myers, Florida who plays the younger sister to teen android Frankie, a top-secret invention adopted into the family to protect it from nefarious forces.

“I can be sarcastic at times and pretty sassy,” Sophia says of her character, Jenny Gaines. “My character is pretty smart. She loves to play video games. That’s something me and my character have in common — playing video games,” Sophia told SWFL Parent & Child.

The 20-episode show launched in September 2017 and has developed a strong following. Sophia heads back to Miami this spring to tape the second season. It’s a wild dream-come-true for Sophia, who grew up a big fan of Nickelodeon. When she turned 2, the celebratory cake was Backyardigans themed. These days, she’s moved on to other Nick offerings: School of Rock, Henry Danger and Game Shakers.

“She really, really wanted to be on Nickelodeon,” says her mother, Gina Forest. “Since she was little, that’s what she watched and she wanted to be on it.”

That unexpected reality materialized quickly.


The cast of Nickelodeon's "I Am Frankie"

It started with modeling

Through the years, Gina says, people consistently urged her to guide Sophia into modeling, even as a baby.

“When she got older — 4 and up — she loved singing and dancing around the house, and being the center of attention,” including making spy and princess movies with her brother, Gina says.

After Sophia turned 9, Gina reached out to a local photographer who was photographing local talent for a modeling manager on the east coast. Gina snapped some photos and submitted them to Soleil Kids in Miami, which “immediately wrote me back and picked her up,” Gina says. This led to a lot of print work for Sophia, including Walmart, Canadian Tire and the European clothing company, Monsoon.

Sophia was booked for several commercials for Michaels craft store and City Furniture, and in print and video promotions for Moon Palace Resort in Jamaica.

“Acting is what she wanted to do, but when she had the opportunity to model, we thought, ‘Well, this is a start. Let’s see where it takes us,’” Gina says.

Acting wasn't far behind. Sophia soon connected with the Stellar Talent Agency in Pembroke Park. After attending a casting call for I Am Frankie, Sophia was called in November 2016 to a test that mixed and matched different characters to run through parts to assess the chemistry and composition of the potential cast. Sophia learned a script but was told at the last minute it was being switched. She had to learn the new one on the spot.

Innately vibrant, Sophia was excited and confident going into the first round of the audition.

“I felt like I could get it. I liked this character I was auditioning for,” she says.

Hopefuls had come from far and wide. The leading role, Frankie, is played by Alex Hook, a 16-year-old from Canada. Yet Sophia had been the only one chosen to test for the role of Jenny. “The casting director told me she was impressed with how well she did,” Gina says. “It all happened pretty fast.”


Sophia Forest, left, plays Jenny Gaines in Nickelodeon's "I Am Frankie." (Photo: Special to SWFL Parent & Child)

Filming in Miami

During filming, the duo relocated to a condo in Miami for three months. Sophia worked 10-hour days on the 17,000-square-foot studio set at the new state-of-the-art Viacom International Studios, which included squeezing in 15 hours of mandatory schoolwork per week. But she has no complaints.

“It’s really fun because everything is so cool,” Sophia says, explaining how the “fourth wall” is missing to make room for cameras, and that the different sets — home interior, high school — are all side-by-side. “I never thought it would be like that,” muses Sophia, who was the youngest person on the set and in the building.

She learned how to execute a safe slip-and-fall from a professional stunt person. After filming in the day, the cast was given a call sheet detailing scenes for the next day’s production and new lines to learn, returning to their condo as late as 9 in the evening.

“I can memorize my lines pretty fast,” Sophia says.

The demanding schedule meant they turned to P.F. Chang’s microwavable meals (Sophia's favorite) and other conveniences more often than not.

“Nobody feels like cooking at 8 at night," Gina says.


Sophia, right, with her onscreen mom, Dr. Sigourney Gaines, played by Carrie Schroeder, and Frankie Gaines, played by Alex Hook. (Photo: Special to SWFL Parent & Child)

A bright future

Sophia is home-schooled and this year is enrolled in Florida Virtual School. She has an older brother, Brandon Dusseault, 14, and little sister, Isabelle Forest, 6. Their father, Mark Forest, held down the fort during the filming. He had flexibility in his sales career to work from home.

Mark’s parents will help while Gina and Sophia are in production for Season 2.

While in production this last year, Gina and Sophia often returned from Miami to spend time with the family and mini-pinscher, Monte, at home in the Fort Myers area on weekends. Or Mark and Sophia’s siblings would take a little trip to the east coast.

“I honestly think the biggest challenge was being away from my house, family and dog a long time,” Sophia says. “My little sister always wanted to play with me while I was away filming. It made me sad sometimes.”

Sophia is bright and outgoing and likes to read action, adventure and mystery books. She readily shares what she’s reading these days — the Warriors cat and Serafina series. She’s “all about cats,” though Gina is allergic to them. She’s also been taking ballet lessons off and on since she was 4.

Will acting play a bigger role in her future?

“I honestly would like to pursue my acting. I hope I can keep it up for years to come,” Sophia says. “I would like to do movies and things like that.”


Sophia Forest plays opposite her TV dad, Michael Laurino. (Photo: Special to SWFL Parent & Child)

I Am Frankie season two is slated to premiere this Fall on Nickelodeon. Fans can watch the first season of I Am Frankie on Nickelodeon, Nick.com/Frankie and on the Nick App.


Follow NickALive! on Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, via RSS, on Instagram, and/or Facebook for the latest Nickelodeon and I Am Frankie News and Highlights!

No comments: