If you have attended any Young Hollywood red carpet or charity events in the past few years, you no doubt have come across the very energetic, bubbly personality of Ava Cantrell. This teen actress, who turns 17 next month, has been in the biz since 2008, appearing on such hits as The Haunted Hathaways and Lights Out. She has also earned several industry awards, from the La Femme International Rising Star to a Young Artist Award to, this year, a Young Entertainer Award.
While we have interviewed Ava on the red carpet a couple of times in the past (check out our Youtube Channel for the vids), we wanted to get a little more in-depth. She is a well-spoken, creative person who is a perfect example of perserverance and hard work — two qualities which are sure to help her climb to the top and which will hopefully inspire you, the reader, to keep striving toward positive goals. Without further ado, let’s get into the Q&A!
photo: Alikay Photography
Hi Ava! Nice to chat with you again! Tell us a little bit about yourself for those who are unfamiliar.
I am so happy to be chatting with you! Love what you guys do.
Professionally, I am an actress and have been working in the industry since age 8. My career has definitely been slow and steady. I started working in the industry with short films, commercials and music videos. I booked Nickelodeon’s “Haunted Hathaways” then Warner Brothers’ “Lights Out” and most recently “Young Sheldon.” I have also been getting recognized for my work as Amelia Voss in the feature film “One Under The Sun” as the La Femme International 2017 Rising Star and a Young Entertainer Award for best actress in a feature film. I feel blessed to be able to work in Hollywood and live a pretty low key life in San Diego.
I am legal 18 and passed the CHSPE but I am staying in school and graduating early with honors. I danced for many years, love to surf, love photography and enjoy the really simple things in life like sunsets and hanging out with my family and dogs.
What sort of training have you done in the arts?
I was a trained dancer when I was young and spent many years competing. I have many overall titles and crowns in dance. I don’t spend much time in studios anymore dancing, but trust me if the right role comes along that has dance, I am so ready for it. Just like Natalie Portman stopped dancing at age 12 to focus on acting, then picked it up for Black Swan. I will always be able to incorporate dance into any role but now adding other things into my repertoire like being a better surfer, martial arts, boxing and more stunt-type training. As actors we need to have more than a few physical skills in our bag of tricks.
I have studied acting with many great people in Hollywood as well as took classes for many years. Now I coach one-on-one with my manager/coach Sharon Lane. We work on issues that I have, as well as scripts, which I love. It is not just about the audition you are going in for but who you are as an actor. Finding yourself in the character but always being able to switch it up fast when casting asks. I love Sharon because she is hard on me. I want to know the truth and I want to be my best self.
You recently appeared in Young Sheldon alongside Jason Alexander (Season 1, Episode 16). Tell me about that experience and what stands out most!
It was so amazing working on Young Sheldon. That cast and crew is brilliant. Working on one of the top rated shows in Hollywood is incredible, but the people on that show made the experience. Iain Armitage is one of the most gifted young actors in Hollywood. It was a joy working with him. It is truly one of the nicest sets I have worked on.
My scenes were all with Jason Alexander and he is not only an incredible human being but also one of the most giving actors I have worked with. In one scene the camera was only on him, but he kept turning to me and pulling me in. I got an extra scene in the classroom, that turned into more lines, and that turned into Jason calling me Ava in the scene. It was really funny because people were asking me why I was called Ava in “Young Sheldon” but I am credited as Molly. Basically, that was Jason saying that my character is Molly in Annie, but in his class I am Ava. To make it simple, when Jason is doing his thing you go with it and I was so lucky to get to be able to improv with him. That scene was so fun to shoot and was not in script.
Filming the Annie scene with Jason is probably the hardest thing I have have had to do to date. I mean he is hilarious and kept changing it up each time and not laughing was almost impossible! At one point he stuck his rag in my face, so I just went along. We totally got each other, and the compliments he gave to me in between takes will forever be close to my heart.
What do you consider your biggest break so far and what made it so special?
Everyone still knows me as Penelope Pritchard on Nickelodeon’s “Haunted Hathaways.” It is still running all of the time and is what kids get excited about when they meet me. It was my first break-out role to be recurring on that show, but working on Warner Brother’s “Lights Out” was the break that made me realize that I could work in a big Hollywood movie. I hope I have a few more of those to come in my career.
Tell me about the time you were most nervous as an actress and how you got through it.
I know this sounds crazy but I am not a really nervous-type person. As an actress you have to give it your all and being nervous or hesitant would just hold me back. When I am auditioning I don’t get nervous because it is so out of my control. Either I am right for the part or I am not. When I am working the part is mine and I can’t let nerves get in my way or diminish my performance. You want to know what I get nervous about? It is speeches and going live! That is the scariest thing to me.
Most rewarding moment as a performer?
My role as Amelia Voss in “One Under The Sun” has been most rewarding. It was a lower budget feature, and I was so happy to accept the role. I knew that role would change me as an actress forever and it did.
Playing the role of a girl with terminal cancer was pretty heavy. To see myself on the final day of my life after battling cancer, as well as reunite with my mother after three years apart was so emotional. It was my last scene filming and I am really glad we filmed that last. It was authentic to my emotions.
The movie has a powerful message that we are all one under the sun. Why our world still struggles with this is so sad to me. I loved being able to accept the award for best actress for this at YEA Awards and address the topic in my speech about there needing to be more strong women roles in Hollywood. I said it WILL be our generation to change that, and I believe it.
photo: Alikay Photography
You were recently nominated for a Young Entertainer Award. What was it for…and what was the outcome?
I was recently nominated and won the YEA award for Best Actress in a Feature Film. It was surreal. I knew when I finished “One Under The Sun” that I was really proud of my work. I walked away knowing I left it all on the table and had no regrets. I feel really blessed that YEA recognized my work. Moments like that carry me through the difficult times that I question if this is actually something I can continue doing.
What was the best part about attending?
I loved being with all of my peers. I’ve been attending for three years. Some of the speeches had me in tears. It warmed my heart to have some younger actors and actresses come up to me and tell me that I’m their role model. One said “Nice girls win.” That really made my heart happy!
Looking back on what you have done in showbiz so far, if you could do one thing over again and change it, what would it be?
Looking back, I got caught up in normal teen stuff. I thought I needed friends or relationships in the biz. I would see groups of Hollywood kids and think, it would be great to have a group like that.
What I realized is that, first, when I am not working I hate to talk about auditions or work. I want to to talk about things outside that. If its always a topic of conversation it becomes reptive and boring. Second, Hollywood friendships don’t get you work. Talent and being right for the role gets you work. Last, actors and actresses staying professional is so important.
I think the usual teen drama when played out with celebrity friends on Instagram is just distracting and unnecessary. I have a few people I love to run into that are awesome people in the biz, but for the most part, my friends are all people I have known for years before all of this stuff took off.
photo: Alikay Photography
Most awkward experience IRL?
I am a pretty awkward person so on any given day you can catch me in an awkward experience. The important thing is to laugh those moments off and not take yourself too seriously.
Biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve….Nosy people and gossips. Come on people, find something constructive to do with your lives rather then worry about others or talk about others.
Favorite musical artist?
I have a ton of favorites, but my all time favorite bands are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, and Cage the Elephant.
I want to film an action type movie because I haven’t done that yet. I want to show the world my fiesty and strong side. I have had limited stunt training and am training now in boxing. Oh yes, and can I surf in it as well? That would be a dream for sure.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Although I’m a huge Star Wars fan, I think I’m going to say Star Trek. I love watching the old classic episodes, and as a science nerd I love that everything is scientifically accurate. Star Trek even inspired a lot of real life technology, even the flip phone came from the show!
Chocolate or vanilla?
I love chocolate bars, but vanilla cakes, cupcakes, and ice cream for sure.
What do you find most attractive in a person?
I definitely look for humor in another person. I like people that are funny, and I can laugh with. We need to get each other’s sense of humor. If I am with someone and 4 hours feels like 10 minutes, I am attracted. I am not a hipster type girl so I am not looking for that. I like cute, sweet, classy, funny and smart guys.
What are you working on next?
I am super excited to be starring in a feature film called “The Fostered” the end of this summer. I also have two projects in development right now. One is a pilot/series and the other is a comedy spy movie. My Dad and I wrote both and both are optioned. You have to get out there and create your own work. At this point of my career and after 9 years it is just the progession of things.
Tell me something people would be surprised to know about you?
I think people are surprised at how much I love science. I spend a lot of my time listening to science podcasts, reading books, and watching shows on science. I would rather discuss black holes, evolution or new palentology discoveries than my outfits.
Can we please get a selfie of whatever you are up to at the moment?