This week, Atlanta Film and TV had the opportunity to conduct a FaceTime interview with nine-year-old, sassy, and super friendly actress Sammi Haney, who plays Esperanza Jimenez, on the Netflix hit series, Raising Dion. Esperanza is a bright classmate of Dion, who has brittle bone disease. A brilliant artist wise beyond her years, she looks out for Dion in an endearing manner, and, though it takes a while, Dion grows to realize she is his best friend.
I read somewhere that you had no prior acting experience before your role in Raising Dion. What inspired you to audition for the role of Esperanza?
I watched a lot of Netflix and I always wondered what it would be like to be on one of the TV shows or movies. That’s when my mom found a casting call for Raising Dion, looking for a sassy girl in a wheelchair, who was about a year younger than me.
Did you have a talent agent or did you submit your audition for the role of Esperanza on your own? Also, if you could share with us what that process was like for you?
At the time, I didn’t have a talent agent. My parents were the ones who submitted me for the role Esperanza, and I still have yet to find the right talent agent.
The process, however, was fun, and when the Casting Director sent us a script I took it very seriously. We used a lamp for extra lighting and my mom’s phone to film the audition. Once we submitted the first audition tape, the Casting Directors liked it so much that they sent us another script and we basically did the same thing for the second audition, except this time, we practiced for hours! Once we sent the second audition tape, the Casting Directors asked for a few changes and within a few weeks while we were on a family vacation my mom got a phone call saying that I got the part and I was very excited!
How are you similar to your character Esperanza?
I’m similar to Esperanza because we’re both sassy, we both love science and art, we’re both a ride-or-die friend, and we also don’t like to be mean to other people.
What was your favorite thing to do with Ja’Siah Young on set?
We loved to play games together and we would have tickle fights!
How was your experience going to the Emmy Awards?
I actually didn’t win an award, they just invited me along with the cast of Raising Dion. I did, however, have fun! I also got to dance a lot, and my dad even met Adam Sandler!
For our readers who don’t know, please share with us what Osteogenesis Imperfecta is?
Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as Brittle Bone Disease, is not a calcium problem, and even though I drink milk and think it’s delicious, milk doesn’t help. For example, when I was younger and I was sleeping I used to break my thighs and my legs from tossing and turning.
While filming, how did you balance learning your lines, working on set, school work, and therapy?
Before we went on set to film, and when there were long breaks we did our schoolwork. I only had my therapy sessions twice a week, one of which was physical therapy in the hospital, and water therapy at the YMCA.
My mom worked with me on memorizing my lines for Raising Dion. We would lay in bed and she would say the lines first, and I would repeat them back. We kept doing that up until the day we had to film my scenes - and by then, it was all memorized in my brain!
What’s your advice to kids about your age wanting to pursue acting?
If it’s something that you want to do, I say go for it! If you think it’s going to be easy, there are sacrifices, such as filming might not be close to where you live, you won’t be able to be with your family. And, you’ll have to memorize lines and practice. I will say, it’s a lot of hard work, but if you really want to do it, never ever give up on your dreams!
For more information on Sammi Haney, be sure to check out her website!
and, on Facebook.