Bringing the classic “The Babysitters Club” to an all new generation, Netflix is clearly updating it. In addition to making it accessible for a modern audience. Young new talent to take the world by storm and new actress Malia Simphiwe Baker is no exception. Born in Botswana and acting for a single year before landing the role, we’re excited to introduce you to this up-and-coming actor.
Congratulations on your role as Mary Anne in the Netflix adaptation of The Babysitters Club! Were you a fan of the book series before auditioning?
Yes, I was. My mom always referred to herself as a “Dawn,” so automatically I wanted to figure out who the heck Dawn was. That curiosity made me stumble on The Baby-Sitters Club books and I fell in love right away as almost everyone does when they read the books – I was so happy to find that my mom’s old books were still in good condition and had to read as many as possible right away!
Starting acting only a year before getting this role is so unusual. Can you tell us a little about how you got started?
I had always been so enchanted by my dad working in film and all of the stories he had told me from set. I was so interested in it and finally had the courage to tell my dad I wanted to be an actor. That’s when I got an agent and started training. A few months later I got my first job as an extra, but then last minute I got moved up to having a line!
How have you handled the whirlwind that comes along with such a swiftly ballooning career?
I find that you always need a way to stay grounded. For example, that could be a sport or a hobby, and for me, I have multiple things. I love art in all forms so dancing, painting, and music are the ways to keep me from falling over.
What made you want to play Mary Anne?
I wanted to play Mary Anne because I always felt connected to her as a person and I also think it’s amazing that they made her black. Growing up I didn’t have many relatable black people on screen or in books to watch. I think it’s going to be so amazing to have a black girl on-screen that isn’t perceived as being loud or ratchet because that’s usually what the black girl characters are. I hope black kids will feel represented no matter how light their skin. I’m so grateful and excited to play this character!
What do you see of yourself in her?
I am a shy person deep down, especially as a younger kid, so I found it really comforting to read about a character that was the same way. That’s one of the great things about the Baby-Sitters Club, is that you can relate to at least one of the characters.
Mary Anne has such a complicated background with having lost her mother at a young age. How do you think seeing her on-screen will impact other teens watching the show?
I think that having one parent absent is very relatable for the viewers watching the show. I hope that it shares how you are not alone and that facing all of these challenges and struggles is much easier to do when your family and friends are with you. In this case, the BSC!
What has been the most difficult part of transitioning into a working actor’s lifestyle? Has anything, in particular, helped you deal with the stress that comes along?
I honestly don’t find it that difficult because this is my dream job and I feel blessed to be doing this every day. If I do happen to feel stressed then I will play music, get my body active by dancing or boxing, and even try something new.
Right now we’re in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. What are you doing at home to help keep yourself busy and emotionally steady?
I am making sure that I keep up with my health, which helps keep me emotionally, as well as physically steady, and reminding myself that this can also be a time to reflect and change things for the future. I’ve randomly started to play the piano, after years of my grandma saying I should due to my long fingers, and I have to say I’m really enjoying it! I encourage us all to keep healthy and maybe take on a new hobby!
For any young readers out there, do you have any advice on breaking into the entertainment business? What to remember once you’re working?
I would say that this is something you have to be sure of because it’s going to be one of the main things going on in your life so you have to really love it. Get a good team behind you because having a good support system is number one. If you do decide this is something you want to do I was told, “If you’re not learning something new, then why are you doing it” from a wise person with years in the business, and I would definitely keep that in mind so that you continue to work on, and challenge yourself in, this form of art.
Is there anything else you’d like the fans to know?
I hope you all enjoy the show and feel it resonates with you all today. I think it’s so important to remember that just because a kid is now on a TV show doesn’t mean that they’re any less of a kid, so remember I’m a kid just like you!
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