I wish someone would have told me that there is a lot of rejection in this business. When I used to audition for projects, I would be so anxious to hear back from casting, but actors rarely get any feedback. Now I submit my auditions, hope for the best, and look forward to the next opportunity. I’m just glad that casting directors get the opportunity to see me!
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kylee D. Allen.
At the ripe old age of 11 Kylee D. Allen is making her acting debut in The Underground Railroad which is debuting May 14th on Amazon. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead, the historical fiction narrative is about a woman’s journey escaping slavery. Kylee portrays ‘Molly,’ one of the three children featured in this powerful story which was adapted by Academy Award-winning producer/director Barry Jenkins.
Influenced by her love of all things Disney and Nickelodeon, the Atlanta native knew that she wanted to be in front of the camera by the age of six and has been working in commercials and modeling ever since that time. She is thrilled and honored to be a part of this prestigious project and excited about what her future holds.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I moved from Virginia to Georgia when I was three years old. My mom always kept me and my older brother active in different activities. He was always involved in different sports, but I enjoyed gymnastics, dance and especially the sessions at our school’s drama club. Having honor roll has always been important in our house. We aren’t allowed to do anything extra if our grades slip!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was younger, I would always look at people on the Disney and Nickelodeon shows and I thought that what they were doing in the scenes was an actual reality. One day, I told my mom and she described what acting really was and explained what the people on the tv shows were doing. That’s when I first learned about acting and right away I told her that I wanted to start acting too!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your entertainment career?
When I first auditioned for The Underground Railroad, it was for a different role. I worked super hard on that audition tape and felt really good about my performance. That was the first time that I had ever gotten a call back from casting. I was so excited that they were interested in me. Weeks later, I was devastated to find out that I was released from the project. But eventually I was cool with knowing that the show’s casting got to see me and now know who I am. A couple weeks after, I got another audition for the same show but a different role. I was really excited because this audition was in person, and I feel more connected to the casting director when I’m right in front of them. A few days later, I found out that I booked the role! I couldn’t believe it because I had worked so hard and this role was the most difficult I had ever auditioned for! The role of “Molly” was definitely a perfect fit for me and meant to be.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the beginning, I used to get really disappointed with myself when I would mess up during audition tapings. I would know the lines, but just fumble the words somehow. It was so frustrating! But when we would go back and watch all of the bloopers, it would make me laugh to see my mistakes. Now when I tape, I’m not so hard on myself. Everyone makes mistakes because no one is perfect.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Who do you think that might help people?
Right now, I’m focusing on keeping my grades up in school and looking forward to booking my next acting gig.
Most young people your age don’t have to balance work and school. Can you tell us how you manage to balance your schoolwork, auditions, and time on set?
Balancing schoolwork, auditions, and time on set was really hard at first, especially when I was still enrolled in public school. I had no free time. My mom made the decision to start homeschooling me once I started filming The Underground Railroad. That helped out my schedule a lot. Plus, the teachers on set were great with helping me balance my schedule during the day. The craziest part was having to film auditions for other projects while I was still filming the show during the day. That got really stressful, but my mom always found a way to make it happen.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother has gone through everything with me! She is always there for me when I need help and calms me down when I get too overwhelmed. She is the reason that I can balance everything — she has the hardest job! Not too long ago, we were both looking at old videos and ran across my first showcase performance when I was six years old. My mom actually got emotional because we realized how far we had come since the beginning. I say “we” because I couldn’t have done anything without her. She is always by my side and I’m very appreciative of all of her hard work as a single mom. I also have to shout out my grandfather! He was the one that enrolled me in that first showcase and always encourages me to keep pursuing my career.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s jump to the main part of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- I wish someone would have told me that there is a lot of rejection in this business. When I used to audition for projects, I would be so anxious to hear back from casting, but actors rarely get any feedback. Now I submit my auditions, hope for the best, and look forward to the next opportunity. I’m just glad that casting directors get the opportunity to see me!
- I wish someone would have told me that when actors are on set filming, the director can switch up the script at any time. Since The Underground Railroad was my first big project, I made sure that I was super prepared for all of my scenes. The first time that the director, Barry Jenkins, edited my lines, I got a little nervous, but it ended up making the scene ten times better! He even added my character to some scenes that weren’t in the script — which was a win for me!
- Speaking of Barry, he gave me some good advice that I wish I knew on my other projects. When I first got to set and was nervous he told me, “The audition is over. You already booked the role! Now put your nerves aside and transform into your character.” That was so true and very encouraging. It let me know that my director had faith in me as an actress.
- I also wish I would’ve known about how much taxes are taken out of my paychecks! Since I’m a kid and never had a job, I didn’t understand how taxes work, but when my mom showed me my first pay stub, I was blown away by all of the taxes that had been paid before I even got my money!
- And last but not least, when I first started acting at six years old, I wish someone would have told me how much hard work and dedication it takes to be successful in this business. Being an actress affects every part of my life. I don’t have as much free time as other kids that are my age, but being on set and in front of the camera is all worth it to me! I still remember how exciting it was to book my first commercial and how amazing it was walking on to set. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
You are a person of enormous influence. How do you think you can use social media as a platform to be a positive influence to your fans, and for society at large?
I would love to use my influence to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. As a young African-American, this is important to me because I see horrible things on TV and social media way too much. I would use my platform to help with making changes or help other young people understand what’s going on. I would also love to give other upcoming actors and actresses advice and information about what it’s like to start an acting career as a kid, because I wish I had someone to go to when I started.
If you had the ability to choose to work on any TV show or film, or work alongside any co-star, or with any director, what or who would that be, and why? You never know who might see this article, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to be casted for a role in Stranger Things on Netflix! It’s one of my favorite shows to watch. I could totally see myself running from one of the demogorgons or hanging out with the kids of the show. It would be cool to see how they run things on their set. Just being behind the scenes on that show would be super cool!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Everyone can follow me on Instagram @kylee.d.allen
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!