Since playing the role of Penelope Pritchard in The Haunted Hathaways, Ava Cantrell has filmed other productions including Young Sheldon and One Under the Sun. Other acting work for Ava has seen her as Teen Diana in 2016 horror feature film Lights Out and she will soon be filming a new production called Abigail in the title role. Ava also works on her own projects with one of her short films now showing at festivals, and as a director will be working on her upcoming release, The Tire Tree. Taking time to talk with us, Ava chats about playing Penelope on The Haunted Hathaways, filming Lights Out and working on her own projects.
What was it like being involved in Young Sheldon?
I am so thrilled to be a part of Young Sheldon. The cast and crew are insanely talented as well as super kind and welcoming. I personally think it is one of the funniest shows on television right now and it was also really fun to improv with drama teacher Jason Alexander on the show. I am a huge fan of Sienfield, so when I found out not only did I book Young Sheldon but would also be working with one of the kings of comedy, I was beyond thrilled. We had some great moments!
Can you tell us about playing Teen Diana in Lights Out?
I loved playing Teen Diana in Lights Out. Diana is a horror character that is like Jason of Halloween and has an interesting backstory. Filming for Warner Brothers in an abandoned hospital was terrifying as well as super memorable. I will never forget it! It was David Sandberg’s first feature film and he absolutely killed it. I am sure excited for Lights Out 2 and hope my character reveals more of her story. I actually really love working in horror films, I am a big chicken and don’t watch many, but working in them is a blast!
How long were you filming for this role and what was it like watching the final production?
Lights Out had audience testing and I was brought in after the film wrapped. Apparently they wanted to understand Diana more and lucky for that, I got to be the one to tell that part of the story. I worked for less then a week! I booked that role on the first audition. I just really went for it.
You played Penelope Pritchard in The Haunted Hathaways, can you say more about this?
I think being a strong recurring character on a top Nickelodeon show was my breakthrough as an actor. I was Penelope for over two years. I really got comfortable playing her as well as working on the Paramount lot. I loved how Penelope was so bratty and spoiled and the last episode I played, you got to see my softer side. I love filming our last scene with Breanna Yde our relationship coming full circle. I think it would be really fun to see where these two characters are right now on another show. I am so thankful to Nickelodeon for such a fun job.
Is there anything you can say about feature film Abigail, where you are playing the title character?
Abigail is a psychological thriller with a Bonnie and Clyde, 70s edge to it. I am more the Clyde character and ringleader. Abigail is a character that enjoys corrupting others and is going to take the audience on a ride they won’t see coming.
What is it like attending and winning at award ceremonies?
I am honoured to be recognised for my work. There are so many talented actors in my field, so to get recognised and get awards for my work feels really special.
One of the awards you won was for Best Leading Young Actress in feature film One Under the Sun; what was Amelia Voss like to portray?
Amelia Voss was the most challenging role that I have played to date. Amelia had terminal cancer and goes through three years of her life in the film with all stages of being scared, being angry to acceptance. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to play such a strong role at a relatively young age. I feel confident for whatever role comes my way after One Under The Sun. Amelia had such strength even during her most difficult times. The last day I filmed I was in hair and makeup for almost seven hours preparing for her final hours. When the cast and crew saw me, they all had tears and were emotionally impacted by my appearance in the bald cap. I felt in that moment as if I was Amelia. Many actors look into their personal lives to cry on cue, but I am an actor that wants to immerse in actually being that person. I think for me, Amelia felt like a turn point in my life and career.
What do you remember from your time on set of this production?
I remember most the comradery on set. I actually really love Indies and the passion for the project that everyone involved has. No one is working for money, it is all for the passion of the project.
Where has been the furthest you have filmed away from home?
My roles have all been around Los Angeles. I really hope to book something and work out of state or country though. I think it would be really exciting. Vancouver, New York or even out in the middle of nowhere would be a really exciting change of pace. I am putting it in the universe.
You are working on your own projects, can you tell us more about these?
I am juggling a lot these days. I completed a short film which is now showing at Film Festivals. I will be screening at the Palms in Las Vegas for Detention Boyz at Hollywood Dreams Film Festival. I co-created a comic called Amulet of Lilith with my Dad that is now selling on Comixology. We went to Comic-Con recently and had some great meetings and want to continue to push that. The goal down the road is for that to be a film or television show. My dad and I also co-wrote a pilot that we have had optioned and is now getting serious interest to make. Also, we are involved with AwesomenessTV, Viacom and BrandonTV (launching soon) for a project called Crestmore. I am helping produce that as well as one of the leads. I hope to book some amazing projects in 2019 but I am not waiting for that to happen. That would be an amazing bonus to all of the great work I am creating for myself. This is the year for women filmmakers and women in the industry and I am so thankful to the women that have paved the way and continue to inspire.
How does it feel having your pilot be picked up by AwesomenessTV?
Really awesome! LOL! It is really exciting to partner with Viacom, AwesomenessTV and BrandonTV. I really believe in Crestmore. It is a little different than anything I have seen and that is what we are going for. We want some elements of dance and singing in there as well without being a musical. Online shows are the future and having a huge moment right now. I am happy to be part of this growing trend.
You are also an award-winning dancer, where does your love of dance come from?
I started dancing at two and a half. I loved to perform more then anything, and everyone that would see me in the recitals or at competitions would say I needed to be working in Hollywood. In the dance circuit I was known as a “turner” and “performer” I took dance as far as I could go with it at the time by winning awards, leading charities in New York and Washington, D.C., delving into all styles, and committing a big part of my life to it. I realised that although I loved it, I stopped loving it as much as I did in the past. I wanted to focus on surfing and developing skills in martial arts. I would love to film an adventure movie and play a kick butt character. I will be putting my dance shoes back on for Crestmore and excited to do that again. There could also be a surfing movie in my future as that is in pre-development and that will be a dream come true.
Can you tell us about your charity work?
I have been involved with charity from a young age. Some of the main charities I work with are LA Mission, Children Mending Hearts, PawWorks and Angel City Sports. It is important to give back with time, sharing important messages and leading by example. We all really need to do more. We need to help more people, animals and our universe. I really wish I could do more!
What was your first acting experience?
What I remember as my first main acting experience was booking a short film Pals and a Dell commercial at the same time. On the Dell commercial, it was Austin North and I and our commercial family driving around a vintage RV. It was so much fun and he and I are still friends. My agents had to schedule both projects so that it would all work out and it was fun to be so busy.
Can you tell us your career plans for the next few months?
Abigail should film within that time frame, I had a recent meeting with a big and popular tween/teen network and could possibly be working for them. I am also going to start college as well as keep developing my own projects. My next director project is called The Tire Tree and I actually have a Disney star that is interested in the lead role. I am going to keep forging forward, and have become really comfortable taking on the unknown. In this business, you have to have many things going and not sit and wait for it to happen.
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