Eight-year-old Ja’Siah Young is appearing on screens across the world in the new Netflix Sci-Fi drama Raising Dion as the titular character, who after losing his father, gains superhero powers. Ja’Siah saw the finished production for the first time at the premiere, with the series being released on Netflix earlier this month. In the upcoming release of Nicole and O.J., Ja’Siah will be taking on the role of their son Justin Simpson, and he has also had experience in voiceover work for Nickelodeon. Answering our questions, Ja’Siah speaks about booking his role in Raising Dion, attending the premiere and filming Nicole and O.J. as Justin.
How is it filming Raising Dion and being on set?
Filming Raising Dion was amazing. It was a big set, we had lots of different locations, and there were lots of stunts and exciting parts to film. We even had some scenes in the lake, which was pretty cool in the ATL summer. My favourite part is, for sure, performing the stunts to make the magic in the show come to life.
Do you remember how you felt when booking the role of Dion?
Of course! When I booked the role of Dion, I was crazy excited! I couldn’t even believe it when my mom told me. I thought she was tricking me. Then I started screaming and jumping around, it was such a great feeling. It was a role I really wanted and I prayed for it, so when I found out I got it, I was so happy!
What was it like seeing the show released on Netflix around the world?
It’s kind of crazy to know that the show will be released to 190 countries around the world! I actually had a couple of kids who messaged me on social media and told me that they did the voiceover in other languages for the role of Dion to be released in other countries. It’s so awesome to know that people all over the world are going to see my face! I’m just so happy, and I love it! I just thank God!
You attended the premiere, what was this like?
The premiere for Raising Dion was epic! I saw everyone I had not seen in months, so it was really good to see them, and for us all to see the final product of what we worked on so hard for so many months. I got a chance to meet a lot of new people too, and make some new friends.
For those not familiar with the storylines and characters, can you say what the series is about?
Raising Dion is about an adorable seven-year-old boy who is going through a lot. He loses his dad, he moves to a new house and starts going to a new school, and to make it all worse, he starts getting superhero powers that he doesn’t know how to control. He’s got his mom and God dad to kind of guide him through it.
How long were you filming for your role of Dion, and how did you prepare for starting the job?
I had to film for about six months. We had to relocate to ATL for filming, so I had lots of packing to do beforehand. But I spent some time before we started trying to figure out how I see Dion – is he scared of his powers, or does he embrace them?
How did you find meeting the other actors for the first time, and what’s it like being part of the cast?
All of the cast were very nice and welcoming to me from the very beginning. I met them at different times though. I met Ms. Alisha at her audition for the role of Nicole. They flew me to LA to meet with potential moms, and Alisha was THE ONE in the end, and she was really nice to me and cool. I met Mr. Michael B at the table-read, and he was amazing from the start. When we first met, I was very excited – I couldn’t believe I was meeting Killmonger! He’s such a great actor, and I was excited to get to work with him. I also met Mr. Jason at the table-read, and he was amazing from the start, super nice and funny, and he’s like a real-life God dad!
Raising Dion is your first regular character in a series, how different was this to film to your other roles?
This was a lot different because, since it was a regular character role, there was a lot of time on set, but the fact that the show was so fun to film, made it cool. Also, there’s so much magic in the show, so it required a lot of special effects and stunts, so that was pretty cool to get to work with. I got to do a lot of my own stunt work, so that was really fun.
Are you able to tell us about Nicole and O.J. and how it was taking on the role of Justin Simpson?
The role of Justin Simpson was definitely a different role being that I knew that I was playing the life of a person who was real, so I wanted to do it the best I could. I had to try and make everyone feel and believe that I was the real Justin, I wanted to make him look good.
We understand you appeared in Nickelodeon’s Sunny Day, how is it working on a Nickelodeon show?
It’s lots of fun working with Nickelodeon, they have really bright and fun sets, so that alone gets you excited when you get there. It was also my first time doing a voiceover, so it was cool getting to act with my voice and making sure my voice did the acting for me and made everyone feel what I was saying.
When was your first role and how did you get into acting?
My first acting role was in a movie called Rough Night, where I played Zoë Kravitz’s son Ben. I got into acting after starting in pageants. I joined pageants because I thought that was how I could become a prince, and I got on a winning streak, and a lot of the directors told my mom that I may enjoy acting, so my mom took me to an agency audition in NY and I booked the agent and manager by accident by striking up a conversation with a manager while in the bathroom before the audition.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
What I love most about acting is I get to play as anyone I want, it’s like the ultimate game of make-believe, and then production turns this big imagination into an awesome film that the whole world gets to experience.
When you aren’t acting, what do you like doing?
I love being outdoors, so any outdoor activities from riding my bike, to sports, swimming, or even just laying out in the grass and watching the stars at night. I also love to sing and read.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
For the rest of the year, I plan on continuing to audition and hopefully book something interesting, and of course, I want to continue getting better and better and practicing so that I can take my dreams as far as they will let me.
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