Last year, Santino Barnard played Kenny Bottoms in A Christmas Mystery on HBO Max, with which he attended the HBO film premiere, and he played Cody in the supernatural thriller Monstrous, alongside a cast including Christina Ricci as his on-screen mother Laura. In the popular children’s animated series Bing, Santino voiced the lead character Bing in the American English dub, with his other work including 8-Bit Christmas, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels and comedy series The Kids Are Alright, which marked his major acting debut. Answering our questions, Santino told us about playing Kenny Bottoms in A Christmas Mystery, filming with Christina Ricci for the supernatural thriller Monstrous and having his major acting debut as Pat in The Kids Are Alright.
Most recently, you played Kenny Bottoms in the HBO Max film A Christmas Mystery, can you tell us about the film and your character?
Kenny is kind and innocent. He’s also a little bit nerdy. He is Violet’s best friend. He is hesitant to get into any trouble but can’t say no to Violet’s bright ideas. In the film, Violet and Kenny go on a mission to find their town’s missing prized possession, Santa’s bells. When the bells go missing, Kenny’s dad is falsely accused of stealing them. Violet, Kenny, and their siblings, Maddie and Harrison, go on a mission to clear Mr. Bottoms name and find the missing bells.
What was Kenny like to play and how was it working alongside the rest of the cast, which includes Violet McGraw as Violet Pierce?
Playing the role of Kenny was familiar to me because I’ve played characters with similar personalities in the past. A lot of Kenny’s scenes were fun because my castmates were young like me. Violet and I had fun during scenes, especially when we rode bikes through the town. Violet is funny and we spent a lot of time laughing. We also had a blast behind the scenes. Wardrobe did an amazing job on styling Kenny’s outfits. I felt like every outfit matched the scene perfectly. The cast was great and I felt comfortable very quickly. I meshed well with the cast and crew, everyone was so welcoming.
How was it seeing the fan response to the film and how did you find the experience attending the HBO premiere?
It’s always nice to hear positive feedback from fans, family, and friends. It was cool to see how many people were excited for the movie to come out and were counting down the days with us via Instagram. It’s a great feeling to know others loved a film that I am in. The HBO premiere for A Christmas Mystery was truly an amazing experience. After the premiere, guests were treated with a Christmas-themed celebration on the Warner Bros lot. There was hot chocolate, cookies, pizza, and even Santa was there. I had a lot of fun and spent my time with the cast and crew, as well as with family.
In the 2022 film Monstrous, you played Cody, how was it working on a supernatural thriller film?
Monstrous was one of my favourite films I’ve ever done. Thriller and horror films are my go-to when picking a movie to watch, so it was like a dream come true to get to be in a film like Monstrous. The shoot took place during the end of the 2020 pandemic. There were a lot of safety precautions in place, but I was still able to connect with a lot of the cast and crew. The crew was really great, and I connected with a lot of them really quickly. We still stay in touch via Instagram. It was such a great experience getting to work with Christina Ricci as well. She did so great in the film and it was truly an honour getting to play her son.
Was there anything that drew you to the role and how was it reading the script for the first time?
I think what really drew me in was what we found out about Cody towards the end of the film. When I first started reading the script, I couldn’t put it down. The storyline was just so interesting, and it was almost like reading one of those books you just can’t put down. I was so shocked by the ending and how there was such a major turn of events and it kind of threw me off guard!
What was it like filming with Christina Ricci as Laura and is there anything you enjoyed most about playing Cody?
Filming with Christina Ricci was truly a lot of fun. Since she was playing my mom, we did a lot of scenes together and she was really nice. It was inspiring because she is such a great actress. I was so thrilled when I was first told she was going to play my mom. One thing I enjoyed most about playing Cody was getting to do scenes in the lake. During the first days of shooting, we did scenes where I actually got to go into a lake and get wet. There was also a pool scene, so lots of water!!
Can you tell us about your time filming as Evan Olsen in 8-Bit Christmas and what was the film like to be part of?
Playing Evan Olsen in 8-Bit Christmas was a really fun experience. The set was all fun and games. We rode bikes, played in the snow, rode in a bus, and did scenes in a really cool clubhouse. We shot in Toronto and all my castmates were about the same age as me. We all instantly clicked and became inseparable. I met one of my closest friends on that set and I think that really makes 8-Bit such a memorable experience for me. Toronto is also an amazing city that will forever hold a special place in my heart. I’d love to shoot in Toronto again.
You voiced the lead role of Bing in the American English dub of the popular children’s animated series Bing, how was this?
When I started Bing, I was nine years old. We wrapped when I was 13! The director was amazing and she always made our time fun. Being off camera and voicing was truly an experience for me because it was my first voiceover. I learned a lot of techniques for VOs through Bing thanks to my director. I had the same teacher all four years. We all became very close. They are like family, and we still keep in regular contact.
Did you have a favourite aspect of voicing Bing and what was it like having this as your first lead voiceover role in a TV series?
My favourite aspect of voicing Bing was watching an original British version of a Bing episode and then going on to voice it with an American accent. It was really cool to play the lead, but it was also a lot of work. When I finished Bing, I got to see the episodes with my voice. I think that is when I finally realised I was the lead. It was so crazy to see Bing with my voice on TV.
In 2020, you played Frank Branson in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, what was it like filming for this role?
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels was my first horror TV series that I had ever done. As a person who loves horror, it was really exciting for me to go to set each day. It was fun to see how horror scenes are done behind the camera. I was basically an innocent-looking evil kid. My mom didn’t let me watch the series, but I was able to watch my scenes. I can honestly say that I was very happy with my performance. The set was close to my house so it was really easy to get to and from set. It was also so amazing to work with Natalie Dormer and having her play my mom. She’s such a great actress and I really admired her, so getting to work with her was so cool. The set teacher was so sweet and playing alongside fellow actors Hudson West and Julian Hilliard was fun.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Pat in the comedy series The Kids Are Alright?
I have so many great memories playing Pat on the The Kids Are Alright. In the show, I had seven brothers so you can say I definitely had a lot of fun. There was an episode where I was covered in mud. What kid wouldn’t love that? My favourite episode was the Birthday episode. Pat’s gift was a pair of reading glasses, and he was so excited because he was finally able to see! It was hilarious. The cast became so close, and it was so sad when the show was not picked up for a second season.
Do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role and what was Pat like to play?
Booking the role of Pat was amazing for an amateur actor. I had just started my acting career like a month prior and everything happened so fast. I was still in traditional school, so I remember having to say goodbye to my friends as I went on to be homeschooled. I learned so much on set. I was so interested in everyone’s job on set and I think I got really good at continuity. There are so many important jobs on set that not many know about.
Can you tell us about some of the other projects you’ve filmed during your career so far, which have included The Conners and Grey’s Anatomy?
The Conners was one of my favourite guest roles, especially because I love the show and the actors who star in it. My character was hilarious, and my costume and hair were funny. It was hard to take myself seriously. I had a lot of fun just being on set and the experience was really fun overall. I also liked that they rehearsed during business hours, Monday to Thursday, and then shot on Friday. Being a guest star on Grey’s Anatomy was also so cool especially because my family had been watching the show since before I was born. It was cool to see the set in person and meet the stars on the show.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
From as far back as I can remember, I was always excited to be a part of school plays and holiday shows. My brother is a sports maniac, and I had no interest in playing sports. A friend of my brother’s was an actor and his mom suggested I go to an acting class. After my first class, the acting coach told my parents that she thought I was great and wanted to set up a meeting with agents. At first, my parents were wary about the whole thing. They thought it was a scam. Turned out that she really did know the right people and not long after I was signed with a management and then an agency. From then on, I was thrown in to the world of auditions. It really all did happen so fast. I feel really blessed for the way things turned out. I still work with the same acting coach today. She prepares me for all my auditions.
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from your career?
Some of my favourite films include Scream, Thirteen, and any classic Disney movie. Some of my favourite shows include American Horror Story, Shameless, and Outer Banks. I like to spend my free time by hanging out with my friends. We like to go to the mall mostly. I play volleyball for my school, and I’ve also been taking aerial silks classes for about four years. I enjoy cooking with my grandma and spending time with my family. My family and I go on vacation once a year.
What are you hoping 2023 brings for you?
I’m hoping to receive good energy and luck for 2023. I’m working towards some goals that include fitness and eating habits. I am learning how to balance my time between my career, family, friends, and school.
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