As one of the youngest, brightest and most gifted talents to come out of the Greater Toronto Area, Shailyn-Pierre Dixon is doing it all. A natural born actress with a knack for evoking emotion on set, the child actress recently won Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program or Series at the Canadian Screen awards. Shailyn (more affectionately called Shai) took some time to speak with us on her most recent win and latest role as young Aminata Diallo on CBC’s The Book of Negroes.
L.A: First of all I’d like to congratulate you on your win at the Canadian Screen Awards.
SPD: Thank you!
L.A: What was that like? Was that your first time there?
SPD: No. I was actually at the Canadian Screen Awards last year presenting but being nominated was a whole other thing.
L.A: How was that for you?
SPD: It was amazing. I had a great time, everyone was so nice and I found some new friends. It was a really great experience.
L.A: What was your experience on the Book of Negroes like?
SPD: I loved working on the Book of Negroes. I loved being around the cast and crew and just being able to portray Aminata. I felt like I was a part of history.
L.A: Young Aminata was not an easy role to play – how did you prepare for it?
SPD: To prepare for the role of Aminata, I had to go to my sad thoughts and hard times that I’ve had and just get into character by relating to what she – Aminata – may have gone through.
L.A: Did you read the book?
SPD: Yes, I did.
L.A: What did you think about the book versus filming the actual TV series?
SPD: I loved the book and I loved the TV series. I love how it was portrayed. Obviously I loved the book more – most movie [adaptations] are like that where the book is better. Both of them were very good.
L.A: Who is an actor that you most look up to and why?
SPD: Hmm. There are many. I love Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. [I love] those three especially because they play different characters. People [come to] know them as that character and not as a character from a different movie.
L.A: The diversity of the roles that they play?
L.A: What do you love most about acting?
SPD: I love being able to be different characters while still being myself and being able to make other people feel like they’re not alone. They [might be] going through different situations depending on the movie or TV show. It just brings joy to me when I’m onscreen I just love it. It’s fun.
L.A: You sound like you’ve got a lot going – how do you balance school and acting?
SPD: Well there’s a tutor on set and that is very helpful. My school is very supportive and they have always been that way. I’ve always been able to leave on short notice. All my teachers are understanding and they always give me work before if they can. Sometimes if there is a lot of work it can be challenging to keep up, but I usually get back on track after filming is done.
L.A: Tell us something we don’t know about you – what do you like to do when you aren’t acting or in school?
SPD: I love sports. I love reading and listening to music, but I think sports is my main thing. I’m not on any teams outside of school. I love being on teams with the school only because I feel like I can be with my friends [who] are also my teammates. I love making new friends [too].
L.A: What’s your favourite sport?
SPD: I can’t choose. My top three would have to be softball, basketball, and volleyball.
L.A: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
SPD: I just finished shooting ‘Between’. It’s in its second season. I’m also in Suicide Squad.