"Meeting the President and Vice President was pretty cool!"
A little over a year ago Sarai Gonzalez came to Actors, Models and Talent for Christ where she participated in SHINE Summer 2015. Today this eleven-year-old sensation has everyone talking about her fresh portrayal of the spunky little girl in the Bomba Estereo music video Soy Yo, which now has almost eight million views on Youtube. With several projects in the works including a Get Out and Vote PSA and more auditions on the way, Sarai thanks God for her successes and continues to seek His wisdom as she pursues further career opportunities. We sat down with Sarai and her dad, Juan, to discuss how she got her start.
How did you get involved with Soy Yo?
Sarai: It started with an online submission with Actor’s Access. They had a casting notice listed for a Bomba Estereo music video, but they didn’t mention the name of the band. I sent in my resume and my picture, and then they called me and I went in for the audition. When I got there, there was one person in front of me… it was down to just a few actors, and then a couple days later they called me and told me that I was going to be the Bomba Estareo girl. I was really excited because I’ve never gotten to be part of a music video before.
Where did you film?
Sarai: It was around Brooklyn, and we had to walk to different locations that were blocks apart, like the basketball court and other places. We only shot it in two days, from morning to night. We had to get up at four in the morning… I would have to wake up early because my call time was around nine, so my Dad and I would get ready a few hours before so we could be on time, just in case of traffic.
What really resonates with a lot of people is that this video is about a little girl who is not concerned with fitting in but is confident with being herself. Can you relate to that?
Sarai: Yes, I can relate to that, because I am the little girl in the video. I always want to be unique and be myself. I just want to be a leader and not a follower. So a lot of my actions in the video, like playing with the basketball, I just improvised.
What was the most fun part about shooting Soy Yo?
Sarai: The part where I throw the jump rope over my head, because I got to hang out with kids my age during that segment. That was really great, to just be talking to other actors my age. In the video I would have to do many different actions, which felt normal but it was still difficult walking a couple blocks to perform at each destination. It was fun though.
Being in this video has no doubt opened other doors for you; for instance it has led to you getting cast in a Get Out and Vote PSA. What can you tell us about this venture?
Sarai: The Be You Y Vota commercial was originally about kids picking on a boy because his dad didn’t vote, and the commercial was saying, “What do your kids think? Go and vote today!” Asking the parents, “What are your kids hearing from school, and how do they feel about you having a responsibility (to exercise your right to vote). Get out and vote!” Something like that.
How has your belief in God shaped your career, and are there are any future projects you are interested in doing?
Sarai: It has given me strength when going out for auditions. Before I begin, I always say a prayer, and God just leads my family and me through all my auditioning and acting and tells us which path to take. I want to do Christian movies and good movies that teach a positive story, even if they’re not Christian. For instance, I’d like to do some Tyler Perry movies; he has some funny movies. I also like his show House of Payne.
Our next questions are for Sarai’s Dad, Juan.
When did you first notice Sarai had an interest in acting?
Juan Gonzalez: When she was little, whenever we had a party or get together, she was always on a microphone, trying to catch people’s attention, acting and repeating stuff she would hear on cartoons or movies. She would reenact things she would hear, and my wife and I always said to each other, “You know? We should get her in acting.” And then we heard about AMTC and my wife was like, “We should get her to go.” So on a Friday night, around 10 o’clock, we decided we would take her the to an AMTC audition. We filled out an application online and that Saturday Sarai went in to an audition. She had nothing else prepared; she actually got one of the scripts you guys give out, read it, and then on Sunday, they were calling her, and soon after she started her training. Pretty much everything began with AMTC. Without you guys we would never have known that this was one of Sarai’s passions. Before coming here we didn’t know anything about Actor’s Access, or Backstage. Ninety-nine per cent of the things we learned about the industry we learned through AMTC. Everything including how to avoid gossip and being humble, she practices everyday. It’s been such a good thing for the whole family, especially for Sarai; it’s been unbelievable.
How do you help Sarai balance her newfound career with family, school and social life?
Juan Gonzalez: Since last year she became very busy with student films and auditions, but she still finished the year with high honors. Sometimes she’d come home at 9pm at night, and she’d have to study for a big test the next day. So this year, we started to homeschool her. She does A Beka, which is a credited Christian homeschool program. She still goes to her cousins’ house and to see friends, but it has to be more structured now, because she’s constantly doing something all day including gymnastics and schoolwork. She has different interviews, like today she has this interview at ten, she has another at 3:30, and so on. But we try to let her have fun, and not make her feel nervous or pressured. I guess I put myself in her shoes. I wouldn’t want to do something that is not fun, because then it gets boring, and I wouldn’t want to do it anymore. But we’re hoping that this is going to open more doors and that we are going to be able to help people, not to keep it to ourselves but to deal with real people and to be the salt and the light for them, not just by what we say but what we are doing in life. Trying to help people; not just keeping these gifts to ourselves, but giving the opportunity to other kids who want to do the same, and to show them that this is possible.
Would you recommend SHINE to anyone else starting out in acting at this point?
Juan Gonzalez: I would definitely one hundred per cent recommend SHINE to anybody who wants to go into the industry. If you go through SHINE and work hard, they’re going to give you all the tools you need to start your career, but you have to put in your own work. If you work hard through the whole process, people are going to get back to you. Like anything in life, you have to work hard and it isn’t easy, but I remember because I’ve seen it with my daughter, and the reward she’s been getting.
To see Sarai's music video, click HERE