At the age of four, Ella Anderson knew she wanted to be an actress. Now, as a 12-year-old, she has found a home for herself on the Nickelodeon series Henry Danger and has also made it to the big screen, starring in The Boss and now The Glass Castle. We talked with Ella and her mom, Rebecca, to learn about life as a child actor—and life as a parent of a child actor.
Ella Anderson Interview
Q: How did Ella wind up acting at such a young age?
Rebecca: When my twin boys were little, people said they were like the twins on their favorite show, The Secret Life of Zack and Cody. They would say, “We want to be on TV, too.” I found work for them, and I also found a role for a little girl. Ella auditioned and got the part. The boys lost interest, while Ella just fell in love.
Q: You lived in Michigan when Ella got the acting bug. Why did you move to Los Angeles?
Rebecca: Ella did some small parts, but then Michigan eliminated the film tax incentive, so there were fewer opportunities. Ella noticed and said she wanted to go where they make movies. I took her to LA for one week, thinking that agents and managers would say no. I kept saying we weren’t moving here, and the agents said we didn’t have to—we just had to come for pilot season. My husband said to go for a couple of months, and she never stopped working.
Ella: Then Dad visited and said, “Why are we living in Michigan? The weather is so much nicer here, and there are so many more opportunities here.”
Rebecca: My boys are very active. In LA, they can be outside all year. We stressed to Ella that we didn’t relocate for her acting; if she wants to be done tomorrow, she can be. We moved here because it was good for our family overall.
Q: It’s nice to remove that pressure from her.
Rebecca: Right. This is supposed to be fun because she’s a kid. As soon as it becomes a job, that’s when I’ll encourage her to find something else to do, or go to school. I check in with her a lot.
Q: Are you worried about her social life?
Rebecca: Yes. I went to traditional school, so pulling her from school was a worry. She’s been fortunate. Nickelodeon does a nice job of facilitating a community. It’s like being at a very small public school. She has consistency every day—going to the same place and having the same teacher.
Q: Is it exciting to see all these famous people on set?
Ella: It’s cool, but once I get to know them, they become regular people.
Rebecca: I think the entire idea of celebrity doesn’t exist for Ella anymore. I try to teach Ella that being a good person makes you important, not how successful you are.
Q: Do you have a favorite role you’ve played?
Ella: The Glass Castle, so far, has been one of the most special for me. It was really deep, but also very fun to do.
Q: Was it hard to play this girl who has a very different life?
Ella: It was crazy because we are so different. I really had to find places in my own life where I could draw from and relate to her. I never had an abusive parent, but I’ve had pain in my life, so I brought that.
Q: What are some of your worries about Ella growing up in Hollywood?
Rebecca: I worry about how people portray themselves on social media and how that will influence a young girl. I worry about her trying to keep up with these overly made-up women that I see on the covers of magazines.
Q: How does having someone in Hollywood affect the family dynamic?
Ella: I don’t think it affects anything. I will always feel like my brothers are a little cooler than I am.
Rebecca: When we first moved here, one of my boys said he was afraid he wasn’t going to be successful. When I asked if he wanted to act, he said no, but he was afraid he wouldn’t be successful if he didn’t. I told him to stick with what he loved. That was a turning point. Both boys realized how much Ella loved acting, and that’s what they hope to find in their life. For a while it was tricky, but now they are supportive of Ella, and she’s supportive of them.