South Surrey’s Cassidy Mahler, 11, will get to stay up way past her bedtime next Tuesday.
The latest episode of the science fiction series V premieres at 10 p.m. on ABC that night – and Cassidy would find great difficultly sleeping through it, school night or not.
Instead, the budding actress and her family – mom Julia, dad Mitch and 13-year-old brother Jackson – will be glued to the screen watching her first major principal role in a television drama.
“But we’ll be (recording) it so that all her friends can come over and see it on Friday,” notes Julia. “We’ll be having a V party.”
A reworking of the premise of a mini-series popular in the early 1980s, V’s storylines revolve around humankind’s first contact with an alien civilization.
The good news is the ‘Visitors’ look and sound much like us, and want to trade their advanced technology for a modest amount of earth’s natural resources.
The bad news is they’re actually a race of cunningly disguised reptilian humanoids bent on world domination, led by their manipulative queen, Anna, played by Morena Baccarin.
Fighting against the aliens – and the many humans who have become their dupes – are former FBI Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) and other members of the global Fifth Column, including Ryan (Morris Chestnut), a Visitor planted on earth ahead of the arrival of the spaceships, but one who has developed a distinctly human bias.
In the upcoming episode of the series, now in its second season, Cassidy plays Ryan’s daughter, Amy, part human and part Visitor, who has been kidnapped by Anna as a pawn in a scheme to force Ryan to betray the Fifth Column.
The personable Grade 6 student – whose mixed British and Dutch-Indonesian heritage gives her a striking and versatile look for screen and television roles – said the plotline calls on her to portray a wide range of emotions.
“Amy’s really confused,” Cassidy explains. “She doesn’t know who anybody really is. Anna’s been confusing her, telling her who to trust and who not to trust. I had to be sad, and scared, and also I had to be kind of mean, too, but only because Amy’s so confused.”
Shot early this year on a huge green-screen soundstage at the series’ North Shore production facility, all of Cassidy’s scenes take place on Anna’s spaceship.
“It was really fun – she (Baccarin) is really nice in real life,” Cassidy says, noting that she also enjoyed working and bonding with Chestnut, Laura Vandervoort (as Amy’s half-sister, Lisa), Christopher Shyer (as Marcus, Anna’s second-in-command) and Jane Badler (as Anna’s mother).
Watching how they were able to drop into their characters on-camera was “inspiring,” she adds, renewing her interest in an acting career. (The former Kids Only Acting and Imagine That! student’s previous credits, prior to a year in braces, were all commercials for such high-profile clients as Target and Fisher Price).
Cassidy – who also loves horseback riding and excels at gymnastics and track and field – said her ambition now is to be cast as a TV series regular or pursue feature film roles.
Jackson, who has also done TV work – including the Dead Zone, with Anthony Michael Hall – is very supportive of his sister’s career, and encouraged Cassidy to audition for V after they heard about the casting call.
“We searched it up on the Internet, and it looked really cool,” Cassidy said. “He said I should go for it.”
She read for the role three times before learning she had it.
“We found out when her agent texted us on my cellphone,” Julia said. “We were watching the Christmas pantomime, Alice In Wonderland, at Surrey Arts Centre. I told Cassidy, and she was so excited she wanted to jump up and down – but she couldn’t because there was a show going on.”
Landing the role mitigated an earlier disappointment – losing the role of an Arab girl in one of the Disney Air Buddies series, which would have been a dream for Cassidy – she loves Disney films and would love to work with cute animals like the Buddies’ golden retriever pups.
But the experience of acting in V has made her hungry for more challenges, she explains, adding that she took acting in front of the green screen, and focusing on emotions while hitting her marks, in stride.
“I think I’m pretty good at thinking about it all together,” she says.
“She is actually,” adds Julia. “I’m really proud of her. I was on set and when I heard the instructions she was being given, they confused me.”
But Julia, who watched Cassidy’s scenes married to the spaceship backgrounds on a monitor, said she probably has more of a sense of what the final product will look like than her daughter.
“It’s going to be weird watching myself act for the first time,” Cassidy agrees.
But she is heartened by the positive response she received from director Bryan Spicer (House, 24, Prison Break), who liked the “sweet nature” she projected in auditions – and was even more impressed by the way she handled her scenes.
“He said she was amazing,” Julia says. “He said that a lot of child actors are just saying the words and not showing the emotion that Cassidy does.”
But the biggest vote of confidence he saved for the end of shooting, she adds.
“He said, ‘If we get renewed for season three, we’ll see you next summer.’”