South Surrey's Liam O'Neill is a Joey nominee.

South Surrey's Liam O'Neill is a Joey nominee.

Local boy nominated for a Joey

South Surrey's Liam O'Neill is in the running in two categories in new awards recognizing young performers

The newly-minted Joey Awards, celebrating young Canadian actors in film, television, Internet and straight-to-video productions, will have a first red carpet gala ceremony next month – and a South Surrey boy is in the running in two categories.

Charismatic Liam O’Neill, 6, has been nominated in the categories actor nine-and-under in a short film, for  “Land Of The Sun” and actor eight-and-under in a television commercial, for a spot promoting the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

The national awards, organized in B.C., will be held Nov. 16 at the Metro banquet hall in New Westminster. There are some 70 categories in all, covering work done coast-to-coast by young actors up to the age of 19.

“I’m looking forward to the party and the red carpet and the treats,” Liam said. “Everyone (nominated) gets a medal, but the winner gets the trophy.”

In director Melissa Flagg’s independent short, “Land of the Sun,” the youngster helped establish a convincing home life for a Canadian soldier stationed in Afghanistan.

“(In that one) my dad is in the war, so I got to draw and eat and make a Halloween costume on a video,” he said.

The photogenic young performer’s fresh, wholesome, home-grown look is also seen to good advantage in the Dairy Farmers’ commercial, which traces the life of a Canadian farmer from the 1940s to the present day in brief vignettes reflecting changing eras and stages in life.

As the youngest incarnation of the character, Liam, clad in `40s-style overalls and sweater, commands attention running to meet his dad at the barn in a first brief scene.

It’s been by no means the first onscreen work he’s done. Mom Alison Orth said Liam started auditions when he was six months old and appeared in a television movie, Smoke Screen, with Jaime Pressly, when he was only a year and a half old.

Since then, he’s booked ads for a variety of different clients through his Maple Ridge-based agency Reelkids – including spots for Crayola, Thomas the Tank Engine and the B.C. Federation of Labour.

Orth said she appreciates the Joey Awards’ strong emphasis on educating parents on how to keep their child performers safe, the proper use of social media and how to keep their self-esteem intact in an industry in which rejection is part of everyday life.

Liam can continue auditioning as long as it remains fun for him – and aside from a a treat of two, the money is being set-aside for him in RESPs, she said. If he starts getting parts calling on him to memorize specific dialogue, she’ll consider putting him in acting classes, she added.

Right now he enjoys singing and dancing as well, Orth said, including  breakdance classes at XBa Dance.

She thinks Liam’s look has helped him get work, but his attitude – and his ability to strike a rapport with his onscreen moms and dads – has also been important.

“He’s always been able to follow precise directions and he also likes getting behind the camera and interacting with the crew,” she said.

“He likes being with adults, and being in that kind of world teaches him different life experiences.”

“I like the money and the acting,” Liam said. “I like saying the words. I think maybe I’d like to be an actor. But I might also like to be a fireman – they rescue people.”

For more information on the awards and nominations, visit


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