Kyla Drew Simmons on “Prisoners”
When you saw Dakota Fanning as a biting neighbor on Malcolm in the Middle, did you think she would stand toe-to-toe with Sean Penn, Denzel Washington and Robert De Niro? When you saw Daniel Radcliffe as Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis’s son in The Tailor of Panama, did you think he’d portray the primary fantasy hero of a generation? Do I even have to elaborate on Ryan Gosling from The Mickey Mouse Club?
Every now and then, the child actors of today blossom into the super-stars of tomorrow. Will Kyla Drew Simmons, appearing as a kidnapped little girl in the new film Prisoners, join those legends? Check back in a few years.
Right now, Miss Simmons is one hard-working pre-teen. She’s already an award-winning dancer. If she has her way, she’ll be an award-winning actress too.
In your new film, Prisoners, do you play Viola Davis’ daughter?
Yes. I play Viola Davis and Terrence Howard’s daughter.
Can you talk about your experience on the film? It seems like it’s really dark material. Was it scary or frightening for you?
It wasn’t frightening to me. It was frightening to Joy. Every morning, I woke up and I was Joy. It was kinda spooky, but after cut, I was Kyla Drew and not scared anymore.
Joy is your character name, of course. Did you have to endure or simulate any kind of abuse? How physical was the role?
It was very physical. I had to run and all those types of physical stuff.
Was it emotionally tough and painful, or did you just turn it on and off?
I turned it on and off.
Working with Viola Davis and Terrence Howard, did you learn any acting lessons?
Yes, I did. Terrence said my figure needs to breathe, and he gave me tips.
And how about Viola?
Miss Viola was really, really nice. She was a typical mom.
How about the actors? Did you interact much with Hugh Jackman or Jake Gyllenhaal?
Yes. Mister Hugh gave us scratch-off lottery tickets. Mister Jake Gyllenhaal gave us cupcakes and cookies. Miss Maria Bello bought us pizza. Miss Melissa Leo gave me a doll and a porcelain tea set.
Wow. You got a lot of gifts on set.
Yes. A lot of gifts. And I got a whistle!
What’d you get the whistle for?
I don’t know. It was just a gift.
There are videos of you dancing on YouTube. Your team won first place in this year’s Hall of Fame Dance Awards. How did you get involved in dance?
I started dancing when I was three. I really liked it. When I was five and six, I was doing competitive dance like Hall of Fame and stuff like that. Show-biz and competitions. When I came to L.A., I started doing it and doing it.
What do you enjoy about dancing?
I started dancing at Mather [Dance Company]. I like dancing because you can express yourself, and then it’s really fun to do all those cool tricks.
Is that how you feel about acting too? A way to express yourself?
How are you transitioning from dancing to acting? Are there any skills that you use in both talents? Has dancing prepared you for the challenges of acting?
Yes, it has prepared me because when I’m dancing, I entertain people. Then in acting, you entertain people.
It seems like you’ve got more roles coming up. Can you talk a little about those?
Santa’s Boot Camp is about Santa and elves and one accounting elf [Kyla's role]. These elves need help sending gifts because they don’t want Christmas to stop so they get kids to help them.
In Soul Ties, I’m Young Terry. My father left me when I was really little, and that was what I did. I’m going to start reading the book of that.
You suffer from asthma, and you’re an advocate for asthma awareness and education. What advice do you have for people who struggle with the disease?
Always take your medication. Don’t let asthma stop you from doing your dreams because it didn’t stop me. Even if I had severe asthma, I can do anything that I put my mind to.
Can you talk about any role models you have in dancing or acting?
My favorite actress is Kate Hudson. My favorite actor is… I don’t think I have a favorite actor because I have a lot of favorite actors. Not a *one* favorite actor. My inspiration in dance is Shannon Mather. She looked after me, and she was my inspiration.
What about Kate Hudson makes her your favorite actress?
The reason why I say Kate Hudson is because of my favorite movie with Kate Hudson. It’s called Bride Wars. Have you ever heard of that movie with Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson?
I have. Why is that your favorite movie?
It’s my favorite movie because it’s really funny. And it’s just dramatic. It’s a lot of drama. And the drama makes it funny.
What do you like better: drama or comedy?
I like comedy better because I like to laugh, but sometimes, I don’t like to laugh because when I start to laugh, I keep on laughing.
It’s funny that you like comedy because Prisoners is very, very serious.
Yes, it’s very serious.
Would you recommend it to kids, or is it more of an adult movie?
The only reason why it’s rated R is because of Detective Loki [Gyllenhaal's character]. He says a lot of bad stuff. But things that would scare kids are my scenes. It just depends. I think kids should go see it.
With a parent.
Yes, with a parent. Not by themselves or with another friend or whatever. Not just them. With their parents.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about Prisoners?
It’s just an awesome movie. Everybody should go see it.
I just saw the trailer yesterday on TV.
Have you seen yourself in any of the clips?
Yep. I saw me in both of the clips.
You can go see yourself in a movie theater.
I know! I’ve been dying to get into theaters since I was four years old.
You were in Parental Guidance, right?
Yes, but I was just a speech student. This is a bigger movie.
What was your first role?
I was on The Neighbors, America’s Most Wanted, 90210 and a comedy show.
Do you remember what it felt like the first time you saw yourself on TV?
Yes, I actually do. That was when I got to be on America’s Most Wanted.
What did it feel like when you saw yourself on the show?
I wanted to scream my lungs off. [She screams]. But much, much, much louder.
I’m sure with Prisoners, there’s going to be a lot of screaming too.
I know. A lot of screaming.
What do you hope to do in the future? Do you have any goals in dancing or acting?
My goal in acting is to win an Oscar. My goal in dancing is to be like Shakira. A dancer and an actress. But a big actress. And keep dancing.