Meet career girl, 9
Stafford County fourth-grader has made several commercials and is waiting for a big break in the acting world
By LAURA MOYER
Date published: 9/29/2009
Nine-year-old Sydney Jenkins is a fourth-grader at Conway Elementary School in Stafford County, but for several days last week she did all her schoolwork on the set of a commercial being shot in Brooklyn, N.Y.
A tutor oversaw Sydney’s lessons during her breaks from shooting for a series of Chuck E. Cheese commercials to be aired nationally over the next year.
Sydney is already an experienced professional actress, having shot seven commercials in the past two years.
And now she seems poised for even more inroads into the performing life.
One day about two weeks ago, Sydney was on the train back from some New York casting calls when her mom’s phone rang.
Pam Jenkins answered, and the next thing Sydney knew, they were getting off the train in New Jersey and booking another ride back into the city.
There, she auditioned for a regular role in a popular Showtime TV series.
Whether she gets the part or not, it’s a promising sign to be asked to audition for recurring television roles, said Pam Jenkins, 49.
It’s not surprising, though, that Sydney would catch a casting director’s eye.
Blond, blue-eyed and freckled, Sydney has a winning giggle and an easygoing yet polite way of interacting with adults.
She’s also a natural actress, says dad Don Jenkins, 54.
Jenkins is a power-plant supervisor these days, but when Sydney was younger he took several years off work to be a Mr. Mom.
Even as a toddler, Sydney would script dramatic scenes and insist that her dad say his lines perfectly, Don Jenkins recalled.
Sydney’s vivid imagination caused a little embarrassment on the playground. The Jenkinses—who also have a blended family of adult children ages 20 to 35—were living at the time in an apartment in Alexandria. It was a new building, and it had developed a few settlement cracks.
Sydney blurted out in public, “Daddy! I don’t want to live in a crack house anymore!”
Years later—after Sydney had said, “Mom, Dad, I want to be in commercials, and I want to be on TV shows”— that memory came in handy.
She competed in a local talent contest and advanced to a weeklong competition in Orlando, Fla., in January 2008.
Acting in commercials isn’t quite like winning the lottery. Sure, actors are paid, but Don and Pam Jenkins incurred many expenses before daughter Sydney, 9, got her first job.
They’ve paid for acting workshops, resume photographs, travel to and from auditions, and accommodations in New York.
Now that Sydney is getting work, a percentage of her earnings goes to pay her agent and manager. Another portion of any child actor’s earnings goes into a trust fund until the performer reaches age 18.
Still, Sydney has gotten to enjoy some of her hard-earned money. Last Christmas, her parents let her spend $100 of her earnings to buy presents for others.
About two years ago, Sydney Jenkins aced an audition held by M&S Studio of Fredericksburg and earned the right to compete in the AMTC talent competition held each January in Orlando, Fla.
She took classes at the studio and had photographs made to prepare for the opportunity. Two things were immediately obvious about Sydney, said M&S Studio director Sabina Kvenberg: The camera loved her, and she had an indefinable “something” that set her apart.
“There’s something very special about her,” Kvenberg said. “She had a good shot at getting work.”
In Florida, Sydney placed in several acting and modeling categories and got scouted and eventually signed by top children’s talent agency Shirley Grant Management of New York.
Casting calls, auditions, callbacks and paid jobs soon followed.
“It’s gone from a snowflake to an avalanche,” is how mom Pam Jenkins describes Sydney’s career so far.
The 9-year-old has gotten several roles in commercials and is now being asked to audition for television series roles.
Locally, M&S Studio holds monthly open auditions for aspiring performers ages 4 and through adult who would like to attend a future AMTC competition. The next open audition will be held Saturday, Oct. 17. There is no cost to audition.
Those interested should make appointments by calling the studio at 785-6772 or by following instructions on the Web site, mandsstudio.com.
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