royalty hightower, a star is born
Meet the 11-year-old break out star who took Sundance by storm.
Out of this year's Sundance Film Festival, a star was born in 11-year-old actress Royalty Hightower. In Anna Rose Holmer's directorial debut, The Fits, the preteen actress plays Toni, a tomboy boxer who becomes entranced by the artfulness of dance. Contrary to her character, Royalty has been dancing competitively since the age of six. But what, aside from her incomparably cool name, makes her stand out from the dozens of other children who auditioned for the part?
Holmer contends it was the connection they shared. "But what I was also drawn to was her amazing capacity to really listen and take in information. And take in the world around her, along with listening to her self," she said.
This all rings true. Throughout the duration of Holmer's hypnotic drama, Hightower listens. She soaks up the world around her in an attempt to find her place in it. The commanding performance is as poetic as it is mature.
In conversation, the burgeoning actress discusses the nerves she faced during the production of the film, falling in love with horror movies, and how she came be named Ms. Royalty Hightower.
What has this whole experience been like?
It was fun. Something new for me to do, and I was excited.
Were you at all intimidated or nervous?
Umm... yeah, when I auditioned for the movie I was.
What happened during the audition?
They asked me to read a couple of the lines and tell them about myself. They asked me to do improv, and I didn't know what that was. But after that... we did improv with a partner.
What was the biggest challenge you faced working on the film?
Boxing. And thinking that I didn't know how to dance. That was hard, too.
Had you danced prior to this movie?
Yes, I was actually on a dance team with two kids, which were the other girls in the movie. They are on the dance team, too.
Were they excited about being in a movie?
At first they were scared. I was scared, too. Everybody was scared. After everybody did their auditions, we were standing in the hallway and were like, "I don't know what part I got. I don't know if they liked me."
Did the film fell like just another dance practice?
It felt pretty normal, but the only thing that wasn't normal was that we had an actress teaching us instead of our regular coaches. I'm not used to new people. It felt like practice.
On an unrelated note, do you know how amazing your name is?
(laughs) Thank you!
How did that name come to be?
Well... [Royalty turns to her mother for assistance] She said that I had an older sister that she named "Your Majesty." And when she had me, she was looking for a name that was equally as awesome "Your Majesty" and the only thing she could come up with his, "Royalty."
That's amazing. After working on this film, do you feel like you want to continue acting?
Yes. I really like horror movies. Like Chuckie. That's my favorite one.
I'm 21 and I still can't watch that movie.
(laughs) I started watching Chuckie when I was three.
When I was little my momma told me I couldn't watch Jeepers Creepersbecause I was going to have nightmares, but I still watched it when she was asleep.
Do you want to be in horror movies?
Yes, but I like action, too. Like K.C. Undercover. She's a spy that's undercover.
Didn't you watch like Arthur or Rugrats as a kid?
Yeah, I would watch that when there was nothing else on in the morning at like 1 o'clock.
What was it like seeing yourself on screen for the first time?
When I first saw myself up there I was scared because I didn't know what everybody was going to think about it, but now I'm not scared because we haven't had, like, any bad reviews yet.
Do you feel like the person you're watching in the movie is like you in real life?
Not that much. We're kind of the opposite. I think the only thing we have in common is dancing, because I don't like boxing.
Text Samuel Fragoso