When you get a request to interview an actress that is starring in a mega hit TV show and releasing two major films on Christmas Day, you jump at the opportunity to interview them. That is how I came to know Saniyya Sidney who is starring in this season of American Horror Story as "Flora" and in the upcoming films Fences (alongside Denzel Washington & Viola Davis) and Hidden Figures (alongside Octavia Spencer & Taraji P. Henson).
At just 10-years-old, Saniyya is certainly making a name for herself. It was so great learning more about her through this interview, especially discovering her good upbringing & commitment to fitness at such a young age. I can't wait to see where she goes from here!
1. Who or what inspired you to become an actress? I always had a calling for it. Even when I was little I would tell my mom and dad I wanted to act. So when I was 5-years-old I started acting classes and have been studying ever since.
2. As a child actress, how do you balance school, friends, and filming? My parents are very supportive and help me stay organized. They teach me responsibility but also keep it all fun!
3. You are starring in two huge upcoming films, both releasing on Christmas Day...One is Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis and the other is Hidden Figures starring Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson. Let's start with Fences. What did you learn from working with Denzel and Viola? What were your top funniest moments to happen between you all while filming? Denzel & Viola inspired me by how giving they are. How everything matters. Finding the truth in the moment is sometimes not easy, but you have to keep searching because when you find it you know. One of my favorite moments is when Denzel was out back teaching me to hit a baseball for the first time and I got it stuck up in the tree. They kept calling him back to the set because he was directing the movie. He finally said, "Y'all just going to have to wait, I'm playing with Saniyya!" He lifted me way up to the tree so I could get the ball.
4. Can you tell us a bit about your character in Fences, "Raynell?" "Raynell" is the light in a tough situation. She is the light that guides the family through it. She loves everyone and she is looking for that love back. That seems to bring the best out of everyone that she meets in her family. In the end, "Raynell" is kind of the "Fence" that keeps them together.
5. So, you play Denzel's illegitimate child who's a symbol of new hope for the future and the positive values parents and older generations pass on to their young. What values have your parents instilled in you that you look to pass on to others? My parents taught me when you have been blessed with a gift from God, you should never waste your talent. You should give 110% every time because sometimes 100% just isn't enough. Always work hard and be thankful for it. Always remember to treat others like you want to be treated.
6. Now, let's switch gears and talk about "Hidden Figures," can you tell us about your role in this film? I loved being a part of this true story of three incredible woman! I play the middle daughter, "Constance," of "Katherine Johnson." She is a happy little girl who has to help take care of mom with her sisters because she has to work a lot to support them. She and her sisters realize that because she is doing important work that it doesn't mean she doesn't love them. It means sometimes it takes a lot from someone to do important things that will help a lot of people in the world.
7. So in Hidden Figures, you play Taraji's daughter "Constance Johnson," who's proud of her mother's success, but sad she doesn't get to spend much time with her. As a child actress yourself, who spends a lot of time filming, do you ever wish you could spend more time with your friends/family and just be a kid or does the thrill of getting to be on set, working with well known celebrities, doing things not everyone else gets to do, make up for that lack of time with friends/family? I don't feel like I'm losing out on anything when this is who I am. I'm not here to play at being actress, I feel like it is what I am supposed to do. Every chance I get, when I'm home, my parents let me go outside to be a kid and go over to my friend's house to hang out. My family is very supportive and makes sure that I get to be a kid.
8. In Hidden Figures, Taraji plays a woman who excels at mathematics. What is your favorite subject or subjects in school? Which ones don't you like? I loved Math and English, but hated social studies and science. That's funny because my favorites are science and social studies. I like to learn everything I can about history and how it changed the world. Science is fun because you get to learn about all the different animals and how things work around us.
9. Since this film is called Hidden Figures, what is something you like to do or what is a hidden talent that you have not revealed about yourself in another interview? I like to sing and dance. I really want to be a triple threat and I'm working hard to become one.
10. I can't let this interview go by, without talking about American Horror Story. You are on the current season of this mega hit show. What do you like most about being on the show? What are the three scariest things to happen to you so far on set? I LOVED working on that show. Every actor was so much fun and really got into the story. I loved I got to taste the fake blood! It was the best day when Kathy Bates held a butcher knife to my throat! Kathy is so sweet and then BOOM. They call "action" and she IS "The Butcher!" The house they built in the middle of no where looked so old and real, it just felt haunted. It was a closed set so not many people were there which made the night scenes with the torches so scary! And Sarah and Cuba were so committed when we were running through the cave trying to escape it was super scary. Like a haunted house at Halloween every day! And Angela Bassett and Evan Peters are so kind & generous. I would love to go back again and again to play different characters.
11. As an young actress who is exceeding to major heights in your career, can you give any advice to aspiring young actors who want be in your position? Acting is not easy. But if you truly love it, you find a way to make it easy. You must have positive thinking. I don't see not booking a job as a rejection, sometimes the answer is just no. I see that in preparing for the audition it made me a better actor.
12. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I also like to improve my fitness. I like to workout with my mom every weekend. She pushes herself in the gym and we compete on who will have the better workout. I win all the time of course, she says that I cheat but I would never do that. You believe me, right?
From a young age, destiny seemed to call upon Saniyya Sidney to work with some of the most respected actors and directors in the industry. Her first role was iconic. Filming five weeks in New Orleans, she played "Young Kizzy" in the new adaptation of Alex Haley's Roots. She instantly bonded and formed an incredible artistic partnership with her director Mario Van Peeples.
Next she was off to Atlanta on another historic project. Playing Taraji P. Henson's daughter in the feature Hidden Figures. The film also stars Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner. Taking place in the 1960's, it tells true story of the three African American mathematicians who computed the trajectory for the first Apollo missions into space and moon landing.
Next she received the call that can catapult the trajectory of a career. It was from Denzel Washington who cast her as his and Viola Davis' daughter in the film Fences. Another period piece, this one taking place in the 1950's. Denzel directs the story adapted from the August Wilson play, in which he and Viola reprise their Tony winning roles.