Alisha-Jo Penney with director Himmat Sarkaria after wrapping the film short

Mission girl enjoys the role of an aspiring actor

Alisha-Jo, who hails from Scotland, now makes her home in Mission and takes acting lessons in Vancouver

Mission’s Alisha-Jo Penney is like any other eight-year-old child. She likes singing and dancing, drawing pictures, gymnastics, swimming, and skiing.

But what sets AJ apart is her role as an emerging in-demand child actor in movies.  She recently acted in the film Like Smoke (2011), a short movie entered into the International Cannes Film Festival for 2012.

AJ plays the role of Lilly, a young child and daughter of an infamous gangster who is murdered shortly before she returns home from school expecting to have her birthday party. Although only a child, the film explores mature themes.

How, then, does such a young person get into character for that kind of role?

“I think about things in my life that are like that,” and then try to copy that, she said.

Although AJ is somewhat soft-spoken and shy, she’s confident in front of a camera.

Her father Simon says she decided to wanted to be an actor after watching the children’s film Santa Paws during Christmas 2010. She then enlisted the help of her parents to try to get into some roles in films, television and stage.

AJ was born Aug. 18, 2003 in Stirling, Scotland, not far from Edinburgh where Simon worked. She and her younger brother Joshua later moved to her father’s home of Guernsey (an island in the English channel), before the family immigrated to Mission in 2007, where her mother, Linette, now works as a family doctor.

Although she still remembers Scotland, AJ says, “I feel like more Canadian now.”

AJ says working in movies is fun, but what she enjoys most of all is when the food arrives on the set.

When asked if her brother, who is six, is also an actor, AJ said he has done work as an extra, referred to as “background” in movie parlance.

AJ has already appeared in various background roles in some television shows in the U.S. and Canada. And viewers in Guernsey will soon get a chance to see her in upcoming episodes of the U.S. TV show Once Upon a Time, currently being screened in the UK.

AJ appears briefly as a child from Storybrooke in episode five, and as a market child, along with Joshua, in episode 17. Additional background roles include the TV show Fringe and various other movie productions including Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Although she’s got nothing immediately planned, AJ just auditioned for a new film role last week, which means she could soon be on the silver screen again.