If you would’ve told me what an amazing blessing and whirwind Shark Boy and Lava Girl would be, I wouldn’t have believed you. Only 11 years old when I first auditioned for SB&LG, I could never have imagined that God would help make my biggest dreams happen right before my very eyes. I was just a small town girl, born in Michigan, raised (mostly) in Arizona, who just recently came out for some crazy thing called “pilot” season (is someone flying something?) and went on my first theatrical audition. The only life changing thing that was happening to me was impending puberty, or so I thought.
The first audition for SB&LG was overwhelming. So many girls lined up in a tiny office near Venice. There was more girls than space. I was only ever used to commercial auditions, which had just as many girls, but way less competition. My mom, knowing how girly I was (at this stage of my life, I could barely throw a ball let alone be a superhero) just encouraged me to not put pressure on the whole thing, just be myself and most importly, have fun. I remember how nervous I was before I was going in. I could hear them call girls and I knew my name was coming soon. I prayed to God that He would help me get through my nerves. And the crazy thing is, the minute they called my name, all my nerves went away and I was just so excited to go in!
Meeting with casting and reading a scene from the movie on camera was fairly new to me, but I absolutely loved every second of it. It was so invigorating for me to be someone else. In those few moments in the audition room, I became Lava Girl. When I was done giving what I thought was the performance of a lifetime (gotta love my confidence level at age 11), casting just looked up at me, smiled, and said “thank you”. It was on to the next girl. Wait, whaaaaaaattttt? I walked out of the room utterly confused. I had given it my all and all I received back was a “thank you”? Thoughts raced my mind, like what is the meaning of this nonsense? Was she not paying attention to my amazingness? Where is my Academy Award? Turns out, this is a quite normal reaction for an audition, good or bad, but I instantly started doubting myself.
My poor mother had to deal with the emotional rollercoaster that ensued. “Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this” I thought, “maybe I was wrong and this isn’t what God made me to do”. I went through every moment and thought of how I could’ve done it better and wished I could waltz right in there and try again. My mom tried her hardest to help me out, reminding me that it was only my first audition and the character couldn’t be further from myself. I vowed that I would push forward and be better next audition and in the mean time, let’s just forget about this “Shark Girl Lava Boy” thingy. Clearly, I didn’t do half as bad as I thought, because the next day I received a call back.
In short, call backs are when the casting director thinks that the director may like you for the role so they call you back to come read scenes in front of the director. I was so excited. I was going to be meeting THE Robert Rodriquez. I was obsessed with the Spy Kids movies and couldn’t imagine actually getting to act in front of him. The call back was everything I thought it would be and more. We met at the same office as before and I was just as nervous. It was so cool getting to meet Robert and read with him. Such a surreal moment in my life! I left not knowing what to think because obviously I did the performance of a lifetime and deserved some kind of award (again, loved my not so realistic confidence levels), but also there were still so many girls!
What started off as super exciting, soon felt more and more impossible. As I said, the first audition had more girls there than I had ever seen. The second callback was still completely overrun with girls (I seriously think every young actress at the time was there). I’d only been to a few call backs, but I knew enough to know that there was usually only one or two call back sessions before you knew who got the part. It was about two weeks later and I hadn’t heard anything back, so I (safely) assumed I hadn’t got the part. Then I got a phone call, I got ANOTHER call back to meet with Robert and his son (who came up with the idea for the movie). What is this craziness?! I was beyond stoked. Could I actually get this part? Could I actually be Lava Girl?
I ended up going on a total of 5 auditions/call backs all together for SB&LG within a month and a half span. They had already cast all of the characters for the film…Shark Boy, Max, the Ice Princess, his parents. Lava Girl was still the only one not cast. Robert just couldn’t decide, which was troublesome because shooting and preparations for shooting started immediately.
The very last call back was a whirlwind. My agents and managers let us know that it was down to only 2 other girls (one of the girls were pretty famous at the time) and me for Lava Girl and they wanted me to go in one last time to read with Robert and the boys who were cast as Max and Shark Boy. It was a time crunch because Robert needed to decide who was going to play the role of Lava Girl THAT night. Whoever booked the part, needed to go the very next morning to the special effect place to get the Lava suit made because shooting was starting very soon in Austin, Texas. I was overwhelmed and so excited. This was it. This was the end of the line, when I would know if I could play Lava Girl or not. To be honest, I was just excited to think that I made it down to the final 3 girls. To me, that was the ultimate accomplishment and if I didn’t get the part, at least I know that I gave it my all.
I arrived at my audition nervous, but totally ready to meet and read with the boys. To my complete surprise, the waiting room did not have only two other girls…there was ELEVEN. It was in that moment that what felt like something I was so close on, instantly felt less close. My mom reassured me that I just had to go in there and be myself, the rest was completely God’s plan. I was pretty comfortable with Robert from meeting with him 3 times previously, but I was a tad anxious to meet the guys. I walked in and met Cayden Boyd and Taylor Lautner. They were both so sweet and welcoming, I instantly felt comfortable with them as well. It was like we were old friends. We had an absolute blast doing the scenes together, I didn’t want it to end. Once the audition was over, the terrible waiting game started (I’ve never been one with tons of patience). Casting let my agent know that the producers and director would let us know who booked the role by 6pm that very night.
The rest of the day couldn’t go by fast enough. I tried everything to take my mind off of what was going on, but I just couldn’t. I wanted so badly to not be attached, but after over a month of playing Lava Girl, I just felt connected to her. And meeting the boys only solidified that for me, we all fit together so perfectly! 6pm rolled around and like everything in this business, they were late. They called and let us know that they hadn’t decided yet, but it was down to me and one other girl (!!!!!!). They were going to go to dinner and decide when they got back. Ugh, like fast food dinner or dinner type dinner?! Do I haveeee to wait any longerrrrrr?! I was so impatient, the minutes dragged on like hours (oh wait, it was hours). Our tiny apartment we shared with my Uncle could not have felt any smaller. I would do anything to fast forward time, this was all so nerve wracking. Try as I might to pretend like I was alright, I was so invested. My heart was on the line.
Finally, around 9pm my manager called my mom. My palms were the sweatiest ever as I looked eagerly at my mom. “I wanna hear, put it on speaker phone” I said. My mom instead went in the other room, she wanted to be prepared in case she had to console me if I didn’t get the part. A few very long, very brutal minutes later, my mom returned to tell me that I BOOKED THE PART! Me. Little Taylor Dooley. I was going to be Lava Girl. My mom and I hugged and cried tears of joy. My little brother ran up to me and congratulated me, while my uncle quickly scooped me up to run around the house with me. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. My mom quickly tried to calm me down, because she was told that Robert would be calling me to congratulate me as well. I talked with him and thanked him profusely for the opportunity. I just couldn’t wipe the smile from my face or the tears from my eyes. After our conversation, I grabbed my mom and we went out to our apartment balcony. We held hands and looking up into the night sky, thanked God for His love, His guildance, His wisdom, and His plan. Then we called my dad to tell him the amazing news because, sadly, he was out of town for work.
I don’t think I slept much that night. I knew I had to be up early to go over to K&B (the special effect studio that made the suits), but I just couldn’t get myself to doze off. This was so much better than the night before Christmas. This was the night before my dreams came true. The night before my life changed forever. I didn’t yet know where my journey would take me, all the twists and turns it would have…but I just knew this was the start of something spectacular, something absolutely magical. I was just a little girl, with a big dream. And now that dream was happening. Like a good friend of mine says, “Everything that is or was, began with a dream.” 😉