A daughter with roots in Edon has generated Oscar buzz, starred alongside Hollywood legends, traveled the world and made her directorial debut, all before reaching the age of 10.
But don’t get down on yourself, Brooklynn is no ordinary kid.
Brooklynn Prince is the daughter of Edon native Justin Prince and granddaughter of Ed and Deb Prince. Currently, she’s half a world away in Vancouver, Canada, filming an Apple TV series called “Home Before Dark,” which follows the real life exploits of a young female journalist around her own age as she unravels a cold-case mystery.
And while the 10- to 11-hour days she puts in contributing not only to that, but also her schooling and her own personal pursuits, are grueling at times, the upbeat, mature-beyond-her years actress is too busy living out her dream to mind.
“Since I was a little girl I’d dress up and act like I’m in plays,” recalled Brooklynn of her earliest days in an interview with The Bryan Times Sunday afternoon.
The early days
Born in Orlando, Florida, to then newly relocated marine biologist Justin Prince, and his wife, Courtney Prince, a former child actress and talent coach from Indianapolis, Brooklynn got her start working in local commercials for the likes of Disney World and Chuck E. Cheese.
At first, her family was hesitant when the first offer for a photoshoot, for Parenting magazine, came through.
“Mom was like, ‘I don’t know.’ But the agent was like, ‘Look, they want her to blow bubbles and be cute,” Brooklynn recalled with a laugh. “My grandma (in Orlando) encouraged her to let me do it.”
In just a few short years, Brooklynn went from looking cute in commercials to starring in serious film roles.
But first, fate would play its part.
When Brooklynn was 5 years old, director Sean Baker was starting work on an indie film called “The Florida Project,” which spoke to the hypocrisy of the struggling families living in and out of hotel rooms in the shadow of Disney World in Orlando following the U.S. recession.
“Sean was really big on local casting. He wanted Moonee (the main character) to be a local kid,” explained Justin. “The age they were looking for was older than Brooklynn at the time. She was 5 and they were going for 7 to 9.”
But Brooklyn’s chance would come.
“Sean was thinking about pulling the plug and pushing it back and regrouping. But he was convinced by his team to hold one more round, and they broadened it,” said Justin. “That kind of alerted a local casting director that knew Brooklynn.”
According to Justin, the fit was immediate and obvious to Baker, who sent Brooklynn and her family a script and an offer without holding another audition.
“The rest is history,” said Justin. “Sean loved her from the first time he met her.”
It turned out to the be the perfect project for a budding young actress from Orlando.
“I had a great time on the set; I got to eat ice cream and be a kid, that was the whole thing,” said Brooklynn. “Moonee was a regular kid. I just had to run around all the time ... I don’t think I ever noticed there was a camera, it was just a fun time.”
“From a young age she just absolutely enjoyed it,” added Justin of his daughter’s affinity for acting.
But before the 2017 film began to receive Oscar buzz upon its release — Brooklynn’s performance included — her parents knew they were headed in a direction that would require careful planning and real conversation.
“My wife having been in the industry when she was a child, it was a very good thing as she had some experience with what was coming,” said Justin.
“We met so many nice people like Sean and the production crew. They kind of told us when we were filming to start thinking ahead. We had a lot of conversations about what this may look like and how to handle it.”
Then came a whirlwind schedule of touring associated with the film — London, Paris, Toronto, coast to coast between New York and Los Angeles, to prestigious film festivals like Cannes Film Festival.
Meanwhile, during the rush, the family welcomed a baby boy, Cullen.
But despite the rigorous schedule, both Brooklynn and her parents quickly became all in.
“To put so much blood, sweat and tears in, and she puts by far more skin in the game than anybody, you want to buy in as a parent,” Justin said. “She cares so much about it, so you want to support her dreams.”
The film opened a lot of doors to that end.
“Me and my mom and dad actually talk about what life would have been without it,” said Brooklynn. “It was such a miracle and a blessing that started all these opportunities for me. I’m thankful.”
The process too helped attune the family’s compass to how they would proceed.
“She was a 5 going on 6 little girl and you’re reading the script and any decent parent would be concerned with the content of the movie,” Justin said. “But it started us along this path picking projects Brooklynn cares about. We don’t do these for the sake of a paycheck.
“If it wasn’t for Brooklynn falling in love with it, we would have passed on it. This was something she convinced us of ... She took quite an interest in this alternative world we were passing by every weekend.”
And Brooklynn grew as an artist in her first big project.
“I just love everything about it, except for going home,” said Brooklynn with a laugh. “I love creating new characters, being able to immerse yourself into this new world. If you’re having a rough time in your life, you can immerse yourself in this new world and feel different things and feel for your characters.”
The touring schedule also gave her, after having co-starred with Willem DaFoe in “The Florida Project,” the chance to rub elbows with Hollywood’s upper echelon of actors and actresses.
One such occasion occurred at a Toronto film festival, with Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning actor Gary Oldman.
“Every October we watch Harry Potter. It never gets old. We’re fanatics,” said Brooklynn. “I remember I was in Toronto and heard he was there, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I am so exited.’
“Little me was so in love with Emma Watson, I wanted to ask him how she was. That’s the only reason I wanted to see him,” she said.
Meanwhile, her father, a fan of Oldman’s larger body of work, tried to process it all.
“Gary Oldman is freaking standing by my daughter. How awesome is that?” Justin remembered thinking with a laugh. “She says, ‘You must be super famous because you know Emma Watson.’”
The comment was a hit.
“I was like, ‘Why is everyone laughing?’” remembered Brooklynn.
Oldman’s response to the confident Brooklynn was to look to Justin and say, “Maybe you can show her some of my other work when she gets older.”
Then there was the Governors Awards in Los Angeles a few years later.
By that time, Brooklynn and her family had signed on to a few other projects, including an upcoming Disney animated feature called “The One and Only Ivan,” due for release in August, that tasked her with voice-over work beside Helen Mirren, Danny DeVito, Bryan Cranston and Angelina Jolie, to name a few.
Both Jolie and Brooklyn voice elephants in the film.
“Angelina is so famous she has body guards, but I’m so small I slipped through,” recalled Brooklynn, “and was like ‘Hi, how are you doing? We might be working in a movie together. We should wear elephant onesies together.”
After the festival, Brooklynn convinced her mom to purchase the outfits and send one to Jolie, despite her father cautioning Jolie may not go through with it.
“Angie shows up and looks at me in my onesie, she goes, ‘Why’d you get it on before me?’” said Brooklynn. “She drops everything and puts it on.”
The two recorded the rest of the day in their onesies.
In the few short years since “The Florida Project,” Prince has taken on such projects as “Monsters at Large,” “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” new horror flick “The Turning” and the Apple series.
The family’s schedule, which leaves them home for about three days at any one time, has led to improvisation in the school department. Brooklynn is tutored in science and math by her scientifically minded father, who she used to refer to in class to her friends as “Albert Einstein.”
“Movies come up very quickly and can move extremely slow. And we’ve had others we thought would take three years to put together and next thing you know, it’s ‘Get ready to go to South Africa,’” explained Justin.
“We were up here (Vancouver) for about five months last year filming season one of ‘Home Before Dark,’ added Brooklynn. “My mom binge watches it all the time, she’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t watch this enough.’”
However, Brooklynn herself wasn’t at all keen on watching some of her most recent work, as evidenced during the premiere of “The Turning,” in which she co-starred with “Stranger Things” actor Finn Wolfhard.
“She did such a good job and put so much heart and soul in, I wanted her to see her work and the work her co-workers did,” Justin said. “I was like, ‘She should be fine. She’s watched things with shadows and creepiness and let’s not forget the fact she filmed it. ... But ultimately, we let it be her choice.”
And Brooklynn did watch, for about five minutes, give or take.
“It was like two minutes in ... and then maybe five minutes after,” Brooklynn said of her exit. “It was mimi and papa, dad and mom and I was in the middle. My face was buried in my mimi’s chest, I was so scared, plugging my ears and closing my eyes.”
But for every moment that Brooklynn is just another little kid afraid of a scary movie, there is another that shows just how motivated and creative she continues to become.
Brooklynn, in collaboration with Facebook, recently released a short film, her directorial debut. Drawing from her own personal experiences, Brooklynn’s “Colours” tells the story of a young girl whose friend suddenly becomes ill, and the internal conflict that ensues.
“I had a lot of amazing people help me out, they were all really supportive,” explained Brooklynn. “None of them laughed when they heard I was 9 years old and heard I was directing. They were like, ‘Do it!’
“Not that you have to be bossy to be a director, but I’m really bossy,” she said with a laugh.
“I watched (directors she’s worked with) really closely. I’ve had so many amazing directors ... I watched them and each one had a tiny thing I picked up from them, looking at things in different ways,” she said. “It’s almost like testing with different chemicals to see the reaction, how it plays out.”
Her parents continue to look on, proud as ever, as she evolves.
“Brooklyn had her hands in everything, that was very important to us. We wanted this film to kind of give her that experience,” Justin said. “We had a very long talk because we didn’t want to burn her out. She was adamant she wanted to have that full experience. She’s always smiling, she never complained, did an amazing job and put her whole heart in it.”
Brooklynn’s real-life story too was affected by the film.
She says she plans to pursue a degree in directing from either New York University or the University of Southern California and is working to convert the short film into a series while also committing to continue her acting career.
“I’m a proud papa. I’ve been a proud papa since the first time she took her first steps.” said Justin. “I’m proud of the woman she is and the woman she’s becoming. That started with me from the day she was born.”
“But if I had to pick a (favorite) project ... it’d be ‘Colours.’ It’s Brooklynn’s story.”