Bailee Madison is redefining roles—from child star to critically acclaimed actor (all while elevating her semblance with titles such as author, producer, and philanthropist). She is forging ahead with a conviction and purpose that is well beyond her years. Not only that, she is doing so both inside and outside of the industry by using her profile, talent, and platform. She is bringing profound issues such as childhood illness, education, loss, and bullying to the foreground of the conversation. Despite growing up in the spotlight, Bailee has always been able to maintain a sense of normalcy. As the youngest of seven children, she has attributed her ability to stay grounded to her friends and family, her antecedent for balance. Maybe this says something about the 19-year-old actor, who has already spent a lifetime in Hollywood. At only 2 weeks old, Bailee made her television debut in a Home Depot commercial. By the time she reached the prime age of 4, she starred alongside John Travolta, Salma Hayek and Jared Leto in Lonely Hearts. Her trajectory in Hollywood catapulted from there, earning her roles in Bridge to Terabithia, Brothers, Wizards of Waverly Place, Trophy Wife, and Good Witch. Her dexterity is undeniable. Bailee owns an extraordinary talent for giving characters life and does so in such a way that it makes you truly connect. She takes her craft seriously and never deviates from what is essential. It is no wonder that she's found the time to author a novel, and continues to support an organization that works to cure childhood cancer. This is part of Bailee's charm, her refusal to adopt the airs of the Hollywood persona. Yet, she somehow managed to emerge unsullied, a testament to her ingenuous enthusiasm for everything she does. More than anything, Bailee Madison is chasing dreams. And having played a real-life princess on Once Upon A Time, it is no wonder that she "truly believes without a doubt, that dreams are meant to come true".
Tell us about your landing your first acting gig. What was it and how were you cast?
My mom Patricia and my sister Kaitlin (who's 13 years older than me!) were always filming. I remember watching them on set or in an audition when I was younger. I started out doing commercials because if they needed a baby in a scene they would just ask my mom if they could use me. However, it wasn't until I was 4 that I went to my first casting and it happened as a complete accident. Katie was auditioning for a role in a movie called Lonely Hearts and when the casting director saw me, they asked if I acted. We didn't know but I remember wanting to go in, so I did and ended up booking that movie. Since then it has all truly been such a blessing and I couldn't feel more grateful or humbled.
What was it like growing up in front of the camera?
I think it's different for everybody! For me, I think my experiences have been wonderful. I've been surrounded by my family and close friends who have remained by my side to this day and I think that's a huge reason why it’s been so lovely. Of course, it's hard growing up in general, and then adding being in the public eye makes it even harder. There are times when the pressure of a lot of strangers judging or watching your every move affects you, but that's when I'm most thankful to be able to turn to my family and remind myself that their opinions are the ones that truly matter.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young person aspiring to become an actor, what would you say?
My advice would be to know that it takes time and hard work, so be kind and patient with yourself. Even more importantly, keep yourself surrounded by good people and remain loyal to them because family is everything.
You have worked with some incredible talent including Hillary Swank, Natalie Portman, Guillermo del Toro, Jake Gyllenhaal and Bette Midler just to name a few. Who have you ever felt star struck by?
Oh man! I think the coolest part for me is that I had the chance to become close with everyone I’ve worked with. So, to me, Bette Midler and Billy Crystal are “Bette" and "Mr. Crystal." There are of course times when I want to pinch myself but for the most part, I've just done my best to enjoy being with them, and learn as much as a can because at the end of the day we're all just human beings doing something we love.
Not only are you a talented actress, you are also an author. Tell us about your novel and the inspiration behind it.
Thank you! Losing Brave is a young adult psychological thriller that follows the life of Payton Brave a year after her sister Dylan has gone missing. It's a thrilling story about loss, holding onto hope and how tragedy affects people differently! The inspiration came one night after filming a movie I was producing at the time. I was sitting down with my friend Stefne Miller who had come on board to re work the script, and she just turned to me and said, "would you ever want to write a book with me?", I said yes right away and the idea for Losing Brave was born that night.
You've also added Producer to your list of credentials. Do you plan to move behind the camera?
Moving behind the camera is a huge hope of mine. It takes an entire village to bring a script to life, and it really is a team effort. I'm very thankful that people took a chance on me at such a young age, to step behind the camera and start producing. I've learned so many things and shadowed so many talented people throughout the years that I would love nothing more than to share what I’ve learned with others.
Is there a type of project or genre (Action, Theatre, Animation, etc.) that you are dying to give a try?
Yes, to all the above! I truly believe in the power of a good and special script, whatever the medium, so if that has me voicing a character or if it has me flying out of an airplane I'm all for it. However, I am dying to do an action movie, I love the feeling of being emotionally as well as physically exhausted at the end of the day—and I'd do theater any day.
Some people don't know that you are quite the philanthropist. Tell us about some of the initiatives you are involved with.
I'm in a very fortunate place to have a platform to speak about things that matter to me. Ever since I started, my mom reminded me that if you don't give back, then there's no point in any of this. So, throughout the years I've been able to create wonderful friendships with foundations like Alex’s Lemonade Stand, whose focus is on finding a cure for childhood cancer, as well as Starlight Children's Foundation, which focuses on helping families who are in the hospital. I also have the sincere honor of working alongside our former First Lady Michelle Obama on her initiative Better Make Room, which encourages people to take that next step in their education. There are so many ways to give back, so find what you are passionate about and go for it!
What do you feel are some of the most pressing issues young people face today?
I think this question really requires a sit-down conversation since there are so many pressing issues young people are contending with. However, I will say, that the unrealistic expectations of what social media shapes out to be "perfection," the bullying that takes place and the insecurities that are formed as a result, breaks my heart. And still, I feel very hopeful because I do believe this generation of young people are making a real change and are paving the way to a world full of respect, equality, and love.
You played a real-life princess on Once Upon A Time. Tell us, do dreams really come true?
I truly believe without a doubt, that the dreams are meant to come true.
Special thanks to Bloomingdales Beverly Center