Not every 8-year-old has to worry about inviting their third-grade teacher to their movie premiere. But for Kayleigh Finnegan, it was a real predicament.
“Where do you have to make sure you end up the next day?” her father, Brian Finnegan asked.
“School,” Kayleigh said.
While she started acting in 2015, Brian said she’s been with the Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth since she was 4 years old.
“There’s a pretty strong children’s arts community here, and BAAY is kind of a fundamental school,” Brian said.
In 2015, Kayleigh caught the bug after a friend of hers acted in a movie.
“When I saw his movie trailer…I thought it was the coolest thing, so I had to do it too, because I wanted to see myself on the screen,” she said.
From there, Kayleigh’s mom, Jody Finnegan, said they brought Kayleigh to the agency Seattle Talent. After being accepted, she began taking acting lessons. The next step was a talent competition in Los Angeles for the International Modeling and Talent Association. Kayleigh placed fourth in acting for her age group, Brian said.
After that, came callbacks and auditions, Jody said. That eventually led Kayleigh to be cast in the movie, “Shattered,” which debuted at the Pickford Film Center in March. The film is a drama surrounding a political family in the South. Kayleigh plays the sister of a boy with severe mental health issues.
The movie offered Kayleigh’s parents the first chance to really see the final product of one of her roles. Jody said Kayleigh has been in other projects, like a music video and commercials, but “Shattered” was the first time they got to see her on the big screen.
This July, Kayleigh will be busy filming another movie, “Before I Go.”
Acting isn’t the only thing Kayleigh’s interested in. In fact, her schedule is bursting with activities like dancing, martial arts, piano, ultimate frisbee, and 3D art.
“She’s a busy little girl,” Brian said.
In addition to film, Kayleigh has also done stage productions like the Wizard of Oz and The Aristocats. However, she says she prefers the theater because there’s no camera following her around and you don’t have to do scenes over and over again to get the right angle.
“If you want to do acting, you have to have confidence and bravery,” Kayleigh said. “You have to have bravery because everyone will be watching it eventually, and you have to have confidence to actually do it.”
Jody and Brian agree that having a child involved with acting can be tough as well. Jody owns 12th Street Shoes in Fairhaven and Brian owns WestCom Properties and is a partner in Landmark Real Estate Management. But they both manage to find time to take Kayleigh to classes and auditions. Jody says kids in the acting business should be prepared to hear a lot of rejections.
“It’s a real grind, several auditions a week, you’ve got to show up, you hear no all the time,” Brian said. “You have to let that just wash off your back and focus on the positives.”
Kayleigh has goals outside of acting. She said she wants to branch into the literary world as well, and she already has her first idea.
She wants to write a book about a girl who is bullied for having Down syndrome. She said she was inspired by a girl in her class who has the syndrome, a chromosomal birth defect. She said she wants the book to teach people that there’s no difference between people with Down syndrome and those without.
“They’re not contagious, it’s just some DNA from their parents [that] got changed,” she said.
Whatever form Kayleigh’s future projects take, she has the support of her parents. If she decided to be an astronaut, Brian said he and Jody would support her.
But when it comes to acting, Kayleigh had one final piece of advice.
“Believe in magic,” she said. “Anything is possible.”