Photograph by Jeff Henrikson; Styled by Jasmine Hassett.
To just about any other Hollywood hopeful, Nico Parker’s career plan might sound a bit backward. Her very first experience with acting was starring opposite Colin Farrell and Danny DeVito in Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo, which hit theaters this spring. She hopes, however, to one day fulfill her longtime dream of becoming a waitress. “I definitely want to act,” says the 14-year-old native Londoner, “but I also really want to work in a café. There was this film I watched all the time when I was 6 or 7, Barbie: Princess Charm School, and that’s what she did, and it just looked so fun.”
Chalk up some of this thinking to naivete; Parker is, after all, barely a teenager. But as the daughter of the actress Thandie Newton and the writer-director Ol Parker, she’s absorbed, even at her tender age, a lesson that takes most aspiring thespians decades to figure out: Acting—glamour moments and mega-paychecks notwithstanding—is a job like any other. “I’ve been on and off sets my whole life,” Parker says. “It was great, but I also saw how long and hard my parents worked and how exhausting it could be.” Despite those downsides, it was Mom and Dad who got her into the business in the first place, filming Parker’s audition tape after being approached by Dumbo’s casting director. “I was just reading with my dad, so it was really comfortable,” Parker recalls. “But then I went straight into auditioning for Tim, which was petrifying!”
Still, once the cameras were rolling, she quickly felt at ease. “About a week into filming, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I love this!’ ” Parker also hopes to go to university in a few years, and, of course, she hasn’t given up on her food-service ambitions. Luckily, her dad’s most memorable advice for navigating a movie set will come in handy in either profession: “He told me to try to remember everyone’s name,” she says. “And if I forget, just say, ‘Hi, mate! Hi, buddy!’ "