In an exciting plot twist, Dr. Kim was introduced to Nashville native Bella Higginbotham, cast member of Amazon Studios’ original Troop Zero, after announcing Play Like a Girl’s participation in an advance screening of the eagerly anticipated film this weekend.

Set in rural 1977 Georgia, Troop Zero stars Academy Award-winners Viola Davis and Allison Janney, Mckenna Grace and Jim Gaffigan, and centers around a misfit girl’s dream of making contact with outer space. When a national competition offers her a chance at her dream, to be recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, she recruits a makeshift troop of Birdie Scouts, forging relationships that last a lifetime and beyond. The endearing underdog tale also stars Mike Epps, Edi Patterson and Charlie Shotwell, and introduces Bella who plays Anne-Claire alongside Milan Ray and Johanna Colón. Troop Zero is directed by the award-winning directing team Bert & Bertie from a script by Academy Award-nominee Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild). Producers are Todd Black, Jason Blumental and Steve Tisch.

In celebration of the film’s worldwide launch on Prime Video on January 17, Amazon Studios will bring an exclusive Troop Zero early viewing party to AMC Thoroughbred, located at 633 Frazier Drive in Franklin, on Saturday, January 11 at 11 a.m. Free passes are available and include the red carpet-inspired pre-party, autographs and photos with Bella, and the film screening. Each pass admits two guests and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis at the venue. Movie goers are encouraged to arrive early and must enter the auditorium together. Passes do not guarantee admission as free screenings can overbook.

Earlier this week, we did a Question & Answer session with Bella about her experience filming Troop Zero, her life on and off set and what she’s working on next.

Tell me about the call. Did you read for the role of Anne-Claire or were you cast some other way?

First, we sent in a video audition for Anne-Claire and Christmas. I liked Anne-Claire better for me, and I’m glad they agreed, because Mckenna Grace is a fantastic Christmas! I got a call back for Anne-Claire in Savannah, Georgia and I met with the directors in Spring 2017. After that I was pinned for the role. (Which meant I was their first pick). It was supposed to film in the summer of 2017, but unexpected delays caused filming to be postponed. We waited about a year until we heard I was cast. I was over the moon when I got the good news! 

So who is Anne-Claire? What’s her story? What, if any, similarities do you have with the character?

Anne-Claire is a nine year old evangelist, who is sweet, shy, and a bit of an oddball. She wishes desperately to make friends, but because of her one eye, she has a bit of a hard time. I absolutely loved to play AC because of her awkward-y-shyness and sweet outlook on the world. Anne Clair and I have many differences, but we both are pretty quirky. 

Talk about a star-studded cast! Between Allison Janney and Viola Davis, there’s a lot of talent in this film. Who among them do you admire most and why? Did you have the opportunity to film with her or him? What was that like? What did you learn from them to improve your craft?

I was EXTREMELY lucky to have worked with such incredible actors and comedians. While on set, Miss Janney and Ms. Davis radiated professionalism and poise. They were both very nice and encouraging of us young performers. I soaked up… Click To Tweet It was also fun working with him because I’d previously seen his comedy shows and thought he was VERY funny. 

What was the filming experience like for Troop Zero? I’d imagine pretty different from what it was like on set for anything else you’ve done.

As a first movie/film experience it was amazing. I heard from the veterans it was different than most film sets because the atmosphere was so loving and welcoming. The directors, Bert and Bertie, both made the set as chill and fun as possible. We all had a great time filming even though it was was very, very hot in Louisiana in June! 

Have you had the chance to work with any of the younger actors previously? Was the chemistry between you and your younger cast mates those characters or did you develop your own formula?

I didn’t know any of the other kids previously, but the first day we were all together, eureka! The perfect compound — within 5 minutes, we became best friends. We have stayed great friends, and we will be forever. We see each other anytime we can, and I can’t wait to see them next week at the premiere. 

How do you balance acting with school and regular kid stuff? Friends? Extracurricular? Study? 

Ha ha, that’s a good one. I’m home-schooled, so my studies are more flexible, I have a planner, and I have play dates and sleepovers like a normal kid. Honestly I’m not that different than most. Really, my extracurricular is acting!

Anything new in the works that you can share?

Last fall, I was able to participate in the reading of a new musical in development for Broadway, and I am hoping it will get funded because I would love to have a future with that show. Other than that, I’m just waiting to hear back from a few things I auditioned for.

What advice would you give to girls your age who have a desire to get into acting?

Start with seeing as much theater as you can and then start auditioning for local theaters or school plays. Yes, auditioning can be intimidating, but its worth it! If you get in to any local plays, nice! If you think its not for you, that’s ok! I’m sure there are other things that will fit your interests better. Figure out your talents, like singing, dancing, acting. Find the one, or more, you want to work on, and start lessons for those.  Stockpile some memorized monologues and songs in your repertoire. And remember, if you don’t want to do something you don’t have to, but if you don’t want to because your scared you’ll mess up, you should try any way or you might miss something incredible. And of course, be yourself!