ICON: You got your start in acting at a young age, appearing in The Mick and Raven’s Home. Was acting always something you wanted to do or did you kind of fall into it?
Faly Rakotohavana: “I’ve always dreamed of being an actor. When I was really little, I always dreamed of seeing my face on the TV. I never attempted to pursue that dream when I was younger due to the stuttering issue that I had. I went through a lot of speech therapy and once I had gotten rid of my stutter, I started doing musical theatre. It was doing musical theatre that made me realise that I wanted to finally pursue a career in film and TV.”
Who do you look to in the industry now as a source of inspiration?
FR: “I look up to a lot of actors as a source of inspiration. One of my biggest inspirations is Leonardo DiCaprio. He has played so many different roles in so many different films and seeing him act pushes me to be better at acting.
Your new role is Prince Matteo in the Disney+ film Secret Society of Second Born Royals. The film sounds action-packed and is quite different from traditional Disney prince and princess movies. Were there any challenging aspects to this role that required you to dig deep and push beyond your comfort zone?
FR: “The whole role of Matteo was challenging for me. He is such a shy and awkward character and in person, I am the complete opposite of Matteo. Learning to play such an anti-social character was challenging but still really fun. I pushed myself away from a lot of friends and family for a little while to understand what it felt like to be on my own.”
What has it been like juggling filming, schoolwork, and filming in Toronto at your age?
FR: “It can be a little difficult sometimes, but education always comes first so getting my school work done was extremely important to me. The only difficult part of keeping my grades up was keeping in contact with my teachers. Because of the distance and the time differences sometimes it was a little difficult to get in contact with my teachers. But, I still pulled through, passed, and had an amazing time filming.”
How did you adjust to moving from Madagascar to the U.S. at age 6?
FR: “Moving from Madagascar was strange. My family and I had to adjust to an entirely new lifestyle. There were a lot of new mannerisms and rules we never had to abide by in Madagascar. Although it took some time, I think I can say that my family and I adjusted pretty well.”
You’ve put your support behind the Black Lives Matter Movement. What is important for people to know about the movement?
“The movement is about helping a community that is constantly being overlooked and undermined because of the colour of their skin. The movement is about exposing the social injustices and disadvantages that African Americans face.”
You’ve revealed you had a bad stutter which stopped you from pursing acting for some time. Is there any advice would you give to people who want to get into the industry but are dealing with similar issues?
FR: “It’s a real struggle carrying the burden of a speech impediment. I went through a lot of speech therapy before I finally got over my stutter. All I can say is that if you stay focused and put in the work you can get over anything. Don’t let your issues or problems define who you are because you’re going to miss a lot in life if you’re too focused on all the problems you face.”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What’s next for you?
FR: “I’m not sure what my future will look like in five years. I hope that my future keeps looking up and that I get more work. I will hopefully have even more exciting projects in the future and I hope you all stick with me to see what else I have for you guys.”
You can watch ‘Secret Society of Second Born Royals’ on Disney+ from September 25.
Cover Image: Amy Sussman / Getty Images