A triple threat, fourteen-year-old Cree Cicchino has already proven herself to have a strong head on her shoulders with a passion and drive that tops it all off. Getting her first major role after only a few auditions, she booked the role of Babe on the Dan Schneider show Game Shakers in 2014. Getting on the phone with Cree last week, we discussed the show, her writing, her dancing, and how she’s using her spotlight to shine a light on making a difference.
When we talked with Cree last October, season 2 of Game Shakers had just started airing. Now, reaching the halfway mark of the season, she assures that there’s a lot more for viewers to look forward to. “I can say we definitely have a lot of fun episodes—one in particular, I was just filming—and there’s a scene that I’ve always loved and you’ll know when you see it,” she hinted following up later by saying it’s a storyline that’s very close to her heart and that she’s admired for a long time. “We have some special guests that will be super fun and that the cast loves and we had such a fun time filming with them. You’ll get some romance drama, as usual, some big fights within the cast—which is always really interesting and fun to see—so a lot of really cool stuff.”
Playing the strong, independent Babe for two seasons, Cree has found herself able to tap into their similarities in order to identify with the character, but she’s also aware of where Cree stops and Babe begins, “We’re both New York girls, so right from the start, we already had a vibe. I always said me, Cree, I’m not as brave as she is. You know, she’s pretty brave. And I’m not as tough as she is. But, we definitely have a creative vibe and that New York sense of mind so I think maybe that’s just gotten a little more intensified during filming.”
Another difference between Cree and Babe is that Cree admits she hasn’t really learned how to code the Babe can, but working on this show has given her and the rest of the cast a background knowledge on the process behind the creation of games. “We’ve tried to get better at the games,” she says giving credit to the amazing team the show has that actually creates the games for people to play. “We’re pretty good, but we’re not the best. The studio actually has scoreboards, like, who can get the highest Sky Whale score which was our first game, so that was pretty fun.”
While she has an undeniable grasp on the character of Babe when asked, Cree does note that if she could play any other character on Game Shakers, she’d want to play Double G but just for a day to see what it like. “But, just for like a second,” she adds through laughter.
“I think one of [Game Shakers] biggest messages is girl power and we’ve gotten a lot of female and male viewers that really walk away with a good sense of that,” Cree explains. She continues noting that even through all the laughs, the sitcom at its core offers feminist and empowering messages she hopes inspires viewers, “A big theme is girls running a company and girls sort of being the bosses, but also it’s girls supporting each other and building each other up. They’re not competing with each other and they’re not fighting and it’s not malicious, it’s very true support of each other. I think that’s something that all girls and guys can learn from; that’s an important message.”
And with such distinct and different personalities working together, each character has something different offer which Cree says is another important theme she hopes viewers note. “Another is just the ability to be yourself. We’re coding games where all of our abilities are coming out in the company for all of our individual jobs so that’s definitely a big message. And of course, it’s hard work. You know, our characters are always working and really trying to perfect all their games and that is what in the end is getting them their success in their company. And that is a great message for all young kids that already know what they’d like their careers to be and want to work towards that starting now,” she comments on the drive of the characters.
Outside of acting, Cree is also a writer. When asked about if she could write an episode of Game Shakers, she shares that she would want to write an episode that questions the classical what ifs, “I’ve always enjoyed the episodes where, for example, they would look at what their lives would be like if certain events hadn’t happened. I always thought that was so interesting so much fun to play. I think it would be fun to see an episode where we’d see what the characters lives would be like if they hadn’t started Game Shakers and Kenzie and Babe were never teamed up for this project. And where would Double G and Triple G be, what would be going on in Hudson’s life? Babe and McKenzie might not be friends so I think that would be really fun to see.”
Getting a strong understanding about writing comedy from being an actress on the show and through the show’s writers, even through her busy schedule, Cree wants to keep her passion for writing alive. “I think I definitely want to keep with it. I’ve found myself having less and less time for it and I think it’s really important that I stick with it,” she answers when I ask if she has plans for sharing her writing publically. “This is just coming from elementary school and the teacher would ask for a paragraph and I’d give her two pages. It just sorta grew into this passion that I had and that I definitely don’t want to lose, so maybe one day I’ll share my writing and write a quick book.”
As a dancer, Cree also finds herself dabbling in music sharing that she’s currently working on it to see where it goes. “I’ve been dancing since I was four-years-old, I grew up a competition dancer doing every style: jazz, lyrical, tap, ballet, contemporary,” she starts on how she began dancing. “When I moved out here, obviously I couldn’t keep competing with my old studio so I focused more on hip hop and street jazz—very Beyonce stuff—and I sort of stayed with that; took some classes out here, putting some things up on my Instagram and it’s something I’ll never lose.”
Moving from New York to California, Cree found herself gravitating towards hip-hop and jazz funk from exploring the dance scene in L.A. and through her love of Beyonce. “Well, when I came out here, there was a lot of it going out. It had exploded here recently, especially out in L.A. And, I’ve been such a loyal Beyhive member my entire life,” she gushed. “When I came out here I said, ‘Okay, well I’m not competing so what’s something that I really enjoy?’ Right before I came out here, I started getting into hip-hop and into jazz funk and started looking at all of these amazing teachers from New York that were in California that I’d gotten such a pleasure to work with, out here. But, I thought, ‘You know what? I’ve always loved this genre, I’ve always wanted to get better at it, let me start taking classes in it.’ So, I took classes.” Taking a note from the book of Beyonce, she fell in love with hip-hop and jazz funk through the work ethic it required. “This is why I’ve always loved Beyonce,” she continues, “because of the way that she performs. She just dances in this style that I’ve always loved so that was sort of the process; just realizing all of the opportunities and things.” She added that once she realized how much she loved the dance styles, she wanted to get better at it.
Sidetracking to discuss Beyonce for a moment, Cree fangirled about how impossible it was for her decide which era of Beyonce was her favorite. “I loved her 4 album, but her Yonce album is also amazing,” she starts after thinking for a moment. “Of course, you can’t forget about the ‘Crazy in Love’ days. I’ve just recently rediscovered ‘Ring the Alarm’ and I’m obsessed.” She pauses for a moment and then says through laughs, “You can’t have me choose, that’s way too hard,” before adding to the list a few of her favorites from the Destiny’s Childs days including, ‘Bills, Bills, Bills,’ ‘Independent Woman,’ ‘Say My Name,’ and ‘Bootylicious.’
Just a few weeks ago, Cree and her costar Madisyn Shipman got to perform at the Kids Choice Awards with singer/actress Demi Lovato. “At first, I was told that I was going to be performing with the new Smurfs movie and I was so excited because I was going to be performing with Maddie,” she explained about how she got the opportunity. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so fun!’ Then, they were like ‘Oh, and also it’s going to be with Demi Lovato,’ and I think it didn’t process until like the day of because I didn’t know she was going to be there at that specific day in rehearsal. I just turned around and she was right in front of me and she was so nice and sweet and such a joy to meet. It really hit me like the night after I met her and I had a heart attack. She’s always been an inspiration, I respect her music so much,” Cree praised. “I think she’s so underrated, she’s so talented, and she’s always been an inspiration for me fashion-wise, as well. I’ve always enjoyed her work and it really was a dream come true meeting her.”
Having a fandom of her own, Cree discusses how she balances growing into her own person during her teen years while being in this spotlight. “Obviously, I’m so grateful for my fans. My Creetures are so amazing and so loyal and dedicated. I think it’s great that now with social media, we get to have straight communication with them and talking and comments and love streams and all that which is a very big and important part of this life, out here, doing a show,” she starts. “But, I also think it’s important to try and get your downtime, you know? You still have to be a person, a real person, and be yourself. I can’t always be Social Media!Cree every time. Sometimes I have to be Sitting at Home With the Dog!Cree or Just Hang Out With Your Friends!Cree.” Cree also explains that part of her ability to manage a normal life is through her fans also allowing her to be normal, “I don’t get stopped on the street a lot by fans, when I do of course I love meeting them, but that’s never been a problem at all because I’m almost never recognized. But it is, like I said, important. That’s another reason why I love Beyonce and Demi Lovato because they are real people and they take their time to be themselves and they’re very grounded. And you have to stay grounded because it’s very easy to get messed up into the social media wormhole out here.”
One of the ways to avoid getting sucked into the social media wormhole for Cree is by using hers to also spread talk about things going on in the world and spread awareness about injustices and inequality. “I’ve always lived in an environment with my family where they educated me and made sure that I knew what was going on in the world. As I’m getting older, I’m understanding a lot more,” she answers when asked how she educates herself on issues, her ideologies, and what she’s fighting for. “Definitely, just a lot of the more basic beliefs that I’ve always had and that my family has always had are really coming into the light now with all of the issues going on. So, I think it’s just important to stay educated and watch the news every now and then and listen to what’s going on in the world. If there is an issue going on that touches one of your beliefs, then I think it’s important to share that and use your fanbase and use your platform to share important messages that you believe in. So I definitely try to do that.” She adds, “And that’s a big part of the being yourself and making sure that you have downtime.”
There’s usually a stigma against people under the age of eighteen from adults that the youth either don’t understand what is going on in the world or that they don’t care; a stigma that is constantly being proven wrong but still shared. As one of the people proving the stigma wrong, Cree shares that her biggest hopeful for the future is something that should not be as hard as it seems to be to obtain. “Just, such basic things,” she begins. “I’ve just always, as a human being, believed in love and equality and feminism and just all these basic things that for some reason are such big problems in the world right now. I really hope that those things: equality for everyone—for members of the LGBT community, for all races and genders—that’s just such a basic thing that for such reason is such a big problem, that’s my biggest hope right now, equality.”
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked Cree who were the women who helped inspire and shape her and how she hopes to inspire and shape other girls:
Cree: There’s so many. Acting wise, obviously, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie—Gina Rodriguez is an amazing Latina actress. I think Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress and she’s doing some great work right now. Yeah, there’s just so many, like, just looking back in history, there are some amazing female figures. I think that it’s a really great honor to be sort of an inspiration to young girls and a great privilege. So, definitely, like I said, I want to use my platform to share my messages and the things that I believe in and I plan on doing that for as long as I’m in the public eye.
Be on the look out for an audio clip where Cree answers a fan question about her favorite things about each of her castmates later toady!
You can catch new episodes of Game Shakers on Nickelodeon Saturday nights!
(photo cred: photographer – Ricky Middlesworth,hair – David Garner, makeup – Garret Gervais, stylist – Chris Horan)