Rising star and talented actress Giovanna “Gigi” Cesare gets candid with TEENPLICITY about life as a young actor, being nominated alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and what to expect in her film Street II.
For most pre-teens, they’re soaking up the last bits of summer before returning to middle school in a few short weeks. Speed-reading their summer reading lists and trying to hang out with friends until they’re required back home is the top of their priorities. Yet, Giovanna Cesare has her mind focused on the Imagen Awards less than a week away.
“The most difficult part – and please know that as I say this, it sounds almost too privileged and almost like ‘insert eye roll’ because how could any kid lucky enough to be in the biz complain – [is that] there are some small sticky parts to this lifestyle,” the young actress, Gigi as she is referred to by everyone, begins to explain about being a young actor in Hollywood. “Moving, loss of friends, and the kind of isolation that only a handful of kids are in the same boat,” she says as examples. “So kids doing regular things, living regular lives, going to regular school, just don’t quite understand. I mean, how could they?” she explains, not blaming them for not understanding.
Gigi even reveals it’s not always peers who have an impact on her. “Also, parents of new friends sometimes don’t want you inspiring ideas in their kids to act and then discourage the friendship.” She confesses that this has happened to her a few times and it has broken her heart. “The hardiest for me is being bullied in school by kids who maybe want to act but it’s not an option for them or their family at the time,” she reveals. “I become kind of a symbol of something they don’t like before they even say hello to me or know me. There’s a lot of pre-judgement of me and my parents for choosing or allowing me to act, but that comes with the choice to do this.” These hardships, according to Gigi, help to prepare her for things down the road.
“There’s challenges to everything but what is funny is that the difference between what people think acting is like and what it is really like is huge. Perception versus reality huge!” she adds.
There are good sides to being an actor despite how others may treat her sometimes. Not only is acting her passion and a career that she wants to continue to build on for a long while, but Gigi has already gotten plenty of attention for her talent and award nominations as well!
She was in a bit of shock about how I could be in the same category with these huge movie stars, I think she was checking to see if there was a mistake before telling me!
In 2014, Gigi was first nominated in the Young Artist Awards for “Best Performance in Short Film – Young Actress 10 and Under”. Although she did not win, victory found her two years later during the Young Entertainer Awards when she had been nominated “Best Supporting Young Actress – Feature Film” for Street.
At this year’s Imagen Awards, scheduled for Friday, August 18th, the budding talent finds herself amongst some of Hollywood’s Elite in the category for “Best Actress – Feature Film” for her work in The Kids from 62-F.
“Shock, happiness, and full of joy!” Gigi exclaims as her first reactions to hearing the news of her nomination. “We got the news as we were boarding a flight to [Los Angeles]. My mom didn’t tell me until she spoke to my manager Daniel Rojo when we landed. She was in a bit of shock about how I could be in the same category with these huge movie stars, I think she was checking to see if there was a mistake before telling me!”
Those huge stars include Salma Hayek [Frida, How to Be a Latin Lover], who is nominated in the category twice, Eva Longoria [“Desperate Housewives”, Harsh Times], and Edy Ganem [“Devious Maids”]. Gigi calls being nominated alongside them to be very nerve-wracking and exciting. “It’s an honor at my age of 12, I really do understand that.” An honor that has definitely been earned and is only the tip of the iceberg of what her future will look like, Teenplicity is sure.
All of Gigi’s hard work doesn’t just end at the nomination. She’s looking forward to attending the Imagen Awards and meeting the likes of the cast of Adventures in Babysitting, Jenna Ortega, and Kenny Ortega, the director and choreographer behind Disney Channel smash hits High School Musical and Descendants, as well as their sequels. “Seeing Lin Manuel-Miranda and hearing him speak,” she adds. “Hopefully getting Salma Hayek’s autograph for my dad! Literally each person in my family is a fan of each of my fellow nominees. It’s almost too much to wrap my head around.”
The excitement surrounding her nomination and what will happen at the Imagen Awards doesn’t distract Gigi from recognizing its importance, though.
“The best aspect is that Imagen honors Latinos in Film and Television and positive contributions to the creative arts,” the young actress explains. “That is so important these days – diversity. To be in this community of incredible people is one of the most, if not the most, humbling experiences of my life.” Gigi’s appreciation and excitement for the Imagen Awards shines through as she says, “It will be a night of getting to celebrate the best part of being in the industry.” She does include, “But [it will also be celebrating] a part of me that has been kind of hidden since my biological dad [of South American - Uruguay descent] passed away when I was little.”
Much of my role in Street ended up on the cutting room floor in post, editing. That’s just how it goes but my role in Street II Death Fight is very significant.
There is no doubt that her biological father would be proud of the success Gigi has created for herself, and continues to do so. The next example of that will be in Street II Death Fight as she moves to the spotlight in the MMA series.
“MMA means Mixed-Martial Arts. It’s a really popular form of mixing combat sports and martial arts. It’s super popular around the world, especially in Russia, Brazil, and South America and Europe where Street was a smash hit,” Gigi explains. She says of the MMA film series, “Street is like the Rocky franchise of MMA. It is a story of a kid, Remo Street, from a rough neighborhood trying to do the right thing and take care of his family. He ends up getting caught up in a deal with bad guys and he tries to get out of it by accepting a bet to fight the biggest, baddest MMA fighter.”
In the film series, the young star plays Jessy, Remo Street’s young sister. “Much of my role in Street ended up on the cutting room floor in post, editing. That’s just how it goes but my role in Street II Death Fight is very significant,” she reveals. “The plot centers on my character Jessy. She’s older and a perfect target for the bad guys who return. They know how important Jessy is to Remo Street’s honor. Jessy is a sweet kid who has to grow up very fast to survive. I’ve been playing her for so many years, and years to come, I literally am growing up with her.”
Although excitement is already growing for the sequel, Gigi is remaining tight lipped on any other details. “Oh, I wish I could tell you!” she gushes. “It’s super under wraps. Lyle Howry, the producer, has told me a few secrets but I can’t say anything until official announcements. What I can tell you is that there are huge stars coming aboard, the music soundtrack is packed with up-and-coming as well as legendary artists, and you can expect basically Street on steroids!” she exclaims. “It’s going to be a much bigger film in terms of budget, cast, plot, and locations. I just have to wait for Lyle to make the official press announcements which is killing me!”
Set to film in Asia and Los Angeles this fall, the actress compares traveling for fun versus doing so for work. “When you’re a kid, travel is so much fun. You mostly do it for vacations and fun things. When travel is for work, and it is often, it can take on a different kind of meaning,” discusses Gigi. “I love seeing new places and I am grateful for each experience, but it can become a bit tiring.” She recalls her time flying cross-country between LA and New York City, though she isn’t doing that much these days as she’s West Coast based again. “My dad works in China and Europe. He is gone about nine months out of the year flying around the world so we are a very mobile family!” she says positively. “I’m excited to see the exotic places Street II is taking us.”
As Gigi’s career continues to grow and expand, she looks to actress Angelina Jolie, citing her personal and professional contributions as well as her humanitarian efforts around the world which are “huge”. “She’s an incredible actress, filmmaker, mother, humanitarian, and of course [beautiful],” she says.
I know it sounds funny but even at age 12, acting is not a hobby for me – it’s my chosen path.
“One of my agents in our first meeting asked me this very question and when I said her name, he told me he had been her very first agent in the business. Such a small world Hollywood is!”
With multiple award nominations and one win and an ever-growing impressive resume, Gigi admits that she never feels pressured, despite all this happening before she even reaches the age of 13. “I feel excitement and a little bit of nerves with each new meeting and audition but never pressure,” reveals the actress. “That’s why I am here to be present for these opportunities as they arise and to continue to strive and develop my acting skills so that I can grow with each role, with each year.” It is obvious to anyone that this the path Gigi is meant to on, already so wise and aware of her surroundings and still loving what she does.
“I know it sounds funny but even at age 12, acting is not a hobby for me – it’s my chosen path. I have a road map, goals, and a plan. I am super driven when it comes to acting.”
Gigi is not shy to name the actors she would love to work with as she continues in her career, Angelina Jolie being the first one she states. “Jerry Lewis,” she adds right after. “Hand down if we could do some of the older stuff like with the ‘goofy glasses, slapstick, falling out of windows, tripping-Jerry Lewis’. He makes me cry with laughter,” she gushes. “And if I could bring back Cary Grant for a film, I would in a snap! My mom watches his movies and I would do anything to have been in something with him, dramatic or comedic.”
Her interests are as broad as her acting resume, especially when it comes to what she would love to portray in the future. “I’m really interested in artsy, different roles, anything European,” says Gigi. “The White Pony is a European film I would love to have been in. I want to do something with horses because I love to ride and that would combine my two loves of acting and horses. I would love to play a mermaid like in Splash or Aquamarine. My fav book series Emily Windsnap will hopefully get made into a film or series and I would do anything to be part of that!” If that were to happen, Teenplicity would be the first to throw her name into the hat!
For now, Gigi is focusing on her current projects, including several films she is in talks to play lead roles. “My manager has my schedule packed with meetings coming up for television series’ and I’ve been cast as ‘Exandra’ in The King’s Prophecy: The Amulet, which is a really cool dungeons, dragons, [and] knights kind of fantasy film,” she describes, calling it very dark! “That will take a few years; it’s in development.”
Good luck to Gigi and all other nominees of the Imagen Awards!
*Please note that this feature was edited on 9/7/2017. Gigi’s last name was changed from ‘Cappetta’ to ‘Cesare’ in honor of her late father and all mentions have been updated as such. Social media links have also been updated as well.