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Queens native actress Cree Cicchino talks career beginnings and starring in Netflix film and comedy series

Photo credits: JSquared Photography

When asked about how she got into acting, 18-year-old Cree Cicchino says that it happened kind of by accident.

While growing up in Glendale, Queens, Cicchino described herself as an energetic child who was a dancer at heart. When she was 11 or 12 years old, Cicchino’s mother decided to put her into acting classes. 

“There was a showcase where a lot of professionals from the entertainment industry showed up,” said Cicchino. “After the showcase, I got my first agent and manager. About 9 months later I booked my first project and that took me out to Los Angeles.”

At the age of 13, Cicchino landed a role on Nickelodeon’s live-action comedy “Game Shakers.” The show, which was executive produced by Dan Schneider (the mastermind behind a number of Nickelodeon programming), centered around a pair of seventh graders who made an app for a school project that ended up taking off. 

For Cicchino, adjusting to set life came pretty quickly.

“It was so bizarre. I was sitting there thinking, ‘I should be in Queens in a public high school right now’,” said Cicchino. “But you get used to it pretty quickly.”

“Game Shakers” ran for three seasons and landed Cicchino nominations for Best Young Actor – Television at the 2017 and 2018 Imagen Awards for her work on the show. Not long after, she booked a new show on Netflix called “Mr. Iglesias,” a series starring comedian Gabriel Iglesias that explores what his life could have been like had he not gone into comedy.

Iglesias stars as the titular character, who is a history teacher at the show’s Wilson High School and has a class of misfit yet gifted kids. Cicchino plays Marisol Fuentes, a smart and determined student (who is probably Mr. Iglesias’ dream student, according to Cicchino) that grew up as the working daughter of a single mom and works three jobs to help her family pay their bills. 

“She’s an incredibly smart and gifted student who is burdened by her circumstance,” said Cicchino. “She’s determined to not let her circumstance limit her future.”

Cicchino says that the change from Nickelodeon to Netflix was like night and day. 

“With ‘Game Shakers,’ it was hectic – doing school on set, show promos, working 6-day weeks. Plus, since it was Nickelodeon there was a lot of slime,” said Cicchino. “Netflix is way more calm and there’s more room to play around with the show. There’s also a live audience, which was new.”

Netflix is also distributing the movie that is CIcchino’s first venture into film, “The Sleepover.” The film centers around a family who learns that their mother has a criminal past and is in the witness protection program. Four kids then go on an adventure to get to the bottom of the family’s past.

Cicchino plays Mim, the main character’s best friend who thinks that she’s going to a regular sleepover but gets pulled into the craziness that ensues.

“Mim is that character in horror movies when everyone else wants to check out the noise in the basement and she’s like, ‘Nope,'” said Cicchino. “She would mostly prefer not to do what she ends up doing in the film.”

Making the transition from television to film was interesting and fun, particularly shifting from being on a set for work to moving on-location.

“It was cool going from multi-cam on TV to single cam, and having a full, four-wall house to shoot in. Being on location was fun. There is a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ with film, so there was a lot of sitting and hanging out with the rest of the cast,” said Cicchino. “They’re both super fun, but since I’ve done more TV, I’m itching to do more film.”

Cicchino hopes to explore other avenues of film and television, but for right now she is focusing on acting and building her career there. However, in these uncertain and historic times, Cicchino thinks it’s important that she uses her platform for advocacy.

“This is a historic time right now with the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Cicchino. “I’m still learning. A lot of people are finding their voice and I want to use my platform for advocacy.”

Season two of “Mr. Iglesias” is set to premiere on June 17, 2020. “The Sleepover” is expected to release this summer.

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