WHEN I GROW UP: Hannah Nordberg Brings American Girl to Life

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When I Grow Up returns yet again with an interview with 12 year old Hannah Nordberg who’s most known in the New York theatre scene as Olive, the pageant kid with high hopes in Little Miss Sunshine which played Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater. Hannah, a native of Southern California, has kept quite busy since Little Miss Sunshine‘s run with a stint on General Hospital as well as supporting roles in Dolly Parton’s television movies Coat of Many Colors & Christmas of Many Colors, among many other film and T.V. projects. Now she plays Julie in the next American Girl special titled Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance. We got to chat with Hannah about acting, her Little Miss Sunshine memories, and – of course – American Girl! The movie begins streaming today only on Amazon.

How did your entertainment career begin?
I started doing musical theater for fun when I was six. It was such a natural fit for me. I loved singing, being on stage, playing different characters, and the teamwork involved. When I turned eight, a friend submitted an audition tape of me for Matilda. I flew back to New York a few times for callbacks, but ultimately I wasn’t chosen. I was completely heart broken, but it made me realize that this is what I’m meant to do with my life. Acting, singing, musical theater are my passions. When we got back to LA, we met with an agent and that’s when it all began.

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Nordberg with Will Swenson in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)

How did the audition for Little Miss Sunshine come up?
They were doing a nationwide search for the role of Olive, so when casting came to Los Angeles, I was called in to audition. I still remember the day like it was yesterday. I was so excited because theater auditions don’t often happen here.

When you started Little Miss Sunshine rehearsals, what was it like meeting your co-stars for the first time?
I was a HUGE Stephanie J. Block fan prior to starting the show! So, I was very star-struck about meeting her. She was as lovely and welcoming as could be. I wasn’t as familiar with my other co-stars, but I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of excitement. I loved them all immediately! It didn’t take long before we were a family. That’s how theater works. You really do become a family.

What was your favorite moment specifically from working on Little Miss Sunshine (rehearsals, opening night, etc.)?
I honestly wish I could rewind and do it all again. I have soooo many special memories that I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite. There is specific show that stands out in my mind though… it was a matinee, when a high school class came to see LMS. They were howling with laughter throughout the show. It was the most spirited and vocal audience we had ever had. As a performer, you feed off the energy in the room, so their liveliness and feedback, was like fuel in our tanks. It was also VERY special when friends and family would come see our show. When you have loved ones in the audience, you kinda give a little something extra. Most of my friends and family live in Los Angeles, so they literally flew across the country to come support me, I mean, nothing feels better than that.

Take me through a day on the set of “Ivy and Julie”.
I’d usually start with hair and makeup and then either head to school or set, depending on when my scenes were being filmed. During meal and school breaks, Nina, Lance, Krya, Kirsten and I would always being singing, hanging out and laughing together. We all really hit it off!!!

Which is your favorite American Girl doll (other than Julie and Ivy)?
Oh, it’s so hard for me to choose… I really like Marie-Grace because of her old fashioned style. Over the years, I spent countless hours playing with my AG dolls – French braiding their hair, dressing them up, and changing their outfits and accessories, so bringing one to life was really cool!

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Nordberg (pictured right) with Nina Lu in “Ivy & Julie”
Photo courtesy of American Girl

One of the themes of “Ivy and Julie” is family traditions. Does your family have any traditions?
We have many different traditions, but my favorite is spending Christmas in Sun Valley, Idaho with my grandparents. We typically drive and then spend two weeks together snowboarding, sledding, ice skating, cooking, baking, watching movies, relaxing and just being together.

In what ways are you like Olive from “Little Miss Sunshine” and in what ways are you like Julie from “Ivy and Julie”?
I had just turned nine when I was in LMS and I was quite quirky, funny, full of energy, not showbizzy, a very real kid, like Olive. I’m still those things, but the twelve year old version. Julie and I are both pretty happy-go-lucky, free spirits. We are both social butterflies and love spending time with our best friends.

What else do you want to do in the industry? Do you want to direct or write or design costumes, or do you want to stick with acting?
I plan to stick with acting for now, but in the future, anything is possible.

What advice do you have for kids and teens who want to pursue acting?
Be prepared to work really hard. See every audition as an opportunity to do what you love. Always be yourself and believe in yourself.

SPEED ROUND
Favorite thing to do in NY: Going to see shows and visit friends
Favorite food to eat in NY: Pizza
Broadway dream role: Glinda in Wicked, Eponine in Les Mis, Elizabeth Schuyler in Hamilton
If you could switch roles with anyone on Broadway (male or female) for one night, who would it be? Phillipa Soo in Amelie
If someone wrote a musical about your life, what would it be called and what is the name of its show-stopping number?
Through Thick and Thin
No Matter What

Thank you so much to Hannah and her mother Karrie for making the time to do this! You can watch a trailer for the movie which begins streaming today on Amazon!

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