They say they’re just average seventh-graders in every way. Good luck trying to persuade their classmates at Norland Middle School that Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner are run-of-the-mill kids, especially now that Moonlight just won Best Picture at the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night.
Alex plays the main character in the movie as a child, and his real-life buddy, Jaden, plays his best friend in the film.
"It was amazing, beautiful really. In our neighborhood, you're probably known for basketball or football, but this time, people don’t even believe that I'm in a movie," Jaden said.
For Jaden and Alex, this was a full-immersion experience into the world of movie-making. Suddenly, these kids were surrounded by pros.
"I'm just like this small little kid, but they were good, they were great, they gave me a lot of tips and tricks on how to act," Alex said. "I really don’t like watching myself because every time I watch myself I always feel like I could do better."
Norland Middle has a performing arts magnet program that attracts kids like Alex and Jaden, so it wasn’t like they just walked off the street onto the movie set. The boys already had some acting training.
"The very first thing we teach is discipline, you have to have discipline in the arts, so I think that really helped them on the set because as I always tell them, you can be talented all you want, but are you employable?" said their drama teacher, Tanisha Cidel.
"Words cannot express how proud I am of them."
Moonlight is a coming-of-age movie that takes place in the projects of Liberty City. As kids can do, they distill the film’s mature themes to their core messages.
"It makes people feel like they can overcome their fears, and face their obstacles in life," Jaden said.
"It teaches you a big lesson on how to like, not judge people or be mean to anybody, 'cause you don't know what their struggles are or what they're going through at home," Alex explained.
Did I mention the boys' teacher is also in the film? Tanisha Cidel plays the school principal, so Alex and Jaden have a built-in role model at Norland. Both of them say they want careers in acting, and judging by Moonlight, they’re already on their way to the spotlight.