What do you do for an encore when the first movie you’re in wins the Oscar for Best Picture? For Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner, the answer to that question is simple. You go back to the 7th grade.
Alex and Jaden are trying to be like everyone else at Norland Middle School, but after their excellent Hollywood adventure, life isn’t the same.
“It was a different feel, everybody was saying congratulations and everything and it felt wonderful,” Jaden said.
The school literally rolled out a red carpet for the boys to hold a news conference along with their drama teacher, Tanisha Cidel, who also had a part in Moonlight. She played the school principal. Alex and Jaden played best friends in the film, which wasn’t a stretch since they’re inseparable in real life. Neither one had any idea what they were getting into.
“No, because we got the audition from school so we thought it was gonna be like a short film or something and just to see it go and be something as big as this is just amazing,” Alex said.
Cidel says the boys’ success sends a message.
“I want the parents to understand that if your child has talent or shows an interest in the arts, take it seriously, cultivate the talent, put them in a program,” Cidel said.
As the boys try to resume their lives after a whirlwind of awards shows and hobnobbing with the stars, there’s no denying their status has changed. One way to measure that is by looking at their social media accounts.
“I am getting so much followers, my phone is blowing up, and there’s a lot of people congratulating me,” Alex said.
So what about that crazy moment at the Oscars when they first announced La La Land had won Best Picture, but then changed it to Moonlight?
“When they first was like, ‘Moonlight’ got it, we were like, yeah, nice joke, but they were like serious, you guys got it, and all I remember, I jumped over this guy and he was screaming, and I was like sorry, I just won an award!” Alex said.
Without a doubt, the two 7th graders are big-time now, but Jaden’s dad says his son hasn’t gone fame-crazy.
“He still wanna be a normal kid, wanna jump on his bike and stuff like that, play with the kids in the community, he really hasn’t changed much, at all, actually,” said Eric Piner.
Acting is in their blood now. Alex is going to be in a new show on the Showtime network, a drama set in Chicago which begins production this summer. Jaden is considering his next step. They each have a lot to learn, and ample time in which to learn it.