Youth actress Skye Sparks reaches for the stars

Prem Chandrasekar and Vivian Zhao

“I was named after an island named Skye in Scotland,” said junior Skye Sparks. “It was a name that was meant to stand for something, whether it be creating a new formula … or making some type of impact.”

Sparks, who plays Elizabeth in the critically acclaimed Netflix drama Beats, has made a new meaning for her; an actress. 

“Elizabeth is part of this gang. The main character, August had a crush on this girl and I was one of her friends,” Sparks said.

The movie, which holds a 100% on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, tells the tale of a teenager who forms an unlikely friendship with a struggling producer due to their mutual love for hip-hop, and their journey to break into Chicago’s music scene. 

However, it was the countless hours of work that Sparks put into the movie that has made it a huge success among critics. 

“I had to wake up at 4:30 am to get in the city by 6:30 am because my call time was 6:30,” Sparks said. “We basically worked 12 hours.”

Beats, which was set and filmed in Chicago, called Sparks about her role after her audition her freshman year.

“I got a call and they said ‘We want you for Elizabeth.’  I was so shocked,” Sparks said. “I really don’t think I understand how big of a deal it was just the project in general, until I got on set and I saw Anthony Anderson.”

Sparks’ passion for acting however started well before her audition for Beats.

“My first role for acting was when I did A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago when I was 11,” Sparks said.

In addition to acting in shows, Sparks has participated in advertisements by prominent companies such as McDonald’s and American Girl Doll.

“If you go to the Water Tower in Chicago and you walk into the American Girl doll store, and you just go straight, there’s this wall and these two dolls,” Sparks said. “My face is on the wall. I’m 16 and I did that when I was nine.”

Sparks’s advertisements aren’t limited to the Chicagoland area. Her face has appeared in Los Angeles and New York as well. 

Sparks still clearly remembers filming with her friend in Chicago.

“We went to the top of the London Tower. It’s this huge dome and it’s so gorgeous, especially when it’s when it’s like the sun is setting,” Sparks said. “We shot up there. It’s so scary because you’re literally on top of the building and there’s no railing or anything, but we shot this amazing scene up there. That was pretty cool.”

Many generalize acting as one category; however, Sparks notes that there are primary differences between acting live and on camera. 

“Theater, you only get one chance to do when you’re on stage and the audience is there, you only have one chance, you have to be, I would say 10, almost like 20 times more dramatic,” Sparks said. “You need people to see your facial expressions, all the energy that you’re feeling, you need everyone else in the audience to feel that it’s a lot more dramatic.”

Acting on camera has different areas of focus.

“It’s called commercial acting, but it’s not just restricted to commercials like movies and stuff like that,” Sparks said. “The camera is very up close on your face so every tiny movement that you do seems a lot bigger than it actually is and it’s much more personal. You’re allowed to have those intimate moments a lot more in the pauses. Also, you can do it as many times as you want.”

You need people to see your facial expressions, all the energy that you’re feeling, you need everyone else in the audience to feel that. It’s a lot more dramatic.

— Skye Sparks

Sparks, for example, prefers to act on camera. 

“I like commercial acting better,” Sparks said. “Even though some people might see me and say I’m very loud, I don’t see as a bad thing, but very expressive.”

While she’s accomplished in a variety of acting feats, Sparks still prioritizes high school.

“I’m really interested in the entertainment business but my education is still extremely important to me and I don’t want to put that in jeopardy,” Sparks said.

Sparks’s achievements in advertising and shows is certainly impressive, though her talent isn’t limited to those areas. Recently, she made an appearance in this month’s Hawk TV, bringing her expertise to Naperville Central. She’s also considered adding to her Youtube channel.

“I already have one, but I want to post more and be more active,” Sparks said. “I haven’t really figured out what I’d want my brand to be, but I’m most definitely thinking about starting [a new channel], or adding more to my YouTube channel. I just feel like it would be so funny.”

Sparks has credited her passion for observing with setting her on the path towards her acting career.

“I stared at people,” Sparks said. “[They] got uncomfortable because I would just observe behavior, whether it be on the train or just in general. I love watching people’s mannerisms and seeing how they react and understanding just behavior. I wouldn’t say it changed me, but it enhanced the way that I think on a different level is absolutely amazing.”

Sparks notes that everyone should take the opportunity to participate in an acting class.

“Just try it,” she said. “They’re so silly, they’re funny, they don’t have to be serious but it really makes you think about how you feel like everything that you’ve gone through. It really does keep you grounded and make you think about your emotions.”