Riding that wave

Aaralyn Anderson lands on Kauai about once a year to help out at the family property in Poipu and to snag at least one shave ice from Koloa Mill Ice Cream &Coffee in Old Koloa Town.

The 9-year-old New Jersey actress used her latest trip to the island to celebrate her Nov. 5 birthday and had a few new stories up her sleeve after spending months on set with costars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone in the Netflix miniseries “Maniac.”

In the miniseries, Anderson plays characters Belle Milgrim, Australia, and Danielle Marino.

“We come (to Kauai) about once every year or two, sometimes every six months,” Anderson said over Jamba Juice smoothies at Kukui Grove Center. “It’s a good vacation, to get away.”

Parents Heather and Aaron Anderson pointed out they do a little more than vacation when they’re on island, but make sure to hit up favorite places like Raphael’s food truck at Salt Pond or snorkeling and body boarding at Poipu Beach.

Anderson even has a favorite dancer on Kauai, Pomaikai Jordan Libre, at the Aukii Luau at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in Poipu.

“We’re here taking care of my parents’ place and we make sure to have a good time when we get out here,” Heather Anderson said. “But, she’s also working.”

While on her island vacation, for instance, Aaralyn has taped a handful of auditions, and is hosting a question-and-answer session after tonight’s performance of “Newsies” by Hawaii Children’s Theatre at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall in Lihue.

Born and raised in small-town New Jersey, Aaralyn has been television acting since she was 4 years old and landed a role in the Netflix miniseries “Maniac” in August — a single role that eventually turned into three.

The family tells the story of the first “Maniac” audition with an animated fire, and excitement from the callback is still reverberating for the trio.

It all started with a phone call from Aaralyn’s manager with a last-minute audition opportunity, one that made them late for a photo shoot they’d already scheduled for that day.

“I don’t know how we made it over there in time,” Heather Anderson said. “We literally got there one minute before she was scheduled.”

That kicked off 48 hours of jumping through hoops, mysterious code names and behind-closed-doors meetings. Though they played along and kept moving forward with the auditions, the family had no idea Aaralyn was in the running for a role in “Maniac.”

“The first audition was like every other audition,” Aaralyn said.

Aaralyn met Hill and Stone while her mom was signing paperwork and was still in the dark about the scale of the production, and said she didn’t recognize the stars at first.

She already knew Stone. The two met doing promotions of their separate work on “Good Morning America” about eight months before they started working together on “Maniac.”

“She had different hair and Jonah looked different than she remembered him,” Heather Anderson said. “She didn’t realize who she’d met until the first table reading a while later.”

Throughout filming, though, Aaralyn said she learned a lot from Stone and Hill, as well as the directors, cast and crew on the set.

“It was so awesome, the best thing ever. We had the best crew and the best cast and the director and everything,” Aaralyn said. “I know a lot of improv now from the actors.”

She was thrown into improvisation in a dinner scene when “the adults” went off the books and her cue was lost in the shuffle. Eventually, Aaralyn learned to join in the fun and made a personal breakthrough.

“That’s when I locked in improv,” she said. “I got good at finding my character, too. Because of ‘Maniac’ and a few other projects, I’m used to being in character and being in the script.”

Hill and Stone kept her laughing constantly, and she said they kept it light in between scenes. She buddied-up with Justin Theroux, too, and her parents said they were more than willing to let the “down-to-earth,” fellow East-Coaster mentor their daughter.

”I like hanging out with him,” Aaralyn said. “He’s cool.”

At home, Anderson is busy with two organizations she’s started to help give back to both animals and homes in her community — Street Sacks and Aaralyn’s Animal Assistance.

Street Sacks leverages donations into items for homeless people in the area, things like sanitary wipes, travel-sized toothpastes, and other toiletries and necessities.

Aaralyn’s Animal Assistance usually focuses on helping animals in the New Jersey area, but the family is looking at ways to help displaced pets from the California wildfires and would like to partner with Kauai Community Cat Project and the trap-neuter-release programs on Kauai.

Aaralyn’s busy on the acting front, too, with roles in a commercial, a full-length film and a zombie miniseries coming down the pipe.

“The waves are all coming in and we’re just catching them,” Aaralyn said.

And in the midst of it, Aaralyn describes the pay-off from all the hard work with just one word:

“Awesome.”

This photo of Aaralyn who grabs a shave ice at Koloa Mill Ice Cream & Coffee in Old Koloa Town every visit.

originally published Nov 23rd 2018