If you have watched Go Iguanas! SHEcrets with your children recently, you may be surprised to know there is a local talent among the group of child super spies.
Yes, the scrying Penelope Grayson is, in fact, played by Dubai born-and-raised Eva Petersson.
"I totally love her," Petersson says of her character in the film, which is based on Go Iguanas series on Premiere streaming app, now in its third season.
“She has the amazing ability to see the future. She is super clever and can solve any riddle, no matter how hard it is,” says Petersson, a fifth-grader at the American School of Dubai.
The young actress flew out to the US in the summer of 2019 to film the movie. Preparing for the role was a challenge – mainly because it was her first feature film and she had many lines to learn – but excitement pushed Petersson onward.
“It was so much fun to shoot it, travelling across the world to Phoenix, Arizona, and working on set was all new to me,” she says. “The cast got along really well with one another, both on and off the set. I’m very happy to have had my first experience acting in an American film, and I was able to learn so much.”
Go Iguanas! SHEcrets, which was released in December, may be Petersson's first feature film, but at only 10 years of age, she has already accomplished more than actors many times her age.
In 2018, Petersson joined Premiere – an platform where children can present their talent in performing arts for industry professionals in the hopes of securing an agent.
She was pre-selected in the Dubai Premiere try-outs and then flew to Orlando in the spring of last year, where she won two Global Top Performer Awards, selected from more than 75,000 original entrants.
It was by becoming a top scorer at Premiere that Petersson – who has French and Swedish citizenships – caught the attention of several US casting agents, before eventually landing an audition in the Michael Palance-directed Go Iguanas film.
Auditioning may be an awkward experience for even veteran actors, but Petersson says she was well prepared, having previously gone through audition processes for commercial campaigns for Dubai Tourism, Amazon, Emaar and Medcare Hospitals.
“For any project I’ve ever worked on I’ve had to audition, and usually more than once,” she says.
So why did Petersson decide to embark on the career path of an actress?
She believes it was appearing in a kindergarten play when she was 5 that probably set the wheels in motion.
“That moment was magical for me and, ever since, I never wanted to do anything else but perform.”
Petersson is set to reprise her role as Grayson in the upcoming Go Iguanas sequel. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the film's production, which was scheduled to start this summer, has been postponed.
“If everything goes back to some kind of normality after the summer, I would say the sequel will be filmed and ready for fans to watch by the end of the year,” she says.
Even though everything may be at a standstill in the film-making industry for the moment, Petersson is not letting the health crisis slow her down. The young actress has kept busy while staying at home in Dubai.
“Like many kids everywhere during lockdown, I’ve been doing my schooling online. I’m also prepping for auditions. I recently auditioned for a role in a movie with Ben Affleck and I really would not mind being on set with him.”
Petersson is also starting a personal project, a miniseries of short video interviews with high-profile UAE filmmakers about their experience of working in the regional film industry.
“Nayla Al Khaja, Amal Al Agroobi, Mohammed Harib and Ali Mostafa have all agreed for me to interview them, so I’m very excited,” she says. “We will be working on the project after Eid, if filming is possible again.”
Petersson is also trying her hand at making her own films. She is working on two shorts, which she aims to write, direct and act in.
“I have finished one script and am finalising it now. It’s a story based on women in the film industry. The other film is about another issue that is always very close to my heart: animal protection. I love animals, especially cats. I’ve always been drawn to the cause of protecting animals and if I could not become an actor for any reason, I’d want to be a vet.”
Petersson says acting may be hard work, but it certainly never gets boring.
“I would like to continue with my acting and, hopefully, I can land a leading role in a movie soon,” she says.