A young Filipino-American actor is receiving rave reviews for his performance in the new film A Wrinkle in Time. Nine-year-old Deric McCabe plays the character of Charles Wallace Murry in the fantasy adventure movie, which opened in cinemas across the United States this week.
Directed by Ava DuVernay (2014's Selma and 2016's 13th), the film is based on the 1962 novel by Madeleine L'Engle about young Meg Murry's intergalactic quest to find her scientist father, who went missing after discovering a new planet. Meg (played by Storm Reid) is accompanied in her search by brother Charles, friend Calvin (Levi Miller) and three supernatural beings played by Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon.
DuVernay and the film’s producers undertook a seven-month international search for the role of Charles, with 19 casting directors auditioning thousands of young actors all over the world.
Recalling meeting Deric for the first time, DuVernay told the Manila Bulletin: "This kid came in. He really is a find. The fact that he was a Filipino-American boy, first Disney was like, 'How is he going to fit in?' I said, 'I really want him in the family, this is the boy'."
A Wrinkle in Time has been praised for featuring a multiracial cast. It also marks the first time a woman of colour has directed a Hollywood action film with a budget larger than US$100 million (Dh367m).
“Shouldn’t everyone have a seat at the table? That’s all we are saying here,” DuVernay said at a press conference. “Mindy is South-East Asian, Deric McCabe, a little Filipino-American boy. African-American, biracial, black, Caucasian, let everyone be there, Latino. It’s about time.”
Deric started shooting his scenes for the film in Los Angeles in November 2016. The production later moved to New Zealand, where Deric was accompanied by his parents and older sister. The film wrapped up shooting in February last year.
Born in Montana to Filipino immigrants, Deric and his family are currently living in Burbank, California, where he is finishing fourth grade. He started his acting career in the 2016 short film XXIII Boss, then appeared in the independent feature films Stephanie and Hold On last year.
Several early press reviews of A Wrinkle in Time have singled out Deric's performance as notable.
"Even though he is the youngest of the group, he is the most powerful," wrote The Hollywood Reporter.
"Little Charles is one of the many great things about A Wrinkle in Time," said Teen Vogue. Meanwhile, Romper's headline read: "Newcomer Deric McCabe is a Scene-Stealing Prodigy."
Deric has also acquired a growing fanbase on social media, with audiences heaping on praise and leaving messages on his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, which are run by his parents.
According to Deric, he has been inspired to continue acting in Hollywood after working with DuVernay and his co-stars, particularly Winfrey. McCabe told Screen Rant: “At the end of shooting, Ava the director said ‘Cut’ and that’s the last time she said ‘Cut’ and Oprah said, ‘There’s more to come,’ and I’m like, ‘What? No, I want to keep working on this, it was fun.’ But she said there was more to come.”
In television interviews, Deric has repeatedly said he would be keen to join a boy band or appear in a superhero film alongside his favourite star, Scarlett Johansson.
It seems this Disney blockbuster is only the start of Deric's entertainment career, and one that is delighting audiences back in the Philippines. "The first Filipino star of a major studio motion picture in Hollywood. It's a big deal," DuVernay told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In response, Deric said: "I'm proud to be a Filipino and to represent them."
As a much-shared social media post from Los Angeles-based Filipino sociologist Anthony Ocampo read: "For the first time in my 37 years, I had the chance to see a Filipino light up the big screen thanks to Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time. Because of Deric McCabe [and all the movies he's bound to make], maybe my [future] kids will think seeing themselves in movies is normal."