Look out world: Abby James Witherspoon is on the rise with her latest role in Secret Headquarters and Boys of Summer

At 16 years old, Abby James Witherspoon is more experienced in the film industry than some might expect for someone so young in years. However, Abby is not to be underestimated, having started her acting career at the early age of nine years old in Hot Pursuit. Since then, Abby’s love for acting has blossomed as she has begun to develop her career with roles in action-comedy and holiday films such as Every Other Holiday, A Unicorn For Christmas and her latest upcoming film Secret Headquarters which releases this Friday, August 12 on Paramount Plus.

Secret Headquarters is an action-comedy film that blends elements of science fiction, comedy, and action-packed sequences. In this film, Abby James Witherspoon stars alongside well-established actors Michael Peña and Owen Wilson. The plot centers around the son of a secret agent, who accidentally discovers his father’s secret headquarters in the basement when his father leaves suddenly on a “work trip.” Abby plays one of his friends, Lizzie, a gregarious yet intelligent member of a lovable yet daring team of teenagers. Together, the team works together to unearth his father’s secret life and to apply their own strengths to help save a vital mission.

In addition to Secret Headquarters, Abby also looks forward to the release of Boys of Summer, with a release date soon to be announced. But despite her career being on the rise, Abby doesn’t let her work stop her from enjoying a classic teenage life. Among her favorite pastimes are cheering for the football team and learning to drive. She also enjoys spending quality time with her friends, going to concerts and broadway shows, hiking, and baking with her sister. Even though she juggles a busy work life, she finds time to balance work, school, and play – an accomplishment within itself.

We sat down with Abby to learn more about her and what she’s looking forward to.

What motivated you to begin acting at such an early age? From a very young age, I have loved to perform and get reactions from my family.  Making everyone laugh really energizes me.  When I was nine years old, my aunt, Reese Witherspoon, asked if I could play her as a child in Hot Pursuit! I had watched her on sets many times, but this was the first time that I got to work.  I only worked one day on the project, but it was amazing.  After that, I begged my mom to help get me into acting classes, and I started to audition. I have probably submitted close to 200 auditions!

What do you enjoy most about acting? I love getting to explore playing multiple different types of characters. Although it’s a huge challenge, I really enjoy deep diving into different characters’ lives and situations. It’s fun to analyze the script, get dressed up as someone else, and put myself into the character’s shoes. It’s kind of an escape from reality in a sense!

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your acting career so far? Like I mentioned, I have been auditioning consistently since I was nine years old.  That comes with a lot of rejection.  I think just staying motivated to keep going [is the biggest challenge].

I have an amazing acting coach who I have worked with from the beginning.  Additionally, I am in a group class that meets on Zoom with actors from across the country. We are very supportive of each other, and it is so nice to have a group of peers cheering each other on.  When any of us book a part, it is a huge motivation to keep trying!

You’ve played a variety of roles in different genres. Is there a specific genre you prefer acting in? Well, I love comedy! I think the ability to make people laugh is the best.  Before I booked Secret Headquarters I had no clue how much work goes into stunts. I have to say I am hooked! We had the best stunt team on SHQ. It was fun to learn new skills and watching it all be put together in the film is amazing!

Photography by Raul Romo.
Photography by Raul Romo.

If you could co-star with any other actor/actress, who would that be? You know this is such a hard question.  There are so many amazing actors! I am so lucky that I have been able to work with some incredible ones already.  I would love to work with Sadie Sink and Florence Pugh.

What does your dream role look like? My dream role would have to be any coming of age project! Those are always some of my favorite movies to watch.

Your next upcoming film is Secret Headquarters. How would you describe Secret Headquarters in just three words? Crazy, Action, and Funny

Tell us a bit more about your character in Secret Headquarters:

How does Lizzie evolve throughout the movie? I play the role of Lizzie, a “girly girl” who is in middle school. She tries to act more mature than she really is and loves hanging out with friends!

What are Lizzie’s strengths and weaknesses? Lizzie is basically a genius – she loves escape games and solving puzzles, and she is in advanced classes at school.

However, she can get a bit ahead of herself when talking. If she is stressed, she blurts out everything she knows. She’s probably not the first person you would want to tell a secret too.

How would you say you are alike/different from Lizzie? Lizzie and I are very similar in the way that we are both very outgoing and talkative. I am also very much a “girly girl,” and when I was younger I always wanted to be older than I was.

I would say Lizzie is much better at solving codes than me. I mean she can unlock any password. I would simply not have the patience or ability to do that.

What was your favorite part about filming Secret Headquarters? Hanging out with the cast and crew! We had such a fun work environment on set. Before takes we would eat candy and jump around to get each other’s energy up! We were always having a great time! 

Talent: Abby James Witherspoon | @abbyjameswitherspoon
Photographer: Raul Romo |  @raulromo
Fashion Stylist: Ton Aguilar | @sir_t0n
Hair/Makeup Artist: Carolina Yasukawa @ Exclusive Artists.

 What did a day in your life while on set look like? Typically when I am on set I am with my dad.  I love being able to spend this time with him.  He works in the industry, so he has been so helpful in teaching me what everyone does on set.

Generally, I wake up and drink hot tea first thing in the morning.  On the way to set, I like to listen to some fun music to help wake me up and get me ready for the day.  Once I get to my trailer my dad makes sure I have breakfast. Then I check in with hair and make-up.

Both films I did this year had a lot of kids, so it was so much fun hanging out with each other between scenes.  Since I am in school I also do school work during the day. At lunch time I like to eat quickly so I can read over the afternoon scenes and call friends at home.  But the best part is at the end of the day when I get my makeup taken off and a mini facial!

What was it like working closely with Owen Wilson and Michael Peña? Working with Owen and Micheal was amazing. It was so exciting to just be in the same project as them, but getting to do scenes with them was on a whole new level. Micheal Peña made me laugh every single take!

What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2022? 2022 has been such an exciting year for me! Along with SHQ coming out and filming Boys of Summer, I got my drivers license! I am looking forward to cheering this fall for football, and I will probably do a couple of college visits over fall break! And of course I’m excited for you all to see Boys of Summer when it’s released!

The definition of ‘Contrast’ is to be strikingly different. What makes you strikingly different? Well, honestly I’m pretty ordinary! I’m a typical teenager who goes to school and loves hanging out with my friends.  But I will say, I seem to quickly connect with people that I am just meeting, and find it fascinating to meet new people and learn new things.

Catch Abby James Witherspoin in Secret Headquarters on Paramount Plus starting August 12. Additionally, be sure to keep an eye out for her next film, Boys of Summer which is soon to be released as well. Keep up with her latest updates by following her Instagram @abbyjameswitherspoon.

Contributing Entertainment Writer, Contrast Magazine.

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