All about up-and-coming actress Nico Parker, daughter of Thandie Newton and director Ol Parker

By Kara Warner
March 29, 2019 10:51 AM
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Nico Parker is making her acting debut in a major way — with a starring role in Disney’s live action Dumbo.

In the Tim Burton-directed film Parker, 14, stars as Milly Farrier, the daughter of Colin Farrell’s character Holt Farrier and becomes close to baby Dumbo.

How did Parker land such a coveted role as her very first? Hint: In addition to previously undiscovered talent, she has stellar industry connections. Here are five things to know about the newcomer.

1. Her mom is an award-winning actress and her dad directed a beloved box office hit

Parker is the daughter of Westworld actress Thandie Newton, 46, and Mamma Mia! writer/director Ol Parker, 49. Newton and Parker also share daughter Ripley, 18, and son, Booker, 5.

Newton, who accompanied her lookalike daughter to Dumbo‘s London premiere, has previously said that while she fully supports her daughter’s desire to work in the film industry, she’s on high alert in wanting to keep watch over Parker.

“It’s absolutely breathtaking. I’m so thrilled for her,” Newton told Ryan Seacrest on the Golden Globes red carpet. “And she’s got me to just be this she-tiger, waiting to pounce at any moment, just looking after her.”

Credit: Matt Crossick/PA Images via Getty Images

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2. Parker initially didn’t want to act to avoid “following in mom’s footsteps”

“I never really considered acting seriously because it was just kind of something my mom did,” Parker tells PEOPLE. When she decided to audition for the role in Dumbo she filmed her audition tape with her dad and realized she might have the acting bug after all.

“Throughout the auditions I was like ‘Oh I’m really enjoying this,’ and then I got the part and then as soon as it started I was like, ‘This could be something I really wanna do,’ but I never really considered it as what I would do,” says Parker. “I didn’t want to just follow in my mom’s footsteps, but now I’m following in my mom’s footsteps,” she adds with a laugh.

3. She has a natural talent for playing a “sad American girl”

Parker says that her role in Dumbo, in which she plays the daughter of a circus performer whose mother dies from an incurable illness, was a coincidental perfect fit for her burgeoning acting abilities.

“My dad and I always say that my perfect role is ‘sad American girl’ and we don’t know why but it just is,” Parker says. “I think that it’s something that I’m really comfortable doing and I think that [Milly Farrier] was great as a first role because it was something I could just do and I was really comfortable with and it’s just a really sweet role. There are elements of it that I can sympathize with and relate to.”

Danny DeVito, Nico Parker and Colin Farrell in Dumbo
| Credit: Jay Maidment/Disney

4. The most surreal day of filming Dumbo involved being surrounded by fire

Although Parker had been on several film sets before Dumbo, she says being on a set on which she was personally employed made a big difference. That and she got to experience some impressive special effects up close.

“I think the most surreal moment on set was where me, Fin [Hobbins] and Colin were all in this fire,” she says. “I don’t want to spoil anything but there’s a lot of fire, it’s intense and I just remember because it was a huge set and we were just these three little people in the middle of this huge room that was burning. It was really hot, there’s fire and smoke everywhere and I was like ‘This is so cool!’ just being in the center of it all. It felt like a really big moment because I kind of got how big the film it was.”

RELATED VIDEO: Thandie Newton Says ‘It’s So Dope’ to Play the First Major Black Female Character in Star Wars

5. When she’s not acting, Parker spends her free time doing “normal teen stuff”

Parker says that her priority right now is to finish school and to “wait and see what happens” with acting.

“My favorite subject would probably be History or English, I really love English and I really love writing and I also really love History,” she says.

Parker, who lives in London, spends her downtime doing normal teenager stuff like hanging out with friends and binge-watching shows on Netflix.

“It’s really boring, I’m kind of just into hanging out with my friends, watching Netflix,” she says. “Gossip Girl is my one and only [obsession], I’ve seen it over 40 times. That and Friends.”

Has she met any of the cast members yet?

“No. If it was Blake Lively I think I’d be gone [would freak out], Blake Lively and Chace Crawford, I’d be out,” she says.

Dumbo is now playing in theaters.