YEM Exclusive Interview: Celina Smith, who plays young orphan Annie in NBC’s live version shares a message of hope

Celina Smith is a triple threat who can be seen in the upcoming holiday production of Annie Live! as well as Young Dylan on Nickelodeon.  Celina will be portraying Annie in Annie Live!, and the live musical event will air Thursday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. YEM was able to speak with Celina about how she felt when she got the role of Annie, what it was like being a part of Tyler Perry’s sitcom Young Dylan, and who her greatest inspiration is.

Young Entertainment Mag: How did you feel when you got the role of Annie?

Celina Smith: Super-duper excited, it was totally unexpected but when my team called and told me the news, I ran down the stairs and back up! 

YEM: How is Annie similar (or different) to your previous projects?

Celina: Annie is super similar to Lion King. They are both well-known and have such an impactful message.

YEM: What was it like being a part of Tyler Perry’s sitcom Young Dylan? 

Celina: Being a part of Young Dylan is just a dream come true. When I started it I didn’t know much about tv and film because it was really my first tv gig, and just being able to work with Mr. Perry and making new friends along the way is a blessing in itself.


YEM: What was your favorite part of being a part of Young Dylan? 

Celina: My favorite part of Young Dylan is being able to hang out with fellow cast members, working on set with such icons like Mrs. Chip and Mr. Perry, and just being able to experience the tv set life!

YEM: What was it like being a part of the 2020 Toy Awards? 

Celina: Omg, well this was actually my first award show, I was super-duper bummed because it was virtual but when I got the news that I’d have the opportunity to be a part of it I was soooooooo excited!

YEM: What are you most excited about for the role of Annie? 

Celina: I’m just excited to be able to spread the message of hope, especially in times like these with covid and all, and I’m also excited for little girls that look like me to watch. I want them to know that we matter and we ROCK!!


YEM: What made you want to be a part of the performing industry?

Celina: It was really after I booked Lion King that I knew I wanted to start acting professionally because Young Nala was such an amazing role and I had so much fun and I just wanted to keep pursuing my dream

YEM: If you could give any new performer some advice, what would it be?

Celina: Please don’t give up… PLEASE!! I was in a really rough patch after we finished shooting S2 of Young Dylan and was really thinking about not acting anymore but then when we got the call I learned a really learned a HUGE lesson about patience. And that’s really all it takes.

YEM: Who is your greatest inspiration and why?

Celina: I love Viola Davis, and Angela Basset, and Marsai Martin because they have all accomplished so many things and they’re such great actresses. I love what Marsai did with Little. I hope that I can make them proud and meet Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Basset one day! (I did meet Marsai on a plane once and that was pretty cool)


YEM: Where do you see yourself in five years with your performing career? 

Celina: I really want to be a comedian like Tiffany Haddish, my parents watch her and I always hear them crying laughing when I’m in my room trying TO SLEEP!

YEM: What does it take to be a great performer?

Celina: I mean it definitely takes patience as I said but also integrity. Because the journey is hard. So, you reaaaaaally have to want it and people don’t always see the hard work behind the scenes.

YEM: Why is music important to you? 

Celina: Music is important to me because it has me in my feels all the time, andI can dance to it and sing to it and let my emotions out with it. It’s a tool for me and I love it.

Watch Celina Smith in Annie Live!