We have no idea if Nico Parker and Marsai Martin are friends in real life, but after seeing them together on the cover of the March/April issue of Teen Vogue, we certainly hope so. From personal experience, we know black girl friendships are some of the most precious around—in an industry like Hollywood, they’re absolutely vital.
The two 14-year-olds are both on the cusp of major breakthroughs: Martin is the Black-ish scene stealer-turned-youngest executive producer of a film in history (for the upcoming Little, a black-directed, -produced and primary cast vehicle that she also pitched and stars in). Meanwhile, Parker is building on the legacy of her award-winning actress mother Thandie Newton with a co-starring role in Disney’s Tim Burton-directed live action remake of Dumbo.
As Martin tells Teen Vogue, both play characters who are “good examples of a black girl who rocks.” And by all appearances, they’re becoming equally worthy role models in life.
Martin and Parker have both basically grown up on set; but while Parker is just entering the industry, Martin’s already making boss moves, already helming a staff of six at her 2017-founded Genius Productions, and signing a first-look deal with Universal.
“The first time I was in Universal, I was 10, and I [was wearing] this blazer,” she quips. “Now, it’s like I come in with sweats with a hoodie, and I’m just like, ‘So, here’s what’s going down guys.’”
Sounds like a seasoned pro, to us.
“[Little] made me feel like this can happen. It wasn’t impossible. We definitely need more of that in the industry. Of course, the more I keep creating, the more that will probably happen.”
For Parker, the benefit of having not just one, but two parents in the business (father Oliver Parker is a writer and director) has given her insight beyond her years when it comes to safeguarding against many of the dangers facing young Hollywood ingenues.
“[My mom] is very ‘mama bear’ over me,” Parker says. “Just the fact that she’s been through things herself, it also teaches me what situations I can avoid, or what situations that I can stay in.”
Like Martin, Parker is finding her voice in an industry that is just learning to listen to women—and is hopefully becoming a safer place for young talent.
“For young people, it’s often said that we’re always on our phones, and we’re not aware of our surroundings, and we’re not aware of what’s going on in the world,” Parker says, adding, “it’s the complete opposite.”
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that if I think I’m right, or if I know my opinion, I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe in,” she later adds.
And while it may seem that both are only just beginning what will hopefully become lengthy and successful careers, the overriding message is not to count the kids out—a point Martin drives home when expressing what she wishes she’d known at the tender age of 9.
“What you say matters, and your voice is heard,” she says.