Nine-year-old Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace in a scene from the film

The Fil-Am boy who steals Disney’s Wrinkle
Raymond Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — “I find myself amazing. I don’t want to brag but I am pretty amazing!”

And that was my introduction to Deric McCabe, the amazing, yes, truthfully, amazing nine-year-old Filipino-American boy who practically steals Disney’s latest tentpole A Wrinkle in Time from his co-stars which include Hollywood biggies Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey, among many other superstars.

Until last Sunday, this writer didn’t know any actor who could claim that Oprah finished his popcorn. Heck, until Sunday, I never met anyone who never knew Oprah — not until they get to meet America’s queen in person, that is.

“I knew she was going to be in it but I didn’t know who she was,” Deric told this writer during our exclusive interview at the W Hotel in Hollywood.

The child actor draws the most applause from
US and international media during the presscon

“My parents were like, ‘Hey, you’re going to work with Oprah Winfrey!’ and I was, like, ‘Oh my gosh, Oprah, yup, who is she and what is she?’”

And when he finally met Oprah? Deric had an interesting story to tell.

“When I finally met her — she was so wise. She was so amazing and so awesome and cool!” Deric added that he didn’t really ask her anything because he didn’t know what to ask. But Oprah did something on their first day working together that he was just so excited to share: Apparently, Oprah ate his popcorn!

“I usually put a lot of butter on my popcorn and then I put the special white cheddar,” he said. “And then I was doing my stunts and it wasn’t her turn yet and she was just eating and munching on my popcorn and she was like, ‘Who made this?’ and I was like, ‘It’s me.’ I am proud to say that I made the popcorn that Oprah is eating!”

During the press conference held with the entire cast of the film earlier in the day, Deric was the only one met with huge applause when he was introduced to both the US and international press present at the junket. The previous night, after the press preview, the buzzword was that Deric would be the breakout star of the film!

And this writer couldn’t agree more. And this is his first film!

When asked how it was on the set of his first film, “cool” was how he described it. He said he had fun acting with just the blue screens and green screens behind him. “It was fun to make it come to life and see it put together.”

The audition process was not as easy though. He didn’t know that he was auditioning for a big Disney film. He underwent a series of auditions. “They told me, ‘You’re auditioning for a role in a movie.’ It was the main character. So, I did the audition.” He recalled that on his first try he had to memorize seven pages of lines. “Then they called me two weeks later and I have 17 pages. And then they called me, like, four weeks later and I had 21 pages to memorize!” He finally bagged the part of Charles Wallace after two more auditions.

Ava DuVernay, the director of the film, revealed during the press conference that she employed seven casting agencies and saw hundreds of young actors all over the world before they found Deric who was surprisingly just “around the corner.” Deric and his family live in Burbank, California not many blocks away from the Walt Disney Studio.

Deric was seven and a half years old when he started filming the movie. He is almost 10 now and in fourth grade. Asked if it’s fun to go to school, he replied, “School is mandatory, so it’s a regular thing.”

In school, his favorite subject happens to be lunch. “I really like eating. If lunch wasn’t my favorite subject, I like art.”

And it’s not just ordinary food that he craves. “I like when my grandma cooks me Filipino food.” He calls his grandma Granny not Lola. “I really like Arroz Caldo. I really like Spam and longganisa.”

His mom, Juliet, is Filipino. And even if the only Tagalog word Deric knows right now is “Maarte,” he said, “I am going to try my best to speak Tagalog” for the time when he finally gets to visit the Philippines. He doesn’t really know the meaning of maarte but he showed me his spelling skills by proudly spelling the word for me.

Deric practically steals Disney’s latest tentpole A Wrinkle in Time from his co-stars including Hollywood biggies Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey, among many other superstars

When he grows up he sees himself still acting. “I like putting myself in someone else’s shoes and imagining what they are going through and acting like his father was gone for four years (Deric was referring to his character Charles Wallace whose father went missing in the film) and acting like I met these three celestial beings. I want to keep doing that.” He went to one acting school but he said that “(it) kind of comes easy for me to play a different person than myself.”

He considers Storm Reid, who plays his older sister Meg in the movie, like a real sister. “I actually thought of her as my real sister because we had such a good relationship and we got so close to each other and it was just so fantastic working with her.”

A Wrinkle in Time is adapted from the classic book by Madeliene L’Engle first published in 1962. Deric, having not read the book, had to rely on the direction of Ava. “They described his character as an intelligent little boy and he’s smart and he shows it and I am like, okay, so I have to pretend I am smart. I didn’t do anything specific but I mentally prepared to be the smartest little boy.”

And, like Charles, Deric told this writer that he loves his parents and his siblings more than any other. Asked how much, he replied with the loveliest reply any parent would love their children say. “My parents? Scale of one to 10? Twenty one hundred!”

For his brother and sister? “My brother? Twenty thousand hundred one hundred two hundred. And my sister, see, twenty hundred one hundred thousand hundred.”

A Wrinkle in Time opens on March 14.

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