At only 9, Innocent Ekakitie has already appeared on shows and films on Disney, Netflix and ABC to name just a few. And as her son’s star continues its ascent, Makeda Tene’ works to ensure he has a solid foundation for both his career and his life.
Tene’, an Augusta native who graduated from John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School before pursuing her own career in music, has written a book about their journey after many people asked her what the keys were to Innocent’s success.
“People would say ‘no one wants to tell us the secrets,’” she said. “I’m open. I want to help people.”
My Kid Wants to Be An Actor!? Now What?: 8 Steps to Getting Your Child Start on the Path to a Successful Acting Career was released on Sept. 22. It’s available on Amazon.
Over the Thanksgiving holidays, Tene’ and Innocent visited Augusta, and the two sat in on a rehearsal at the place where all her artistic dreams began — the Augusta Mini Theatre, which is operated by her uncle, Tyrone Butler.
“I was able to do ballet, jazz, tap and every discipline of the arts,” she said.
Her experience at the Mini Theatre served as a springboard for her time at Davidson, which she said reminded her of Fame. After graduating high school, she received a bachelor’s degree in acting from Marymount Manhattan College and later a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. A singer who created her own one-woman show called Love In Concert, she’s also recorded a gospel record that made it to the Grammy ballot in 2019.
Innocent, she said, has expressed his own desire to perform.
So far in his career, he’s appeared as Leo in three Netflix films based on the “Ivy + Bean” books, the pilot of “Abbott Elementary,” three episodes of “Good Trouble,” and commercials for Allstate Insurance, Walmart and Comcast. He was featured in the Disney documentary “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse.”
“It’s really fun,” said Innocent about acting.
But he said his favorite part might not necessarily have to do with his roles.
“Food just for free, so yummy, and the cast sometimes gets to cut in front of the line. Fruit, chips, everything. I love craft and services,” he said.
Acting is a big part of his life, but Tene’ wants to make sure he has as normal of a childhood as he can.
He attends a private school in Los Angeles, and when he’s working, his teachers prepare work packets for him to take on set, she said.
She’s also working with him at an early age, so he doesn’t encounter the pitfalls some child actors face as they grow up in Hollywood.
“Most people have spiritual beliefs,” she said. “You have to embed those in your child.”
Part of her efforts to keep his life normal involve regular church attendance.
“He has two church families,” she said.
Also, they speak positive affirmations every day to instill confidence and to help him develop a healthy self-respect, she said.
Show business is a subjective field. Casting directors often have in mind a specific look when going into a project. Someone may not be tall enough, short enough, have the right hairstyle or any number of variables. That doesn’t mean the child didn’t have a good audition or wasn’t good enough, she said.
Her job as a mother and acting coach is to help him realize who he is and not let anyone take that away, she said.
Innocent continues to audition for projects. He also likes to sing and dance.
“I want to do a musical,” he said of the future. “I love musicals.”
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.