Digital Exclusive Cover: Siena Agudong Talks Isolation, Hawai’i, Diversity, BLM, Self-Love + Her New Leading Role on Disney
Growing up on a small island in Hawai’i with Filipino heritage, it was rare for Siena Agudong to see people on screen who looked like her. At sixteen-years-old, she’s changed the acting game one role at a time, to bring representation and diversity to the industry. Siena has been blossoming in Hollywood and fast-tracking her career. Her first big break was portraying ‘Lulu Parker’ in a recurring role on ABC’s Texas Ranger drama, Killer Women. Since then, she has guest-starred on Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn as well as Hawaii Five-O and played ‘Tiffany’ in a recurring role on TVLand’s Teachers. Siena scored a lead role in the Netflix series No Good Nick, opposite Melissa Joan Hart and Sean Astin, The series premiered on Netflix on April 15, 2019. She went on to star in Star Falls, a family sitcom that aired on Nickelodeon, and Alex and Me alongside US soccer Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan. Siena sat down with Glitter from her home in isolation due to the current COVID-19 travel restrictions and spoke with us about life with family in Hawai’i, her lead role as ‘Reina Carvajal’ in the Disney Channel’s new film, Upside Down Magic, her rise to fame, #BlackLivesMatter, being a force of change and some of her favorite things. Read on to find out more.
GLITTER: What was it like to grow up on a small island in Hawai’i with Filipino heritage, and do you go back frequently?
SIENA: Hawai’i is a melting pot with many different ethnicities and cultures. That is one of the reasons I love my home so much. I grew up exploring and being introduced to so many different foods, traditions, people, and celebrations. From my dad’s side of the family, I have Filipino heritage. I was told and shown many different things and stories about my roots, and it always made me so intrigued. We try to go back home to our island of Kaua’i as much as we can between filming and auditioning. Though it may not be as often as we would love, we make the best of the moments when we come back home. My family and I are so grateful to live in such a beautiful place.
GLITTER: What are some of your favorite things to do when you do return home?
SIENA: When I can fly back home, I have a set list of things that I want to do, haha. Of course, spend a lot of quality family time and helping out around the house. I absolutely love adventures. I like to go on as many hikes as my sister will take me on and hang out on different beaches every week. I fell in love with surfing, so that is something I look forward to the moment I step off the plane. I may not be a professional, but I just love how happy it makes me.
GLITTER: How long have you been acting?
SIENA: I have been acting since I was six or seven years old. My first play was Willy Wonka. In those first few moments on stage and throughout rehearsals, I realized I had found my dream and passion. I was a tiny Oompa Loompa in our island’s fall play put on by Hawaii Children’s Theatre. I loved everything about it.
GLITTER: With such a diverse background, how important is inclusivity and representation to you in your field?
SIENA: Growing up, I always got so excited when I watched someone from Hawai’i on TV. They became instant role models for me. I saw people from our small islands, making it to the screen in our living room, and I was so proud. For me, being able to join the industry alongside the people who have represented Hawai’i for a while is so humbling. I am so proud of my home. I hope that we show other aspiring actors/actresses that even if you are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, your dreams are not too far to reach. Keep working hard and pushing forward.
GLITTER: Can you tell us about your big break portraying ‘Lulu Parker’ as a recurring role on ABC’s Texas Ranger drama, Killer Women?
SIENA: I remember getting an audition for ABC’s Texas Ranger drama, Killer Women. I was, of course, very nervous, but also so excited. I had just auditioned with the same casting director on a separate project and couldn’t wait to audition for her again. [Ms. Mary Jo Slater] She was so kind to me. The sides were pretty challenging, and I had to take some risks that my coach, Ms. Cynthia Bains, taught me. We got a call the next day that I had to fly out to Texas to film the pilot! It was 11 o’clock at night! The entire project was full of the most genuine people. I have so many beautiful memories from that set. I was so lucky that my first experience was full of many hardworking adults that treated me like their own child. They took me under their wing and taught me so much. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
GLITTER: What is your approach to auditioning?
SIENA: I like to go through the script and dig deep for a connection to the character. I visualize every aspect of the scene and develop a backstory in my head that I can actually see. To feel comfortable with the role I am portraying, I must clear up everything about the scene that is a bit cloudy in my head. I also mentally create different memories with all of the characters I am interacting with while doing scenes. That way, I feel a deeper connection with the other characters and have an internal relationship with all of them. Something that I’ve also found to really ground myself before, during, and after an audition, is to take deep breaths.
GLITTER: You’ve been very busy in your career, guest-starring on Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn and on Hawaii Five-O, and you’ve played ‘Tiffany’ in a recurring role on TV Land’s Teachers. What was it like to land so many fantastic opportunities?
SIENA: Every project I have worked on has been so special to me because I learned something from each of them. I love meeting so many new people on all of these shows. You gain so much respect for the crew and cast when you observe them all in action. Each project helps me grow in so many ways. I am forever grateful for all of the opportunities I have received.
GLITTER: How did you feel earning several Young Entertainer and Young Artist Award nominations in 2015, 2016, and 2017, as well as winning your nomination and awarded ‘Best Guest Starring Young Actress 12 & Under’?
SIENA: Being nominated, let alone winning an award for my acting, is very humbling.
GLITTER: What was it like portraying the lead role in the Netflix series No Good Nick, and working opposite Melissa Joan Hart and Sean Astin? Any favorite moments?
SIENA: My experience throughout the filming of No Good Nick was like no other. The project itself was full of the kindest and most hardworking people I have ever met. I got the honor of working with Melissa Joan Hart and Sean Astin. They played my foster parents. I got to know the incredible people that they are and the actors they will always be. They took me in as their own daughter and taught me lessons on and off of set that I will never forget. I have so many favorite memories with them on set. We had such a great balance. We laughed, we danced, and we worked hard. They will always have a special place in my heart :).
GLITTER: What can you tell us about your lead role in the new Disney Channel’s original movie, Upside Down Magic?
SIENA: I play ‘Reina Carvajal’ in the new DCOM, Upside Down Magic. My character and her best friend, Nory Boxwood Horace, played by Izabela Rose, all their lives, have dreamed of attending Sage Academy, a school for magic students. Each endures their own adventures and challenges while separated from each other. Reina lands a spot in the Honors Flare class. She is a very talented and powerful girl with the ability to manipulate heat and fire. In the movie, you will meet the UDMs, who are the kids that have unpredictable and unusual magic. This is where Nory ends up, as she is a UDM fluxer, who changes into multiple animals instead of one. The movie is based on the hit book series, Upside Down Magic, written by Sarah Mylnowski, Emily Jenkins, and Lauren Miracle. We have a lot in store for you in this movie, as everything you see is not what you will expect.
GLITTER: How like, or unlike your characters, are you?
SIENA: Reina is a very shy, reserved, organized, and a neatly dressed student who constantly strives to be the best version of herself. Although I am not as shy as Reina can be, we have similar standards for ourselves when it comes to making ourselves better than who we were the day before. We definitely do not have the same style. I don’t think Reina owns ripped jeans, haha.
GLITTER: What pushes and motivates you daily?
SIENA: I love to remind myself to see the beauty and love in every little thing. Do something every day that makes you a better person tomorrow. You have to keep your life exciting with little things here and there. Dreaming of the endless possibilities and opportunities that could happen in my lifetime excites me. I have so many more milestones in my life that I don’t want to miss. Knowing that everything around me grows every day, you can see how quickly the world is moving. Being present in the moment and enjoying sights and memories slows it all down.
GLITTER: One highlight of your career so far?
SIENA: One highlight of my career so far is meeting the cast and crew of No Good Nick. I have been so lucky to continue meeting the sweetest people on every project. There is nothing to explain the environment on No Good Nick. They are and will always be my family. We laughed and danced every day between working moments. Many of them even formed a softball team and played outside of work. I don’t play softball…yet, but they joined me juggling and kicking around a soccer ball. Working on this show felt like my home was set. Seeing their sweet and genuine smiles every day made my day. I gained so much out of that project.
GLITTER: Best advice you were ever given?
SIENA: The best advice I was ever given was from Jim Klock on the project, Alex and Me. Mr. Jim Klock played my dad and even took on that role on set because of how full of love his heart is. He told me in between a scene, “All I want to do is surprise myself.” His words have stuck with me so much over the years. Before emotional takes on any project I have worked on since then, I repeat that quote to myself. It basically means that whatever happens in the moment of the scene is meant to be. Be in the moment and then see what happens. It is such a powerful quote, and it has helped me through many roles.
GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign, what does self-love mean to you?
SIENA: We all have insecurities, even if they all differ. We live in a time where social media will spread information, and they are outlets of influence. I tend to catch myself a lot. For me, the routine is to see someone, compare myself, and spiral in negativity against myself. Self-love is not achieved through perfection. Self-love comes from within. Self-love is giving yourself credit and allowing yourself to breathe instead of being so smothered with standards. Self-love is acknowledging the person you are and embracing what you love about yourself consistently and genuinely.
GLITTER: What are your thoughts on the current state of our nation and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement?
SIENA: We are moving through a time of new territory for us all. Because of the state of uncertainty with what will happen next, it is so important for us to be on the same page with things during the pandemic. Regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, these events that have been on the media are heart-wrenching and terrible. We truly need change, and we need to make sure that these voices are heard and addressed. In my experience, I was able to attend a masked protest and was able to feel the love and energy there. The protests here in Hawai’i were peaceful and safe when the police were present and not. It was beautiful and moving. I will continue to educate myself so that I may be more aware and cautious. I want to listen and learn.
GLITTER: What can others do to show support?
SIENA: There are many ways to show your support through the Black Lives Matter movement. There are many petitions, donations, organizations to follow, and voting opportunities that are very impactful in our society. To show support, we must not be ignorant and look away at these times. We need to be watching and be present. We need to listen to others.
GLITTER: What would be a dream role for you?
SIENA: A dream role for me would be another project that films in Hawai’i. I would love to work on something that had massive special effects and CGI. For me, a dream character role would be a confident, moody, and powerful girl with a lot of stunts and fight scenes. I get so excited when I get to have a stunt in a scene! So a movie full of them would be incredible. I would love to work in a film with Sandra Bullock, The Rock, and Tom Hanks. They are such strong actors who I have grown up watching and respect so much. It would be such a dream. I would want to work on a project that would force me to challenge myself even more and dive deeper.
GLITTER: What’s a day in the life for you like on isolation?
SIENA: A day in the life for me in isolation is waking up around 6:45 in the morning and start working on my driver’s ed courses, haha. Then I work out with my incredible trainer, Ms. Jessica Greene, or I run-walk 6 miles with my mom. Afterward, I get ready and go on an adventure, (safely and with COVID=19 cautions) with my sister, Sydney. The beaches and hikes in Hawai’i are all open as long as we stay distanced from one another. We like to have a light surfing day or chase waterfalls. Either way, I get so giddy with being outside because it is just the most beautiful thing. Then we get back, and I do chores, of course, and watch a movie with my family. I am also continuing to work virtually with meetings and various coaches. I really want to come out of quarantine sharp and ready.
GLITTER: Favorite ways to find your Zen?
SIENA: To find my Zen, I have recently tried meditation, which has actually been really helpful. I prefer guided meditations to ensure my mind isn’t wandering too much since I am not very experienced with them. My sisters and I hike a lot. We will go on long hikes and turn off the music while we trek barefoot to be truly connected to where we are. More often, I find myself really happy when I am in the water surfing. I am not very good lol, but having to patiently wait for waves to come while you are disconnected from the land and have no sense of accurate time is one of the reasons I love it so much. It makes you feel like you are in a whole other place mentally and physically.
GLITTER: The first place you’ll go when isolation ends?
SIENA: The first place I will go after isolation is to my friends’ houses. I miss all of the memories we have made so much. We have kept up through FaceTime and social media, but I can’t wait to laugh with them when we are all in the clear.
GLITTER: What are your top 5 binge-worthy shows?
SIENA: I have binge-watched Outer Banks, Dead to Me, Gossip Girl, Friends, and No Good Nick, hint hint, cough cough, hahaha. I actually watch more movies than I do shows now, but those are my suggestions. 😉
GLITTER: Is there something about you that your fans would be surprised to know?
SIENA: I am a proud vegan. I started my journey to veganism in 2013 but have this year officially become vegan. I am, of course, still learning and working my way into developing it into a real stable lifestyle. I watch and read many videos and articles to ensure I do it right and efficiently, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
GLITTER: Smoothies or Green Drinks?
SIENA: Every day I am always up for a smoothie :). I am such a health freak, so seriously, both make me happy, haha. Recently, I have been so in love with açaí bowls because I have been back home where they are incredible. Sooo… to answer your question, a smoothie will do lol.
GLITTER: Any projects you can tell us about that you’re working on next?
SIENA: I have a few projects coming out very soon, although I do not have a specific date for their release, so you have to follow my social media to stay up to date. Let Us In is an Indie sci-fi movie that will be coming out soon! I play Scarlett! I also got to work on a big franchise movie that I have to keep a secret about, but that is something I am so looking forward to! It will be my first big-screen debut, ahhh!
GLITTER: How can fans follow you?
SIENA: I would love for you to follow me on all my social media platforms with the username @Sienaagudong. I hope you have a wonderful day! Always love yourself and everyone around you. Watch out for Upside Down Magic coming July 31st at 8 pm PST on Disney Channel! Thank you so much Glitter! :).