BCPS student Brooke Monroe Conaway stars in a holiday movie

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BCPS elementary school student, Brooke Monroe Conaway. (Courtesy Photo/BCPS)

BECOMING A “LITTLE BIG SHOT”

It was just March 2020 when Brooke Monroe Conaway, a BCPS elementary school student, and her dad Cornell Conaway appeared on NBC’s “Little Big Shots” with host actress Melissa McCarthy. It was Brooke’s first appearance on a national television show. The father-daughter duo had been discovered on Instagram in a series of videos in which they sang songs by artists like Run DMC, Mariah Carey, and Chaka Khan.

Fast-forward to November 2021. Brooke’s first film, “Soul Santa,” has just been released by BET+, and she has a starring role in it. Next year, her second film will be released, an animated film for which she provides the voice for one of the lead characters.

AN INTEREST IN PERFORMING FROM AN EARLY AGE

Brooke, who is now 9 years old and in Grade 4, says she started doing videos and dancing and singing in the car when she was “really little, like 7.”

Cornell Conaway suggests that her interest in acting began with the two of them doing little skits together when she was very young.

Even before Brooke appeared on “Little Big Shots,” she had taken acting lessons locally and had an acting coach in California. “I found the acting coach,” says her mom Denise Conaway, “by Googling and Googling. They have sessions online. One of the coolest things about being on ‘Little Big Shots’ was that we got to meet the acting coach in person.”

Thinking that “Little Big Shots,” might lead to future opportunities, Brooke’s parents sought the advice of show staff in finding an agent. “Brooke’s dad signed with the agent, too,” Denise Conaway says. “And since ‘Little Big Shots,’ he has done an online commercial for a grocery store, a broadcast commercial for a beverage company, and a short video for Spruce Eats in which he and Brooke make a recipe together.”

A STARRING ROLE IN HER FIRST FILM

Brooke won her part in “Soul Santa” by auditioning virtually and getting a callback. “Unfortunately,” Denise Conaway says, “something got mixed up, and she received the wrong script so she couldn’t do the callback. Her agent pushed for her to have another chance, and she got the part.”

The film, starring and executive produced by David and Tamela Mann, was filmed in Connecticut during the pandemic.

“My favorite part,” Brooke says, “was just being on set and filming, learning my lines, and having the camera on me. It was really, very cool. I met really awesome people, a lot of cool people, and I got to hang out with them and go on set together. Mr. David and Ms. Tamela treated me like I was their family.”

Denise Conaway says that the Manns are “the sweetest people.” They are from Texas, she notes, and “They brought their southern hospitality to Connecticut.”

Brooke also forged a friendship with celebrity hairstylist Derrick J who worked on the film.

LOOKING AHEAD

Brooke says that what surprised her most about the filming process was how much many script rewrites there are. “Every single day there were changes,” Brooke says. “We studied for so long, studied, studied, studied, studied. “

The film shoot was about 4.5 weeks long, according to Cornell Conaway. Because BCPS was virtual at that time, Brooke was able to keep up with her classes, with the help of an on-set teacher.

Brooke’s mom says that while her daughter acts, plays the violin, and raps, “She is a normal kid. She likes to play with her dolls, play Animal Crossing, go to movies, and do gymnastics in the living room. She is very much looking forward to going to middle school to join the school orchestra and be in school plays.”

As she looks toward her future, Brooke says, “I want to do everything. I want to travel, do comedies and drama, and I want to meet a lot of different people. I feel like that’s what it is all about.”

Brooke and her family were interviewed for the blog just hours before the film was released.

“I am really excited,” Brooke said, as she looked forward to having a watch party with family and friends.

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