Obnoxious squealing followed by phantom cheek pinching and a serious reexamination of my ambivalence around having kids: this is me watching Faithe Herman play Annie Pearson on This Is Us. But as I learned during our mom-chaperoned phone call, the 11-year-old actor has spent half her lifetime going out for auditions and, over time, bolstering her superficial cuteness with an unshakable self-confidence. "On my first audition, I didn't say anything," Herman recalled. "Someone said 'How old are you?' and I put up six fingers. But I really got used to it and [now] I have so much fun and really love what I do."
To be specific, through her portrayal as the youngest of the Pearson clan, what Herman does is breathe a clean, unadulterated air of empathy, compassion, and insight into the emotionally-driven NBC family drama. And while her character hasn't had an extensive storyline (yet!), that hasn't stopped the fledgling star from stealing pivotal scenes, like when her character alleviates both her grandfather William's fear of inadequacy and her then-foster sister Deja's fear of intimacy without exposing their insecurities. That particular scene from season two, episode three ("Dejá Vu") allowed Herman to finally flex her talents with a signature, sentimental Pearson monologue about sleepovers and regret. "I loved that the audience had a chance to learn a little bit about Annie [in that scene]," Herman told me.
With the series having just returned from its mid-season break, This Is Us fans will hopefully have even more chances to learn about Annie in all of her coily Afro-wearing, sage advice-giving glory. As for Herman herself, the rising young star gave BuzzFeed's As/Is a chance to learn a few fun facts about how she got started in Hollywood, which films and actors inspire her own work, and what she shares in common with Darla Dudley, her superhero character from the upcoming DC film Shazam.
Her first acting gig was on one of CBS' most-watched shows.
My first professional acting job was an episode I did with Shemar Moore on Criminal Minds. I played his daughter in a flash-forward scene.
She knows first-hand what it's like to be the youngest sibling like Annie...
I love being the youngest [on the show] because in real life I'm the youngest in my family.
...But she thinks she's got more in common with her Shazam character Darla Dudley than with Annie.
I'm more like Darla. We both talk a lot, we love our family, and we are the youngest, so I really got to bring Darla to life in this movie.
Her favorite superhero character is also from the DC universe, like Darla.
My favorite superhero is Wonder Woman. I love how sweet and caring she is. And the movie was so amazing, like her weapons and how she fights.
Her role model also had a breakout role playing a young daughter on a hit family TV series.
One of my role models is Yara Shahidi. I like how she goes to college and is still able to work. I wanna do that when I'm older because I love what I'm doing and I really love school and seeing my friends and hanging out with them. Plus, I really like Yara's outfits and personal style, too.
Her dream role might require a time machine.
Harry Potter's a cool movie. I would have wanted to be in that, but it's not out anymore. We went on a tour at Warner Brothers [studio] and they have all the fun little [props], so I got to go on a broomstick. That was really fun.
And she thinks anyone interested in becoming an actor should "just go for it."
When I was little, I was really shy so I would say just go for it. Don't be shy and afraid because you'll have so much fun. And roles don't come fast or overnight, so it helps to remember that what's meant to be will be.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.