Madisyn Shipman could so easily pass for a typical 14-year-old girl from Kings Mountain.
Went target shooting for the first time last week, with a friend of her mom’s. Uses the word “whenever” instead of “when”; as in, “I got my first four-wheeler whenever I was 5” (which, in her case, is a true story). Could live off the food at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby and Love’s Fish Box in Kings Mountain.
This particular teen, though, has spent as much of her life living in New York City as she has in Cleveland County and, since age 12, Shipman has been a southern California girl – as well as one of the top-billed stars of the Nickelodeon’s “Game Shakers.”
There are three episodes left in the second season of the network’s popular sitcom, which is tentatively scheduled to air its season finale in March.
And sure, we get it. Unless you’re a kid, or have kids in your house, it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of “Game Shakers” and even less likely that you know of Shipman. But Nick sitcoms have a history of paving the way to prosperous entertainment careers for their former stars, from Ariana Grande to Alanis Morissette, so it’s not out of the question that she might someday be a household name.
Then again, she might wind up operating on your brain someday.
“I love acting so much,” says Shipman, who stopped by the Observer last Thursday during one of her annual-ish trips home to visit extended family in North Carolina. “If acting does work out, great. But neurosurgeon is always my backup plan. ... My mom’s a nurse, so that kind of contributed to wanting to be in a hospital, and I got hooked on ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ I watched all 13 seasons in a couple months; it was bad. And I saw that Derek was a neurosurgeon, and I’m like, ‘That would be fun.’ So I started researching and researching – I mean, working on people’s brains, that’s pretty cool.”
Here are eight other things we learned about Madisyn Shipman during our recent interview:
1. Her first acting job was in a Blue Cross Blue Shield commercial. She learned about the opportunity via a radio ad, and her mother, Jennifer, actually told Madisyn no the first time. “ ‘You’re just a normal kid, we live in Kings Mountain, no one knows this town,’ ” is what Madisyn recalls her mom telling her. “And I just kept on bugging her and she’s like, ‘OK, fine, we can try it.’ ” After several other commercials and a trip to an Actors, Models & Talent for Christ convention in Florida, the family hired an agent and moved to New York City, where Madisyn successfully booked a couple of brief appearances on “Saturday Night Live” and a small role in the 2010 Broadway play “Enron.”
2. Her big break didn’t come easily. Over the course of several months, Nickelodeon rejected Madisyn multiple times, most notably because the producers felt she looked too much like “Game Shakers’ ” other female lead, Cree Cicchino. In fact, Nick originally shot the series’ 2015 pilot with a blonde-haired actress in the role of Kenzie Bell, before replacing her with Madisyn.
3. “Game Shakers” centers around two girls who write code for video games. Madisyn’s Kenzie is a brainy techie who – along with Cree Cicchino’s Babe Carano – started a multimillion-dollar gaming company after a video-game app they created for their school science project became a phenomenon. “Our show,” Madisyn says, “is all about girl power.”
4. But personally, she wouldn’t be able to code to save her life. “Whenever I booked the show, I was like, ‘I need to learn a little bit about coding!’ ” Madisyn says. “So I Googled and Googled and Googled, and then I read this story about this one woman in 2013 who used to collect cigarette butts and stuff, and then she would get people’s DNA and make 3D faces from coding. It’s crazy what all coding can do, because it can make computers and laptops, but it can also make 3D models of people’s faces that you’ve never even seen before. Which is cool, but a little creepy at the same time. ... Anyway, I don’t wanna be full-out coding, but I wanna learn a little bit.”
5. Or, she’d also be content to just keep playing video games. Her and her three younger brothers’ current obsession is challenging one another in any of the retro titles on the new Nintendo NES Classic Edition console; but against older friends, it’s “Grand Theft Auto” all the way. If you need proof of how much she loves video games, just consider her pet hedgehog – which she got just so she could name him Sonic. She also has a chameleon, Tails (named for Sonic’s best friend in Sega’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” series), and a Teacup Yorkie that she named Willow, who tips the scales at 1 pound 3 ounces.
6. The glasses her character wears on “Game Shakers”? They’re not just to make her look brainier. “A lot of people always ask, ‘Are those glasses fake?’ ” Madisyn says. “Nope, I’m blind as a bat. I would be falling all over the place if not for my glasses.” She’ll keep wearing them for the TV show when production on Season 3 starts later this year, although she really hopes that in real life her parents will finally cave and let her get contacts soon.
7. She sings, plays guitar, ukelele and keyboard, and has dabbled with the bass. So watch out, Ariana and Alanis.
8. She’s not likely to move back to Kings Mountain anytime soon. An electrical fire last year leveled the house her family lived in until Madisyn was 6; instead of rebuilding here, they’ve decided to build a vacation home on the Outer Banks that can also be rented out. As for New York and L.A., her complaints about the latter are minimal: “It’s all unsweetened, healthy tea there. I need some sweet tea!” But you’d have to drag her kicking and screaming to get her back to Manhattan. “I’m definitely not a New Yorker,” she says, laughing. “I can cross that off completely, because New Yorkers, they’re mean! They are rude! They just barge right through things. They’re like bulls in china shops! I would definitely say I am still a Southern belle.”
A new episode airs at 8 p.m. Saturday. Watch previously aired episodes at www.nick.com/game-shakers.