How do you know you might be getting noticed in Hollywood? How about when you start showing up in paparazzi shots on celebrity gossip websites with the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman?
That’s what’s happening for Darby Camp, 8, of Mooresville. She’s playing Witherspoon’s daughter in the upcoming HBO miniseries “Big Little Lies.”
Filming began in January on the seven-episode project, produced by Witherspoon and Kidman, and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who also directed “Dallas Buyers Club” (winner of three Academy Awards) in 2013 and “Wild” (also with Witherspoon) in 2014.
Celebrity-stalking cameras were set up across the street Jan. 9 during an outdoor “Big Little Lies” shoot and Darby, hand-in-hand with Witherspoon, ended up in several shots on Hollywood gossip sites.
“She’s having a great time so far,” Darby’s dad, Clark Camp, said recently. “She made friends with the other kids in the cast, and she’s gotten to hang out with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman’s kids while they’re there.”
The entire Camp clan – parents Clark and Lacy, and Darby’s 10-year-old sister, Ruthie – flew to California just after Christmas. Clark, a career and technical education coordinator and assistant basketball coach at North Mecklenburg High, and Ruthie returned home after about a week sightseeing.
Lacy Camp, who left a charter-school teaching job last year to accompany Darby to jobs and auditions, will stay in California for the expected five months of shooting. Clark and Ruthie plan to visit again for Valentine’s Day.
Not her first role
Darby’s worked with star Justin Theroux in one episode of HBO’s “The Leftovers”; in “Blue,” an independent movie now making the film festival circuit; and on an episode of Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva.” She’s also appeared in TV commercials, including one (with Ruthie) with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Lacy Camp, a North Mecklenburg graduate, studied dramatic arts at UNC Greensboro before becoming a teacher. She wanted to act after college, but had trouble breaking in.
“I couldn’t even get an agent,” she said. “I was a dime-a-dozen – a 20-something brunette, the girl-next-door character. Every agency already had their favorite actors like me.”
Then Ruthie was born. By the time she was 6 months old, Ruthie was appearing in print ads, then began doing TV work. She and Lacy and Darby now share an agent. Lacy’s been in episodes of “Red Band Society” on Fox, the upcoming Cinemax series “Outcast” by “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, and the upcoming HBO series “Vice Principals.”
For the Camps, being an acting family required some significant family decisions.
“When you have auditions, they pop up at any time, usually during the day,” Clark said. “We talked about it and we prayed about it and we stepped out on faith, and (Lacy) left her teaching job. That was tough, but it opened the door for her to audition and for Darby to audition more, and that commitment and that sacrifice is starting to pay off.”
Ruthie, meanwhile, has grown to prefer basketball courts to sound stages. Clark was a standout basketball player at Independence High School in Charlotte, then Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina. He has spent 14 years as an assistant coach at North Mecklenburg.
“Anytime North Meck is playing, Ruthie is never more than 10 feet behind me in the bleachers,” said Clark, who also coaches Ruthie’s AAU basketball team.
“Darby and I have acting, and Clark and Ruthie have basketball,” said Lacy. “That’s a really special thing.”
While it typically takes years for a movie or miniseries to move from concept to finished product, the Camps say the casting process can move surprisingly fast.
“They send a script and a breakdown of the character, then we take video (of her doing the lines) and email it back to them,” Clark said, describing the typical early interaction with the studio. “Then, if they like it, they contact you and say, ‘Hey, we want you to come out and audition in person.’ ”
That’s what happened late last year, when the Camps heard back from the “Big Little Lies” producers just a few days after sending back the audition video. They flew Darby and Lacy to L.A., where two other girls – including one who had beaten Darby out for an earlier part – were also auditioning for the role.
“It only took about 45 minutes,” Lacy said. “She did her scenes a couple of times. The director gave her some notes and told her to try some different things.”
To see how adaptable Darby was, the director rewrote some of the lines on the fly, and had her do the scene again. He even made her sing and dance. Darby’s official offer came in mid-December, via email.
“I still read it all the time,” Lacy said. “I was so excited.”
John Deem is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.