Earned Her Way From Sidekick To Centerpiece In GH’s Teen Scene.
Performing is in Sydney Mikayla’s blood. Her mother, Sonya Shepherd, is an actress who has appeared on Broadway and in television and film, and “kind of got me into the business,” as 17-year-old Mikayla puts it.
When she started out, Mikayla associated work with pleasure — specifically, of the frozen yogurt variety. She explains, “Going out on auditions as a child, you don’t really understand what’s happening, but after, we would always get frozen yogurt, so I used to believe that an audition was, like, frozen yogurt time. I was just like, ‘Man, this is really fun!’ ”
Mom was never pushy about putting her daughter to work. “She was supportive, but she was always like, ‘You can stop anytime you want,’ ” Mikayla says. “And I just remember, at a certain age, wanting to continue to pursue it.” It didn’t hurt that the projects she booked were right up her alley. “My first role was YO GABBA GABBA! on Nickelodeon, which was really big for me because that was my favorite show as a 5-year-old. I was very excited.”
Other stand-out, pre-GH gigs include playing a young Gabby Douglas (and daughter to Oscar-winner Regina King) in Lifetime’s THE GABBY DOUGLAS STORY (“What a great experience to have, especially as a 10-year-old; that was one of the highlights of my life”), which earned her a Young Artist Award and a face-to-face meeting with the Olympic gold medalist, and the Nickelodeon series GAME SHAKERS. “We were, like, saving some people from these crazy robots or something. I really enjoyed doing that because I would never do that in real life.”
But as Mikayla got older — and more to the point, taller — jobs got scarcer. Rejection “does definitely get hard,” she concedes. “For a long time, I didn’t feel like I was booking any jobs because I have a very young face but I’m very tall for my age; I’m 5 feet 7. Acting with other kids, I would always be taller than everyone else. I’d get to the final [audition round] at, like, the Disney building and stuff like that, and then I’d be like [adopts defeated voice], ‘I already know I’m way too tall for this.’ ”
But it’s a testament to her maturity that instead of giving up, she found other ways to stay creatively charged. “I think what kept me going is to continue studying,” she offers. “It does get really tiring to continue to do it if you’re only doing it for the job. So I would do things like, do a play with an acting conservatory, or try to learn a new monologue — just kind of shaking it up and remembering that acting isn’t just the audition and rejection process, it’s also about making it fun and trying to be someone else that you’re not in your daily life.”
Still, after going through a hiring dry spell, “Getting GH was definitely a breath of fresh air.” When the audition came up in 2018, “I just kind of went in and made the character similar to myself. I could tell she was just kind of written as your everyday teen; I was like, ‘I’m just gonna make Trina as much like Sydney as possible because I can see how the writers want her to be just portrayed as just a realistic girl.’ ” She sees myriad similarities between herself and her alter ego, noting, “We both love our friends and want to stand up for them and be there for them. I think we both have pretty good fashion, but I’d say Trina’s fashion is definitely better! And we both have drive and determination. Even though we’re young, we both want to work for our dreams and work for our goals and we want to work our way up.”
When three weeks passed after her audition, “I was like, ‘Okay, I guess I didn’t get it.’ But then I got a callback and I felt really good about it, and Frank [Valentini, executive producer] was like, ‘Wow, you’re a really amazing actress.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, thank you!’ And later that day they told me I got the role.” (While she did not score any fro-yo as a reward, Mikayla grins, “I think we went to McDonald’s!”)
She got an immediate introduction to the rapid-fire shooting pace at GH. “When we did our first scene, I was getting fries for the crew, for Oscar, Joss and Cam. I just kind of hopped on the couch and I’m like, ‘Here are your fries.’ I said my lines and I’ll never forget, they said, ‘Cut! Moving on.’ I was looking around, like, ‘Are we not gonna do that scene again?’ I had never realized how fast soaps move, like, I was not used to that! It was good to start with just a [few] lines to start warming up, because jumping into the deep end, never really having worked on a soap before, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to handle all of that!”
But little by little — inspired, no doubt, both by Mikayla’s professionalism and how warmly her refreshingly realistic take on a soap teen was received by fans and critics alike — Trina became more of a central player in GH’s younger set, and the actress was signed to a contract. She describes both of these developments as “really, really rewarding. I love knowing the writers like what I’m doing. It feels really good when you put all the work in and then you see the reward.”
She’s enjoying herself so much at GH, in fact, that she’s rethinking her plan to go to college right away. “Before GH, I was kind of ready to just get out of L.A.,” she admits. “But with GH, I’m, like, ‘Hmmm, this is definitely interesting.’ I might stay in L.A.; I might go to college. By the end of this year is when I actually start applying for colleges, and I’m going to be a little bit all over the map. Every day my mind changes. It’s definitely different when you already have a career when you’re 17. It’s like, ‘Hmmm, what do I do with this?’ It’s a big piece in the whole puzzle.”
Career-wise, Mikayla says, “I would love to get nominated for an Emmy; that would just be so awesome. I’m really hoping for that.” And she’d be happy just to attend the Oscars (“I like getting dressed up”). Inspired by the success of Little’s Marsai Martin, “I would also love to do some producing and writing and create my own thing. And I’d love to be on Broadway. And I also love to dance, so I would love to be in a company. It’s kind of wherever life leads me!” But for now, she’s perfectly content in Port Charles. “I really like my character,” she declares, “and I’m really glad to be playing her.”
Just The Facts
Birthday: February 1, 2003
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Call Me By My Name: “Some people call me Syd, but Sydney’s fine!”
Fur Bro: “I’m an only child, so Champ is like my brother,” she says of her family’s pooch. “I think he thinks he owns the house.”
Starting Small: “When I was like 7 or 8, I was on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. I played a Girl Scout.”
Mother Knows Best: Her mother is her de facto acting coach. “It’s really helpful,” she says. “Especially because acting coaches are super-expensive! They cost, like, $100 a minute [laughs].”
Learning Curve: English is her favorite subject, “even though it does get tedious at times having to write an essay, like, every week,” and math is her least favorite, “just because I’m doing precalculus [in school] and that’s completely different than what’s on the SATs, so I’m constantly having to study for different things.”
In The Flesh: She enjoyed shooting an episode of FULLER HOUSE in front of a live studio audience. “To experience that — to feel that energy and be able to continue acting and feel relaxed and everything — was so fun. I loved it.”
Trina landing an internship at Ava’s gallery marked a turning point in Sydney Mikayla’s GH life. “That was when you started to see Trina get her own life, because you never really saw her away from the [other] teens,” she observes. “It was really big for me. I was like, ‘Whoa! I finally have scenes with a new character and no teens!’ I was super-excited for that. And working with Maura [West, Ava], she is one of the most professional actresses I have ever worked with. She always has her lines down, can always do stuff in one take. When we shot the gallery scenes where [Helena’s portrait] exploded, it was like 9 o’clock at night and they were like, ‘We need you to do this monologue where you’re on the phone,’ and they were like, ‘We can rehearse it.’ ” And she was like, ‘No. Let’s just do it.’ And I’ll never forget, she just knocked it out in one take, no stuttering, no repeating lines. I was like, ‘Wow, this is so inspiring.’ Her acting is just so spot-on and clear. I was like, ‘I want to get to this level, for sure.’ ”
Did You Know?
• When she went on contract with GH last year, she began home-schooling. “I think it was a great choice; I’m really enjoying it.”
* Mikayla voices the role of Wolf in the new Netflix animated series KIPO AND THE AGE OF WONDERBEASTS. “I started working on it before I started on GENERAL HOSPITAL and I’m so excited that it’s out!”
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