When I received the call that I would be heading to L.A. for a chemistry read for The Baby-Sitters Club, everyone prepared me for the worst experience possible (after we celebrated of course). I was told to anticipate having no one talk to me and no support. Essentially a Mean Girls experience because, at the end of the day, we were all going to be in competition with each other and this is just business. I feel like this is how I have always been taught to perceive the things I want in life: it’s a competition, you’re in it alone, and to just keep your eye on the prize as you grin and bear it.
However, my experience from the start of The Baby-Sitters Club has been anything but that, as has my experience becoming part of a community of actors here in Canada and, most specifically, as a Black, multi-racial female in our industry.
When I arrived at Netflix headquarters, armed and ready for the worst, I was greeted by nothing but hugs and smiles from casting directors and all the girls who were also there vying for their own spot in this highly anticipated club. We worked on lines together, kept each other relaxed with games and laughter, cheered each other on, shared audition clothes, and hugged out nerves and wiped away tears together. Yes, we essentially embodied a real-life Baby-Sitters Club.
To date, there is no greater feeling I have experienced than being told I got the part of Mary Anne Spier in The Baby-Sitters Club and then looking around the room to see the group of predominantly women who helped make this happen. A group of women who were simply rooting for our collective success (thank you, Michael De Luca, for being the lone man who wept alongside the rest of us in our shared excitement!).
From that point on, I have really felt like I was part of a club, and not just The Baby-Sitters Club. I felt like I was a part of a group of people, of women, who were here to be my colleagues, my cheerleaders and my mentors. Through the show, I have had the chance to work with some amazing local talent, like Momona Tamada (a.k.a. the iconic Claudia Kishi), Karin Konoval, Diana Bang, Aya Furukawa, Kalyn Miles, Beatrice Kitsos, Daphne Hoskins, Heather Feeney (and so many more), who have all continued to be so incredibly supportive beyond just this show.
Since the show’s release, my circle of colleagues has expanded as I have been able to connect with more talent online, such as Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Mika Mitchell, as we each recognize being a Canadian actor in this very big pond is something we can support each other in and cheer each other through. More specifically, it is these types of connections that have led me to feel supported and embraced by an incredible circle of women of colour in our Canadian industry.
Until recently, we were either overlooked entirely or called upon to be representative of either an “ethnically ambiguous” or simply an “ethnic” character. For one, this idea of being a token and ambiguous character was difficult enough to swallow, but the idea that I was competing against all these other girls of colour, because for some reason we were all lumped together, was very challenging to my confidence. I remember always worrying, wondering how in the world I could possibly compete, and feeling, like in any other competition, we must go through this alone. However, I can now say with great gratitude what I have come to discover is quite the opposite.
I know after a year of living our lives online, it can feel cumbersome to invest so much more of ourselves in a digital space. But the truth is, that is where I feel most connected to these women and colleagues. When I post something on social media that strikes up a conversation or simply brings on some fist pump emojis, and I see people like Momona, Mika, Maitreyi, Kalyn and the wonderful women who have played my TV moms (Catherine Lough Haggquist and Miranda Edwards) cheering me on, I feel supported, I feel pride, I feel gratitude and I feel at ease. I feel like I am part of a community when I am embraced so beautifully by these fellow women of colour. We are not competitors; we are colleagues and each other’s greatest fans. Thankfully, the industry has also begun to open up to expand our possibilities and I know, as that increases, so too will our support for one another.
Malia Baker stars as Mary Anne Spier in the Netflix series, The Baby-Sitter’s Club, based on the nostalgic and beloved book series of the same name. Born in Botswana, Malia moved as a young girl to Vancouver, B.C., with her family. After visiting her father while he was working on set, she became enamored by the filmmaking process. She was inspired to pursue acting and has not looked back since. When Malia is not busy filming, she is spending time with her family, and painting and dancing. Malia’s global perspective has been shaped by her experiences as a child in Botswana, which provided her with a full understanding of the need for humanity and compassion. Malia is proud to use her social platforms to inspire and empower young girls to use their voices for change and equality. Instagram: @maliabakermsb | Twitter: @maliabakermsb