You’ll remember this little girl as the one in the tutu dancing to Aretha Franklin’s Respect and stealing the show at her school’s dance recital at age 6 — a YouTube video that went viral. Now Johanna Colón, 9, has been cast in Amazon Studios’ Troupe Zero, joining Viola Davis, Allison Janney, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Epps and Mckenna Grace.
She is not the first person plucked from YouTube that has gone on to work in both TV and film. The major and minor talent agencies have been signing up viral social media stars in earnest over the past couple of years. What can come of these stars? Look at the careers of Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes and The Weeknd and actors like Dylan O’Brien and King Bach as well as Anna Akana — they all started on YouTube.
Brian Robbins, who now runs Paramount Players, built an entire business on social media stars, developing produce for GenZ (12 to 14 year olds) by grabbing these YouTube stars and building brands. He co-founded Awesomeness TV to do nothing but that and the company grew from being a small YouTube Channel into a billion dollar business, all marketed by the social media stars who had built up substantial followings.
The film is being directed by Bert & Bertie from a script by Beasts of the Southern Wild scribe Lucy Alibar. While no details have been released about the story, Todd Black, who produced Fences, the film which earned Davis the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, is producing the project for Amazon.
Colón previously had a small, guest-star role in TBS’s The Guest Book. This time around, she plays a girls who never speaks but is a character known as Smash, a sidekick to another character named Hell-No. Smash is Hell No’s muscle, the lunch-stealing, bullying girl who joins a misfit Brownie troupe and then finds a sense of belonging.
The little actress is repped by Li’l Angels Management and Across the Board Talent Agency.