Most 10-year-old kids’ thoughts this time of year are of back-to-school plans – seeing their friends and meeting new teachers – but for Upson County’s Kya Haywood, there are loftier plans being made as he and his family prepare for the opening of his latest major film, “The Campaign,” in which he co-stars with a cast of celebrities including Will Farrell, Zach Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd and Jason Sudeikis.
Kya, who began acting at age six, already has two movies under his belt – 2010’s “The Way Home” with Dean Cain, and “The Ivy League” in 2011.
His most recent film project began in October 2011, when he first auditioned for the role of Dylan Huggins, one of two sons (along with Grant Goodman) of Galifianakis’ character, Marty Huggins, who embarks on a political campaign to oust Congressman Cam Brady, played by Ferrell.
Following that first taped audition, he went to only one producer/director callback before being booked for the role.
“I literally jumped up and down and screamed uncontrollably,” he said of his reaction to the news. “I was very excited!”
Kya and his parents, Keith and Heather Haywood, made their next trip to New Orleans, where the movie was filmed, just prior to Thanksgiving.
“I received the whole script my first day on set, then went home for two days for Thanksgiving,” Kya said. “I had plenty of time to memorize my lines.”
Asked how he could learn so much and be prepared for filming in only two short days, Kya said it comes naturally.
“I have been told I have a photographic memory. I can memorize lines easily. It’s just what I do,” he said.
Kya and his family spent the next three and a half months in New Orleans, where his parents took turns accompanying him to the set, where he also did his school work.
“We had a trailer on set for our classroom and a fabulous set teacher named Mrs. Sue Dee Lazzarini. Mrs. Sue was a grandmother to all four of the kids on set. If I missed mom or dad, she would just give me a big hug. She taught me French in our free time because I asked her to. I truly love Mrs. Sue with all my heart,” Kya said.
“I did school first each day, then on to filming. Life on set is fun. In between scenes, I would play with Zach Galafiniakis. One day the director, Jay Roach, taught me a game he played with his brother as a child. We had plenty of time to goof off and have fun. I also had long chats with my good friend, Dylan McDermott, both on set and off. He is a special friend and mentor to me. Lots of laughing went on at work.”
Despite the fact that the work was fun, Kya said it was at times challenging to be away from home for so long.
“Mom and Dad took turns staying with me, but yes, sometimes I missed the one who wasn’t there, and I missed my brothers, who were in school here. My brothers visited me on set several times, though. My on-set mom, Sarah Baker, also helped. She was very loving and sweet to me, and she laughed at my jokes just like my mom does. She gave great hugs, also.”
He also said one of his favorite aspects of his acting career is having the opportunity to travel and visit new places.
“It’s exciting to learn about new cities, and since I live in the country, it was nice to live in a busy downtown for a while.”
Despite being only 10 years old, Kya said he did not feel intimidated by the celebrities he worked with, but was made to feel completely comfortable and at home.
“I had loads of fun. I had an awesome director and big stars, who made sure the kids enjoyed their time on and off set. If you watch the blue ray and the out takes, you will see how much fun we had,” he said. “They’re just normal people. They do their job then we all laugh about it. They were just as nice when I would run into them in public off work. Zach even let me call him Dad in public. Dylan was my gym buddy; we went to the gym together most nights. He gave my parents some good advice about my career, and I taught him how to ‘Dougie.’ I still talk to them via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.”
The movie, which opens nationwide today, premiered in Hollywood August 3, and Kya was there to walk the famous red carpet, which he said was just as exciting as he imagined it would be.
“YES! I still don’t know how all those fans knew my name! Savvi formal wear hooked me up with a sharp tux to pose in, and I loved goofing off on the red carpet with Zach and Sarah, mom and dad, and Will Ferrell, and I love my photo of me and Dylan on the red carpet.”
Seeing “The Campaign” in its final form was also a thrill for the young actor.
“I laughed and laughed. It is incredible to see your own name roll in the credits so close to the top,” he said. “I couldn’t sit quietly when I saw myself. I was pleased. I did what I was asked to do and it came out funny. Goal accomplished! I’ve always wanted to a movie poster signed by me on my agent’s wall, and now I have one. Now to up the goals!”
Although Kya says his primary goal is to earn enough money to fund his college education – he fully intends to become a marine biologist – he said he loves his job and does not plan to quit any time soon.
“I’m always auditioning. I audition for hundreds of roles and I’m lucky enough to book some of them. I have an excellent agent in Atlanta and I just signed with an L.A agent and manager, so I’m sure they plan to put me back to doing what I love,” he said.
Despite having achieved such a high level of success in an extremely competitive industry, Kya said he does not view himself any differently than before.
“I’m not a star. I’m just a kid having a lot of fun.”