Child actress Marion Van Cuyck reflects on acting in adult comedy

Actress and Santa Clarita resident Marion Van Cuyck has been featured in several television shows and comercials. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Marion Van Cuyck taught actor Zach Galifianakis how to dab.

Twelve-year-old Van Cuyck is a child actor who was born and raised in Santa Clarita. Her credits include the popular comedy television shows “Baskets” and “PEN15.”

“I’ve always like to to explore the different kinds of art from drawing to music,” she said. “I love the freedom to express yourself in art, and while there is some level of freedom in things like math, you’re stuck to that one field. In art there’s a rainbow of different things you can do, and you can even create your own color that didn’t exist before.”

Van Cuyck began her show business career at age 4. A family friend gifted her with enough clothing that she could wear a different outfit each day. After her parents began to take pictures of all her different looks, the suggestions of friends coupled with Marion’s fearless nature prompted them to send out the photos to casting agencies. One of the agents who saw the photos invited the family to come in for an interview.

“It’s funny because when we got there, she was in a call or something and wasn’t ready, but Marion grabbed one of the stuffed animals, walked into the office and asked if it had a name,” said her father Bill. “At that age what they’re looking for is if you can go in and not be afraid, so I think the agent knew all she needed to after that.”

The first jobs that came her way were small roles in commercials for brands like Chevrolet and AT&T. Unfortunately, her first few roles never made it past the cutting room floor, but being so young, she didn’t mind. It was frustrating for her parents but worth it in the end, because their daughter was having fun and the roles still qualified toward getting her Screen Actors Guild membership.

The first time Marion and her family finally saw her on screen was in the television show “Baskets” alongside Zach Galifiankis, when she was 9 years old. What made the experience even sweeter was that the take that made it into the show included lines Marion improvised.

Even though she is still a child, most of her work has been on adult comedy shows. Though some of the content might be a bit too mature for a 12-year-old, her parents are always on set with her and review the material to ensure that it’s not too objectionable. Additionally, Marion said she has always been surrounded by friendly crews and actors who have made sure that she has a safe, appropriate experience.

“Dabbing may be cringey now, but back when it was cool I asked Zach on the set of ‘Baskets’ if he knew how to dab and he said he didn’t, so I showed him how to do the dance move,” she said. “My favorite people to work with are (‘PEN15’ creators) Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle because they’re so funny.”

“Her mother and I approach the language and the content as it’s just words, and there’s a time and place to use them as an actor who’s just playing a character,” Bill added. “But I do like twisted comedy, and she hasn’t yet been offered a role that we felt was too much. The cast and crew are always good at not putting her in bad situations, and I remember once they actually came to ask me if she was allowed to swear.”

The most important thing for Marion’s parents is that she continues to enjoy acting. They view her career as an investment and even if she does not book a role she auditioned for, the experience still helps build her confidence and public speaking skills.

Marion still attends public school at one of the local junior high schools, and though it may be easier for her to balance her career and academics if she was homeschooled, she does not want to miss out on any of the childhood experiences.

“If you’re staying at home all the time, it’s kind of boring and if you’re actually at school you learn how to handle stress, deal with friendship dramas and have crushes,” she said. “I also like it because I can observe people’s actions like I’m gathering intel to help me with my acting.”

Outside of acting, Marion enjoys playing the drums and cosplaying at conventions as well as watching cartoons and anime. In the future, she wants to explore animation and music as well as continuing to establish herself as a comedic actress.

“I think what makes me unique is that I have what my friends describe as an awkward energy that makes me charming,” Marion said. “I want to stay in comedy because I love making people laugh, and I stay away from dramatic roles because I don’t want to make people cry.”

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