In 2020, we interviewed Texas child actress Alexis Arnold. At that time, she was already credited with three critically acclaimed movies and had received one award from the Houston Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Young Actress in a Film (The Last Astronaut). Today, at age 13, Alexis continues to appear in feature films and has won eight international awards (with one nomination) for her co-lead role in the family film, “If I Could Ride.” We wanted to interview Alexis again and bring everyone up to date on her amazing and successful career.
If I Could Ride is a film the whole family can enjoy, and it shares the spotlight with two award-winning actresses: Eva Igo (American dancer) and Texas teen Alexis Arnold. The film is about two teenage girls. One is born with a curvature in her spine and dreams of riding a horse while the other girl is dealing with her parents pressuring her about college and what she wants to do with her life. Alexis plays Jodie Davis, the girl who dreams of riding a horse and participating in a horse competition some day. Alexis won six international awards and one nomination for her role as a physically-challenged teen who conquered her fears and fulfilled her dream.
“Everyone in the cast and crew were amazing. Especially writer/producer Don Miller, director Shawn Welling and actor Tom Vera. I actually worked with Eva Igo on another project called The Last Astronaut, but never had the opportunity to formally talk to her. So when she played Bridgett Van Heusen it was nice to get to know her better. I also worked with Tom Vera on the film The Shipment (formerly, Narco Sub) where he played my dad. It was funny because I randomly called him dad on this set and he called me sweet pea even though in If I Could Ride he played my coach, not my dad. The movie was filmed in New England where I met a lot of new friends such as Rhleigh Russell and Jeff Kavy. They played my mom and grandpa in the film. I also met Don Miller who is the writer and executive producer and who I consider more like family. Another New England local, Liz Guaraldi, was awesome because she provided the horses for the film and played Carol. Speaking of horses, I can’t forget to talk about how much I loved the horses Leo and Caesar. Leo played Barkley, the beautiful brown horse and Caesar played Chester, the pretty white horse that I rode that reminded me of a unicorn only without the horn.
“I was honestly shocked about the awards, because I felt like so many people did a great job in the movie, and I felt like I could have done better. I can’t really say which award is my favorite because I’m very honored to be nominated and win so many awards.”
Before If I Could Ride
Before If I Could Ride, Alexis had appeared in another film, The Shipment (formerly, Narco Sub), which was in production during our last interview. “The Shipment (formerly, Narco Sub) was in theaters last year and was also on Amazon Prime for a bit. I’m not sure where the film is now, but I know they are working on getting distribution with another company. Tom Vera and I became very close while filming and because of this it made us look like a real family. Also being part of the Stryker family pretty much means your chances of being kidnapped are extremely high. So when I met Robert LaSardo I thought he was going to be this strong and beefy guy who was really scary. It turns out he was really strong and beefy, but he was really nice and sweet in real life and so was Tom Sizemore.”
Focusing on Her Acting Skills
Alexis realizes that these feature film opportunities come to her as she focuses on her acting skills and takes risks by auditioning for various roles. “To be honest, I prefer feature films or a series regular role because I enjoy acting and being on set for a longer period of time. I get attached easily so when filming a feature film I get to do two things, one is bringing a character to life and the other is hanging out with the cast and crew and I enjoy both. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy short films and day player roles, too, but I’m more excited about the roles where I get to be on set longer. I work on a lot of Indie films so I think a lot of producers and casting directors see what I’ve been doing on social media and casting websites. They reach out to my mom or my agents and that’s how I’m getting so many opportunities.”
Even though she has focused more on her acting skills, her modeling and TV appearances have not waned. “It becomes difficult, at times, to balance all three. I’ve had to turn down many opportunities for modeling because my number one focus is on acting. However, there are times when a modeling job is flexible and they work with me if I’m scheduled to work on a film at the same time. I have to give thanks to my agents and my mom for taking care of all that.”
At the beginning of her career, modeling took up most of her time. “I’ve been modeling and acting since I was five years old, so I’ve modeled for a lot of companies. I’ve worked with Swift Meats, Typhoon Texas Waterpark, Citgo Gas Station, Essilor Vision Foundation, The Easton Press, Samsonite Luggage, O’Reilly used cars, Hartford Healthcare, and many others. Honestly, there are too many to list them all. I’ve also been in several runway shows for companies like Macy’s, Children’s Place, Belk, David’s Bridal, URP (Unlike Regular People) and many others. I was also a book cover model for Serenity’s Revenge. That was cool because the cover was a photo of me shooting my recurve bow and arrow.”
Even though her roots run deep in modeling, acting interests her the most. “Acting is my most favorite thing to do, but I do enjoy all of them. If I Could Ride is the most meaningful to me, because it taught me life isn’t as easy as it seems and it’s also a wonderful film. The reason I say life’s not as easy as it seems is because last year I volunteered to help children with spina bifida and scoliosis ride horses, and I also helped rehabilitate injured and retired horses. Working with these children and animals has given me a better appreciation for working hard, living your dream and reaching your goals.”
The future is wide open for Alexis. She says, “I just want to be able to work regularly on movies and TV series so that I can continue my career as an actress. I wouldn’t mind booking a few modeling jobs along the way, too. I would love an opportunity to work on a TV series because that’s one thing I haven’t done yet. But there’s always hope, right?”
Cover photo Courtesy of Shanda Webb Arnold
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.