A scroll through Winston Vengapally’s Instagram says it all. This up-and-coming child actor has all the animation, life, and prowess of his mega-watt mother; serial entrepreneur and social media influencer, Meeta Vengapally.
The Vengapally family recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue the acting careers of Winston and Sitara, and as it turns out, they both hit the ground running in Hollywood.
Winston’s acting chops on the screen have been appearing up a lot lately. It all began with Pop Evil’s music video for “Be Legendary,” where Winston played the young version of the lead singer, Leigh Kakaty. The music video is riotous and inspiring, and Winston’s performance steals the show at several moments. Similar to his Instagram, the young actor proves that he has the nuance and skill to express himself with a presence that is very rare in child actors. This kind of inspired performance also appears on “Never Have I Ever,” a popular Netflix series where Winston had a guest-starring role.
The very charming Door Dash commercial, which continues to run on all the NBA and MLB finals games, ends with Winston jumping on his bed, excited for his order and exuding a state of young exuberance that is effortless and puts a smile on your face. His Go Daddy commercial is another lighthearted hit, and to put things into perspective; he booked this job with his sister, Sitara. Recently, he made his debut on the Dhar Mann series and has been asked to return for several more episodes since its debut.
So, when we say that the Vengapally kids hit the ground running in Hollywood, we mean it!
As with any child prodigy, success doesn’t come out of anywhere. Hard work and mentorship have brought him to where he is today. The 13-year-old is achieving things that many can only dream of, but practice and intention have kept him on the move and favored by casting directors in the City of Angels. He’s highly praised by the directors and producers he has worked with. In fact, a writer and producer for a hit series for whom Winston auditioned for said: “Winston is a natural; his comedy and improv abilities are more honed in than some of the seasoned celebrities we work with here .” Door Dash commercial director Clay Weiner along with casting directors Krisha Bullock and Jamie Snow ( Bullock & Snow Casting) have been key mentors for Winston, who have taught him the importance of acting; the fact that acting is an art, so he needs to keep working on his craft and pursuing his dreams (Bullock & Snow Casting is a well-respected team in the industry, focusing on children’s television shows and comedies). Other influential people who have taken Winston under their wings include Howard Meltzer, Joey Paul Jensen, AHC Casting, and Catherine Stroud. Being able to train with such a brilliant group of experts continues to shape Winston’s foundation as an actor.
Everyone is familiar with the famous actress Mindy Kaling of The Office, who happens to be the producer of Never Have I Ever. The actress, comedian, writer, and producer was responsible for casting Winston to play co-star in the new upcoming season.
Dhar Mann knew that Winston was the right actor for his series after the feedback received from the audience from his first video, which went viral and has accumulated over 11 million views. The kid has shot more than six episodes in less than a month – there is definitely no slowing down for Winston Vengapally!
One of the most crucial turning points in Winston’s new journey stems from when famous casting directors Sally Stiner and Barbie Block got Winston closer than ever to his big break last year. He was one of the last in a long string of actors who were considered for a role in the Netflix movie Home Team. This process entailed six to seven meetings that proved Winston’s talent and highlighted how the entertainment industry, in the end, is very much about talent as well as looks and physicality. Is someone the right fit to play someone else’s parent or sibling? This entire experience has helped Winston to tackle every audition and meeting with an open mind and from the point of view of being the best actor, he could be. In the end, many factors that are out of an actor’s control play a part in the decision-making process.
This brings up another topic which Winston’s rising star gives voice to: children of color have fewer opportunities in the entertainment industry, but that doesn’t stop this child actor from being constantly invited into the room, proving to directors and casting directors that diversity in casting isn’t about optics, it’s about discovering talent that would otherwise be overlooked. Putting himself in the spotlight repeatedly proves that Winston not only has conviction but also has the chops, training, and mentorship to back it up.
StarCentral Kids sat down with Winston to ask some questions about his rising star status and what he hopes for the future and here’s what went down:
Winston, you’re on a roll at the moment; well done! Many people in the industry are talking about how well your career is going. What is your favorite part about acting?
I really like playing different characters and expressing different feelings. Each new part I get to play is different, and I like to think about what my character is going through. I also get to meet a ton of amazing people who are creative and inspire me so much to keep working on my craft. I work with so many talented people, and that’s really cool. It’s weird that so many people see what I do on screen.
You’ve worked with and met so many industry experts. What have they taught you?
Everyone I’ve met has been super nice to me. From casting directors to producers to fellow actors, they all offer something I can learn from. The casting directors and film directors are mentors to me because they show me how everything works, making it easier for me to act and not worry about anything else. They encourage me, so I know I’m doing good and should just do what my instincts tell me. Sometimes it’s scary because I work with a lot of people who are considered famous and respected by everyone in Hollywood.
Do you ever get intimidated when you meet powerful people in the industry?
At first, I did. Like, I know someone is special and important. But my mentors taught me just to be myself, and if I get nervous, it’s okay because being myself is the most important thing everyone wants from me. Even the important people tell me to be me, making me more comfortable with being creative.
How has your life been after moving to Los Angeles? Is it hard to balance your career and school?
It’s busy, I think! I am usually doing homework on set these days, so I am used to it now. I guess it’s good that I have school work because it’s something to do while I wait on set. I also love to shoot around the hoops, so I do that when I am free on the weekends.
You’ve worked with your sister Sitara before. Is that fun to do?
It is fun because we’re really close. We can play games and stuff on the set. We’re different actors, but we tell each other we did a good job when the day is over. Sometimes I don’t feel like telling her that, but my mom makes me, hah!
That’s too funny! Sitara, while we have you, would you say that you and your brother have different acting styles?
Sitara: We both have fun, and it makes me happy he’s doing a good job. We both do a lot of work, and I am proud of my brother because he’s really focused even when I think he’s weird.
Last question. Winston, what is your biggest future dream here in Hollywood?
I want to do more movies. I just love being on the set and playing different characters. I love cool stories a lot, and it seems like doing movies, you’d get to be in the best stories. And I’d like to be in stories that people think are really important. Also, I am not sure if I mentioned this, but one of my favourite things to work on is learning how to do an Indian accent. I don’t have an accent naturally, but I work on learning to speak in an Indian accent because it’s fun. I try to come up with new jokes and practice with my friends and family; they get a kick out of it. It would be so cool to be on a show where I get to showcase that.