Faly Rakotohavana is on a roll. With a new Disney+ movie coming out this fall, the 17-year-old Madagascar-born actor – and former Phoenix resident – took the time to talk to us about his inspirations, his goals and what to expect with his upcoming role.
Start in Acting
Rakotohavana always dreamed of being an actor – “pretty much as long as I can remember,” he says. Growing up in Madagascar, he watched television and envisioned what it would be like to play characters on the big screen. In second grade, he went in for his first audition, but unfortunately wasn’t able to complete it due to a stutter he had at the time. “I had to leave halfway through the audition, and it crushed me for a little while,” he says.
However, this didn’t dissuade Rakotohavana from pursuing his passion. In sixth grade, after doing speech therapy, he found himself participating in musical theater, which further fueled his love for the art. From that point, he says, he traveled to LA and acquired an agent and manager. The rest is history.
Growing Up in Madagascar and Move to Phoenix
Rakotohavana was six when he moved from Madagascar to Phoenix. One of the biggest differences? The weather. “Phoenix is hot,” he says. “Madagascar has always been beautiful weather. [It] does get very hot sometimes, but Phoenix was a whole other universe of heat.”
The actor recently went back to Madagascar, for the first time in 10 years. After filming Secret Society of Second-Born Royals last summer, he went back with his family to visit, and to see how the country had changed. “It was amazing,” he says. “Although I miss the old Madagascar I used to live in, change is good. And change makes people stronger, and countries stronger. I’m glad to see that Madagascar is still growing.”
Inspirations, Dream Roles and Collaborations
Growing up, one of Rakotohavana’s memorable movie inspirations was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “I loved every second of the film,” he says. “I think getting to see kids live out the craziest fantasy in the world, that’s just so unimaginable and something you only do in your dreams.”
As for his dream role, Rakotohavana says he would love to work on a thriller – like Halloween or Friday the 13th. “One of those, just, on the edge of your seats, gritty thriller films. I’d love to be a part of one of those. It sounds like a lot of fun to film, and like a lot of fun to watch afterwards.”
And somebody he’d like to work with? Chadwick Boseman. “He is a big inspiration of mine – I’ve been watching him since 42 – Jackie Robinson – and to see him go from Jackie Robinson to James Brown to now King T’Challa in Black Panther is really inspirational,” he says. “I’d love to hopefully work with him in the business. It’d be an honor.”
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals
Rakotohavana has something big coming up this year. He stars in the Disney+ film Secret Society of Second-Born Royals, which will be available on Disney+ in September. The film is about second-born royals who discover that they have superpowers and join a secret society to protect the world.
Rakotohavana’s character Matteo is a shy teenager who provides a contrast to the other members of the secret society. “[He] is the only character in our group of superheroes that is super introverted and doesn’t feel comfortable in social environments,” he says, adding, “I think a lot of people are going to watch the film and really resonate with Matteo… He wants to fit in, but he struggles, because he doesn’t know what people think of him, or how people are going to treat him or look at him. He’s very in his head.”
Though Matteo is an introvert, the actor wouldn’t consider himself the same way. “I love social environments – I love getting to talk to new people, I love being in new places,” Rakotohavana says. “I think that’s what really drew me to Matteo – the challenge of playing someone that is just the complete opposite of me.” However, he adds that there are also some similarities between the two. “Matteo – he sees the best in people, and he approaches situations with kindness and with hope,” he says. “I try to do that to the best extent that I can, because I believe that kindness takes people very far in life, and I think nice people end up being the most successful.”
So, what can viewers expect from the film? “Everybody has the chance to do something amazing,” Rakotohavana says. “Everybody has the ability to be successful and live out their dreams.” He states that the second-born royals face feelings of being lesser than their older siblings, and this feeling is something viewers might relate to.
“I think there are a lot of people in the world that consider themselves to be underdogs; they don’t consider themselves to be the main characters of their own lives,” he says. “A lot of people feel like they live in the shadows of the people around them. I feel like the message of this film is to let them know, ‘You are the star of your own life. You are in control of your own movie.’”
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals starring Faly Rakotohavana comes out September 25 on Disney+. Check out the trailer here.
Photo by Birdie Thompson