By Nicole A. Elliott Staff writer
Many 18-year-olds have difficulty deciding what career path they will take when it comes time to declare a college major.
The future may be clearer for elementary pupil Hayley Heffernan, who has already entered the working world and taken the starting steps in becoming a professional actress.
Heffernan, a second grader at Rome Catholic Schools, will make her big acting debut with a guest appearance on the hit comedy series "30 Rock" on NBC, starring Alec Baldwin and creator Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live fame.
The 7-year-old will appear in the role of young Jenna Maroney on the Feb. 9 episode of the Emmy-winning show, which will air at 8 p.m. She is the daughter of Kelly Heffernan, of Cemetery Road, Town of Lee, and Sean Heffernan, of Sherrill.
Hayley, along with her brother Sam, age 8, work with Prestige Management Group out of New York City. Hayley is now eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild for her participation in the 30 Rock episode.
Locally, Hayley can be seen on the latest Oneida Savings Bank commercial and in the short film, "8:46," which was filmed in New York and Connecticut.
And there’s probably not too many 7-year-olds out there who have their own website dedicated to their career. At www.hayleyheffernan.com, agents can find recent photos and information about the child’s latest work. According to the website, Hayley is an actress, model and dancer who enjoys sports, Monster High dolls and Webkins.
"We started locally in Syracuse and we have three different agencies we work through in Rochester, Albany and Syracuse," mom Kelly Heffernan said.
Originally it was brother Sam who was being out-going and getting all the acting gigs. Hayley, being a little more timid, has learned to become a true professional, her mother said.
"My daughter is a little more shy, but she’s the one who wanted it more," Heffernan said of her daughter’s acting. "He (Sam) was the one who got big auditions for HBO and Nickelodeon, and then we went to New York City to Prestige Management and they loved both the kids. We now go down to New York City sometimes three times a week for auditions."
Heffernan said Hayley has never seen 30 Rock or really knows or understands what the show is about. The series is actually loosely based on Fey’s experiences as head writer for SNL.
Jenna Maroney, who is played by Jane Krakowski, is an actress and singer with an obsessive need for attention. Hayley will play the young Maroney as the actress flashes back to her childhood.
"We went to Rockefeller Center at NBC studios — when we went in, the cast came out and asked if I was her mom," Heffernan said of Hayley’s audition. "They said, ‘She’s fantastic,’ and asked if I could be back in New York the next day. It was really fun. They said Tina Fey mentioned that Hayley was a spitting image of Jane Krakowski. For her, for being a shyer kid, she just kind of blossomed when all the cameras went on."
Heffernan said Hayley had to stand up on stage surrounded by 30 people and with tons of TV cameras. After a few takes of her scene and a little pampering, Hayley was set to go home.
"She had her own dressing room," she said of Hayley. "The costume they made for her was kind of an adult outfit and then they put five different things on her. They took pictures and brought a picture down to the costume designer and they had a dress custom made for her within 20 minutes. They’re even sending her the dress for a souvenir. She had her hair and make-up done, and even someone came in the room and asked if she liked Gummy Bears and brought her down a box of candy. All the people there couldn’t have been any nicer."
Hayley and her mom now hope that landing a spot on 30 Rock will get her even more attention from TV and movie execs. Brother Sam is in the process of trying out for the part of Eddy Munster in NBC’s remake of the original series, "The Munsters," from the 1960s.
Being a theater major in college, Heffernan said she already had some friends in the entertainment business, which helped get her children started in the process.
"It’s all a crapshoot," Heffernan said. "You can go to a million auditions and get no calls back or maybe five calls back. I had friends who gave me ideas, and I just went out and pounded the pavement. I wanted to make sure I only went to smaller agencies. It’s not easy to get an agent. We were lucky to get into Prestige and they loved the kids."
In between auditions and rehearsals, the Heffernan kids are balancing school and hobbies. Hayley goes to dance twice a week and plays softball in the spring, while Sam likes to play basketball. Heffernan said the children don’t miss much school and when they do, they’re making up for it through their once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
"They’re both Grade A students," she said. "When we go to auditions, our management team programs in more than one on the same day and they can be later in the evening. If we book too much one week, then I’ll tell the agency to hold off for a couple weeks so they have time at home. They’ve had such interesting experiences and opportunities that other kids won’t ever see, and I try to teach them to be humble and appreciate what they’ve done."
A special private screening for friends and family of Hayley’s 30 Rock episode will be held during the grand opening of "Knock Out Pizza" on Elm Street in Oneida from 7-9 p.m. Feb. 9.