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April 25, 2019

Well on Her Way

At the ripe old age of 12, Saniyya Sidney is learning the ropes.

Amy Amatangelo
  • Michael Becker/Fox

At only four years old, Saniyya Sidney was already reenacting scenes from Grey's Anatomy.

With her parents playing concerned loved ones in the waiting room, she would dramatically rush in and announce, "It's okay. It's okay. We will continue to help her."

It was clear then that acting was in her future. Now 12, Sidney stars as 10-year-old foster child Amy Bellafonte on the Fox drama The Passage, which premiered in January. Her character is at the center of the mysterious Project Noah, a secret facility where scientists are working with a dangerous virus.

This is the first regular series role for Sidney, who previously played Young Kizzy in the recent Roots remake, as well as Taraji P. Henson's daughter in Hidden Figures and Denzel Washington and Viola Davis's daughter in Fences.

"Amy is kind of different than all the other characters I've played," she says. "It's a great challenge." The series is based on a trilogy of books by Justin Cronin; in the novels, Amy is white.

"I didn't read the books, because I wanted to go off how I wanted to portray her," Sidney says. "We might not share the same skin color but Amy and I, we share the same heart. She's a delicate 10-year-old girl, and it's up to her to help others."

When the Los Angeles native relocated to Atlanta to film the 10-episode first season, her parents took turns staying with her. At home, she's in the seventh grade at a performing-arts magnet school in southern California, but while filming she's home-schooled. "It's not really a juggle," she says. "Education comes first, and I love school. I believe it helps me to look at things differently."

The set is another great place for learning, and Sidney has picked up a lot from her costars. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who stars as the federal agent protecting Amy, knows a thing or two about being a child star (he's been working since he was a tween). He advised her to "always be a kid." Viola Davis told her: "Always bring 100 percent to work, and love what you are doing."

"It's a blessing to be able to portray a role like this," Sidney says. "This is just the beginning."

Viewers can catch up on The Passage on Fox Now or Hulu.

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2019

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