Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner are the cutest Oscar winners ever. They’re real-life best friends who are in seventh grade together at Norland Middle School in Miami, and even though they are both now Oscar winners as the youngest stars of Moonlight—which won Best Picture at the Oscars last weekend–they still have to go back to middle school just like regular little kids who don’t have Oscars.
Well, maybe it wasn’t quite the same. According to NBC, the school rolled out a literal red carpet for their first day back and had a press conference to talk about their experiences as actors, at the Oscars, and in the arts. Their drama teacher, Tanisha Cidel, played their principal in Moonlight, and she said that she hopes the kids’ example encourages parents to support their kids in the arts, if that’s where their interests and talents take them.
“I want the parents to understand that if your child has talent or shows an interest in the arts, take it seriously, cultivate the talent, put them in a program,” she said. NBC filmed part of a drama class, and it looks like Norland Middle School has a really great drama program.
Hibbert played the youngest version of Chiron, the film’s protagonist, and Piner played his best friend, Kevin. The kids were actually cast through the school. Moonlight was auditioning kids to play Chiron and Kevin, and Hibbert and Piner say they had no real idea of what they were auditioning for. It was a project that was looking for kids, and they wanted to act, but they thought it was a play or a short video or something.
“We got the audition from school so we thought it was gonna be like a little play, a short film or something. Just to see it go and be something as big as this, it’s just amazing, Hibbert said.
It really is amazing, and it doesn’t seem like suddenly being Oscar winners has gone to their heads at all. The kids are excited about all the attention and all the congratulations they’ve been getting, but Piner’s dad says he’s still totally the same kid who just wants to ride his bike around the neighborhood.
Both of the Moonlight kids say they want to keep acting, and it seems like their parents are doing a good job of keeping them grounded going forward. Becoming famous at a young age can be a tough road, but it seems like these two are really handling it well.