Back in the fall of 2016, Darby Camp signed on to co-star in the Netflix reboot of Benji, alongside the heroic canine that has been loved for decades longer that she’s been alive.
But before we get to that, Darby, 10, tells us in a phone call about a recent leisure trip she took to NYC, during which she and her mom scored elusive tickets to “Hamilton”.
“It was beautiful! I loved it,” Darby says with a grin. She is FaceTiming the two of us from Toronto, where she is filming her latest project. Darby, a North Carolina native, tells us she was excited to be in New York City for the recent spring snowstorm.
“They were like giant wet biscuits,” she says of the snowflakes.
Her mom, Lacy, chimes in about the trip from just out of view.
“We also went backstage for the Jimmy Fallon show, and Darby didn’t know who was gonna be there. I told her you can’t know, you have to just be surprised. I had looked up who was gonna be there, and knew it was Will Smith, her favorite.”
“She [mom Lacy] asked me who is the number one person I would want to be there, and it was Will Smith!” Darby says.
Of course, this isn’t the first lucky break of Darby’s young life.
“The day before I got the audition for Benji, I was like, ‘Dad, I really want to work on a show with a dog or an animal.’ And then, like, the next day my dad was like ‘We have an audition for Benji, and it’s a movie about a dog.’ I’m like, ‘What? That’s so crazy!’ ”
Mom Lacy thinks Darby’s good luck is a little more than just a combination of coincidence and hard work.
“When I tell you this kid has a connection with the higher power of the universe… She says things, and what do you know, they manifest. I always tell her, ‘Whatever you want, speak it, because for some reason you have this connection unlike anyone I’ve ever seen in my life to making your dreams come true.”
Darby laughs when she recalls how she found out she booked the role of Frankie in the Benji reboot.
“I was in the shower. My mom and dad came running and they were like, ‘Darby! You got Benji!’ And I was just standing in the shower like, I’m confused. What? I’m just taking a shower!”
Speaking about working with her furry costar, which she calls a “really cool” experience, Darby lets us in on a secret:
“There’s like four Benjis! There’s the original Benji, and then there’s four stand-ins when Benji was done working for that day. ‘Cause just like a human, he can’t work all day. So there’s three other Benjis to help him out.”
So how did Darby get into acting? Her mother is an actress, and when her older sister was born, she introduced her to modeling and acting. One day, while her big sister was preparing for an audition, Darby stepped in.
“[My sister was saying] ‘I don’t want to pretend to be sad if I don’t have to be sad! I’m trying my hardest to be happy today!’ And I was just like, ‘I’ll do it!’ And I did it and loved it, and that’s what brought me here.”
Since that day, Darby has worked alongside Reese Witherspoon, as her daughter, in the Golden Globe-winning series Big Little Lies, and alongside Justin Theroux in The Leftovers, to name a few.
As an actress herself, Lacy knows how to keep her daughter grounded, while still allowing her to enjoy the industry she’s thriving in at such a young age.
“Our biggest advice is for her to just be herself. Be Darby being this role. Everybody’s version of this role is going to be different, but nobody’s is going to be just like Darby. I like for her to feel herself.”
In the future, Darby says she wants to continue to be an actress, continue working with the people she’s already worked with, and work with “other big stars.”
For now, Darby is in Toronto working on a new movie called The Christmas Chronicles, expected to stream on Netflix around the end of November.
“Kurt Russell is Santa Claus, and Judah Lewis plays my older brother. It’s basically about Kate, my character, ruining Christmas, and then she saves it!”
As for Benji, it’s a coincidence that Darby shares a last name with Joe Camp, the creator of the iconic four-legged character. In fact, when Darby first got the call for the Benji audition, she wasn’t familiar with the franchise.
“I think I may have heard of it every now and then, but I’d never seen them, and I had no idea what it was. After I booked it, we watched the original, but I feel like the new version is better. [laughs] But the original is still always gonna be a classic.”
The biggest difference between the original and the reboot, according to Darby?
“I think a lot of people love the original Benji because it’s a heartwarming story about a dog who saves the day, and I feel like the reboot is so different, and people are going to watch it because adults are going to be like, “Oh! It’s a new Benji!” And they’re going to get their kids to watch it with them. It’s just such a different story, and people are going to be like, Wow! I didn’t expect it to be like that! And I feel like they’re going to love it more because of that.”
Old and new fans of Benji can watch the heartwarming reboot now, streaming on Netflix.