DENHAM SPRINGS — Maddie Nichols is making a name for herself on the small screen.
The 14-year-old, who is home-schooled, recently appeared in “ Madeline’s Oil,” a moving short film that follows the turning point in the lives of an 1800s Louisiana family.
Nichols began her acting career at age 11 with Playmakers of Baton Rouge when her mother, Rhonda Nichols, thought it would be a good idea if her daughter found “something to keep me busy,” Maddie said.
Maddie fell in love with acting — it “just stuck,” she said.
From Playmakers, Maddie turned to the Livingston Parish Arts Council, where she attended an arts camp with a theater component. Before long, she appeared in a short film, created by students from the University of New Orleans.
“It was such a great experience and a learning experience,” Maddie said. “It was more realistic (than theater). I felt like I could be anything I wanted to be.”
With her passion for acting ignited, Maddie created an audition tape, and she and her mom began perusing the Internet for more auditions.
Her parents hired acting coach Debbie Gaudet, of Baton Rouge, three years ago and, later, acting coach and the producer of “Madeline’s Oil,” Jency Griffin Hogan.
“She taught me mostly improv, character development and different techniques on how to act,” Maddie said of Gaudet, with whom she still works.
Hogan, who has worked with Maddie for over a year, said the youngster is sensitive, listens well and is determined.
“She’s super confident and kind at the same time,” Hogan said. “She’s grateful for everything.”
“She’s got an emotional well inside of her that is rare for kids her age,” Hogan added. “She’s not afraid of looking awkward or weird (during a scene).”
To date, Maddie’s film credits include “Happy Log” and “My Brother’s Keeper,” in which she plays the lead role in the student film. While all of her current film credits include short films posted to the Internet, Maddie is hopeful she’ll get her break on the big screen one day soon.
The short films often debut at film festivals to see if funding can be secured to produce a full-fledged movie, said Caleb Michaelson, director of “Madeline’s Oil.”
“She really delivers an amazing performance,” Michaelson said. “She’s got a maturity that supersedes her age.”
Michaelson said he didn’t have to “give her much direction” on the set of “Madeline’s Oil,” which was filmed in just over two days in St. Francisville.
“When kids are good, they’re good, and Maddie’s good,” he said.
Maddie was cast as an extra in the 2014 Christian movie “God’s Not Dead,” and Rhonda Nichols said they’re in pilot season now and plan to stay busy with auditions until about February.
Maddie plans to move to Los Angeles when she’s 18 to pursue an acting career while attending UCLA. “I’ve found my passion,” she said. “I just want to be happy and do creative things.”
To view Maddie’s latest role in “Madeline’s Oil,” visit www.imdb.com/title/tt4097726.