Atlanta school-age student scores big-screen role in ‘Redeeming Love’

11-year-old Livi Birch started acting less than two years ago.
Photo courtesy of Brave PR
11-year-old Livi Birch started acting less than two years ago. Photo courtesy of Brave PR

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

11-year-old Livi Birch started acting less than two years ago.

Livi Birch, 11, was already attending school virtually in January before the pandemic caused schools to switch to remote learning. Filming the faith-based romantic drama “Redeeming Love” in South Africa, Birch worked with her mom and a tutor to complete her schoolwork. The film, which is scheduled to be released in 2021, starring Logan Marshall-Green, Abigail Cowen, Nina Dobrev and others, is just one of the roles Birch has secured since she took up acting less than two years ago.

The young actress and singer visited a cheetah sanctuary, donating money she received from creating a “swear jar” while on set in South Africa. “I got a lot of money,” Birch, said before laughing. She was the youngest actress on set, but her colleagues have often praised her for her work ethic and ability to memorize an entire script, often helping others with their lines during filming.

“Redeeming Love” won’t be released for a few more months, but Birch is on the theater screen for the first time as of last Friday, taking on the titular role in “Tulsa,” another faith-based film about a young girl who loses her mother and is navigating a relationship with a father she never knew. The project was filmed in Augusta. The role is a significant one for Birch, who just starred in her first project, a commercial for Gorilla Glue, last year.

11-year-old Livi Birch started acting less than two years ago.
Photo courtesy of Brave PR
11-year-old Livi Birch started acting less than two years ago. Photo courtesy of Brave PR

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Joanna Birch, Livi’s mother, said her daughter first started asking for a guitar when she was about five years old. The mother of three admits she was hesitant at first to invest in music lessons for such a young child, but when Livi didn’t get the role she desired in a production of Cinderella, she wrote a song about it and garnered praise from the local community. “She’d been saying — I can’t remember why — ‘can I get an agent?’ And I was like ‘don’t be ridiculous,’” Joanna Birch says, her English accent apparent in her response. “Then when these strangers were coming up to us, I thought, what’s the harm?”

The family didn’t know how to market a young entertainer, but they soon found an agent, and Livi started booking projects shortly thereafter. And, they enlisted the help of Jan “Mama Jan” Smith, the vocal coach behind singers such as Usher and Justin Bieber, to help Livi develop as a musician. Smith says the young entertainer reminds her a lot of her younger self. “It’s always a privilege for me to develop young artists and hopefully play a part in shaping the future of the music that becomes the soundtrack of our lives,” Smith says.

The popular vocal coach not only helped Livi record “Tulsa’s Song,” an independent release based on her role in the film, she was also on set to help her record the music video. Joanna Birch jokes that her daughter received instructions on set, such as to sit up straight while filming, much better from the accomplished Smith than she would’ve from her own mom. “She’s just been very lucky. And, she’s very good and hardworking,” she says.

The young actress, who dreams of working with Zendaya and Jaime Foxx one day, has been spending time at home with her family throughout much of the pandemic, but she says auditions are finally starting to pick back up.

Smith says she has no doubt that Birch will thrive whenever the entertainment industry returns to business as usual. “I believe Livi will be one of those pivotal artists who will impact her generation greatly.”