Jack Messina stars as Cal Stone on NBC hit series Manifest. Messina’s character struggles with a terminal illness, and his world is upended even more when he returns from Flight 828 and must reconcile the sister and mother he knows with a new reality. Eleven-year-old Messina began acting at the age of seven. He attended classes at the Actors Garage in Manhasset, New York, and has appeared in commercials for Eliquis and MVP Health.
We caught up with the young star and this is what he had to say:
FanboyNation: You play Cal Stone, a young person with a terminal illness. How do you prepare for a role that is this intense? Do you go visit Shriners or St. Jude’s Hospitals? Did you spend time at CHLA or CHOC to help get a better understanding of what people in your age group who are suffering from an illness go through?
Jack Messina: I did do some research on cancer treatments and what it was like to go through it, but there weren’t many scenes where Cal was sick. When the plane returns, Cal is put into a treatment that cures him, so moving forward in the episodes, the cancer is pretty much gone.
FanboyNation: You not only work several hours a week on the Manifest, but also have to go to school while on set. What is are a couple of hobbies or interests of yours that allow you to just play. Whether it’s video games, sports or drawing, etc.?
Jack Messina: Staying in school while filming is challenging, but between my teachers and on set tutors, we make it work. I really love downhill skiing. I participate in a development program during the winter, and I ski almost every weekend. I also love video games and cooking.
FanboyNation: NBC’s Manifest is filmed in New York City, what were some of your favorite things to do around the city when you weren’t filming?
Jack Messina: Filming in NY is great. We’ve shot in so many iconic locations such as Coney Island and Times Square. I live here, so I don’t really go to the tourist attractions. I really like going to the beach on Long Island and bike riding in the parks.
FanboyNation: You started acting at 7 years old, how did you know you wanted to continue on with the craft instead of giving it up for say playing baseball or basketball instead?
Jack Messina: After booking my first commercial, I was hooked and knew I wanted to keep acting. Each job takes you on a different adventure, and you get to meet so many different people and go to fun places. When I’m not filming, I try to participate in sports. I ran track in school, and my ski program is on the weekends.
FanboyNation: When you were cast on Manifest, how long did you have to wait before you could tell anyone other than your parents? Where were you when you found out about being cast and was it hard keeping that secret from everyone else?
Jack Messina: I was cast pretty close to the start of shooting the pilot, so I didn’t have to wait too long. I had to tell my teachers because I was going to miss school. I was actually in bed when my mom got the call that I got the part. She came in to tell me and then I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited. Waiting to find out if the show got picked up was a longer wait.
FanboyNation: With having been on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and now Manifest, how has your life changed now that people recognize you in the street? Do you still respect your privacy or do they talk to your parents first to see if they can get a photo with you?
Jack Messina: I’m still surprised when people recognize me. Sometimes I’ll be in a random store in the middle of nowhere, and someone spots me. I don’t mind taking pictures, people are pretty nice and ask first. My parents are always right around me to make sure I’m safe.
FanboyNation: As a young actor, what would you tell other people in your age group about getting into show business?
Jack Messina: I would tell young performers to keep practicing and auditioning. Sometimes it feels like all you do is audition and never get callbacks. But auditioning is part of the learning experience. You grow as an actor from it. It’s part of the process, and you never know when you will book the job. All you can do is try your best. You never really know what the casting directors like or don’t like about your audition. Don’t take it personally. It could be your age, your eye color, or your accent – it may not work for one, but it might work for another. Don’t give up. Keep trying.
FanboyNation: We heard that you are an animal love and have a pet dog, could you tell us a little bit about your dog and is your pet allowed on set with you?
Jack Messina: My dog is a tiny Lhasapoo named Cookie. She’s older than me; she’ll be 14 in April. She does tricks like rolling over and dances on her back legs. I brought her to set once but she likes to be home. She tries to act tough when someone knocks on the door, she barks a lot, but she’s harmless.
FanboyNation: With Manifest being a drama series, what are somethings that happen when the cameras are off that allow you to smile and crack jokes?
Jack Messina: In between takes, the cast has fun pulling pranks on each other. Someone brought in fake cockroaches once, and so many people got pranked. I like to always have a football or basketball to throw around. Usually, I’m the only kid on set, so everyone is willing to have some fun with me.
FanboyNation: Are there any wacky stories from the set that you’re allowed to share with us or a moment where the scene was incredibly serious, but you couldn’t stop laughing, needing several takes?
Jack Messina: One of the wackiest but fun days on set was when we filmed the pirate ship scene for episode 209. We had to be soaking wet in the scene because there was a storm. At one point about halfway through the day of shooting, they told me to go change out of my wet wardrobe and into dry wardrobe. When I came back to set to reshoot the scene, they dumped a bucket of warm water over my head to soak me again.
Manifest airs Monday nights on NBC.