Jan 20, 2023 - News

Why Dallas produces so many child actors

A kid dressed like he's in a 1970s snow storm

Davis Murphy on the set in Bulgaria. Photo: Courtesy of Lindsay Murphy

A prolific local television and film industry and several prominent acting studios geared toward children have turned North Texas into a launchpad for young stars.

The big picture: Dozens of young actors from the Dallas area are trying to follow in the footsteps of Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato — and many are getting regular work on primetime TV, the Disney Channel and big-budget Hollywood movies.

  • Both Gomez and Lovato got their starts on the locally produced "Barney & Friends" before becoming stars on the Disney Channel and then international superstars as adults.

How it works: North Texas has a large — often niche — entertainment industry that includes a network of children's theaters and a hub of faith-based productions. So North Texas children have more chances to get early acting experience than they might in other parts of the country.

  • A lengthy list of acting programs, including DTV Studios and Studio 7, have also cultivated connections with talent agents and casting directors.

The latest: Davis Murphy, a 9-year-old from Frisco, recently made his film debut playing one of the neighbor kids in "A Christmas Story Christmas," a sequel to 1983's "A Christmas Story."

  • Like Gomez and Lovato, Davis was coached by Cathryn Sullivan, who owns a school for child actors in Lewisville.
  • Sullivan keeps a Hall of Fame listing of her students and often employs older child actors to help coach up-and-comers, she tells Axios.
  • "Helping younger students understand their characters really improves my staff's understanding of the craft of acting," Sullivan says.
A group of kids in the snow, dressed like they're in the 70s
Child actors gathered on the set of "A Christmas Story Christmas." Photo: Courtesy of Lindsay Murphy

Reality check: To save money, "A Christmas Story Christmas" was filmed in Bulgaria. Davis and his mother, Lindsay Murphy, spent a month there in winter 2021 — away from the rest of their family.

  • It snowed every day they were there and almost no one outside of the production spoke English. But Davis says it was pretty and he'd "definitely go back."
  • "They have the best pancakes on the planet," Davis tells Axios. "We got them at least once a week."

What we're watching: Davis has already been in another movie he hopes will be released later this year.


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