Fanning the Flames: Sam I Am star Dakota Fanning

Fanning the Flames
By Laura Major

More than just a coming of age story about a young teenaged Caucasian girl learning the lessons of love and family in the Civil Rights era of South Carolina 1964, in Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, Lily Owens played by Sam I Am star Dakota Fanning, is an outward African American sympathizer. So outward are Lily's connections to the African American southern community that she leaves her abusive father after the death of her mother and discovers her life's lessons amid her African American nanny played by Dream Girls Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, and the bee-farming African American Boatwright sisters who board them. The story belongs to the Boatwright sisters as much as it belongs to Lily as they survive that turbulent time together.

A role that was meant for Fanning even before she was old enough to play it, she says about why she took the role, "I'm from the South, so I could relate to a lot of the themes that re in the story and I'm really close to my mother and all the women in my life, my aunt, my grandmother an d so I can relate to Lily kind of watching that relationship because I'm so lucky to have it."

Indeed the cast of The Secret Life of Bees felt lucky to have Fanning. Oscar-nominated star for the movie Chicago, Queen Latifah, who hold the other headlining role said of her young co-star, "...I needed to know Dakota was going to do this movie before I would agree to do it, yeah because she's a great actress and really owns it as a complicated troubled character. To progress a lot of levels, have to be comfortable in her own skin and able to work with God knows who the actors are going to be. There was nobody yet, there was just her and me. So obviously she's a vet and she's been pulling it all since Sam I Am, and so I really thought that she could bring this character to life."

Yet when asked about her veteran status, Fanning laughed and then replied, "Thank you. I don't, I just do something that I love to do. I have so much fun doing and I want to do forever and that hasn't changed."

Fanning's talent for this kind of fun really showed the crew her professionalism, according to Director Gina Prince-Bythewood one of her profound moments was the grits scene with Dakota. She said about the grits, "...the scene where she was on the grit and that was more early on...and that like solidified , I mean Dakota was dope, but I did it first because I as director, I gotta see what it feels like. And I lasted about 15 seconds on the grit. I mean it hurts and she did it, and when it came time for her close up I said, 'bring some towels, you can kneel on some towels', she said, 'No' she kneeled on the grits in her close-up and that just showed me the kind of actor she was."

Fanning definitely held her own with co-stars twice her age, but with several opportunities to hone her skill before this moment, such as her roles in the television series, "ER", "Ally McBeal", "Ellen" and the movie I Am Sam, it's no wonder the level of commitment this young actor portrays.

From her work ethic to modest outlook, Fanning hasn't missed what her persona in the public eye represents. Of being a role model, she states, "I think when you are kind of in the public eye, you're in movies, you can't help but people kind of look to you. I have a little sister who I am definitely her role model, she looks up to me for so many things so I think that we all can be role models in some way you don't have to be in the public eye people can look up to you just by seeing the way you act on the street, I think that you don't just have to be in the entertainment industry to be a role model. I think definitely being in the public eye since I was little you definitely have a responsibility to some of the people who have believed in you and have supported you, your family, your friends and people you've worked with so I definitely feel that but I think that what is really special about what I get to do I get to help people through making a film and getting so much out of it for myself. I get to help others at the same time. "
When "90210" star Tristan Wilds was asked about his co-star and love interest in the movie, he replied, "She's pretty great to work with and there's not much I can say, she's amazing. Simply amazing."

On October, 17th we can expect another amazing performance from Ms. Fanning on screen as well.

About Laura Major: Laura Major is a multicultural fiction author and freelance writer residing in the greater Phoenix area of Arizona. Her first novel, Mismatched was published by Amira Press in February of 2008. Laura also manages a multicultural website, Sable Lit, one of the few of its kind providing commentary on the multicultural impact of current events as well as multicultural book reviews.