Saturday, Sept. 16, 2006 | Eight-year-old Maliah Hudson barely has time to breathe between acting classes, gymnastics lessons, figure skating practice and ballet, jazz and hip hop dance sessions. And, oh yeah, school – Hudson is in Miss Manuto’s third grade class at the Casita Center for Science/Math/Technology in Vista.

Hudson recently played Pageant Contestant #3 in the recent Sundance-indie hit film “Little Miss Sunshine.” She’s had a couple other film roles, a role on the “Veronica Mars” TV show and a spot on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Hudson has been competing in pageants and fashion shows since she was six months old and has been featured in print and television advertisements for Old Navy and the San Diego tourism industry (she was a screaming roller coaster kid).

In one of her rare free moments, she came, with her grandparents, David and Lorie Hudson, to sit down with voiceofsandiego.org at the Ben & Jerry’s in Hillcrest. After she’d finished the last mouthful of fudgy ice cream, Hudson answered a few questions – and Grandpa Dave interjected a few times – about the ins and outs of being a child in show business.

Why do you think it’s important for us to have movies?

You mean, like, why is it important to be in movies, or why is it important to have movies?

How ’bout both?

It’s important to be in movies so that all of your friends can see you, and you get money.

Why should we have movies in the world?

So we don’t get boring – so we don’t get bored and sleepy.

What about some of the other stuff that you do – you do dancing, too, right? And gymnastics? Do you like all of those things?

Yeah.

Which one’s your favorite?

Gymnastics … I can do cartwheels, bars – my most favorite thing is the bars. I like doing pullovers. I can also do floor. They’re having a recital this year…

Do you have to wear a costume for that?

I think they’re gonna give me a Gyminny Kids uniform (where she takes lessons).

>>Grandpa Dave: They don’t just give you the uniform, Grandpa has to buy it.

Yeah, you have to buy it… Mine goes [gestures] like this at the bottom, and then like that, and it has ballerina shoes all over it, and it’s black.

Do you like to read? What books are your favorite?

My books are Disney books … I like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio.

Why Pinocchio? That seems like the one that doesn’t quite fit with the other ones.

Because Pinocchio is funny when his nose grows when he lies.

What do you do on set when you’re not on camera?

They mostly put us in a waiting room with food, like snacks. … Like apples, and cereal, and sometimes they have coffee, for the adults.

What’s your favorite movie to watch?

“Just My Luck.”

>>Grandpa Dave: “Just My Luck” is rated PG-13, isn’t it? That’s not your favorite movie, Maliah. I just rented that. What’s your real favorite movie?

My real favorite movie is “Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus.” It’s funny.

And how about TV shows? What TV shows do you like?

On Nickelodeon, I like to watch SpongeBob (Square Pants).

Now, let’s talk about “Little Miss Sunshine.” What was it like to work with the girl who played Olive (10-year-old Abigail Breslin)?

It was really fun – I got to take pictures with her and we got to play when it’s not really time to go on the set, and I got to eat with her, I got to sit next to her, and when we filmed the movie, I got to watch her on the stage, taping.

And there were other girls in the pageant with you, right?

Some of them I know from the beauty pageants. … Mostly they’re in Temecula.

>>Grandpa Dave: All of our “arch-nemeses” were there. They were all finally being friends instead of being in competition.

Can it be kind of nasty at the real ones?

Grandpa Dave: Not for the kids, but maybe for the mothers. The kids are just friends and innocent.

What did you know about your part in the movie before you acted in it? What did they tell you about what you’d be doing?

Mostly they told us what to do.

>>Grandpa Dave: The first time we knew anything about [the plot of the movie] was when we went to see it, and oh, my gosh – that was surprising. Maliah wanted to leave, quick, with all that language that was going on. She was covering her ears; we even tried to help her cover her ears.

I could still hear it – it’s very hard to cover my ears.

>>Grandpa Dave: Yeah, that movie there especially, they had it pretty confidential. There weren’t any leaks … [The directors] knew they wanted not only people with real acting ability but they wanted real beauty pageant contestants …

So that we know what to do on the stage.

>>Grandpa Dave: … real beauty pageant contestants who, by the way, already had $3,000 dresses that they could wear. It was a low-budget movie. We had to supply all of our own stuff.

What have you been hearing about the movie from other places?

I’ve been hearing from people who watched it … They said it’s a pretty good movie, and funny, and hilarious.

Did you think so?

Yeah. But not the language – blech.

For the pageant part, how long did it take for you to get your hair and make-up done?

It took about a half an hour.

>>Grandpa Dave: It took longer than that. It took ’em about an hour and a half … Actually, the real hair people from the real pageants – they hired them. They know the look and all that. But they caked it on like three times what they do at a regular pageant, for the shock effect of the movie.

Maliah, what do you want to do when you’re older?

I want to be a little movie star.

>>Grandpa Dave: That’s funny because I just asked her that last week and she said she wants to be an Olympic ice skater. She’s got this coach who’s pretty good – I pay her every Monday … Anyway, she’s gotten so good at ice skating that I asked her, and she said, “Well, I want to be an Olympic ice skater, and I want to be an Olympic gymnast, and I want to be a movie star.”

But it’s going to be hard to be all of those things at the same time.

True, so which one do you think you’ll pick first?

Movie star.

Have you had any movies where you’ve had lines to say?

Well, I had one, but it’s a TV show called “Veronica Mars” and I only had two words though. And in “Sunny and Share Love You” (due out in 2007), I had to say, “Can I go to the bathroom?” They filmed me a couple times.

What do you like to do when you don’t have to do any movies, or any homework?

I like to mostly go to my friends’ houses and play, or go swimming.

>>Grandpa Dave: Swimming’s really her favorite thing to do, but … [to Maliah] what about your being a roller coaster junkie?

Or sometimes I go to amusement parks and go on roller coasters. I love upside-down roller coasters …The scariest one I’ve been on was Goliath, at Magic Mountain.

Have you ever wanted to go on one that you didn’t get to because you weren’t tall enough?

Sometimes I have, like, big shoes and then I wear them and then I cheat.

>>Grandpa Dave: She’s been to Circus Circus a hundred times, and she’s got annual passes to Disneyland and Magic Mountain, and Grandpa takes her to one of them every couple of weeks.

When I was a little kid, at Circus Circus, I wasn’t tall enough to two rides. It’s a loop-de-loop one and a big water one, so when I got older, I checked my height, and I was tall enough for both of them, and I went on both, and I was screaming.

>>Grandpa Dave: You know that great big thing at the fair, where they tie you way up there and drop you down? When she was four years old, they kept giving her free rides because it’d be bringing in people. I mean, she loves it.

I was screaming. I went, “Wheeee! I’m flying!”

Do you do well in school?

Yeah, I got a 4 (a ranking putting her above third grade). We do spelling tests. They said I’m above third grade writing and third grade words … I only got one word wrong, “glanced” – that’s hard. I need to study on it.

Do you have a hero?

Superman. Or my grandpa is my hero … Because my grandpa is special to me and Superman’s strong.

Interview by KELLY BENNETT

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