Date My Dad is UP TV’s heartwarming dramedy about an ex pro baseball player named Ricky Cooper (Barry Watson) who struggles to raise his three daughters — Mirabel (Zenia Marshall), Elisa (Lilah Fitzgerald), and Gigi (Audrey Smallman) — after his wife passes away. Occasionally, Ricky does receive a little guidance from his mother-in-law, Rosa (Raquel Welch), but at its core, Date My Dad is an uplifting story of four distinctly different individuals learning to find their way together.
At eight, Gigi is the youngest member of the family. Because she inherited her mother’s intelligence, she is also the smartest. Gifted to the point of being a genius, Gigi often needs to dumb things down and use smaller words so her fashion-focused older sister can actually understand what she’s saying.
It takes a remarkably talented young lady to be able to handle such a challenging role. Audrey Smallman effortlessly portrays Gigi, making it look perfectly natural for an eight year old to wield a college level vocabulary.
“The hardest part is learning my lines,” the eleven-year-old actress confessed. “But I have a trick. If I have a bunch of lines, my mom will help me. She’ll start with the first two and then she’ll just keep adding more and more till I know them all.”
The dialogue for Date My Dad was particularly rough because Audrey needed to confidently deliver lines that contained words she’d never even heard of before. “Sometimes, those lines were really confusing,” she admitted. “I don’t remember most of the words I had to say, but for some reason, I do remember two: facilitate and enigma. I don’t know why I remember them, but I do. But I don’t use them when I’m talking to people.”
In real life, Audrey’s favorite classes at school do not include AP Physics and Calculus. Instead, she prefers Art, French, and Gym. Additionally, she is not the youngest of three sisters, but rather the middle child with an older brother named Sidney (13) and a younger brother named Atlee (7).
“It’s okay being the middle child that’s the only girl,” Audrey commented. “My older brother has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. He’s really funny in person, but he doesn’t do much acting.”
“Sidney has played a big role in who Audrey is,” Dina Smallman, Audrey’s mother, told Entertaining Options. “She is very thoughtful and inclusive of everyone around her. She likes to make sure everyone feels included and is having fun.”
“My younger brother has done a few commercials here and there and he’s even in one with me, but I’m pretty sure he’s more into soccer than acting,” Audrey disclosed.
Up until 2009, Audrey’s father, Kirk, worked in film and television as an Assistant Locations Manager (Smallville, The Assistants, Halloween: Resurrection). He encouraged his daughter to participate in plays and helped nurture her creativity by enrolling her in an acting camp that focused on on-camera acting.
“A few days after I started, I found out that everybody in my class was doing commercials and they all had agents,” Audrey recalled. “I went home and asked my mom if I could have an agent. She was like, ‘You actually want an agent?’ I said, ‘Yes!’ My mom said, ‘Okay, how hard could it be to get an agent?’ And, Bam! I got an agent.”
Audrey is talented, fearless, has a wonderful personality, and she possesses a triumphant outlook on life. But why was it so easy for her to find not only representation but also work? Entertaining Options asked, “What does it take to be a successful actor?”
“Well, you have to be very unique and different from the group because if you are really unique — in a good way — then they will remember you and hopefully think that you will be a good match to the character that you auditioned for,” Audrey replied. “You also have to not give up when things get hard. I remember one time when I was having a hard time learning my lines and I thought I was just going to stop trying. But if I quit, then I wouldn’t be an actor anymore, obviously. So you have to keep practicing and always try to get better.”
During Audrey’s audition for Gigi, she talked about her “amazing new transition glasses,” easily pronounced all the difficult words in her dialogue, and even quickly memorized a huge paragraph.
Barry Watson (aka Ricky Cooper) remembered Audrey’s audition. “She came in and she just nailed it. All of our jaws were on the floor after she walked out of the room.”
“[Barry] is really nice. He makes sure that everybody is happy on the set. He’s just an amazing person.”
Date My Dad is one of the most emotionally potent series currently on television. It deals with issues such as Barry feeling lost without his wife, Rosa being afraid her family will abandon their hispanic culture, Mirabel wanting to grow up a little too fast, Elisa suffering in her school work because in many ways she has taken on the role of her mother, and Gigi struggling to hide her intelligence so she fits in better at school. This is a show about a good family learning to find its way after the unthinkable. There’s at least one scene each week that chokes you up enough to start crying those soul-cleansing happy tears.
“Sometimes I get a little teary on set,” Audrey divulged, “but I won’t cry. I feel very emotional, but I don’t let it come out of me.”
Part of the reason Audrey feels what Gigi feels is because the girls have become close friends. They celebrate birthdays together (whenever possible) and they have their own private chatroom where they can connect even when they aren’t in the same country!
“Mostly everybody is pretty close to their character… except Lilah,” Audrey noted. “Elisa is more of a tomboy who is probably into video games, but Lilah loves the ballet and musicals much more than sports.”
When asked why she thinks Date My Dad has so quickly gathered such a large and loyal fan base, Audrey responded, “I think the reason why people watch the show is because it is the perfect family show. A few of my friends have watched it with their family and their entire family just loves it! There’s happy and sad and thinking parts about life and everything is all mushed into one TV series!”
Date My Dad airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on UP TV.