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A portrait of the actor Nico Parker
Andy Parsons

Introducing Nico Parker – the star of Disney’s live-action ‘Dumbo’

We meet the star of Tim Burton’s live-action take on ‘Dumbo’ to talk Netflix and getting advice from her mum, Thandie Newton

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Who is she?
The 14-year-old Londoner who stars in Tim Burton’s ‘Dumbo’. She’s Milly, the baby elephant’s pal and daughter of Colin Farrell’s war veteran. She’s got famous parents IRL too: ‘Westworld’ actress Thandie Newton and ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ director Ol Parker.

How did she land the role?
The old-fashioned way: by knocking her auditions out of the park. ‘The first part was a self-tape that I filmed with my dad,’ she says. ‘He gave some really good notes but it was a bit intimidating. Part of me wished it had been someone who didn’t know what they were talking about!’

Were there any nervous moments?
‘I grew up on film sets – I still visit my mum on “Westworld” – so it felt quite natural,’ she says. ‘The scariest part was walking on to set for the first time with all the main actors there. I spent the first day terrified that I’d forget my lines.’

What was her most memorable day on set?
One of the big set pieces in ‘Dumbo’ involves a ladder climb and a blazing fire. ‘I had to actually climb the ladder,’ Parker remembers. ‘I think it was stressful for the adults involved, but it was such fun they had to tell me to stop smiling.’

Nico Parker (centre), Colin Farrell (right) and Danny Devito (left) in ‘Dumbo’.

What does she have in common with Milly?
‘We both love animals. I’ve got two cats and two dogs. My dog is a little puppy called Hazel and Maggie is the family dog.’

What was it like acting opposite Dumbo? Sadly, there were no actual elephants on set.
‘It was basically all CGI, so there were a lot of tennis balls and bits of sticky tape stuck to things [for the eyelines],’ the Londoner says.

Did she get any advice from Mum during filming?
Not really, though the two did catch up for an unlikely on-set lunch. ‘She was filming “Solo” at the same time,’ says Parker, ‘and I went to visit her across Pinewood. I was in my cute dress and she was in combat gear. It was kind of a clash.’

What does she like to do in her free time?
When she’s not on film sets or at school in north London, Parker is as big into Netflix as the rest of us. ‘“Vampire Diaries” is the show at the moment,’ she says. ‘“Sex Education” too. I finished that in a day. Probably shouldn’t have seen it, but it’s great.’

‘Dumbo’ opens Fri Mar 29.

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