Local ‘Moonlight’ child actor ready for the Oscars

MIAMI (WSVN) - Students are over the moon as a movie, shot right here in South Florida, received some high honors.

“Moonlight” is making our area proud, and one of the young stars has plenty of reasons to cheer.

He’s getting ready for the red carpet, and there aren’t too many middle schoolers who can say they’re headed to the Academy Awards.

“Where are you gonna be on Oscar night?” a reporter asked actor Jaden Piner.

“At the Oscars,” he said.

Piner, a student at Norland Middle School, recently made his acting debut, and he’s already heading to the Oscars.

He was ecstatic when he first heard he landed a role in the film.

“Moonlight” was filmed in Miami. The film follows the life of a young man named Chiron from boyhood to adulthood — the struggles he faces and the lessons he learned on the streets of Miami.

Piner said he loved being a part of the film.

“It’s so amazing ’cause when I was little, I was not thinking about being an actor,” Jaden said. “I wanted to play basketball. Now my mind is on acting.”

Oscar nominations were announced on Tuesday.

Students, teachers and superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Alberto Carvalho, broke out in cheers during an Oscar nomination watch party.

Piner’s excitement grew each time the film picked up a nomination.

Despite his recent success, Piner said he’s not letting it go to his head.

“I don’t really say much about it,” Jaden said. “I don’t want other people to get jealous, so I just stay humble and keep going.”

Educators are also excited, including the teacher who helped Piner prepare for the role.

“It’s every performing artist’s dream come true to be recognized in this light,” Tanisha Cidel said, “and to have it come from Miami-Dade County and the arts programs here, I feel like, you know, we birthed something amazing.”

“It’s important to recognize that brilliance and magic happened outside of Miami Beach, west of the Intracoastal Waterway, right here in Liberty City and Norland communities,” Carvalho said. “Great talent, great celebration, and we are thrilled.”

Now, this Miami boy is heading to Los Angeles, California, to walk the red carpet with Hollywood’s elite actors.

And his family members are so proud.

“We are so happy,” Jaden’s grandmother Virginia Haven said, “It’s wonderful, wonderful school, wonderful program, wonderful teachers.”

“I’m just thankful to God that Jaden has an opportunity to show his gifts and talent. He’s a special kid. He’s always been that way,” Jaden’s grandfather, Rev. Jessie Harvin Jr. said.

“I just got to stay in school and be a regular kid,” Jaden said.

“Moonlight” earned eight Oscar nominations, including best picture and best director.

The film won a Golden Globe for best picture.

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