Away from the bright lights, glitzy soirées and flashy red carpet settings, actress Siena Agudong’s preferred stage is just about anywhere in the great outdoors. One moment this on-the-go teenager is surfing with family, and the very next she’s off on a hiking or camping trip. Clearly, idleness isn’t a particularly attractive quality to the Kaua‘i native.
“I try to keep myself as busy as I can by exploring the island safely with my sisters, going on daily hikes and doing the things we’ve been wanting to do since quarantine, like surfing,” says Agudong, who grew up in the eastside town of Wailuā and can often be found catching waves at Pine Trees in Hanalei or exploring Hanakāpi‘ai Falls, Makaleha and Kōke‘e on foot. “We’re all very outdoorsy.”
In many ways, the time spent in familiar surroundings is an opportunity for Agudong — who in pre-pandemic days regularly shuttled between the Garden Isle and LA — to recharge her batteries and prepare for the next chapter in her fast-rising career. With the scheduled release of the sci-fi film Let Us In in the coming months and another blockbuster movie that she’s been sworn to keep under wraps for now, 2021 is shaping up to possibly be the biggest year yet for the talented youngster.
“It always feels like fun for me,” says Agudong in describing life as a role-playing, in-demand artist. “I get to create new characters and be somebody new all the time, and that’s just insane to me.”
The 16-year-old is probably best known for her leading roles in the Nickelodeon series Star Falls and the Disney Channel original movie Upside Down Magic, which was released in August. Prior to that, she starred opposite of professional soccer player Alex Morgan in the Warner Brothers/Nickelodeon movie Alex & Me, and played the manipulative con artist Nicole “Nick” Franzelli in the former Netflix series No Good Nick.
“Getting the part for Alex & Me was really crazy because it was a soccer movie and I grew up playing soccer,” says Agudong, who the Young Artists Association named its “Best Guest Starring Young Actress 12 & Under” in 2017. “So it was like a double whammy for me because I got to do something I really love and train with Alex Morgan.”
As for No Good Nick being canceled after just one season, Agudong expressed disappointment at no longer being able to work with a cast that includes veteran actors Sean Astin and Melissa Joan Hart. Still, she has nothing but fond memories of the series, and will always remember where she was the moment she received news of landing the lead role.
“It was no more than 15 minutes after I did the test that they called me. I was already in an Uber at the time, and I screamed so loud that (the driver) swerved,” she recalls with a laugh, adding that fortunately, no one was injured by her sudden burst of elation.
Born to Kenny and Karen Agudong on Aug. 19, 2004, the actress is the youngest in a family of four girls.
“My dad always wanted a son, but he definitely did not get that,” she giggles, noting that her father works as a landlord who oversees several properties, while her mom is a successful real estate agent.
Her earliest years were spent playing sports and doing many of the things the average child does — although she did her share of the unusual, too, including raising a wild boar with the help of one of her sisters.
The acting bug hit soon after she turned 6 when Agudong followed sister Sydney to Hawai‘i Children’s Theatre and was immediately smitten by the performing arts world. In her first play, she willingly served as an Oompa Loompa in Willy Wonka. Soon, she was cast in other roles, including the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, and Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia.
“(Performing) was so intriguing to me, and I was so in love with it. So I figured out that that’s what I wanted to pursue,” explains Agudong, an online student today who previously attended All Saints Preschool, King Kaumuali‘i Elementary and Island School.
As fate would have it, she and Sydney (who also works as an actress and singer/songwriter in LA) wound up taking an acting workshop from talent agent Susie Mains. Within days, the youngsters were signed and quickly sent out for auditions.
“I was around 8 years old when I first started going out for parts,” says Agudong. “My family and I had been in LA for about a month and it was like in the last week that I finally booked the job as Lulu Parker in ABC’s Texas drama Killer Women. It was so last minute! But the next day, we flew out to Texas and that definitely kick-started things.”
Since that breakout role, she’s gone on to star or guest star in a number of projects, including Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn, TV Land’s Teachers, and CBS’s Hawai‘i Five-0.
Through all her success as a child actress and now as a teenage star, Agudong has remained remarkably grounded and has stayed true to other things she’s equally passionate about — like the ocean.
In fact, she recently became an ambassador for the Tahiti-based conservation group Coral Gardeners, which seeks to restore coral reefs around the globe. “I love the ocean and grew up in it, and I really want to help out the reef,” explains Agudong. “One day, I decided to repost a video from the group and they responded to my story. I told them that if they ever needed help in Hawai‘i, that my family and I would love to be a part of it. So they made me an ambassador.”
With each passing day, the future is looking brighter for Agudong. If she had a wish, that outlook would include one of her fondest hopes: “I’d like to be in action movies one day,” she confesses. “I grew up watching Jackie Chan movies with my dad, and I definitely have wanted to do that for a while.
I used to do parkour, and I would love to be in a movie with all the special effects. I just think that would be so cool.”
Should that genre become an eventuality, nothing would be finer than for her to share the spotlight with a certain Polynesian who’s became one of the world’s biggest action stars.
“The Rock,” states Agudong in referring to former McKinley High student Dwayne Johnson. “He seems like a super respectful guy, and I would really love to work with him.”