The first installment of Vice President Kamala Harris’s YouTube Originals space series featured child actors who auditioned for their roles in the project.
Trevor Bernardino, a 13-year-old actor from Carmel, California, and one of five teenagers featured in the video, was asked to submit a monologue discussing something he is passionate about and three questions for a world leader, according to an interview with KSBW TV. Trevor then interviewed with the production director.
“And then after that, like a week later, my agent called me, and he’s like, ‘Hey Trevor, you booked it,’” Trevor said. He didn’t learn until much later that he would be meeting with Harris, who was appointed to lead the National Space Council earlier this year.
HARRIS HIRES MESSAGING GURUS TO SHORE UP ‘LONG-TERM PLANNING’
Bernardino was joined by Derrick Brooks II, another child actor, Emily Kim, likewise a child actor, Zhoriel Tapo, a child actor and aspiring journalist who has interviewed former first lady Michelle Obama, and Sydney Schmooke.
“All five of them are actors,” Bernardino’s father, Carlo, told the Washington Examiner in an interview Monday.
“He’s a child actor — he’s been trying to do this type of thing for a while. And so he has a manager and an agent in LA and they send him castings,” Bernardino said. “This was a casting call, a very specific one where he had to write essentially a monologue about what he’s really passionate about and he wrote a monologue about the environment.”
He added, “The producer of the series came back to him and asked him to write three questions that he’d ask a very important person ... after that, he had a live Zoom interview with the producer of the series and then he got the part.”
Trevor didn’t learn that he would be meeting with Harris “until the day flying out, essentially,” his father said. “The producers wanted a big surprise.”
Carlo Bernardino said he hopes the series will be picked up for broader distribution.
“It was pitched to my son and us as a pilot,” he said, but whether it continues will “depend on the reaction and what the producers want to do — our hope is that it gets picked up.”
Last week, YouTube Originals announced Get Curious with Vice President Harris, a series that aims to get more children interested in space. The project was produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment, an Emmy award-winning media company based in Toronto that specializes in live-action programming, according to its website.
Filmed in August and released during World Space Week, the video shows a group of children meeting with Harris at her residence, the Naval Observatory, where she introduces herself as the chairwoman of the National Space Council. Before meeting the vice president, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough “beams” down from the International Space Station for a virtual meet and greet with the children, leading them on a scavenger hunt to find the tools to build a telescope.
For Trevor Bernardino, meeting Harris was the highlight of the visit, he said.
“The most exciting part was definitely meeting Vice President Harris. There’s nothing that can top that. Like honestly, she just sat us down. She’s super charismatic. She’s everything that I ever thought of her, plus more,” he said. “She made me feel like one of her peers, and at the time, I felt super important. I was talking to her face to face.” Bernardino’s talent agency shared a montage on Instagram.
The video, which by Monday had garnered some 114,000 views on YouTube, as well as 1,900 likes and 2,800 dislikes, was shared online by the vice president’s aides and supporters. A trailer for the show drew 48 likes and 136 dislikes. Comments on both videos have been disabled.
“I am so so so excited this project is out!” wrote Emily Keller, a YouTube executive overseeing progressive civics content partnerships, according to her LinkedIn. She was the Democratic National Committee’s social media director until June.
“We are over the moon to be working with Vice President Harris on this exciting special that encourages kids to ask questions and explore space,” said Nadine Zylstra, head of family, learning, and impact for YouTube Originals. “Upholding our commitment to inspiring kids’ interests and learning, this special delivers quality, educational programming to our young viewers around the globe — and it’s pretty cool to have the Vice President of the United States and astronaut Shane Kimbrough help us do it.”
The actors flew to Washington during the second week of August, filming Wednesday through Friday. At the time, the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan was in collapse, with Washington’s withdrawal from the two-decade conflict drawing comparisons to the fall of Saigon in 1975.
On Twitter, detractors were quick to poke fun at Harris’s performance.
“‘You can have the border/immigration, voting rights, and also, uh, let’s see, the vast expanses of the unknown universe,’” quipped Emily Tamkin, U.S. editor for the New Statesman, a British publication, referencing Harris’s challenging slate of assignments.
In one segment, Harris expounds on the virtues of space exploration and scientific discovery.
“I love the idea of exploring the unknown,” Harris said. “And then there’s other things that we just haven’t figured out or discovered yet. To think about so much that’s out there that we still have to learn, like, I love that. I love that. And so, I’m very excited about the Space Council.”
“We’re going to learn so much,” Harris said, telling the children, “You’re going to literally see the craters on the moon with your own eyes. With your own eyes. I’m telling you.”
Paired with the caption, “Me when I miscalculate a micro dose and start fully tripping midday,” the clip has been viewed close to a million times.
Bernardino said the response had been “eye-opening” for him, and that while “a lot of people love it,” others are “torching it, and these are just a bunch of kids.”
He added, “They’re trying to bring attention to NASA National Science Week.”
Still, the producers may have seen this coming given Harris’s position as a lightning rod.
“If you go to the YouTube link, what’s interesting is I think the producers anticipated this — there’s no comment [section], so you can’t [add] a comment, and if you look at the thumbs up and thumbs down, there’s actually more thumbs down, which is a shame, because I think this is a great thing to draw attention to the space program,” he said.
Since taking office, Harris has drawn scrutiny for her interactions with voters and reporters, including for a biting retort during a televised interview while visiting Guatemala.
Critics have painted this latest moment as emblematic of what some perceive as a challenge in connecting with ordinary voters.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Last month, the vice president’s office hired two messaging gurus to help finesse her communications efforts.
One of Harris’s new advisers, Lorraine Voles, has a portfolio including “crisis management” and “marketing and rebranding.”