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Southwest Orange Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 1 year ago

Actress Leah Lewis discovered her passion while growing up in Gotha

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Lewis stars in the mystery/drama “Nancy Drew,” but the 23-year-old actress first found her love for performing while growing up in the West Orange area.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

It’s been a long journey for Leah Lewis to reach her current success as an actress. Countless classes, auditions and performances have led to this.

The 23-year-old is enjoying the spotlight playing the role of George Fan in The CW’s mystery/drama “Nancy Drew,” but she’s never forgotten her West Orange roots.

Adopted from China at just 8 months old, Lewis was brought to the United States and grew up in Gotha. Soon, she discovered her passion for acting and being on the stage — she always was singing and dancing around the house. Lewis also remembers watching “Singing in the Rain” with her grandmother. The film captured her imagination and gave her a glimpse of her future career.

“That was one of the movies that kind of sparked my whole love of performance,” she said. “There’s dancing, there’s singing, there’s acting, and just that whole world seemed so beautiful to me from  early on.”

Lewis put her love of performance into practice soon after.

“I was at Thornebrooke Elementary, and I was involved in the music class or drama class curriculum they had to offer in our little elementary school,” said Lewis, who also attended The Crenshaw School, Gotha Middle and Southwest Middle. “My mom enrolled me in local theater, where I did stuff like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Annie.’ That was where I kind of started to cultivate a bigger love for performing and for singing, as well as acting.”

Lewis’ career began to pick up steam when her parents connected with a talent manager through a family friend when Lewis was about 7.

“We kind of just went from there; it was a total shot in the dark,” Lewis said. “Even though it was something that was my passion, I never when I was a kid actually thought that it would come to fruition.”

Lewis started doing commercials, including one for The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure.

When Lewis was about to turn 8, she made the big move with family to California to start pursuing more work.

During that time in Los Angeles, Lewis was cast in the Nickelodeon movie “Fred 3: Camp Fred” and started doing auditions with Disney. That led to Lewis being in a “High School Musical” pilot when she was 13.

Around that time, she met and began working with her current manager, Beverly Strong.

“She’s kind of the reason for where I am right now,” Lewis said.

The actress from Gotha continued to star on Disney shows such as “Best Friends Whenever” and “Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything.”

Lewis and her mother moved between Orlando and the Los Angeles area until she was about 17 years old.

“It was kind of hard, because I was also trying to juggle going to school, as well,” Lewis said. “I was still traveling back and forth to Orlando and trying to do the high school thing while also doing homeschool. I wasn’t working that much when I was around 15, because I was kind of caught between two worlds.”

She returned to Orlando at 18 to finish high school at Olympia before moving back to Los Angeles on her own at 19.

“I really started to sink my teeth into my craft and work a bit more,” Lewis said. “That is when I started booking different ABC projects (such as) ‘Station 19’ and ‘The Good Doctor.’”

She stayed with The CW after she did her first reoccurring role on “Charmed,” which led to her current role on “Nancy Drew.” 

“I remember I grew up reading the book and it was always something that I was very familiar with,” Lewis said. “This show has been absolutely incredible.”

The Gotha girl who started with just a dream is now living it on screen as an actress. Lewis can’t thank her parents enough for loving and supporting her. She’s also thankful for her agents, Paradigm and Play Talent; her singing teacher and her acting coach. Lewis’ drama teacher at Gotha Middle, Erin Elliott, also was a major influence.

“I’m really grateful; every single thing that has happened in my life has led up to me being able to live out my dream — every single person, every single event, every hardship, every school class, every rejection,” Lewis said. “I’m really, really grateful to be here.” 

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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