'Overcomer'

Alex Kendrick and Sanford native Aryn Wright-Thompson in a scene.

After eight years of sending in audition tapes and working with an agent in North Carolina, Sanford actress Aryn Wright-Thompson finally got her big break last year.

Like many other aspiring stars, it took Aryn a long time to get cast in her first feature film. But at only 16, the Sanford teenager is getting an early start on her career inHollywood.

Aryn stars in the independent film “Overcomer,” set to premiere Aug. 23 in movie theaters across the country. She got the news about her starring role in the Kendrick Brothers film in May 2018, during the last few months of her freshman year of high school.

The young actress had been nervously awaiting the results of her audition for weeks, when one day, while she was at home with her family, the phone rang.

“I was like ‘Oh my gosh, mom, it’s them calling us!’” Aryn said. “Then they told us, and I actually started crying. It was shock and joy together, I was so happy.”

Aryn plays Hannah Scott, a cross-country runner who is counseled by high school sports coach John Harrison (Alex Kendrick) as she questions her place in life.

The faith-based drama follows Harrison’s struggles after the largest manufacturing plant in his small town is shut down and many of his championship basketball players begin to move away. Harrison is encouraged to coach cross-country, a sport he doesn’t know or like, where he meets Hannah, and the two help each other overcome their challenges.

“The movie is about identity and understanding who you are,” Aryn said. “So that was a good lesson for me to learn. Me and my character were kind of learning it at the same time.”

Sanford fans got a sneak peak of the movie. It was a sold-out crowd, mom Andrea Wright-Thompson said.

Afterward, Aryn held a Q&A and walked a red carpet outside the theater where she stood for photos and signed autographs.

Aryn said it was exciting to see people’s reaction to the film.

“It felt pretty good,” she said. “I was just really happy that my hometown got to see it before a lot of people got to see it.”

Aryn and her brother Ari Wright-Thompson, 18, who also has a role in the film, started acting when they were young. Both wanted to be Disney Channel stars, Aryn said. What she likes most about acting is trying to see the world from her character’s perspective.

“You get to try to step into somebody else’s shoes,” she said. “I love a challenge, and that’s really challenging. You get to push yourself to have the emotion that the character would feel.”

Aryn, a self-identified extrovert and “girly-girl,” said her character Hannah is more of a subdued tomboy. The differences between the two made the acting more challenging and fun, she said.

She and Ari spent about two months in Columbus, Ga., last summer filming. Aryn said she had a lot of fun, doing daily devotionals with the cast and crew, making friends and learning the behind-the-scenes aspects of film-making.

“I got to help out with all the jobs whenever I wasn’t working, so that was pretty cool,” she said. “One day, I would go to the hair department, then the next day, I would go to wardrobe, then the next day, I would be a production assistant.”

Aryn loves acting and plans to continue it, but she’s also interested in starting her own production company and directing movies, she said. Her next goal is to pitch a superhero of her own creation to Marvel.

“I learned a lot ... so much, that now I actually would love to open up my own production company so I can make movies,” Aryn said. “I would definitely stick with acting, but I would also love to be behind the camera.”

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