Not every sixteen-year-old can say they’ve done a feature film with John Travolta, but Nantucket-raised actress Skyler Wright can. The young performer, who honed her acting, singing, and dancing skills on island stages throughout her childhood, recently wrapped up her first principal role in The Forger, a movie starring John Travolta, Jennifer Ehle, Abigail Spencer, Christopher Plummer, and Tye Sheridan. Wright plays Sheridan’s girlfriend.
Wright admits that working alongside such big stars was intimidating at first, but she says that both Travolta and Sheridan were very welcoming and put her at ease on set. “John could not have been more amazing,” the young actress says. “The second I met him, he had a big smile on his face.” She adds that between takes Travolta chatted her up, asking questions about school and her parents, and if she was having a good time.
Breaking into film as a teenager may seem daunting, but this young starlet already has years of acting experience under her belt. Wright has played the lead in more than a dozen plays, many of them on Nantucket. “My first ever acting experience was in a musical theater class on Nantucket taught by Laura Gallagher Byrne,” she says. At the end of the term, the class put on a short musical. “To make the [casting of the] show fair, we picked our parts out of a hat.” As luck would have it, Wright ended up pulling the lead role. At the end of the show, Gallagher Byrne was so impressed with Wright’s performance that she walked up to her mother, Amber Cantella, and exclaimed, “Where has this girl been all my life?” And with that, a star was born.
It wasn’t long before Wright started acting in full-length plays. She was cast by Jordana Fleishut as Brigitta Von Trapp in the Nantucket Dreamland Foundation’s production of The Sound of Music when she was just eleven years old. The following summer, when the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket presented “Blackbird,” a controversial play by David Harrower revolving around the dark subject of pedophilia, John Shea approached Cantella about allowing her daughter to be in the show. “It was then that we all knew this was not just a hobby for Skyler, that she was indeed an actor,” says Cantella.
For Wright, working with John Shea was transformative. The experience entirely changed the way she approached character development. “He made me think about my choices as a character, something I never thought to do before.” Now, she says, she has the confidence to make “really strong, sometimes out-there, character choices.”
Wright draws inspiration from old Hollywood. She admires actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Elizabeth Taylor. “I’ve always loved the forties and fifties. The style, the music, everything about it is very inspiring to me.” Wright herself possesses a classic, timeless beauty and a flair that harks back to another era. Observing her, you can almost imagine her among those grand dames of the silver screen.
Wright and her family moved to Duxbury the day before her freshman year of high school. As hard as it was to leave old friends and the Grey Lady behind, she says she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that she has professionally if she were still commuting to auditions from the island. “Duxbury is what I like to call my ‘Nantucket away from Nantucket.’ It’s still a sea-side town, just closer to the city.”
She still has another year of high school left, but this rising star is shooting up fast. This summer, she’ll be spending two weeks at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City studying musical theater and directing “Dear Edwina Jr.” at the Laura’s Center of the Arts in Hanover, MA. Skyler was also accepted into NYU’s Summer Musical Study Program, a three-week intensive workshop reserved for the country’s top aspiring actors. Beyond that: “Who knows,” she says. “I just hope to be successful and happy doing what I love most.”