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In October 2016, Evanston child actor Eloise Lushina was on her way to Kentucky with her parents to film the Netflix horror movie Family Blood when she was hit by the enormity of missing out on Halloween.
She wanted to dress up in costume with her friends, but her mother said she didn’t think there was time.
“I wanted to try to somehow balance a normal life with the acting life from a young age,” said Lushina, now a freshman at Boston University.
After realizing how devastated their daughter was about missing Halloween with her friends, her parents decided to drive her back and forth from Kentucky to Evanston for the day.
Now Lushina, who starred in TV shows and community theater musicals at a young age, has decided to take a hiatus from her acting career to go to college.
Kenneth Ransom, an Assistant Professor of Performing Arts at Emerson College in Boston, said getting a college degree is valuable for anyone but for a child actor such as Lushina, it will give her something to fall back on in the long run.
“You’re always trying to maintain that momentum as a performer and not take yourself out of the mix. But at the same time … [that actor] needs to develop as a human being,” Ransom said. “Education is part of that development and needs to happen.”
Lushina said she chose to focus on her bachelor’s degree, rather than attending an acting conservatory, to become more well-rounded and have more freedom.
Leaving acting “definitely has posed an identity crisis and [I’m] trying to figure out who I am, because it’s such a large part of me,” Lushina said. “It’s definitely forced me to re-identify what I want to do with my future and who I am as a person.”
At college, Lushina has explored a number of passions, including filmmaking, journalism and writing. The writing courses she’s taken in film and television as well as communications, have prompted her to consider switching from a media science major to double-majoring in journalism and film/TV.
Outside of the classroom, Lushina joined a sorority and has become a news anchor for student-run TV station BUTV10’s The Wire. She said her interest in the entertainment industry, both in front of the camera and off screen, has grown at Boston University.
Carole Dibo, Lushina’s manager, said she has seen her client mature in many ways over the years, including her ability to land acting jobs and take on more sophisticated roles. “She is magnetic,” Dibo said. “She is professional beyond her young years.”
Lushina discovered her love of acting while attending Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary & Fine Arts School. She was in sixth grade when she landed her first professional role, Jane Banks in Mary Poppins at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.
She went on to perform professionally at several local theaters but also continued to act while attending Evanston Township High School, where she starred as Elle Woods in its 2019 production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.
Lushina, who signed with Paradigm Talent Agency, has had parts in TV shows and movies such as Law and Order: SVU, Break My Bones and Family Blood.
But it was hard to balance being a kid with schoolwork and working on professional sets with pros like Vinessa Shaw (who played her mother in Family Blood).
Fellow Boston University freshman Jack Essner, a student from Los Angeles in the School of Theatre, who was also a child actor, said he understands. He felt the competitiveness of auditioning for shows like Showtime’s Shameless.
“I feel like now I’m kind of timid as a person in general or not just as sure of myself, and I do believe part of that is because I was constantly compared to other boys auditioning for stuff,” Essner said.
Though Essner went on one audition every few weeks – compared with two to three auditions a week for Lushina – he still related to her struggles. “When you’re thrown into this industry, you figure out your sense of self and your sense of worth,” he said.
Lushina and Essner both agreed their untraditional upbringings allowed them to become more responsible, better grasp time management and mature faster than their peers.
The life of a child actor seems glamorous to those outside but there are heavy burdens on children to get good grades, act professionally on sets and maintain relationships with friends and family.
Which is why, Ransom said, it’s great when young people can have the benefit of stepping away and focusing on college to mature, broaden perspectives, develop and be around others their age.
Dibo, Lushina’s manager, said a “good actor is a smart actor,” and stepping away from early success to get an education can actually help actors create career longevity.
However, there are also some drawbacks. “Any career is hard to maintain in this profession, so taking time out is a risk,” said Emerson College’s Ransom. “Once you’ve established a profile and don’t continue to take advantage of that profile, you can drop off lists and certainly become uncastable or unhireable.”
Additionally, Dibo explained that Lushina’s “acting muscles” can weaken without coaching, much like a bodybuilder who stops going to the gym for a while. “She would have to get back in shape as an actor,” Dibo said, “but it is muscle memory [and] will not take her long.”
Lushina said going to Boston University has given her a sense of relief, knowing she can graduate with a degree to help her get a stable job in whatever field she desires.
She joked that the “financially starving waitress trying to become an actress” lifestyle was never for her.
As for the near future, Lushina plans on working as a summer intern for her manager’s agency. She may continue acting during summers and after college, but plans on it solely being a hobby for now.
“Definitely a challenge is trying to balance what my future holds, trying to focus on school and balancing who I am as a person now, and what my identity is,” she said.