Talk Nerdy Talks with Manifest’s Jack Messina

Manifest has been one of NBC’s biggest shows this season and ten-year-old Jack Messina plays Cal, the youngest member of the Stone family who had their happy family torn apart by the events of flight 828. Despite being the youngest member of the cast, Jack has one of the toughest roles playing a child struggling with a terminal illness and being mysteriously connected to the emotional traumas experienced by many of the other passengers from the doomed flight. Here I ask Jack a few questions about what it’s like being the only kid on the show, life on-set, and how he kills time between shots:

Tell me a little a bit about your audition for Manifest and for the role of Cal.

Auditioning for Manifest was great. I had to read a scene that took place with my twin sister, Olive – but I did it alone. I didn’t know who my sister would be yet, so I had to just act like she was there. My character, Cal, has cancer, so he’s been through some rough times. But so much changed for him when the flight returns. He has a lot to deal with when he sees his twin and all his friends who are now five years older than he is.

This is your first major role. How has it been adjusting to life on-set during shooting?

I love being part of this show. I’m the only kid in the cast, so I have to add some “kid fun” behind the scenes. The hardest part is trying to keep up with school. Even though I’m tutored on-set, I have to go to school on days I’m not filming. It’s challenging sometimes, but I love it.

What is it like being twins with Olive on the show? You and Luna [Blaise] look like you have a great relationship.

Luna and I have a real sibling-like relationship. We love each other, tease each other, and act like brother and sister. On the show, we have a real bond. There’s still a twin connection, even though we’re different ages.

Kind of going off of that, is it hard to do scenes where your best friends are all five years older than you?

We did a scene where I first see my best friend, Kevin, who is now older and much taller. It freaks Cal out, especially when Kevin said he was there to see Olive. Cal can’t relate to the teenagers who were once his friends.

Why do you think Cal is more sensitive to “callings” and has a stronger connection to the others?
I think Cal is more sensitive to the callings because he’s a kid, and he doesn’t overthink it. He’s been through a lot being sick, so having a calling probably seems like just another thing he has to deal with. I think he thinks it’s interesting to follow the callings and help people, though maybe not the one he had with Marko.

Do you think Cal will be the key to unlocking the mystery of Flight 828?

Cal definitely helps with some of the things going on around the people from 828 but not so much what happened to the plane.  No one knows the answer to that.

Are you allowed to watch the show? Do you like to watch yourself on-camera?

I do watch the show. It’s fun to see how the scenes I filmed are edited together with music and effects.  I also learn from watching myself. I think about what I will do better or differently next time.

What is it like being the only kid on the show?

Being the only kid on the show is great. It makes everyone else have a little more fun on-set. Sometimes people forget I’m around and they have to watch what they say around me, but mostly everyone is really nice to me.

I’ve heard Parveen [Kaur who plays Saanvi] is a big fan of crafty. What about you? What is the best part about having all that food available all the time?

Crafty is the best. Most of my day is either filming a scene or tutoring, so getting treats is the best way to break it up. I’m going to miss crafty when we wrap.

Do they let you play video games between takes? What’s your favorite video game?

Sometimes I have my phone with me in between scenes so I’ll play a little, but there’s not a lot of downtime. I’m a gamer, so yes I play video games. My favorite is Super Smash Bros.

Let’s end with a few fun, rapid-fire questions: What is your favorite movie?

Daddy’s Home

Favorite TV show other than Manifest?


Favorite Superhero? 


If you could have any superpower, which one would you choose and why?

To fly. It would be so cool to fly everywhere.

At the end of last week’s episode, Cal went missing so Monday looks to be a pretty busy episode for Jack. Tune in to Manifest tonight on NBC at 8:00 p.m. to see if our young hero is found!

And if you want to see what Jack is up to when he’s not on screen, make sure you follow him on Instagram.

Photo Credits:

Photographer — Erica MacLean

Groomer — Toni Martinez

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