There is a soft glow to the portrait of a boy on the cusp of adulthood. It’s the same light that gently frames the face of actor Mace Coronel, a moment preserved by the 17-year-old’s own understanding of the world - which he paints with surprising depth of lived knowledge and beautiful simplicity. There’s no doubt, Mace has been profoundly shaped by his experiences. It makes sense for someone who started their professional career at seven years old, swiftly followed by a four-year run on Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn at nine years old, and starring in the coming-of-age short film Pocket (2019). Yet no matter what the journey looks like to those on the outside, Mace holds every single lesson learnt close to him and now carries them into the future.
Getting his thoughts out into the world the correct way is crucial to our conversation because, for Mace, energy goes where intention flows. Grateful that he learnt the often-conditional currencies of Hollywood so young, Mace now focuses on stories that can change the world - which his latest project, Ava DuVarnay’s Colin in Black and White, may very well do.
Capturing the softness of a teen with the intention of an artist, photographer Harvey Hale traces Maces features in the comfort of daylight. Stylist Luca Kingston frames the moment of growth, from boy to something even more powerful, with collars and textures to remind us that sometimes it is the youth who have the most to teach us. Coupled with the colour blocked haze conjured by the photographer’s film, we’re pulled into a world that is as warm around the edges as Mace dreams it to be true with his kindness. Come and see life through Mace’s eyes. It’s really quite something.
'Colin in Black and White' premiers on Netflix on the 29th October, 2021.
I've been looking forward to talking with you because you've had an unusual journey. At 17 years old, most teenagers are at the beginning of figuring out who they are. Is it fair to assume this process has been sped up for you, having started your professional career at just seven years old?
I would say that my dream of becoming an artist started at a young age. I grew up around so many different genres of movies, music, and media. My family have a fine taste and appreciation for art - my parents even once had a record label and were heavily involved with the culture of music. Having that older influence in my life played a big part in me wanting to chase my dreams at a young age. I was very passionate and fully aware at seven years old about wanting to partake in cinema, acting, instruments, and whatever else I could learn as a human being. Working on independent film and network television allowed me to learn the behind the scenes about what it really takes to orchestrate a creative project. Surrounded by a bunch of artists and passionate working adults in my environment, my taste and work ethic became more refined. But to answer your question, the only thing that's changed is the fact I've gotten older. I'm really just the same, regardless of being a ‘child actor’. People are like, "Oh, is your childhood ruined? How was that?". But I still had the experience of being a kid, you know what I mean? I've been doing exactly what I've wanted to do. Whether you’re a celebrity or not, it's all about your circumstances in life. I chose to work at a young age - I was the one driving it and my parents really just supported my aspirations.
So you say ‘child actor’, musician…Who else is Mace?
That's a question that'll never be answered. I'll say that. I'm going to be different things in lots of people's eyes. I'm going to be hated on, loved - all sorts. I can't really define myself, I only can define my experience. Every day that I wake up, that's the closest to who I am or ever will be. I feel like that's the same for all the seven billion people on this earth, including you. We're all special. We're all so unique. Years from now when I pass away and leave behind whatever I leave behind, people will all look at it differently than what I imagined... Sorry to give you a long drawn-out answer - I just love conversation! We'll never be able to understand the enigma that life brings forward. We just have to take what we have as experience - what we learn from the past - and apply it in the moment.
You’ve pretty much grown up in the spotlight, and with over a million Instagram followers, there’s a lot of eyes on you! What are the parts of you that we don’t see?
I love that question and I'm really glad you asked that. I think there's 1% of me that people see on social media - which isn’t a lot because I don't really choose to express myself through an external source or through someone else's creation. I'm not really the best at publicity in the first place, to be honest. Doing this interview was great, because it seemed like it was down to earth and it was independent people putting this magazine together, and I appreciate that. Those are the projects I really enjoy.
Every day I work at trying to be as multi-dimensional as I can. I love cinematography. I'm currently doing my own short film. I love jazz piano: that language of love and music. I practice my instruments every day. I wake up and do schoolwork like every other kid - it's my senior year. I go to the gym every day. My brother's a pro fighter so I go and grapple and do MMA there. I try to learn as much as I can. I try to read every day.
I wish I could meet everyone in real life – and I'm sure I will come across so many people and have amazing experiences. There is so much of ourselves that we don’t share on the internet, and I don’t choose to. Life is so fragile as it is, I wouldn't want to waste it by sharing with other people who would only glance at it or not care that much. Just experiencing life and its emotions is already overwhelming for me, so to share all of that with people that don't see me, it's a lot.
That's beautiful. Life is very fragile and you should protect who you share it with. Especially as you started out on Nickelodeon and spent four years growing with that audience. There's such a mounting pressure to live openly online.
Oh, yeah. I've gone through that. Especially when I was younger, I never wanted to be on social media, I just created an Instagram for work but I felt pressured to share everything and cared so much about how people perceived me. The 1% that people see of me online, I try my best to make that 1% really good. But honestly, it's hard. All that stuff is fake and construed, anyway so it really doesn't matter. I think we'll all know who we are one day when we're old, and say, “Hey, this is what I've done in life”. I think that's important, rather than always trying to constantly define and update who we are on a day-to-day basis.
But if I'm going to sit here and tell you I've never truly cared, that's a lie. We are all narcissistic and want to share our achievements and there's nothing wrong with that. But remember that it's someone else's creation that you're putting your soul into, and we shouldn't pay attention to that; we should pay attention to right now – like us talking to each other. Being on this earth, making real social connections not just through words and texts and comments and gifs, and having real-life interaction - I feel like those things outweigh everything else in life.
What did your four years on Nickelodeon teach you?
The number one takeaway is a better work ethic. It was a fun experience as far as the people I met on set and the crews, and the opportunities I was given at a young age that most people are not given. I'm very thankful for all those things. All experiences, whether they be good or bad, have shaped me. Personally, I learned that fame and ego don't do anything but bring you down. It’s very important to focus on keeping a real-life relationship with the world and not letting those things get in the way of it.
I would also say that people definitely prioritise money. I really experienced that through working professionally. That's a good thing to know because you can pick the right projects that you want to do. Even when I was a kid, I was definitely a little older mentally and was always conscious of what was going on in my career. I really made my own choices. But I really separate myself from those systems. It’s such an old chapter of my life that I’ve moved on and learned a lot from.
I’m very glad that I felt the pressure on me when I was a young kid, as far as being a public figure, because it's only given growth and learning and humbleness. What's really important is learning from your experiences. Being a public figure in people's eyes is learning that you're always a beginner and you're never the master at anything in life. When you apply that mindset, you will go very far places and you will feel infinite. That's what I want. When you love what you're doing, you love yourself as a human being. You don't have to worry about criticising yourself ever - that you did something for money or fame or attention. Everything else will follow if you follow your instinct and your love for the universe because your love for things in the world will attract all the other things that you subconsciously want. That's how I look at life.
Let’s talk about your new project, Colin in Black and White. What can you share about the mini-series and your role in it as Jake?
It was a cool experience, meeting and working with so many different people in Hollywood. It's interesting that we shot it during COVID-19 times - that was still a little weird and different for me; not being able to interact with everyone on site. As far as my character, I did what I had to do. I understood the character well. Jake is a kid who likes to play sports, smoke weed, talk to a couple of girls here and there. He loves and cares for his friends and I would say it's not a bad way to live life in high school!
I didn't get any time with Colin Kaepernick on set. But even then, COVID really restricted a lot of those side dialogues and lessons you could have with the director. To be honest, for me, it's just work time. When I'm on most sets, I really just keep my head down. I like to meet people, but my priority is not really to make friends, it's to act and do my job extremely well and make it worth everyone's while and put on a great performance.
How was it to work on something that's a bit more serious compared to previous projects?
Extremely, extremely rewarding. From a young age, I wanted to do more adult humour, more raw, more dramatic things in life. My first acting experience was in 2013, when I was seven, and did a series of student short films for Chapman University and UCLA. I wanted to do these student/indie films because everyone on set was passionate about the project. My mum had to explain to me at seven years old that although she understood where my heart was, we couldn’t afford to stay in LA without doing paying jobs.
And actually, those same people that I worked with at Chapman, we still work together and are very close. Pocket came out in 2019, and I worked with the same people on Wireless in 2020 which went on to win a staff pick award for Best Short Film. Not much has changed since those student film days. We continue to be friends and support each other throughout the years. These experiences helped me realise at a young age that raw-dramatic projects and roles aligned with me more than anything, and by valuing friendships and sticking with people who believe in you from day one is extremely important. So, thank you to my Chapman friends for doing so - look how far we have come!
The story of Colin in Black and White centres on Colin Kaepernick’s life as an activist and athlete. What is your own relationship to activism and your platform?
I love that question. Activism and wanting to see the world change for the better and be filled with love and acceptance has always been very important to me. It's no different than me waking up every day and choosing to go the extra step to spread love in my day-to-day encounters. I don’t go to red carpets but the only event I've gone to every year is the ‘Thirst Project’. By being there, I get to draw eyes to an organisation that builds wells for countries in Africa that don't have water.
I wouldn't even call myself an activist. I don’t think it should be called ‘activism’ - it should just align right with you to do it. I’m sure Colin Kaepernick did it less for a ‘political activism’. That's how we perceive it. I see it as him being frustrated with the persisting ignorance of this world, and that's definitely something I can agree with. In day-to-day life there are things we can see that are evil and to change those things - if that's called political activism, that's the label you get. But it’s not so much activism, it's being human. We can all recognise right from wrong. I think that it's very important to stand for the things you love. And that's why this project is so cool because I get to help tell a story that will inspire lots of people.
We spoke about the fact that there's pressure to live online, do you then feel pressure to speak out about such causes online as well? I wonder how you manage to balance that expectation versus your desire to keep your private life.
Of course. But I would say that offline and online, I'm still trying every day to directly change my environment in a positive way with people that I encounter. For me, sharing those things online, I feel like there's only so much you can do for public perception. I don't really care if people see the charity work I do or not. Like I said, I'm living this life for myself, and I hope to inspire others when they read this interview. I'm really not focused on being online; I'm focused on deliberate action. I’m not saying that people shouldn't speak out and use your voice, but you don't have to feel obligated to validate yourself online or feel pressured if you're a public figure to speak out about certain things - because there's only so much you could do. That might be an unpopular opinion! My day is only filled with so much time and I’ve got to keep working, I’ve got to balance out other things, other problems in life. You can hate on me for that, but I'm a human being. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I'm online all day changing the world because I'm not! I try my best in a balanced manner to spread love and positivity, whether that be offline or online. Change other peoples’ lives and let myself be changed by other people's experiences. Back and forth. Take the love and give the love.
I see that. Well, speaking of other things going on in your life, you mentioned the short film that you're working on, are there any other projects in the pipeline?
There are some things I can't currently share, but I'm still figuring this life stuff out; being 17. I'm working on this short film - I don't really expect it to be anything huge or life-changing, it's just a personal project I want to share with the world. I’m mainly working on creating music. Also balancing looking for work whilst making my own work and having an outlet and followers to share that with is awesome. I plan on doing so for the rest of my life.
Are you going to release music anytime soon?
I don't know about anytime soon. I'm still in the process of figuring out what I like making and refining it, but I definitely plan on doing that in this lifetime. Music has always been a huge, huge part of my life, surprisingly. People think you can only do one thing, but I connect with music almost more than anything in life. My parents always shared music with me - they've always been music nerds, and I'm a music nerd. It's definitely helped me with acting. It's also been a big part of my life emotionally. In music you are the violinist and the violin, you know what I mean? You play the instrument, and you are the instrument. It's the same with acting. I really connect with those raw sources of artistry. Like a famous piano player who can touch a kid's keyboard and make it sound like something you've never heard before. Directly translating your emotions through the simplest outlets, those are the things that attract me in life.
You recently gained your Dutch passport! Why was that important to you?
Yes! I'm so glad this is being shared. People really don't know this shit about me! My family's blood is from Suriname, and for most people who don't know, the Dutch colonised Suriname a very long time ago. It used to be a slave-trading island, and that's basically where all my culture comes from. I speak and write in Dutch. I've learned from a young age through my father and his side of the family; Dutch has always been a language that is spoken in my household. My family from Suriname hold Dutch passports and they thought it was really important for me to get my Dutch passport because that brings me one step closer to a whole other side and understanding of the world outside of America. It gives me a whole new perspective and so much more to learn as a human. It's awesome that I get to share my culture and maybe connect with other people from Suriname - or maybe you're from another country nearby. Great, we're all human beings and we all can connect. Culture can bring human beings together.
Getting that was a very, very, very awesome thing that I was trying to get for a long time, and now I have it. Your boy can go live in the EU and whatever country I want!
What legacy would you like to leave on the world?
I'm not good with these types of questions. I'd like to leave a sufficient amount of art behind. Other than that, to really answer that question. The only legacy I want to leave behind is my own and whatever that will be…the universe is going to pick that one. That question will be answered one day, but I don't think right now. Right now, I have to work on the legacy that I want to leave behind.