How Actress T.J. McGibbon Got Into the Character of Young Vanya for The Umbrella Academy

T.J. McGibbon may be just 15, but she already has a decade's worth of acting experience under her belt, and she's not stopping anytime soon.

After appearing in X-Men: Apocalypse as Magneto's daughter, she's recently gained acclaim for her role as the younger version of Ellen Page's character, Vanya Hargreaves, on Netflix's super-powered series The Umbrella Academy. It's one of our favorite comic book adaptations currently airing on TV, and T.J. does an incredible job bringing this character's tortured past to life.

We had to know how an actress prepares for that type of role, so we went straight to the source to find out. Keep reading to find out how T.J. broke into the business, what it's like to play Vanya and the secret power that T.J. would find her perfect match.

Sweety High: What first got you into acting as a career?

T.J. McGibbon: My dad's whole side of the family are all artists. We have painters, musicians, other actors, directors—so I have always believed it is in my blood. As soon as I could string together sentences, I started begging my parents to put me on TV. The funny part was that we didn't have cable. Finally, when I turned 5, they realized I was serious, got me an agent and I have been working ever since.

TJ McGibbon chair pic

(Photo credit: L.A. West)


SH: What is it about acting that excites you most? What are the biggest challenges of the job?

TJM: The thing that excites me most about acting is that there are always new challenges to tackle and new ways to hone my craft. I know my work will always be interesting.

Some of the biggest challenges are how emotionally taxing some characters can be. When you have emotional scenes that have to be filmed multiple times, it can be draining and a lot to handle, but it always pays off in the end.


SH: Do you ever get recognized in public? 

TJM: I do sometimes get recognized in public. I always love getting to meet my supporters. My most interesting experience with getting recognized was when some fans found me at SuperCrawl in my hometown, Hamilton. I walked in fashion shows for some designer friends of mine, and later that night, some fans found me in the crowd. They had been looking for me all night, and it still impresses me that they were able to find me in a crowd of 250,000 people!


What do you think has been your most exciting role to date? Why?

TJM: I think my most exciting role to date is Vanya. She was a challenging role to play but I loved every second of it. Vanya had so many different layers and such an intricate backstory that made researching and preparing for her lots of fun. It is also amazing how many people TUA reached!


SH: What has it been like to be part of the cast of The Umbrella Academy?

TJM: Being a part of The Umbrella Academy cast has been such an amazing experience. The whole cast is super supportive of one another and we have become one big family.

TJ McGibbon jump suit no smoking

(Photo credit: L.A. West)


SH: How would you say you're similar to and different from, Vanya?

TJM: One of the things I love most about tackling Vanya is how different we are. Vanya has always felt out of place in her family and is always trying to find where she belongs. Her safe place is in music, which is something we have in common.


SH: Based on your personality, what kinds of superpowers do you think you could secretly possess?

TJM: Based on my personality, I think I would be able to read minds. I am a huge people person and it is one of my favorite things about working on set. I love learning about people's stories and how to get into my character's heads to be able to learn as much about them as possible. I think mind reading would be pretty fitting!


SH: What things are you most passionate about in life?

TJM: Some of the things I am most passionate about in life are being an advocate for affordable housing, creativity, books and of course, my work. I think affordable housing is a worldwide issue that affects so many and I am very grateful to be able to use my platform to raise awareness.

I strive to be a part of anything creative. I have been training in dance for eight years, I train vocally and I love to work with other creatives. Books are also something I have always been passionate about. I think reading good stories is such a crucial part of evolving as an actor. Reading good storytelling helps to make me a better storyteller.

TJ McGibbon ripped jeans

(Photo credit: L.A. West)


SH: Is there anything else about yourself that you wish more people knew?

TJM: Something else that I wish more people knew about me is that I am a huge musical theatre fan! I know every word to Hamilton and my musical theatre playlists are played on the daily. It has always been something I connect with and hopefully one day I'll be a part of one!


Love T.J. as young Vanya? Click HERE for our favorite hilarious The Umbrella Academy quotes to use as Instagram captions.