The Baby-Sitters Club Reboot: Our Mary Anne is Black

With just one year of acting under her belt, 13-year-old Malia Baker is already making big moves. Appearing in CBS All Access’s The Twilight Zone, ABC’s A Million Things, the CW’s The Flash, and now Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club — out today! — Malia shows no signs of slowing down. Read on to find out how she gets into character, why #representation matters to her, and the fangirl moment she didn’t expect.  

By Anissa Gabbara

Serving up hella nostalgia this summer in The Baby-Sitters Club reboot, premiering Friday, July 3, Malia Baker plays Mary Anne Spier, club secretary. The Botswana-born actress, who currently resides in Vancouver, Canada, fell in love with filmmaking as a little girl, after watching her father work on set. Now, she’s pushing her dreams into overdrive. “I was a fan of The Baby-Sitters Club and still am, so being a part of this project was so amazing, and I’m so grateful for it,” she says.

The 10-episode show is based on Ann M. Martin’s iconic ‘80s and ’90s book series about a group of preteen BFFs who start their own baby-sitting business. And to prep for the audition, ya’ girl came through with the creativity. “I created a Pinterest board of all of Mary Anne’s interests. I read lots of Wikipedia pages and fandom pages,” Malia says. “I also journaled as Mary Anne and wrote the things that I thought Mary Anne would be feeling or thinking while we were in that scene.” And of course, she reread a lot of the books.

After sending a self-tape audition, Malia didn’t hear back for a few weeks and thought she didn’t land the role. A little while later, though, she heard back. The creators wanted to do a screen test with her. She was hype, and she ultimately secured the part.

Appearing fearless on screen, IRL, Malia’s a bit shy — sort of like her character, who at 18 months old, lost her mother and is being raised by her overprotective-but-loving father. “Deep down, I’m a very shy person. But of course, I’m able to overcome that while I’m acting and doing my job, but I definitely think we share that level of shyness,” Malia says. But don’t let that shyness fool you — like Mary Anne, Malia’s biggest flex is that she can be funny without even realizing it. “[I’m also] a good friend — we [both] love our friends more than anything.”

Speaking of friendship, the girls in The Baby-Sitters Club are legit #squadgoals. Mary Anne, Kristy, Stacey, Dawn, and Claudia are known for their close bond — something that can only be captured on screen through real-life chemistry. “At the final audition, they told us that we were going to be cast as The Baby-Sisters Club, which is very rare,” Malia says. “So, we got to exchange our phone numbers, and we texted and FaceTimed constantly until the first day of set, where we finally met each other again, and I think we clicked right away. Honestly, the casting was so precise, and we’re all very similar to our characters, so we fit exactly like The Baby-Sitters Club girls do.”  

What can we expect to see in this modern-day spin of The BSC? For one, the cast is more diverse. You already know Mary Anne is Black. There’s also Dawn Schafer. Originally blonde-haired and blue-eyed, she’s now Latinx and played by Xochitl Gomez.

This type of representation is important to Malia. “I remember growing up not seeing anyone [who] looked like me on the screen,” she says. “As a young girl, you want to see someone represented on the screen that [looks] like you, that you can relate to and you can feel a connection with … And even though I obviously know that my skin is not as deep as my brothers and sisters, I’m hoping that people will feel represented and feel empowered,” Malia continues. “I’m really excited because Mary Anne is this shy girl and she doesn’t speak a lot, and she has these great opinions, ideas, and thoughts that I feel that many Black girls who hopefully will watch this show have.” The reboot will also tackle relevant topics, such as social drama, racism, and family issues, some of which were addressed in the OG books.

Besides connecting with her new crew, Malia also got to meet The BSC author Ann M. Martin, herself, and she completely fangirled because obviously. “She was in Mary Anne’s room [on set], and she was just looking around, and I came into the room not expecting her to be there. But there she was taking pictures, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the moment, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for,'” Malia says. “I got to shake her hand and have a really nice conversation with her, and she’s just this lovely person. She’s the executive producer of the show, so it’s great to have her being such a big part of this.”

Malia hopes the show will inspire other girls to own their greatness. “This is a group of five young feminists,” Malia says. “They’re powerful girls.”

Watch the trailer below, and then, stream it on Netflix — available now!

P.S. Fun Fact, courtesy of Malia: That iconic landline phone? It actually didn’t ring. “That was voiceover, and so the whole time there was a woman underneath the desk pressing a button waiting for it to light up for the ringing soundtrack, and so, we were just pretending to be talking to another person on the phone.”


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