It’s easy to forget that Sabrina Carpenter is only 16 when you talk to her. She speaks with an acute knowledge of the business she works in and knows where she wants her career to go. When I was 16, I was freaking out about not knowing what I wanted to do with my life and desperately trying to convince my dad to let me take my driving test. She’s 16 with an album out, new music on the way, and she stars in an Emmy-nominated TV show. And though she seems much older than her age, she recognizes where she’s at.
First and foremost, Carpenter always wanted to sing. At the age of 6, that’s what she decided on—my 6-year-old dreams of being a librarian were less exciting, but I digress—so when Hannah Montana was released on Disney Channel in 2006, Carpenter watched Miley have the “best of both worlds”; she got to sing and act.
“I didn’t really know what acting was at that point, and it took me a couple of years to get started,” Carpenter said. “So when I was around 11, I booked my first role, and it was a much more serious role than I ever thought I’d be doing, but I think that’s what showed me that there was maybe a career in it.”
That role was a guest spot on Law & Order: SVU as a rape victim. Though it was a heavy episode and Carpenter hadn’t had any prior experience, the role cemented her aspirations and gave her the jumping point she needed.
“That’s the cool thing about being a kid in the industry,” she said. “You have so much vulnerability and curiosity because you don’t know what you’re doing until you’re a couple years in. But we still don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just pretending that we do.”
Carpenter booked her first Disney Channel pilot, which would have also starred Jon Heder, when she was around 13, but the pilot wasn’t picked up. The concept of a pilot not getting picked up was new to Carpenter, and it was a learning experience for the young actress.
“It opened my eyes to how many people get doors shut in their face every day,” she said. “Sometimes you might book a job and the world may never see it, so there’s a lot of crazy ups and downs to deal with. I hate taking no for an answer—that’s one of my biggest pet peeves—but sometimes that’s what you have to deal with in this business, and you can’t take anything personally.”