The Ashland Beacon
Twelve-year-old Colton Sparks is a serious actor, in spite of his young age. He has performed in local productions at the Paramount Arts Center and in other musical theaters within driving distance. He is constantly working to improve his craft and this has not gone unnoticed as he has managed to score a major achievement with a background part in a Russo Brothers film.
At the age of seven, Colton delivered one line in his school play. He reminisced, “I just remember everyone clapping and my face just lighting up.” About a month later, his family moved to Ashland and he noticed the Paramount Arts Center. He remembers saying, “Mom! I really, really want to do a play here!” The play in question was “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” which Colton declares is “one of my favorite movies.” So his mother, Wendy Ankarstran-Sparks, called the Paramount and was told that they were full, but Colton insisted that she try again. So she called again and Colton was allowed to join the acting class for that season.
Shortly after that, Colton auditioned for the role of Charlie Bucket. He remembers leaving the audition thinking, “I killed it.” He did not get to play Charlie in the play but he was instead given another leading role, that of Augustus Gloop. “My mother was ecstatic. Her face just lit up when she saw the cast list,” Sparks said.
Colton has continued to act in more than 20 plays at the Paramount including “Honk,” “Mary Poppins,” “Freaky Friday,” and “Junie B. Jones.” He has also joined the cast of productions in St. Albans, WV and with the Mountain Movers Company out of Louisa, but he had dreams of being in movies. Colton calls the movie industry “tough. You get a lot of no’s, but you wait until you get that one famous yes.”
Colton’s “famous yes” came one day while he was at the doctor’s office getting a flu shot. Wendy Ankarstran-Sparks gets an email on her phone and told him, “you can be in a Tom Holland movie” and asked him if he wanted to submit his headshot. In the middle of his flu shot, while the needle is in his arm, his mother said, “Colton! You’re in the movie!” The movie “Cherry” that he was given a role in does not just star Tom Holland, it was produced by Avengers royalty, the Russo Brothers. Colton said that he did not even feel the flu shot after that.
They drove up to Columbus to stay in a hotel, then caught a bus at 6 a.m. the following morning to take them to the filming location. Colton said that it was astonishing to be on the set of such a major production as “Cherry” because “there are a hundred people there and they all have a part to play.” There was even an artist there and “if they didn’t like how a leaf looked, they’d have the artist color it in. You never realize how much stuff goes into a movie until you’re on set.” Because Colton is underage, Wendy Ankarstran-Sparks got to stay on set too, but she said that there are “no phones, no computers, and you can’t speak” because the microphones on the set pick up every little thing.
Colton’s role has him playing soccer in the park in the background of one of Tom Holland’s scenes. The soccer ball scored him a meeting and a quick game of soccer with Tom Holland and his brother, Harry. Colton and the other child actor were standing to the side and just talking about how excited they were to be able to watch the Russo brothers work when Tom Holland walked up to them and said, “Good day, mate. Where’s the football?” Colton said that he and the other actor were like “oh my gosh, he’s talking to us!” They told Holland, who took the soccer ball from them. Holland went and got the ball and “grabbed his brother, Harry, and we all four start to play soccer.” He said that their game went by “really fast, but I got to meet him and it was just unbelievable.”
While on set, Colton was able to watch the Russo brothers direct, and “he would inch his way up just to get closer” according to his mother so that he could “listen to how they say things and what they want.” He didn’t get close enough for them to notice, but he got close enough to “hear them give directions and to watch how the set worked. He was just in awe of that,” she said.
Colton thinks that the movie, “Cherry” is “going to be really good. It is a lot different from [the Russo brothers] other movies and Tom Holland’s performance is also different from his usual roles.” Holland plays a soldier that comes back from the war in the Middle East and suffers from PTSD which leads him into drug addiction. The movie is based on a book that was written by former Army medic turned bank robber, Nico Walker, while he was serving time in the Federal Correctional Institution right here in Ashland.
Colton has been in a couple of recent commercials for the state of Kentucky, and he also has a part in a couple of upcoming movies, as well as recently wrapped up a production of “Alice in Wonderland” where he played the White Rabbit. The cast wore masks that were the face of their character. Colton said that the White Rabbit was “probably one of the best roles I’ve ever had” but “working with the mask was very hard.” Everything that the White Rabbit says is very fast so “I had to enunciate every word and scream at the top of my lungs so that it would sound like I was talking normally” but Colton said it was “absolutely fun and a great experience.”
Outside of acting, Colton is also a purple belt in Kung Fu and takes lessons in modern dance at a studio in Huntington. He also continues to take acting lessons from a coach in Huntington to continue to work on his abilities as an actor. He hopes one day to get to work in a Broadway production with Ashland native, Steve Kazee. He would also like to thank Angela Boehm for casting him in the movie “Cherry” which will be released in theaters on February 26 and on Apple TV on March 12.