Illinois teenager featured in Amazon Prime series ‘A League of Their Own’ | national news
HINSDALE — In August 2021, 14-year-old RJ Lewis was scheduled to be in Whitestown, Indiana, for Little League Regionals games, with his team just games away from a World Series berth, and he was simultaneously on a call sheet in Ambridge, Pa. to begin filming a new Amazon Prime baseball series — coincidentally.
The suburban Hinsdale teenager got her big break into acting with a recurring role on ‘A League of Their Own,’ which follows the journey of professional women’s baseball league All-American players from the World War II as they travel through an ever-changing United States. Lewis plays supporting character Maurice, a “cartoon kid” on the block who hangs out with Clance, one of the show’s main characters.
The TV series was created by Will Graham and comedian Abbi Jacobson, who also stars.
Lewis’ character is in three of the 10 episodes he told Pioneer Press he watched with friends and family after the show premiered last August.
“I like to look at myself [on TV]although it makes me cringe a bit,” Lewis said with a laugh.
The show is a loose adaptation of the classic 1992 film of the same name which is set in Chicago but was filmed in a small town outside of Pittsburgh to resemble 1940s America.
“It felt like we had stepped back in time,” Lewis told Pioneer Press, adding that being on a transformed set made the experience “even cooler.” “It really felt like you were in that period.”
Lewis, who escaped from his Little League team in Indianapolis to shoot an episode in a few states, said his family drove him to Pennsylvania for the day and then rushed to Indianapolis to have him can catch up with his team.
“Their games were televised on ESPN and we watched the first game on his iPad on the way home, and heard the announcers say, ‘RJ Lewis is missing today’s game due to a personal emergency’ , the boy’s mother, Didi Palacio Lewis, told Pioneer Press. “They couldn’t really announce the name of the show or anything at the time.”
The Hinsdale Little League 12u team won regionals and Lewis’ second episode of “A League of Their Own” was filmed during the Little League World Series.
“It was just such a coincidence, this whole summer of baseball,” Palacio Lewis said with a laugh.
Lewis, an eighth-grade student at Hinsdale Middle School, previously had a few episodes on the TV medical drama “Chicago Med” and was in the pilot season of CBS’ “RedLine.”
But his foray into the entertainment industry was not something he chose for himself.
“Oh no, my mom just put it up when I was a kid,” Lewis said, to which his mom burst out laughing.
“You’re welcome, oh my god,” she said.
His first modeling gig was for Radio Flyer wagons when he was 2 years old.
“As with most modeling jobs, you don’t really know what the pictures will be used for and at Christmas I started getting pictures of people because [RJ] was on the big wagon boxes,” Palacio Lewis said. “It was her first modeling job and ended up being big.”
The family still has the box car with Lewis’s picture in their garage, unopened and unassembled, Palacio Lewis said.
Since then Lewis has been signed with an agency who have continued to seek him out for other modeling opportunities and commercial roles have started to flow in from there, his mother added.
“[Acting] is a natural progression for someone who started modeling as a toddler,” Lewis said.
Five years ago, Lewis also shot his first commercial with his sister, Rio Lewis, for pizza and entertainment chain Chuck E. Cheese.
Her 11-year-old sister has her own fame: she’s the face of the new American Girl, Claudie Wells.
“It’s definitely an honor to be the face of an American Girl doll, especially an American Girl doll that touches people’s hearts as much as this doll…she’s the first Black American Girl doll with a story positive,” she told the Chicago Tribune in September.
The sibling duo, both members of the Screen Actors Guild, regularly book separate modeling gigs and commercial spots, but will occasionally reunite on a project. Just recently, they shot an ad for the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug Humira.
After filming episodes of “League of Their Own,” Lewis landed her first role in an upcoming movie (currently in post-production) titled “We Grown Now” playing a character named Leftie.
Lewis said that even though he was immersed in the industry as a toddler, he will pursue the course and audition one at a time.
In fact, Palacio Lewis, who works closely with his son on self-audition tapes, said he first auditioned for a different role before he was stuck for Maurice.
“The acting coach tells him that when you audition – even though now we tape everything – you try to book the room and not the role because people in the room are casting for all kinds of other roles, ” she says. “I’m glad he saw that happen.”
Between schoolwork, auditions, modeling and learning the guitar, Lewis also plays basketball, which he plans to do “as long as he can.”
Letting out an “oof” as he considered between playing or playing basketball as his dream career choice, Lewis said, “I can’t decide.”
But playing a basketball player or a superhero would be fine, he said.
“Probably a Marvel movie – a big blockbuster, action movie,” Lewis said. “Just the feeling of walking into a premiere of my own movie and walking the red carpet is a big dream for me.”