The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals: Interview with Faly Rakotohavana

We spoke to actor Faly Rakotohavana about Disney+’s upcoming film The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals.

In Disney+’s latest film, The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals, teenage rebel, Sam (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) has always felt there was something different about her. Living in the shadow of her elder sister, who is heir to the throne of Illyria, Sam would rather be rocking out in her band than go to formal gatherings (where her sister seems to comfortably shine).

However, when she starts experiencing strangely superhuman abilities, she soon finds out that second born royals are born with a special gene that gives them superpowers and that it is up to the second borns to secretly safeguard the kingdom. Soon she, and her fellow second-borns Roxana (Olivia Deeble), Matteo (Faly Rakotohavana), Tuma (Niles Fitch) and January (Isabella Blake-Thomas), join the Secret Society Of Second Born Royals to find out how to control their powers and use them to protect their kingdoms.

Faly Rakotohavana plays the shy Matteo, who most definitely gets taken out of his comfort zone when he finds out he can control insects and joins the Secret Society. We spoke to Faly about working with Disney, tight supersuits and getting to go shopping with his fellow castmates during downtime…

How did you first get involved in The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals?

My first audition was last year, about February or March I think. My agent sent me an audition and she was like “this is a huge Disney+ original” and I was like “okay that’s really exciting!”. So I looked at the script and I was like “oh my God, I’m going to be royalty” and then I looked again and I was like “oh my God, I’m going to be a superhero at the same time!”. There was just a lot flooding in my mind. But yeah, I remember when I first auditioned for it, I walked in and there were 100 people in the room. It was insane. I’d never been in an audition room with that many people in it. But yeah, that’s kind of how I stumbled across the role!

How was the character of Matteo described to you when you first auditioned?

In the breakdown, they described the characters as super shy and awkward but smart. That was pretty much all they gave me. I was like… alright… [haha] they gave me some things to go off of so I’m just gonna do my best!

What were your first thoughts on the script for The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals?

When I first read it there was this excitement was just building with every line I read. I [thought] ‘if I book this, I’m gonna be the happiest person in the world!’ The storyline is just so unique. I mean not very many people get to be royalty and superheroes at the same time!  It’s just so different, it’s not like anything else that’s ever been made. So you know to be a part of something on this scale is really exciting.

The Society are tasked with maintaining order in their kingdoms…

What has it been like working on a Disney film?

It was everything that I imagined! We filmed in Toronto and I live in LA and so the moment I knew I was working with Disney was when we had to fly over there but we didn’t have to pay for our plane tickets. It’s like ‘well we’re with Disney now!’ it’s so crazy. They have this VIP place in the airport – I didn’t even know it existed until I worked with Disney. So then we went to the VIP rooms and that’s where I met Isabella. Then we were in Toronto and our first day on set was amazing, we filmed at this huge university and it was just filled with wonder and magic. Yeah, I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do with myself!

You’ve worked on a Disney TV show before, how does that compare with working on a Disney film?

Yes, I played as Miles on Raven’s Home. With Raven’s Home being filmed in a studio it was really fun because I got to see how they created all of these awesome different set pieces and all of these different environments within a confined space. With Secret Society, we filmed on location which was really different because you have to drive to many different filming spots. That was just a huge difference for me to adjust to but I enjoyed every second of it!

Where was the movie shot?

The majority of the film was filmed in Toronto, [and some] was filmed in Vancouver. We filmed at universities [and at the] castle. It’s an actual castle in Toronto. There’s a real castle – I didn’t know those still existed! It’s a museum at this point because it’s so old I guess but it’s like a real castle. We also filmed at two different universities and an abandoned insane asylum. It was really fun.

What were your first thoughts on Matteo as a character?

When I first started learning to play Mateo with my acting coach, I did find it a bit difficult because of how shy and insecure he is. I’m a very social person – I like to go out and I like to hang out with friends. I love social environments. I love getting to meet new people and Mateo doesn’t like any of those things! So having to take a step back and see things from Matteo’s perspective; him being so antisocial was challenging for me. I was pretty much playing a polar opposite to myself, but I like the challenge of getting to do that, and I hope I did it pretty well. I was very proud of what I did and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

Although he’s super shy and taken aback, he’s always ready for what’s about to happen, and he’s always ready to stand with his group.

What has it been like working with an ensemble cast? Had you all met beforehand?

I did get to meet the majority of the cast because we did a testing session together at the Disney Office. So I got to meet a lot of the cast before we went to Toronto. But Olivia Deeble lives in Australia [and so] was not able to come to the test sessions, so I actually didn’t meet Olivia until we started school in Toronto. We all got on together super well, it was a blessing to get to work with all of them.

Did you get the chance to socialise much while filming The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals?

Yeah we did. We went out to eat like almost every night and we did so much shopping. I didn’t realise how big of a shopping city Toronto was until I was there! I was kind of overwhelmed because they have everything – I’ve always wanted to try different styles and then being there I was like: “Well now I can try everything!” We also went to Canada’s Wonderland and we checked out the CN Tower and that area down there. It was really cool.

The cast had the chance to socialise and go shopping while filming Secret Society.

What are your thoughts on the Society’s supersuits?

For me, when it comes to a superhero, the costume is everything, right? Whenever I’m watching a superhero movie, I’m like “if this costume isn’t amazing, it’s going to kill the superhero for me”. So that’s all I was thinking when I first got to Toronto and we were doing wardrobe checks. I was like ‘I wonder when they’re going to have us try on our super suits or super costumes or whatever we want to call it’.

We actually didn’t try them on the first wardrobe check, which crushed my soul. I was so anxious for it. I couldn’t wait to see what it was going to look like and then a couple of weeks into filming they were like “okay, it’s time for final wardrobe checks”, so they shipped us off to a tailor to get our sizes for our super costumes. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to see it. So I got in the room and they pulled it out… but what they pulled out was actually a demo of the costume! It wasn’t the costume. So in my head, I was like ‘this is really cool, but you know it wasn’t what I was expecting’.

So then when we filmed it, they brought out the final costumes and I lost it. I was so happy with it. I was like ‘this is going to make us look epic’. We’re all the secret society now. We’ve been fulfilled.

The thing about the pants, though is that they were… I don’t know what material they were made from… leather or something… but the pants were really tight! I remember walking around and everybody could hear us coming from a mile away because our inner thighs would always rub against each other and the leather would just make it squeak everywhere. You could just hear us walking through the squeaking. It was so funny.

Now you’ve been in your own superhero film, has it taken away the magic of other superhero films?

Honestly, being in a superhero film – and a royal superhero film – was a huge eye-opener for me. It didn’t kill superheroes for me. In fact, it made me more intrigued by them. Just because of the fact that I got to see and do everything that happens behind the set and then see the resulting magic of it. When the film comes out I get to see the before and after.

So after I saw that I was thinking about all the other superhero films – they do all this crazy stuff. I wonder what it must have looked like without all the special effects magic and then seeing it come to reality on the screen. You know, I feel like it made superheroes more intriguing.

Matteo’s superpower is that he can control insects. What was it like filming those scenes?

They always marked my eye lines for me because I had trouble with it! I feel like they got tired and they were like “we’re just going to tell you where to look!” [haha]. There was a lot of green screen work. Every scene where we use superpowers. It was always on location, but they had a green screen with them everywhere we went. There’s a lot of cool CGI moments and I can’t wait for everyone to see them!

What were your first thoughts when you found out Matteo had that superpower? It’s quite an odd one…

Yeah these definitely aren’t superpowers that are used a lot in film! I really appreciated the powers that they chose because of how subtle they are. The whole premise of the film is that we show up [to the Secret Society] unbeknownst of our superpowers and because of the subtlety of them, it’s easier to hide. If you’re Spiderman, it’s kind of hard to hide with the spider webs flying out of your hands and sticking the walls. It’s kind of hard to hide that but when it comes to controlling insects or [the other second borns’ powers] of verbal command, or stealing powers, it’s all very subtle and it’s unnoticeable.

The Society even get their own supersuits. Though the trousers were pretty tight…

As you say the superpowers are very subtle. If you had a superpower and you didn’t realise, what do you think it would be?

My superpower would probably be my metabolism. I’m able to eat for hours and hours and never gain weight. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it’s a problem, but I’m not complaining!

If you could have a superpower from one of the other members of the Society, who’s would it be?

Queen Catherine’s teleportation power. I love that ability. I would want to teleport because I hate walking. Everyone’s like ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination’. No, it’s not. I want to be where I want to be when I want to be there. So if I can teleport and just snap my fingers and then I get to be wherever I want, that’s a dream come true.

Did you have to do much stunt training before you started filming?

Yeah we had three weeks of physical training. We did a lot of parkour and archery training, which was really fun. The cast is super competitive – I didn’t realise how competitive we were until we started doing the training. Then we were all butting heads every time we did something [to see] who would come out on top. Or we were flying around everywhere trying to top each other. It was great!

What has been the best part of being in The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals?

I think all the moments with the cast. Hanging out with the cast was so much fun, especially in a city like Toronto. It’s a huge tourist destination, so to be there with a bunch of friends that you’re working with and getting to hang out, and all the adventures we went on were definitely the best.

Do you have any plans for when the film is launched on Disney+?

I’m going to invite a couple of friends over. We’re all gonna sit six feet apart on the couch, masks on, snacks, watching The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals. It’s gonna be something special. I’m really excited.

What’s next for you?

Nothing much that I can really speak of at the current moment but I’m really excited for everybody to see what I have in store for them, and I hope you guys will all stick with me through the future!

The Secret Society Of Second Born Royals will be available on Disney+ on 25 September.