Madison Taylor Baez showed her power vocal chops as an 11-year-old stand-out on last season's "America's Got Talent." For her dramatic encore, the child musical phenom is showing her bite as a TV vampire.
Baez induced "AGT" audience bedlam in June belting "Amazing Grace," earning a Golden Buzzer from astounded judge Howie Mandel that instantly advanced Baez to the show's semi-finals.
While she didn't make the "AGT" finals, Baez's astonishing 2022 has been capped off with her starring dramatic role as child vampire Eleanor on Showtime's dramatic series "Let the Right One In" (now streaming, airing Sunday at 10 EST/PST).
It's enough to make the young performer, now 12, take stock.
"I mean, what a year. 'AGT' Golden Buzzer winner and now 'Let the Right One In,'" says Baez, speaking over the phone. "Out of all of my 12 years, this has to be my best year."
Madison on 'AGT': Howie Mandel gives Golden Buzzer to 11-year-old phenom
That's saying something for the self-taught musician with the killer pipes known as "Anthem Girl" for her rousing "Star-Spangled Banner" renditions at stadiums around the country. Baez began shuffling through her father's iTunes at age 3, singing and memorizing songs in their Yorba Linda, California, home (about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles).
At 7, Baez began belting the national anthem at Dodger Stadium followed by other major venues packed with adoring fans, earning her nickname. Baez says she was never nervous.
"As soon as I hold the microphone in my hands, my nerves go away," she says. "I feel at home."
The half-Latina, half-Filipino songstress earned her first dramatic TV role playing young Selena in the 2020 Netflix biographical series about the late Tejano singer. The role allowed Baez to act in Spanish and English, as well as sing.
Trying out for the "Let the Right One In" last year, a year before her "AGT" success, was a "giant leap," Baez says. She was one of hundreds of young actresses vying for the purely dramatic part playing the tragically bitten young vampire on the run with her protective father, played by Oscar-nominated actor Demián Bichir.
During one audition, Baez had to cry on demand and brought the tears.
"They had me do it five or six times, one time after another," she says. "I would just think about what it would be like if (Eleanor) was me. Or I'd think about very sad stuff with my family that actually made me cry."
Besides her emoting and acting, executive producer and creator Andrew Hinderaker was impressed with Baez's presence for the role of a child who has been 12, and immortal, for years after her vampire bite.
"You have to have someone who is a kid at heart, but at the same time Madison has this poise and maturity beyond her years, which is invaluable," says Hinderaker. "She really blew us away in those auditions."
Baez had to cut her "Anthem Girl" hair to near shoulder length for the role, which she didn't mind. "I've grown to like it shorter, so it worked out," she says.
The shorter style is all the better for the stunts required for the dynamic vampire girl who can take down grown victims when starving for blood and scurry up a tree instantly. The tree climbing was "fun" for Baez, who is much slower than Eleanor.
"I tried to do it as fast I can," says Baez. "Then CGI and post production does the rest."
She keeps it light on set despite the show's heavy content, joking with Bichir about her love of Slim Jim snacks, which she stashes on the set for a quick energy break.
"I love Slim Jims, so as soon as the camera stops, I pull Slim Jim out of a drawer that I've hidden," says Baez. "I did it so much that Damien started calling me 'Slim.'"
Baez even enjoys the scenes where she puts her 5-foot-1 frame into the large wooden box inside which Eleanor must hide during transport to protect her from the burning sun and prying eyes.
"I always asked to be in the box. It's kind of spacious in there. I love it," she says. "They put a soft blanket so I wouldn't scratch my knees. It was really comfortable."
In "Right One," Eleanor primarily survives by drinking blood-filled plastic containers her father provides to satiate her ravenous vampire appetite. Baez has to power chug the container each time, which isn't bad either.
"It's mostly red Crystal Lite, times 1,000," she says. "That's always fun to drink and definitely a huge sugar rush which helps in the action scenes."
Baez was required to sing once in the drama series, during a birthday karaoke party scene. The friend-starved Eleanor, fangs withdrawn, belts out Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday."
The director had to pull back on Baez's vocals — because no vampire can ever hit "Anthem Girl" notes.
"If anything we had to scale back Madison's awesome talents as a singer," says Hinderaker. "And we relied on her equally awesome talents as an actress."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'AGT' star Madison Taylor Baez: 'Right One' for bloodthirsty vampire