Raleigh girl hits big screen in Nicholas Sparks movie

The latest screen adaption of a Nicholas Sparks novel stars an 8-year-old actress from Raleigh.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The latest screen adaption of a Nicholas Sparks novel stars an 8-year-old actress from Raleigh.

In "Safe Haven," Mimi Kirkland portrays Lexie, the daughter of a widower who falls for a woman with a mysterious past. Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough star in those two roles.

"Lexie's really sassy, kind of. She really likes to color," Mimi said Wednesday. "When I played it, I actually felt like I was his daughter, and it was really cool."

The movie was filmed in Southport last summer, and Mimi spent about a month and a half on the set.

"I was, like, 'I'm going to meet someone who's been in a lot of movies,'" she said. "That was that part that was really fun because you got to hang out with them."

Still, filming was hard work.

"Emotion was the hardest part because you know what your character is but you have to try to feel it," she said. "(Learning lines) can be really easy because, if I look at them and read them a couple times, I have them stuck up here (in my mind)."

Mimi has been acting since she was 5, appearing in commercials for Food Lion, Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina State Fair before getting her first movie role.

"We just kind of went into this thinking, 'OK, this is sort of her extracurricular activity. Let's see where it goes,'" said her mother, Gina Kirkland. "It's beyond our wildest dreams of where this has taken her."

Mimi, who also enjoys riding her bike, swimming and playing with her two sisters, said she wants to continue acting "for a long time."

"I try out for many, many things," she said.

"Safe Haven" premieres in theaters nationwide on Valentine's Day.

The Kirklands haven't yet seen the movie in its entirety, and Mimi's parents joked that she will watch it with "some blinders and earmuffs" because of some intense love scenes.

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Renee Chou, Reporter
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