Eleven-year-old Valentina Herrera can do it all—from karate to acting to singing and dancing. Now, she’s bringing her talents to your living room.
The Chula Vista resident is appearing in the upcoming season of “Odd Squad,” an educational adventure series that airs on PBS Kids.
The multi-Emmy-winning live-action show follows four intrepid agents who investigate strange happenings, and is designed to help kids ages 5 to 8 build math, problem-solving and collaboration skills.
Herrera plays the role of Agent Opal, an ambitious new character who specializes in math and science to find solutions.
“Opal is very competitive when it comes to solving missions and cases,” Herrera says. “Sometimes she gets a little carried away and her teammates have to help put her back on track.
“She also likes to think of herself as the leader of the group.”
“Odd Squad” adopts the look and feel of a trademark spy show, while its characters work to avoid a group of scheming villains who want to thwart their plans.
Because the program is fun and engaging, viewers won’t even realize they’re learning at the same time, she says.
“It’s such a cool show,” she says. “Sometimes I forget that it’s a math show because the way they do it is so funny and really heart-warming.”
Featuring 20 new half-hour episodes, the third season of the critically acclaimed show will take its audience on adventures across the globe, explains the preteen.
The “Odd Squad” will hit the road in a mobile unit for the first time, Herrera says.
As the group travels from New York City to Pittsburgh, to Australia and Zambia, and beyond, the agents encounter a range of mysterious characters, including the villainous Sand Queen, played by Academy Award-nominated actress Toni Collette.
Herrera says the show gave her the opportunity to travel to places she wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
“I loved Canada. I loved the snow and it was really fun because I had never seen snow before. I was so excited,” Herrera says.
“I had to buy all this gear and there were a lot of snowstorms.”
The aspiring young actress was born in Chandler, Arizona, she says, and lived there until she was about 8 years old.
Since she can remember, Herrera has always been drawn to acting, she explains.
“I would always record myself on my parents’ phones and I would do little plays and stuff,” Herrera says.
“I would make up these roles and these characters and do them in front of my parents.”
One of her first acting experiences involved playing a poodle in a school play.
Herrera eventually persuaded her parents to take her to an acting class at the Young Actor’s House in Texas, she says, where she was discovered by an agent.
Two years later, her professional career was born.
“The school was so fun, and that’s where it all started,” Herrera says. “I’m so grateful to have gone there.”
Although the Arizona native recently landed a small role in “All the World is Sleeping,” a feature film that was shot last year in New Mexico, she says “Odd Squad” was her first “big” job.
In a humble tone, she says she couldn’t believe she snagged the part.
“I was so happy. I had just woken up,” Herrera says. “I think I slept with my mom that night and everyone came to the room because it was the morning and my manager was on the phone.
“I started jumping, yelling and crying.”
Working on “Odd Squad” has not only allowed Herrera to fine-tune her skill set, she expresses, but also to grow as a person in real life.
“Ever since I booked it, a lot has changed,” Herrera says. “I’ve grown on the show. I think I booked it when I was 10 years old and then on the show I turned 11. I met a lot of friends and new people and I practiced more.
“That really helped me as an actress and as a person.”
Herrera says she hopes to one day work alongside her favorite actor, Adam Sandler. She grew up watching his movies, she explains, with “Grown Ups” her favorite Sandler movie.
“I know it sounds wild, but I really want to do a movie with Adam Sandler because I think he is an amazing actor and I look up to him so much,” she says.
For now, Valentina says she plans to continue to pursue acting in any capacity, including commercials, shows, movies and voiceovers.
Her sights are set on securing work with Disney Channel in the near future, she says.
“Odd Squad” premieres on Monday, February 17, on PBS Kids.