When Lexi Underwood was 12 years old, she made an ambitious pitch to her parents. She had just finished touring the country as Young Nala in The Lion King (along with a stint on Broadway), and, having returned home to D.C., she explained that she wanted to capitalize on the momentum. “I didn’t want to be home,” she says. “I didn’t want to not do what I loved. I’m super-thankful that [my parents] actually listened to me, because I was 12 years old with big dreams. I convinced [them] to take me out to L.A. for three months … and three months turned into four years.”

Now 16, Underwood is set to appear in her most high-profile role yet, starring alongside Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington in the widely anticipated Hulu adaptation of Celeste Ng’s best-seller Little Fires Everywhere. Underwood landed the pivotal role of Pearl Warren, the daughter of Washington’s enigmatic Mia, new arrivals to the Shaker Heights, Ohio, community portrayed in the series, which premieres March 18.