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Movie with Lancaster connection debuts

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Sheri Simcox
For The Lancaster News
“That’s what I said,” is one of many lines Ariana Neal, great-granddaughter of Lancaster music educator Peggy Clark, says as a little actress of television and the movie theater screen.
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed with joy and excitement. Whatever I missed, it has trickled down to her,” said Peggy Clark, a music teacher for about 35 years at Erwin Elementary School. “I started playing [the piano] when I was 3 years old. I was never really in the right place at the right time.”
In addition to the sassy-but-cute “That’s What I Said’ television commercial for the Georgia Lottery, Ariana stars in two movies and has a third one in the works.
Her first movie, “Vipaka,” co-stars Oscar award-winning actors Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Help”).
“I am thinking singing is her forte, but here she comes up acting in these movies,” Clark said about her great-granddaughter’s career portfolio.
“Fruitvale Station,” Ariana’s second movie, based on a true story, is scheduled for national release Friday, July 26.
Since movies are not necessarily released in order of their creation or production, “Vipaka” will air following the release of “Fruitvale Station.”
According to Clark, the difference in dates is due to the purchase dates by the network and movie companies.
Ariana, who just turned 9 in May, also served as the 2012 grand marshal of the Christmas parade in her hometown of McDonough, Ga.
She is going back into the studio to make a made-for-television Christmas movie, “Papa Noel,” scheduled to air in December.
Between school and her movie and television work, Ariana and her parents – Aaron and Anna Neal – visit Clark and Ariana’s grandfather, Gregory Clark, in Lancaster.
Peggy Clark also teaches her great-granddaughter piano.
“I am her piano teacher. I was going to work with her this summer, but she has been so busy,” Clark said.
Despite Ariana’s blooming career, Clark says her great-granddaughter continues to live a normal life, attending a local public school where she attends a gifted-and-talented program and does daily school and homework, just like any other child.
Ariana even continues her studies daily with a tutor when working on a movie set.
“I am proud of her, but I am humble, too,” Clark said. “You know how sometimes people can get a big head. Ariana does not have a big head; she’s humble, and her parents are striving to keep her grounded.”