By Sophie Dudley 
BELLEVILLE – Fans of hit television show Suits  recently saw a young local face on their screens.
Seven-year-old Maria Nash, a student at St. Michael Catholic School in Belleville, landed a small role on the legal drama that follows a group of lawyers in New York City as they juggle cases and their tangled personal lives. The show is shot in Toronto and airs on Bravo  in Canada.
Maria appeared as a younger version of Rachel Zane, a lead character who is portrayed by Meghan Markle  – also known as the girlfriend of Prince Harry . Maria’s two scenes were featured as flashbacks during the 10th episode of Season 7, which aired Sept. 13.
Finding out she was chosen for this role was very exciting, Maria told QNet News, even though she hadn’t heard of the show or of Markle before her Toronto audition.
“I got out of the shower and my mum was like, ‘Hey, you got Suits!'” she said. “I was like, ‘Yes!’ And then I started seeing Meghan Markle on TV and in magazines, and she’s like a princess … Prince Harry is a prince. I was like, ‘Wow, I might meet a princess!'”
While Maria didn’t get to meet Markle on the set due to their different filming schedules, she said she was honoured to play her character.
Maria’s mother, Loyalist College journalism professor Marisa Dragani, said the whole experience of filming the episode was fascinating.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” she said. “They know what they’re doing. It moved quickly. It was professional. People were nice. I was treated like royalty.”
Dragani said she encouraged her daughter to try out acting a few years ago when she started coming home from school asking some tough questions about race and gender.
“She started junior kindergarten and she would come home saying she wanted to be blonde and she wanted straight hair. Then she started to think brown people were ugly. It went on for like six months.”
Maria would watch some Disney Channel shows and ask her why all the girls dated blonde boys, Dragani said.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you try this acting thing? Give it a shot.’ I encouraged her because I thought if maybe she saw herself on TV she could be part of the solution or part of the change. I thought it might give her some confidence to see herself reflected back in the media. She tried it and she liked it right away.”
Maria’s appearance on Suits wasn’t her first time on a TV set; she has appeared on ABC’s legal drama Conviction, TVO kids show Opie’s Home , and in commercials for Xfinity Cable, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario  and Rice Krispies.
She has had an agent in Toronto since February 2016 and is really enjoying the whole process, Dragani said.
Maria added: “What I enjoy most is really bringing the script and the show to life. I like that I get to play different characters.”
She has a strategy for rehearsing her lines, she said. “Basically, if there’s one line before mine, I remember the last thing they say and it helps me get my timing right.”
Dragani said it’s hard to balance her career and her daughter’s school and auditions. “It’s one day at a time. I have a lot of help. It’s taking a community.”
Dragani’s mother lives in Toronto, and they can spend the night at her home after auditions that sometimes come on short notice. They can get word from Maria’s agent as late as the night before the audition is to take place.
Despite all the hard work that goes into it, Dragani said she is very proud of her daughter. “I am really happy for her. She’s come a long way. Last summer she did a kids’ show for TVO Kids, and to see how she’s grown as an actor in one year has been tremendous to watch.”
While Maria’s acting journey has been going well so far, Dragani said she has had to face some rejection. “She did audition for The Handmaid’s Tale and she didn’t get it. But you can’t take anything personally. You just move on.”