“I see a lot of little kids with prosthetic legs and stuff and they walk up and they look at Winter and their eyes just go [wide-eyed], and it’s just a whole new world for them. It’s so touching to see that, and I’m so blessed to be here every day with her.”

Austin Highsmith … As Phoebe, Winter’s trainer in the movie, Austin Highsmith spent a lot of time working and learning alongside Winter’s real-life trainer, Abby Stone.

“Just to try and portray Abby, because she’s such an amazing individual, just her whole journey is phenomenal. She’s only 30 years old, and she’s been [at Clearwater Marine Aquarium] since she was 16. And just the work that she does, and that they all do here at CMA, I think is really important for us to portray as accurately as we possibly can.”

To prepare for her extensive interaction with Winter in the film, Austin spent a lot of time in the pool with Winter.

“Right away they had me in the water with [Winter], her coming up and me holding her. And they’ve done a lot of practice with me swimming her from place to place, ‘cause in the film I do that. And it’s the coolest thing. You’ve got this 300-pound animal and you’re kind of hugging it and swimming along. Because I have a swim background, I’m very comfortable in the water. They had me practicing a lot of the behaviors that Sawyer does in the movie. I sort of got to do the flips with her in the water and kinds of stuff like that.”

When asked what she hopes people will take away from Dolphin Tale, Austin points to a message of hope that is what the story of Winter is all about.

“I really hope that people walk away from this realizing that giving up is not the way to go. And I mean I experienced that so much in my own life with people that are around me—even my own parents—and I believe that everything happens for a reason and that God’s hand is just guiding us. And I always just go, ‘Okay. You’re bigger than me. Wherever you want to take me, I’ll go.’ It’s really cool to sit back and just go, ‘I know where this came from’ and to be able to recognize it and say thank you. And I really hope that people walk away from [Dolphin Tale] with that. … I think that if we can look at a little dolphin who doesn’t even know what they’re doing and has inspired and saved, I mean literally saved lives, that we can’t complain about anything.”

Austin Stowell … As Sawyer’s cousin Kyle, a war veteran who returns from service wounded and now has to learn to walk with a prosthetic leg, Austin Stowell knew right away that he wanted to portray a member of the military in an honorable way.

“When I got approached about this character, I was reading the script and I was really happy that they were showing these guys in a different light and showing the stages of return back to society.

“I have very good friends of mine who serve overseas and one in particular who I don’t get to talk to too much, and he was one of my best friends. He’s in Special Forces and serving our country, and so I’m honored and blessed to be able to represent him and his brothers and sisters in arms in [Dolphin Tale] and hopefully, God willing, do them justice which I really hope I am.”

In one emotional scene, Austin, who is perhaps best known for a recurring role on ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager, was called upon by director Charles Martin Smith to really relate and find the connection for his character.