CHELSEA STAUB on 'BRATZ' Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
November 20, 2007
In the teen comedy Bratz, four best friends (Logan Browning, Janel Parrish, Nathalia Ramos, and Skyler Shaye) discover a whole new world of social politics upon entering high school. Before long, they find themselves split up and losing touch with one another, and it's not until they are pushed to extremes by the domineering student body president, Meredith (Chelsea Staub), that they cast off the school caste system, reignite their friendship, and take a stand to be themselves and follow their dreams.
As Meredith, Chelsea Staub gets to revel in playing the villain--a mean girl at the top of the pecking order, obsessed with categorizing her classmates into superficial cliques and being the constant center of attention. To those ends, Meredith organizes an outrageously extravagant sweet sixteen celebration, then tries to rig a subsequent talent competition in her favor, all the while crushing others beneath her fashionably adorned heel.
In the first half of our exclusive two-part interview with Chelsea Staub, she talks about her experience of working on Bratz (which includes a detailed account of what it's like to ride an elephant), her own sweet sixteen, and how she made the move from Phoenix to Los Angeles to pursue acting. And as is often the case with actresses who play "the mean girl," Chelsea is not only sweeter than her onscreen alter-ego, but also exceptionally friendly by any other standard. (Sara Paxton from Sleepover and Sydney White and Rachel McAdams from Mean Girls are also examples that spring to mind. There must be something about nice people being the best at portraying the bully archetype in comedies...)
RadioFree.com: As Meredith, the film's villain, you really got to steal the show...
CHELSEA: Oh, thank you! I feel very lucky. I've gotten a lot of compliments. [laughs]
For a villain to be really good, you have to like a little something about them. What did you like about Meredith?
I love everything about Meredith! [laughs] It was fun to play the villain. The part that I loved about Meredith is that I was able to play the villain and not feel bad about it. Because Meredith would do things to people that a lot of kids would never dream of doing--you know, the way she just humiliates people in public and [is still able] to go to sleep at night. So that's kind of what I loved about her--you know, she didn't feel bad about anything. [laughs] She always came first in her mind. So I thought it was funny to play a character that really only cares about herself.
Onscreen, you spend most of your time terrorizing the four Bratz girls. How did you all get along in real life?
Oh, we had such a great time. I met the girls two weeks before we started shooting. We had table reads and dance rehearsals and voice rehearsals, and so we got pretty close. We had barbecues at each others' house. The four girls really wanted to [develop] a friendship so that it would play onscreen--you know, they wanted to become really good friends in real life so that by the time we started shooting, they were comfortable with each other. With me, it was a little harder because...You know, at first, the girls were afraid that I might be mean. [laughs] I remember we had our first table read, and Nathalia, who plays Yasmin, had everyone over to her house for a little "get to know you" dinner. And when I walked in, her mom leaned over to Nathalia and said, "I can't believe you invited her. Isn't she mean?" [laughs] Because in the table read, I came off as this super-evil girl. So it was kind of funny. They were worried that I might be a little bit like my character when we first met. But afterwards, we became really good friends. And of course, being on set with each other every day for five weeks, 12 hours a day...You can't help but kind of become family.
What were some of your favorite scenes to shoot?
Both performance numbers were just a blast. I loved the Super Sweet 16 party. That was such a fun week of shooting for me because we were in that incredible $16 million house in the Hills, which was just like a museum. It was gorgeous. And you know, I got a free Super Sweet 16 party. It's like every girl's dream. [laughs] I was riding an elephant, [there were] beautiful cakes and incredible food, and my face is being projected onto the side of a building. [laughs] It was just totally surreal. Oh, it was so much fun.
How was your experience of riding the elephant? I have to imagine it's kind of cool, but yet you're really high in the air on an unpredictable animal...
Oh my gosh, exactly! It was incredible. When they first told me that they wanted me to ride an elephant...You know, I read it in the script, and I was like, "Are we really going to have an elephant on set?" And they were like, "Yeah, but we'll get you a stunt double." And I was like, "Oh, no! I want to be on the elephant." So I was really pumped up about it for the first four weeks. And then here comes the day of shooting, and I had to rehearse with the elephant so she would know me and be comfortable with me by the time we started shooting. So I walked to meet Thai, our elephant. And she is massive. [laughs] I don't know what I was thinking. I don't know why I was thinking it would be like a horse, where you just kind of hop onto it. Because that is a beast of an animal! And you have to get on and off of it a certain way. I would actually have to stand on Thai's foot, and she would lift me up, and I would have to balance myself on her leg, in stilettos, and then walk up her leg and kind of hop onto her neck. [laughs] And when she walks, it's really rocky. You're kind of leaning from side to side, and really kind of holding on for dear life. So it was funny to be in heels and a dress and trying to wave like a princess while my other arm is like, you know, keeping me on this elephant. But she was so sweet when it came down to it...She was beautiful and so cute. She would come up behind me and pick me up with her trunk when I was just hanging out on set. She was a really cool animal.
No accidents or close calls?
No accidents, thank God. I mean, there were scary times. The first couple times sitting on her were scary because you really have to like use all your upper body strength to pull yourself onto this animal, and I don't know how much upper body strength I have. [laughs] ...But there were no problems.
Chelsea Staub as Meredith, rocking the pink, fuzzy megaphone
How did your own sweet sixteen go down? It couldn't have been on the same outrageous level as Meredith's...
Yeah. [laughs] Well it's funny, because the year I was turning 16 was the first year that MTV premiered My Super Sweet 16. So I remember sitting at home, like, "Wow, how could girls throw parties like this?" You know, where every episode ends with dad writing out a $500,000 check. But when I turned 16, my mom flew out four of my best friends from Arizona to come see me, and we actually drove out to Las Vegas for the day. And we walked around, and it was so much fun. I had a small party with my best friends, so that was great. And it was pretty funny, kind of always comparing sweet sixteen to My Super Sweet 16, since that was the first year sweet sixteen kind of became this crazy phenomenon with everyone. And now to have one of my own that was on MTV [in the movie]...It's pretty cool. [laughs]
Being under 21, what were you able to check out in Las Vegas?
Yeah, it's a little different when you're under 21, but we had fun...We went on the rollercoaster at New York-New York like ten times in a row...So we went on that until we got sick, and then we wandered back to the hotel, like trying not to throw up. [laughs] We ate a lot of candy. It was great.
Candy and trying not to throw up...That's a plan!
[laughs] That's how I spent my super sweet sixteen!
Growing up, what were your favorite subjects or extracurricular activities in school?
Probably my favorite thing in school was student government. I loved school. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and all of my friends back home make fun of me because I was student body president back home, and then I played an evil student body president in the film. [laughs] But I love student government--being able to have a voice for all the students. And I got a battle of the bands started at my school. You know, it was fun to decorate for dances and just really feel like you were a part of it, as opposed to just kind of wandering the halls.
Did you live in Phoenix all through high school? You only recently made the move to Los Angeles?
I left school the middle of my freshman year. I was a big school person in elementary school. I had the best middle school. And I started high school and I loved it, but I really loved acting, too. And it was starting to get hard because I would do shows or book a job, [and] I would miss a couple days of school and I would get behind on lectures and tests. And it really honestly became a choice of like "which one do you want to do?" My parents really wanted me to stay in school and get a normal job. [laughs] Because my parents are in the business and they knew that it's a pretty tough business to get into. And so my parents let me come out to LA during my fall break to try auditioning in LA so I could see how hard it was. And I booked a job. [laughs] I booked a pilot. So then we had to move out. So it worked out really well, but I had to leave in the middle of my freshman year.
So mom and dad were trying to show you how tough it was in LA, but it turned out to be surprisingly easy the first time around?
[laughs] It's true, yeah. I think their plan kind of backfired. They brought me out to say, "When you're in Arizona and you've been auditioning in the same places for 8 years, of course it's going to feel comfortable. It's like big fish in a little pond. Let's take you to LA where there's a lot of talented girls." And there are. Like I've had my fair share of auditions and rejection, and there's a lot of talented people out there. But I just got lucky. [laughs]
What was the name of that pilot that you got?
It was called Cracking Up, and it was with Molly Shannon from Saturday Night Live and Jason Schwartzman and Chris McDonald. It was this kind of weird, off-the-wall comedy. It was kind of like Arrested Development...