KATIE STUART (Part 1 of 3) Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
June 9, 2005
An actress since the age of 8, Vancouver native Katie Stuart has been seen in feature films including X-Men 2 and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, as well as a variety of TV movies and shows. More than eager to stay in direct touch with her fans, she maintains a weblog on LiveJournal.com where she keeps her supporters up to date on life, the universe, and everything. She has a certain charming style in her writing and is easily more entertaining with her web-words than I could ever hope to be. (Which is bit disconcerting, seeing as how she's doing it for fun, while I, in theory, am doing it for food, clothing, and shelter. Still, that would explain why I have to supplement my income at a local I-5 off-ramp selling oranges and wishes.)
In this first segment of our exclusive three-part interview with Katie, she talks about how she first got into show business and her experience on the set of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
RadioFree.com: What prompted you to start a weblog at LiveJournal?
KATIE: I have a very small but devout fan base. A girl named Harmony actually started a webpage for me when I was about 13, and it was for The Crow: Stairway to Heaven, which was a series that I did. And a lot of people gathered at this website and would leave messages, and I would try and answer questions. But it kind of got hectic trying to answer everyone's specific messages with more messages. Like every time I answered one, three more people had something to say about my answer. So I found it a lot easier to do the LiveJournal because I could post whatever was going on, read through the messages that get posted back to me, and then do another post to everybody. It was a lot easier than trying to answer fifty messages separately.
You have a very humorous and distinctive voice in your writing. Do you actually speak that way (for instance, the occasional bit of pirate lingo)?
Ah, yes. As a matter of fact, I do. I'll be out doing something, and should the chance arise, I'll throw a good "yar" out there. [once more, with feeling] "Yar!"
You recently posted about your 20th birthday. How are you dealing with the big 2-0?
I am dealing with it slowly but surely. I had warned all of my friends that I was not going to acknowledge it as my 20th birthday, but that I was going to repeat my 19th.
It's tough crossing those decade marks.
[laughs] I figured I wasn't quite ready to be 20 yet. But now that I've officially been 20 for a few months now, I've sort of sunk into it. Although I still say I'm 19 sometimes when people ask me.
So how did you get started in the whole show business scene?
When I was in grade three, there was a girl in my elementary school who was a good friend of mine, and we hung out and played all the time. And she was an actress and she did commercials. They didn't air in Canada, so I never saw her in anything, but she would talk about it all the time. And everyone got such a kick out of hearing about it, and everyone paid so much attention to her, I decided that that was something I could handle--having people paying a lot of attention to me. So I went home one day (and I don't actually remember this part, but my mother loves to tell this story) and stood in the kitchen and said, "Mom, I want you to get me an agent." And she kind of looked at me and said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Ashley has an agent and I want one, too." So my mom decided, "Why don't we sign you up for some acting lessons?" So she signed me up for a course at the Vancouver Youth Theatre. And they happened to be sharing office space with Carole Tarlington at the time, who was owner and manager of Tarlington Talent. She mostly represented kids. And she came to see the end of the year performance which I was in, and said that I had a lot of energy...and the rest is history!
Ah, so it all began with a bit of jealousy of your friend?
[coyly] Not necessarily jealousy...I wouldn't call it jealousy, but...[laughs]
Did you start off doing commercials?
No, I've actually never done a commercial.
That's probably good, because when someone wants to embarrass an actor, they play the commercial from when they were a kid. And commercials usually require you to play the fool or have totally fake, overblown enthusiasm about something.
[laughs] That's very true. It is funny how people tend to view commercials as sort of being embarrassing. Like a friend of mine, for instance...I don't know if you've seen the Reactine commercials?
Reactine...No, I don't think so.
Maybe those are just up here. But Reactine is an allergy medicine, like Claritin. And there's one commercial where there's a guy up on top of this hill, and he's laying out turf. And he turns to wave at the Reactine man who drives by in something of like an ice cream truck, but it's the Reactine truck. Absolutely ridiculously huge grin on his face. And he slips and he rolls down this hill, and as he's rolling, he gets rolled up in the turf. And there's this little dog which, for some reason, is running along on top of the turf as he rolls, continuously waving and grinning out the side of this thing. [jokes] It's absolutely ridiculous. We're constantly giving him a hard time.
I must now ask the stupid question all American interviewers are required to ask non-American actors: any plans to move to Hollywood? (Not that that is necessarily a good plan.)
I love Los Angeles. I recently did a roadtrip down there with my brother. The people are fun, the climate is amazing, I love the ocean...but no, I just love being in Canada. It's such a great place to live. The people here have such great work ethic, the attitude is fantastic. The majority of Vancouverites tend to have fairly sunny dispositions despite the amount of rain that we get! I really like it here.
It's too hot here. Your weather in Vancouver is better than ours in Los Angeles.
There's something about being able to surf in the snow...
Regarding your role in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: your character is not just named "Jo," but she is specifically "Bunkmate Jo."
[laughs] Yeah! That was a running joke on set, and I'm so glad that they actually did put that in the credits. Ah, that's so funny!
Can we assume this has something to do with your character sleeping in a bunk bed at soccer camp?
[laughs] Oh my. Well, my part originally was very small. I didn't have any lines at all in the script. They just brought me out, I guess, because our director Ken Kwapis liked me in the audition, and just brought me out kind of for fun as a glorified extra. But I was playing soccer and stuff, so I was just pleased to be out there. And I didn't have a name. I was just "Bunkmate." You know, like "Girl #1" or whatever. And once Ken started putting me in more scenes and giving me a few lines here and there, he was like, "Okay, we need a name for you, because we can't just call you Bunkmate." [laughs] And so he was like, "You'll be Jo," which was another character in the book that hadn't been put into the script. So he gave me the name Jo, but we continued to call me Bunkmate just because it was so funny. So I was Bunkmate Jo, and they actually credited me that way in the film, I was happy to see.
In the movie, four girls who are best friends share a unique pair of jeans. What's the deal with the titular apparel?
They find it in an old second hand shop, and it fits all of them perfectly despite the fact that they're all quite differently sized. And so they decide that it's a sign, and that they have to share these pants, and that the pants will bring them good fortune over the summer and keep them together even though they'll be miles apart. It's very cute, and they have a little seance with candles, and they make up rules about the pants. And then they end up mailing them back and forth to each other. Everyone gets them for a week and then they mail them off to the next person. The pants make two rounds by the end of the summer.
With all this pants swapping going on, the girls must certainly wash the jeans, yes?
Good gracious, no. One of the rules, in fact, is that you do not wash the pants. The pants are not to be washed.
So there's a whole set of rules, like Fight Club?
[laughs] Yes. "You will not talk about the pants!"