KATIE STUART (Part 3 of 3) Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
June 9, 2005
When not acting, Katie Stuart enjoys outdoor activities, learns about other aspects of filmmaking, and clocks time at a local gym where she works with kids. At a recent fundraiser tied to her TV movie Spirit Bear, Katie and other cast and crew members joined a concerned community to raise approximately $10,000 to pay for some much-needed medical equipment for a young woman. Who said show business is crammed full of self-absorbed egomaniacs? (Okay...I said that, but sometimes I lie.)
Despite a seemingly full agenda, Katie has occasional free time like anyone else, as evidenced by her burning away hours on World of Warcraft. That night elf rogue who was kicking your ass at three in the morning? Yeah, that might have been her. Boo-yah.
In this final segment of our exclusive three-part interview with Katie, she talks about various extracurricular activities, her roles in Speak and Dead Like Me, and her plans for higher education.
RadioFree.com: Could you tell us a little about your short, independent film Speak, which focuses on a girl dealing with rape?
KATIE: It was based on a true story, and the woman [upon whom it was based] was actually working on it. So it was a little touchy, but she was very open about it, and very cool about it, and just wanted the story told, and was more than happy to oblige.
Was the sexual abuse from within her own family or a stranger?
It was acquaintances of hers when she was very young. She was out partying with some boys and they had stolen some beers from somewhere, and they were drinking, and then it turned ugly.
Was it one of the more intense roles you've played? Did you have to do anything in particular to psyche yourself up for it?
It was definitely one of the more intense roles that I've done. It wasn't as big a deal trying to psyche myself up for it. I'm sort of like what my last director refers to as a "lightswitch actor," which is kind of the opposite of method. I feel that both have their place, but I find that really intense situations, like dealing with a gang raping like that...I find it really important to keep the mood light, because in that kind of situation, it is more often than not the actor who sets the mood on the set. If the actor is trying to be very focused and very into themselves, and is just so into it even in between takes and they're just really solemn about it, the whole set is solemn, and everyone feels just a little bit awkward, as you can imagine. It just brings a little too much realism to it sometimes, and it's not always great for the vibe on set. So when we're blocking and rehearsing and shooting, I try to be as in that space as I can, but in between takes, I just like to keep it really light and goof around and makes jokes with people. I feel like it lifts everyone up out of it a little bit. It can get kind of weird. When everyone's standing around filming this poor young girl getting raped on the ground, everyone feels a little bit icky about it.
Did this air as a television short?
No, it went straight to video. Actually, I believe it's being used mostly in schools, like when they're doing sex ed and stuff like that. It's sort of an educational film, so I felt pretty happy about that, too.
On a lighter note, you were in an episode of the dark comedy Dead Like Me playing a cadet who has to scale a wall. How much of that scene was you? Did you do the climbing on your own?
Yes, I did.
Did you do the falling on your own?
No, they wouldn't let me do the fall. The one big fall from the top, I was doubled. It was quite a hard hit. I would have liked to do it, but I can certainly understand them not wanting me to.
Was the climbing easy for you?
Actually, I've been rock climbing--mostly indoor rock climbing, but also some outdoor like up in Squamish and stuff--since I was about 6 years old. I've been climbing for a good 14 years, and I actually work at a rock climbing gym, so I'm a pretty decent climber, and I certainly know how all the equipment works. I mean, not that there was any equipment used there--I was really just walking up a rope. But I have the upper body strength to carry myself up, so...They were not planning on having me do much of it at all, but when they got me on set and realized that I could, they were kind of like, "Well, okay."
So you didn't get the role because they were specifically looking for a climber...It was just a coincidence?
It was sort of an added bonus.
You mentioned that you were hooked on the addictive online video game World of Warcraft for a while. Did you waste away a sick number of hours of your life playing it?
Oh, yeah. That's the only reason that I didn't buy the game. The only reason. It's a fantastic game. It's great. I love it. It's so much fun, but you just find yourself playing it every waking moment. [laughs] And I wasted hours and hours and hours of my life playing the free demo when it first came out. It was me and all my roommates, and we would talk on our computers even though I could walk three feet back and see my roommate from my door and be like, "Hey! What's up?" But no, we would chat over World of Warcraft because we were just big losers. [laughs] Yeah, that's the only reason I didn't buy the game. I was like, [melodramatically] "I can't...I am weak...I cannot control myself!"
What, in particular, do you like so much about it?
Well, it's a role-playing game, which is really cool. There's so many different options and there's so many different things that you can do. It's just really fun. And watching your character build up and learn new skills, and you having to learn how to use those skills, and then discovering little bits and pieces of these stories that are intertwined...it's just so elaborate. You can tell how much work and how much programming went into making this game. I mean, it's ridiculous.
What type of character did you play?
I was a night elf rogue.
That is a cool combo.
Yeah. She was pretty bad ass.
Are you currently enrolled in college?
I'm "between schools" at the moment. [laughs] I'm pretty sure I will go back to school. That's something that I'd really like to do. I'm definitely a huge supporter of education and I hope I never stop furthering my education, but I also feel that there's a lot of different ways to learn things, and college isn't right for everyone. It's not exactly what I want to be doing right now. I do hope to go back to university, but one of the things that I think is probably really important when deciding to go to college is that you really want to go. It should be like, [excited] "Oh man, I really want to go and study this right now! This is really what I want to be doing and spending my time and money on." Because if your heart's not in it, you're not going to be pulling your weight...just kind of wasting everyone else's time and your money. So I figure I'll wait until it really strikes me to be like, [ferociously excited] "I gotta go to school right now!"
What academic subjects interest you the most?
Well, I'm terribly interested in literature and writing, but one thing that I would definitely like to go back to school and do is First Nations Studies, aboriginal studies...mostly the British Columbia area.
Did you get to attend a "regular high school" while you were tackling a career in acting?
Any time a minor is on set for three days consecutively or more, it's required that you do three hours of schooling a day, and the production company will provide a tutor for you. So a lot of my time, when I was working, I was being tutored. And I was fortunate enough that I did just go to a regular high school, and they were very accommodating, and I had teachers who really went the extra mile for me. I owe them a lot. They would really go out of their way to help me out and they would fax things to set, and I would fax things back, and I would send tests out to my teacher. It was just really cool of them. It was really nice.
Aside from acting, you also work in a production office?
Actually, I'm not working in the production office anymore. I'm currently working at a warehouse in Vancouver that rents out film equipment. It's really exciting because I'm getting pretty familiar with the equipment and learning what everything's called, how everything works, how to fix things when they break. [laughs] It's a lot of grunt work, you know. I'm like carrying around tables all day!
Is it important for an actor to know all those facets of filmmaking?
Not so much from an actor's point of view, but if I ever wanted to go into directing...Actually, the director from Traveling Pants, Ken Kwapis, really inspired me to go out and learn about it, because he was fantastic. He knew everybody's job backwards and forwards. He knew exactly what he wanted, and, more importantly, he knew exactly how to ask for it. It wasn't like a lot of directors who know exactly what they want, but they can't really communicate it, so they try and do people's jobs for them, and it just frustrates everyone. But Ken Kwapis knew exactly what he wanted, and he knew how to get the best out of people, and he inspired people to work for him. He pushed them that extra mile, which was really, really cool to see.
So in the near future, you could conceivably be a one-girl wrecking crew who can handle everything from writing to directing to acting to filming.
It's getting to that point! I've actually script supervised on a couple of things now, which is a horrible job. I don't wish it on anyone. I've always had a great deal of respect for script supervisors, but now they have my sympathy as well. [laughs] Wow...props to anyone who's script supervising right now, or who ever has, or who ever plans on it, because it takes a lot of focus and a lot of work.
Finally, I read that you attempted to use your acting powers for evil. After filming a catastrophe scene for 14 Hours, you tried to trick people into thinking you were actually hurt?
Oh, yes! We were filming just down the street from the climbing gym that I work at, so I was like, "I'm gonna go in and say hi to everyone." So I went in, but I still had my makeup on--I had this giant gash on my forehead. And we had been filming in the street just behind the building, and there had been overturned cars and firefighters there all day, and the roads had been closed off. It looked like there was a big car accident, but really we were just filming. So I went in, and I was trying to trick all my co-workers into thinking that I had been in some horrendous accident. But not one of them believed me. The only person that I managed to scare was some poor woman who had come in to use the gym.
[laughs] Katie, thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview.