We Love Soaps recently participated in a media session with MAKE IT BREAK IT star Ayla Kell, who plays Payson Keeler. Payson went into Nationals as The Rock's top gymnast but a slip on the uneven bars sent her dreams crashing down. You can follow her story on MAKE IT OR BREAK IT on Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET on ABC Family. You can read the entire Q&A below.
Roger Newcomb (We Love Soaps): How has your experience on MAKE IT OR BREAK IT been different than you imagined it would be?
Ayla Kell: It’s been different than I imagined it would be in that I’ve gotten so close with the girls that it’s like we lead this double life. We have our lives that we all chit-chat about at work and then we have these character lives, who we take so true to heart, and we will fight over our characters. We’ll be like, “No, no, Lauren, you’re the mean one and it’s not Kaylie’s fault.” We take it so true to heart; I never thought I would become so defensive of my character alongside the other girls.
Roger Newcomb (We Love Soaps): Have you learned anything from playing Payson that you’ve applied to your own life? Or any lessons you’ve learned from the character?
Ayla Kell: Most definitely, I have. I get a lot of “mom” speeches from Peri. I actually listen to them while we’re doing scenes, and actually taking in the information and the things that she says about how there’s other things in life and there’s other things to be proud of.
I’m naturally a curvy woman and she actually gave me a whole speech on there’s nothing prettier than a strong, powerful woman. It was stuff that really hit home with me, it was stuff I listened to, I absorbed. I felt like it has made me a better person. It has definitely helped me grow up during the show because I have “mom” speeches all the time. It’s so much fun.
Megan Ward (tvismypacifer.com): This story line for Payson has been really emotional. Where has your inspiration been coming from for this?
Ayla Kell: My inspiration has been coming from my own life. I did ballet professionally for 14 years and I suffered a really bad knee injury that I thought was going to be entirely crippling to my career as a dancer. But, I pushed through and was able to conquer with the support of my family, my friends, my teachers. It’s really given me a great base, a place to level with Payson… it’s so true to who I am.
Elizabeth Gilbert (Pink Lemonade of Life): Last week, we got a glimpse of Payson giving a few tips to Kaylie on beam. Do you think she’ll ever make an appearance at the Rock as a coach?
Ayla Kell: It’s very possible because she is informed and very driven and I don’t see how they can keep her away from gymnastics that much longer. Mind you, I don’t get the script before we shoot them; I get them as we shoot, so I’m waiting to find out just as much as everybody else.
Alix Sternberg (The TV Chick): I know when you spoke on set that you said that we would see a less than perfect Payson so far this season, and we definitely have. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the journey Payson’s gone through so far this season.
Ayla Kell: Well, Payson has had her whole life, not just her career, her whole life stripped away from her with the injury. She’s not only trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, but trying to figure out who she is without gymnastics. It was what she woke up and thought about; she was entirely involved with gymnastics. So with it gone, she’s trying to figure out, am I anybody without it? It’s very, very less than perfect I would have to say. There’s a lot of emotion that goes with it of putting everybody else in the show through all this rigmarole.
Alix Sternberg (The TV Chick): Yeah, absolutely. And are we going to see her embrace her new situation?
Ayla Kell: I’m going to have to say embrace and conquer.
Sarah Fulghum (totallyher.com): Now that your character is injured, do you still have to train with the other girls on the show?
Ayla Kell: Heck, yeah, I do. The only problem is usually our shooting schedules will be a little mish-mashed. So I train with them when I can, but when I can’t, they have me training all by my lonesome, which is no fun, let me say! And they kind of have encouraged me to keep training outside of work as well, so I’m still keeping up my regimen.
Lisa Hiser (Shine On Media): I’ve seen the previews for the next few episodes and it shows Payson going to high school. How’s that going to affect her attitude and her whole situation?
Ayla Kell: At first, it definitely does not help the situation. I would say it almost hinders the situation, the pressure she’s feeling from not having gymnastics. The last thing Payson wants is to be average, to be what she calls “normal” because she has led such an extraordinary life and such an amazing path already. It’s definitely trying for her, and it’s difficult for her to feel like she’s doing the right thing by going to high school. So it definitely hurts, but then it might help.
Heather Blanchett (disneydreaming.com): We were wondering which character on the show you think you are personally most like and why?
Ayla Kell: I definitely feel like I’m most like Payson because of my ultra-driven, ultra-focused way that I am and how committed I get to things. I get stuck in my ways, every once in a while, especially when it comes to aspirations and dreams. But, if I had to be like any other character on the show, I would have to say Miss Chloe Kmetko. She is hilarious. She has that big, southern drawl and I totally connect with that because she’s hilarious - she’s so funny!
Megan Ward (tvismypacifier.com): Recently I interviewed Josie Loren and she told me that you were the Martha Stewart of the group. Tell us a little bit about your other three mates. What would you classify them in the group?
Ayla Kell: Let’s see, I have to classify Cassie as our comedic relief, most definitely. She is hilarious, and she doesn’t even try. I’d have to say Chelsea is kind of like “mama.” Like she’s my older sister, she’ll take care of anything; she’ll help you with anything. And Josie, I have to say Josie is just little miss sunshine. She is so sweet about everything. I’m going to stick with that.
Megan Ward (tvismypacifier.com): That’s very close to what Josie described Emily and Lauren. What’s it like to work with Peri?
Ayla Kell: Amazing. She is such a wonderful, wonderful person and such a wonderful actress. I always watched Frazier, I have seen every single episode, and when they told that they had cast her as my mom, I almost passed out.
And then when I met her, I was so quiet! I’m not a quiet person at all. I’m very loud and outgoing, but when I met her I was like so quiet and reserved. It was like meeting somebody I looked up to for years and years and years. As I’ve gotten to know her and have this relationship with her, it’s so surreal to me to go to work and I go “Hi, Mom.” You know, we just have a conversation and then every once in a while I’ll look at her and be like, “My God, I am talking to Roz from Frazier!” That’s amazing!
Emily Dodi (abcfamily.com): I’m actually following up on that question about the Martha Stewart comment. I think it’s pretty interesting. Would you classify yourself that way and why do you think she described you that way?
Ayla Kell: She described me that way because I’m very, very much into cooking and baking. I’m certified to decorate cakes from Wilton. So it kind of is a natural classification and I sew clothes and I do that kind of stuff all the time. So it’s constantly, it’s not just Cassie; the crew calls me Martha Stewart as well. It’s a classification I thoroughly enjoy and one day would love to meet Martha Stewart.
Lisa Hiser (Shine On Media): We’ve seen kind of flirting between Payson and Nicky. Are we going to see that relationship develop into something more?
Ayla Kell: It definitely does develop, but then, as always, something has to go wrong. I’m not going to blame anybody, but I’m definitely going to say it probably is Lauren’s fault because she messes up all relationships.
Lisa Hiser (Shine On Media): Speaking of, is it kind of awkward working with Cassie’s boyfriend who plays Nicky?
Ayla Kell: You know I really thought it would be and I actually told her, “Look, we’re so close, I don’t want this to be an issue.” And she was like, “There’s nobody else I would want it to be other than one of you girls, because I trust you guys so much.” She was there for most of the scenes that we were doing. The whole big kiss thing? She was there for that. It was weird at first, and then, it was like, eh, it’s Cassie. She’s cool.
Lisa Hiser (Shine On Media): Last question. Now that the show’s been on for a little while, do you get recognized more when you go out?
Ayla Kell: It’s definitely happening more and more frequently. Especially, since at my local mall, the posters are up everywhere. So I went in to go get something and I walked past my own poster. I’m pretty sure people saw me walking past it and then later on came up to me, because it happens pretty frequently now.
My favorite is that once, I was in Victoria’s Secret because they send you a free underwear thing all the time. I was in Victoria’s Secret and I saw this worst piece of, like, lingerie ever. I was with my Mom and …went, “Ew, Mom, this is so gross!” A little girl came up to me and went “Oh, my God, are you Ayla Kell of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT?” I was like there was no way I could talk myself out of this situation. This is just a total fail. So let it be known that I’m not wearing trashy lingerie like that small child saw me picking up.
Sarah Fulghum (totallyher.com): How has the success of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT changed your life?
Ayla Kell: It’s changed my life in a lot of ways. I feel as though it’s given me the opportunity to help people who have helped me throughout my entire life. It’s given me the ability to help my friends in that I always am hosting their shows and because I have so many artist friends it’s a hard road to take, even for actors a lot times, it’s a hard road to take. So it’s given me such a great opportunity to be able to pay back a little bit of my debt with my friends and how much they’ve supported me through my life.
Especially, my mom and my dad, it’s given me such a wonderful ability to be able to take them out to dinner, and to be able to do stuff for them. I totally spoiled them this past Christmas. They kept going, “We have to take this stuff back! You’re giving us too much!” I was like you’ve given me so much my entire life. One Christmas is not going to hurt. So, it’s changed my life definitely for the better. I mean, its great working. I love working. So, it makes me so happy to have a job.
Alix Sternberg (The TV Chick): So I just wanted to know what it was like for you filming, especially the last scene in the last episode that we saw where Payson finds out the news that the doctor can’t operate on your condition. I just want to know what it’s been like for you filming these emotional scenes so far.
Ayla Kell: The very emotional scenes are some of the most fun for me. I’m not a huge, like, I’m not a big crier in my own life. But for some reason, I can connect with the character and what they’re going through and just instantly be able to cry. Especially this past episode, the one you guys just last saw, it’s clearly a very heartbreaking moment, not just for me, but my family as well.
My little family unit on the show has really become like family to me. So, seeing them going through that because of me, because of Payson’s pain and because of Payson’s heartbreak from another doctor, it’s so easy to connect in. Those two, Brett and Peri make it so easy for me to be able to just sob. It’s fun. People think it isn’t fun, they think it’s like an emotional strain, but it’s enjoyable for us to film that kind of crying stuff.
Megan Ward (tvismypacifer.com): My readers would like to know what your favorite TV show currently on, besides your own, of course.
Ayla Kell: My favorite TV show currently? Hmmm. I think I’m going to have to go with Sons of Anarchy. It’s not in season right now, but it is one of the best shows I’ve seen on TV. The other one I really, really love is Chuck on a totally different note. They’re totally different. But Chuck is so cute and so adorable on that show. I love that even though it’s farfetched and it’s fun, in all of those actors’ faces you see that true feeling of pain.
Megan Ward (tvismypacifer.com): It is a very good show. If you could guest star on any show, which show would it be?
Ayla Kell: If I could guest star on any show, I would want to guest star on Brothers and Sisters. That would be because of the actors on that show. My God, Sally Field is amazing; Rob Lowe, also amazing. They’ve just got some amazing people over there who are so great at the craft and I feel as though working with them I could learn so much.
Megan Ward (tvismypacifer.com): Okay. I’d like to know are you actually on Twitter?
Ayla Kell: I’m not on Twitter. I’m so glad somebody asked this. I am not on Twitter just because I never saw a reason to it. I never really got into it and now it’s become such a big thing, I feel as though I should at some point. But, if you are a friend of me on Twitter, it’s not me.
Megan Ward (tvismypacifer.com): And the Facebook page? Is that actually you?
Ayla Kell: The Ayla Kell Fan Facebook is me.
Lisa Hiser (Shine On Media): That back brace looks really uncomfortable. Is it hard having to act in that?
Ayla Kell: Oh, it is so uncomfortable! It is awful! I think it pushes on my liver or something. It is just not good. But, it makes it very easy to be in back pain, I’ll tell you that much. I’m not pretending to be in back pain. I made Peri put it on once and she was, like, “How do you breathe in this? This is awful!” Yeah, that’s what I’m doing every day.
Lisa Hiser (Shine On Media): Valentine’s Day is coming up. Do you have any Valentine’s-related funny stories or do’s and don’ts for people?
Ayla Kell: My favorite Valentine’s story is when I was in elementary school there was a boy named Kalin, and he is going to kill me if he ever reads this. There was a boy named Kalin and he was my boyfriend, I’d say for five years. So every Valentine’s Day, we did this whole Valentine’s Day exchange of cards and stuff. It was just so sweet and so cute. I think as a joke this year, I’m going to send him a Valentine because I keep cards just because people put their heart and soul into that kind of stuff. So, I keep cards. I’m going to send him one that he sent me from elementary school.