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Q&A: Alice Greczyn Talks THE LYING GAME, MAKE IT OR BREAK IT and Food!

Alice Greczyn recently had a recurring role on ABC Family's MAKE IT OR BREAK IT and appeared for three seasons on the network's critically acclaimed series LINCOLN HEIGHTS. She also starred as a series regular on NBC's WINDFALL, and other TV credits include arcs on PRIVILEGED and QUINTUPLETS. On the big screen she could be seen in The Dukes of Hazzard, Fat Albert, and most recently Sex Drive.

Greczyn was born in Walnut Creek, California and grew up moving around the Midwest and Rocky Mountain range. While a nursing student in Colorado, she was approached by a talent scout who invited her to LA where her acting career was quickly set in motion. She enjoys traveling, cooking, writing, and spending time with her family.

Currently Greczyn is starring as Madeline "Mads" Rybak on THE LYING GAME. Mads is a cool, intelligent high school student and ballerina, and one of Sutton's (Alexandra Chando) best friends. Her mother left the picture years ago, and her father Alec (Adrian Pasdar) is trying to turn a new leaf with his family as he continues to hide the indiscretions of his past. Mads is very close to her older brother Thayer (Christian Alexander), but with the arrival of Emma replacing Sutton unbeknownst to Mads, she increasingly senses that something is up and that her father and brother know more than they are letting on.

Below is a transcript from a recent Q&A with the up and coming young actress.

How do you think things are going to change for Mads and other characters now that she knows the big secret?
Alice Greczyn: The biggest thing that changes for Mads is that being let in on the secret opens up a door for her to find out a lot more about her dad and his possible involvement in all the mysteries on the show. For the rest of the season, Mads is pretty much just uncovering more and more about him, and it brings a lot of tension between Mads and Thayer, and Emma’s sort of in the middle of it.

Mads kind of acts as an ally to Emma because she’s really upset with Sutton, and now that she knows Emma’s not actually Sutton, she and Emma can be friends. But at the same time, Emma’s also the one telling Mads thing she doesn’t want to hear about her dad, so there’s still some tension there, and that plays out through the rest of the season…

Is ballet a part of your life too?
Alice Greczyn: No, but I am so flattered that they even asked. That means I’m doing something right if it’s not extremely obvious. No, I’m not a dancer. I was a competitive figure skater when I was a kid. I think I did, maybe, six months of ballet at some point in there in my childhood, but when I moved to Austin for the show, that was one of the first things I did. The first two, three weeks were filled with intensive days with a choreographer that the show hired to help work with me, since they weren’t going to use a dance double, and it was pretty brutal.

I’m naturally thin, and people tell me I have a ballerina’s build, but I’m not naturally—my muscles were not trained to hold themselves in the way that they must for ballet. To even just hold your arm right is very difficult and painful. I have so much respect for dancers now after, kind of, putting myself in their shoes for a little bit.

What are the similarities between you and your character on the show?
Alice Greczyn: There aren’t many. I’m from a big family; I have four younger siblings. My parents are still happily married together. I grew up moving around a lot, and my family was certainly not affluent. So on face value, there’s not much I have in common with my character, like the whole—I was going to say we could get into the whole nature versus nurture argument, but that’s a different conversation.

Basically, your environment brings you up when you’re a child, kind of shapes who you are. I think Mads and I had very different upbringings, and so we don’t really have a lot in common. Even if we were the same age and I met Mads, I don’t even know if we’d necessarily be friends. I think we tend to socialize in the circles that we’re raised in to an extent, and I don’t have that much in common with her. But that’s what makes her so fun to play.

I’ve enjoyed putting myself in the shoes of this rich girl who has a father that is the villain of the show. And for the first time (I think) in my career, I’m playing a character that has a sibling, which is really cool. I really enjoy having scenes with Christian, who plays Thayer. It’s a fun dynamic to play with.

I think the only thing, maybe, me and Mads have in common is that we both are very loyal and very keen observers, I guess. Mads, from day one, has always been suspicious of Sutton’s new behavior, and now she knows that it’s Emma. So all the dots are starting to connect, and everything’s starting to make sense.

What do you admire most about Mads?
Alice Greczyn: I admire her sense of confidence and discipline. I think anyone who dances ballet has to be a very self-disciplined person, very motivated, and very hardworking. She’s also a good student, and I think she prides herself on being a good friend. She’s very there for her friends.

Char is not really in the show so much anymore, but I think with Char you really got to see what a loyal friend Mads was to her, and very caring. I think there’s very few people Mads lets in, but the ones that she does let in, she cares very deeply about. So that’s why it’s very wounding to her when, all of a sudden, Sutton is—she’s gotten used to Emma’s version of Sutton, who’s been really sweet and really kind, and I think that’s really meant a lot to Mads—and all of a sudden, real Sutton comes back, and before she knows it’s real Sutton, she’s so thrown because they’re two completely different people, and being inconsistent she’s obviously aggravated her. But now that she knows that there’s two of them, she and Emma can work on their own relationship, and Mads will have to deal with Sutton totally separately.

When you first read the role of Mads, what was it about this character that made you want to play her?
Alice Greczyn: When I first read it, the role was a lot different than it is now. When I first read it, she was sort of the edgy, punky one in the group, and she wanted to be a writer. She had a possibly abusive relationship with her dad. Her brother was gone and she seemed much more like a loner and much more of the darker one of the three girls—of Mads, Char, and Sutton.

Obviously, that storyline has changed a lot. Once a pilot gets picked up, the network gives their notes on what they want to see happen, and so I guess, to be honest, a lot of things that initially drew me to her are no longer very apparent to a viewer. I know they’re there, but the storyline, dialog, and writing doesn’t shed so much light on it. But I’ve also found other things that keep me still drawn to her. I love that she was a dancer. I love playing someone that had a passion and a talent outside of just being an average high-school kid. I like that about her. And like I said before, I like that she had a brother that she really cared about. I loved playing with that sibling dynamic.

I like working on a show that always keeps me in suspense. It’s really fun for me to see what the next episodes are as I get the scripts coming in. So that’s fun, you know? It’s a drama/suspense show, and I think as far as TV goes, that’s probably the main genre I’m interested in.

Do have a favorite memory or moment from either on the show or behind the scenes that you could share with our fans?
Alice Greczyn: Well let’s see, last summer when we shot the first 10 episodes, that was a really special time because we were all new to Austin. We were exploring all over the place and getting to know each other. On Fourth of July, we rented a boat on Lake Travis and went tubing, and that was a blast. We all really do have a lot of fun together.

Let’s see, I think we might be going off-roading this weekend as sort of a little last hurrah for ourselves. Texas has a lot to do and a lot to explore, and so we all have fun doing that. And of course, I’ve made everybody explore every possible restaurant that they can. If anyone’s going to go eat with me, there’s lots of eating to be done. They’re all used to me taking pictures of their food before I allow them to eat it so I can either tweet about it or just have it for my own personal collection to inspire me in my cooking.

As far as the show goes, I really had fun shooting—I remember I had a lot of shooting the homecoming episode. That was really fun. I think that was episode 105 or 106. But really just—I mean, it’s hard because I feel like I know each of the cast members so well individually, but I work with very few of them. I have very little scenes with Allie, and Allie and I are very good friends off-screen, but we hardly ever get to work together. If we’re in a scene together, we never have dialog.

I have a lot of dialog with Christian and Alex. And Alex, (poor thing) she’s the one who works more than any of us, so I rarely see her outside of work. I see Christian quite a bit outside of work and Tyler, who plays Dan, he and I hang out. I mean, a lot of the guest stars that come through—like Randy—I’ve known Randy for a while, Misha—who’s playing Ryan right now—he and I hang out. And then one of my best friends from L.A., Andy Fischer-Price—he plays one of the guys in Laurel’s band and has no on-screen dialog—but when he’s around, he and I hang out too.

So I don’t know. I wish the fans could—or I should say I wish the writers—could give a little a lot more scenes where all of us are together. I’d love to be able to have more dialogue with Allie. Blair and I were laughing the other day; I think we said two lines to each other in the entire season, and we hang out a lot outside of work too, so it’s like—how do you know that if you’re just watching the show? But it is fun. We are all very close.

You recently did a guest-starring appearance on Make It or Break It, where you performed as an anorexic character. Can you tell us about that experience and how it may have affected you personally?
Alice Greczyn: I certainly did not realize what I was walking into when I did that role. Obviously, eating disorders are a very hot topic, and that’s one of the things that fans asked me the most about on Twitter or Facebook. It seems everyone wants to know if I have an eating disorder, and playing an anorexic character on MAKE IT OR BREAK IT. It probably didn’t help much.

To set the record straight, I certainly do not have an eating disorder. I think as anyone can gather, I love food, and it is not just a front to cover up the fact that I don’t eat any. I do like that. I think that arc on Make It or Break It—I was in there for three episodes—it was interesting to play that character because she did have an eating disorder and was in total denial about it and had been in and out of rehab for anorexics and bulimics and knew how to work the system and play along so that she could get out, and then she’d go right back to being anorexic again.

I’ve never played a character like that before, so that was really interesting for me personally and the aftermath of that was what affected me personally. I had girls tweeting me saying that they—one girl, she taped a picture of me on her water bottle when she went jogging to inspire her to stay thin, and that made me feel really sad.

On one hand, I think it’s great that people are talking about it. I always try to encourage everyone to be happy and healthy and fully accepting of who they are, but it’s a very sensitive subject to talk about because it’s very easy for someone like me who’s naturally thin to be like, “Oh, well just eat in moderation, blah, blah, blah.” But a lot of people don’t look like me naturally, and so they must assume that there’s something very wrong with me mentally and physically, and that’s been difficult for me to deal with personally.

There are times that I feel very angered by a lot of the responses and questions, and I think a lot of people project a lot of hateful jealousy in their comments. I’ve definitely gotten some nasty ones, and I’ve gotten some very troublesome ones (some disturbing ones) of girls who were trying, like, “Oh, I need to make sure my ribs show like hers do, then I’ll know I’m skinny enough.” It’s not about ribs showing or not. If they show, and you’re a naturally healthy person, you just have really prominent bone structure or you’re just naturally healthy. Just be healthy.

That has been a very troubling topic to me. I could go on at length about it. It’s a very big deal, and I recognize that. I don’t take it lightly. I don’t take viewers’ comments lightly. It definitely does affect me, and there’s not much I can really say except to just encourage loving of yourself, and there are bigger things to worry about than whether or not your ribs are showing.

How did you get into acting?
Alice Greczyn: I never anticipated being an actor. When I was a kid, I competed in figure skating, and I thought I might go that route, and then by the time I was high-school aged—I got my GED when I was 16, and I was in college for nursing school—and I really wanted to be a nurse and travel the world and do that. But then I fell into acting through modeling—because I’ve done quite a bit of modeling as well—and a talent manager from L.A. was like, “Oh, you should be an actress. Come to L.A. for pilot season.” So I did. I did not plan to stay. I did not plan for anything really to happen, but I started booking work. So long story short, I just thought, “I guess I’ll just see where this goes and see what else I book,” and it’s been a very fruitful career.

I’ve been very fortunate not to have to have a second job since I started, which was nine years ago. I’ve made my living from acting, and a little bit of modeling too every now and then for fun. Yeah, I think I’m pretty committed to it now. The longer I’m in it, the harder it would be to imagine doing something else as my primary career, even though I have a lot of other different interests.

When you found out you booked the role of Mads, how did you research to play her? What preparation went into that, and is it different from the ways you’ve researched your other roles?
Alice Greczyn: It is different. One thing I always do for all of my characters is I—I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs temperament test, but I’m kind of obsessed with psychology, and I love taking personality quizzes. The Myers-Briggs test, I take as each one of my characters, and it kind of tells me, in a nutshell, what type of personality they are, [what] they’re like in life and family and work and love, and I kind of start from there.

So when we were filming the pilot, I kind of felt like, “Oh, I think Mads is an ISTP artisan. I know that’s a very clinical-sounding word, but basically I thought she was more of an introvert and a lot more observant. She’s a dancer, and so she’s very technical and very artistic and very disciplined. That kind of filled me in a little bit about her.

In the beginning of the season, I had a crush on Eduardo (my dance teacher) who I probably grew up having a crush on, and as we all know that ended disastrously. So I think Mads is at a very fragile time in life right now where she’s still learning about herself, as many teenagers are, and I think these events are happening to her right now in this season—losing Eduardo, having suspicions about her dad, not being able to trust her best friend—I think all of these are very much going to shape the woman she is going to become. I think Mads is an internal processor and thinks about things very deeply, and things affect her very deeply even if she doesn’t necessarily let it show.

Yes, it does. It tells us you put a lot of thought into it.
Alice Greczyn: I do. I do. And of course, it changes too, because sometimes I think like, “Oh Mads wouldn’t handle a situation like this,” then I read the next script and it’s like, “What? Now she’s emotional?” I’m like, “Oh, wait a minute, now she’s strong?” It’s a little confusing sometimes because the writers—we have a lot of different writers—and I think episode to episode, Mads evolves, which people do.

But sometimes it’s a little bit frustrating and I find inconsistencies with character, but fortunately we have a great team of writers who are very collaborative, and we can talk it out and work on it, and find a happy medium where the network is pleased or the director is pleased, the producers, and me as the actor. And I really value that about this particular TV show. It’s very rare to have that in TV.

How is it that food became your passion? You can seem very passionate about it from a lot of different aspects.
Alice Greczyn: I am. I was raised in a family where food was very central to our lives. I have a mother who’s a great cook, and she was always trying new recipes from all different worldly cuisines. We’d have Moroccan food one night, and then the next night she’d try a Vietnamese soup, and then the next night it would be a casserole.

My mother’s half-Asian, and she grew up with a lot of Asian food, and so therefore I grew up with a lot of Asian food, mainly Korean dishes. We love bulgogi, and there’s a Korean potsticker, and that was a family favorite. So I think from a very young age, even though I grew up mainly in the Midwest, I was exposed to a lot of different types of ethnic cuisine, and that sort of set the bar for my palate as an adult. And then now as an adult, I try to take it even further.

I love traveling. I think travel is probably how I found my own individual love for food separate from my family because when—you don’t know what you’re missing until you find it, you know? You don’t know what you don’t know about. I didn’t know that I didn’t know about schnitzel or … until I was in Austria, or blood pudding in Ireland, and I think food symbolizes culture to me because food is the centerpiece of any social gathering. It would be very weird to have a social gathering where there’s not food, and so I think food is just a symbol.

Yes, I love food in and of itself. I love flavor. I love texture. I love fragrance. I love playing with all of those. I think it’s a beautiful science. It’s a perfect example of art and science merging in one, and it’s something that you can share. So I think what it symbolizes to me is the facilitation of social gathering, and then in that, I find it to be—I love observing people. I love learning new things, and I think food is a great way to do that. It shares someone’s history. If you ask anyone what’s on their family’s Thanksgiving menu, you learn a lot about their culture and where their family comes from, whether they’re Swedish or Turkish or anything. So I think that that’s why I love it. I love what it symbolizes, and I also just love it for its own sake.


You were talking about Mads’ suspicion of her father. Do you think she will ever figure out that Alec had anything to do with Eduardo’s accident, and how will she react?
Alice Greczyn: I’m not sure. I think, maybe, she probably already has, but you would not see that on the show. I think the way the disaster with Eduardo ended, she did find out that her dad did pay Eduardo to leave town. Emma, as Sutton, confirmed that. I’m not sure. I imagine it must have been a story line issue where they couldn’t devote that much time to Mads’ story line because there were so many other things going on with the other characters on the show as well.

I think we just have to assume that Mads does know her dad paid Eduardo to leave town. I don’t think she thinks he deliberately ran him over with a car, but I think Mad chose to move on, deal with it. Eduardo’s gone. I think she has a very steely resolve, and I think family’s important to Mads, and she just wanted—there was a scene with Thayer at the end of the first 10 episodes where she was like, “Look, you know, let’s just be a family. Let’s just get along. That’s all Dad wants. That’s all I want. Let’s just stop thinking these bad things about Dad.”

I think Mads, she’s very aware her dad’s not a very savory character, but I think she has just sort of accepted it and would rather focus on more positive things and just not deal. I think it’s very difficult as a teenager, especially one who’s so close to leaving the house—I know for myself, you just kind of go into just dealing mode, and if you try to challenge and it doesn’t get you anywhere good, you just stop, and you just deal with it internally. So I imagine that’s probably, to an extent, what Mads is doing with the suspicions about her father and his character.

You tweet a lot about food @alicefood).
Alice Greczyn: I certainly do.

What is the most exotic dish that you have ever sampled?
Alice Greczyn: The most exotic dish I’ve ever sampled, probably—it happened when I was a toddler, and I can’t really remember—but according to my parents we were in South Korea, and they fed me dog. That would be the most exotic. The most exotic food I’ve ever eaten of my own accord was probably barbecued alligator in Louisiana, which was actually really good.

Do you ever see in the future of you doing a complete TV show about food?
Alice Greczyn: You know, people have asked me that. People have asked me if I would even do my own web series about food. I’m not very comfortable being myself in front of camera, but I love to write about food. I used to do restaurant reviews as a side hobby in L.A., and I love writing about it. I love food journalism, especially travel and food together. I am working on a cookbook, so I think my passion for food will manifest itself more in writing than in front of the camera. But who’s to say, you know? I am open to the possibility.

Do you have a favorite dish that you like to cook for yourself or friends, or anybody?
Alice Greczyn: For friends, I love cooking—I guess my go-to recipe if I know I’m going to host people over for dinner, and it’s sort of like a last-minute thing, and I don’t have time to browse over new recipes, I love making a butternut squash ravioli with a sage and brown-butter sauce. I use the recipe from Todd English—that’s a chef and owner of Olives restaurant, which has the dish. My favorite Olives restaurant is in Vegas at the Bellagio. That dish, when I eat it, it was—stars were in my eyes. He was a generous chef enough to share the recipe online. Anyone can find it.

It sounds really overwhelming, but it’s actually fairly simple to make, and it’s always a hit with vegetarians and carnivores alike. That’s a pretty easy recipe. Then I love baking. Baking is my favorite thing to do. I love making pies, cobblers, cookies, cakes, anything. I’ll try anything. I subscribe to a lot of food magazines, and so those always give me new inspirations and—so yeah. It’s fun.

I love hosting. I rarely cook just for myself. I always have to have a group to cook for to really motivate me. If I’m just by myself, and I’m home at night, I usually order takeout Thai or Indian food or I’ll just have cereal or Ramen Noodles. I’m shameless about it. I love Ramen, loaded with chemicals, but I love that parmesan chicken Ramen. I love it.

Perhaps maybe you should think about opening your own restaurant later.
Alice Greczyn: Oh, I have plans one day. One of my big dreams is to have my own bakery/tea house. I’m equally obsessed with tea as much as I am with food. There’s not enough tea houses, and the ones that there are, they’re usually, like, stuffy and English-themed and just not that great, or they’re too Zen Buddha-themed. I’d like to have an international variety of tea and a beautiful setting, and I’d also like to have baked goods. So that’s one of the things on my list of things to do. I figure, maybe, when I’m in my 50s. I got to save something for me to do later on in life, can’t do it all now.

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