Monday, June 13, 2011

Q&A: Skyler Samuels on Chloe King, Superpowers, and Glee!

Skyler Samuels most recently starred on the ABC series THE GATES, opposite Rhona Mitra and Colton Haynes. She also appeared in the films The Stepfather (with Penn Badgley, Sela Ward, and Dylan Walsh) and Furry Vengeance (with Brendan Fraser). Other notable roles include guest-starring turns on DRAKE AND JOSH, THE SUITE LIFE WITH ZACK AND CODY, THAT'S SO RAVEN and WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE.

Samuels is a full time high school student in Los Angeles where she resides with her family. In her spare time, she is an avid photographer, enjoys Pilates, traveling (with an affinity for France where she gets a chance to utilize her linguistic skills) and spending time with family and friends.

On the new ABC Family soap THE NINE LIVE OF CHLOE KING (premiering tomorrow, Tuesday June 14 at 9/8c), Samuels stars as Chloe -- a pretty, smart, slightly off beat teenage girl with a serious independent streak. Adopted from the Ukraine and now living in San Francisco with her mother, Chloe discovers upon her 16th birthday that she's the descendant of a super-human ancient race with cat-like abilities called the Mai. The Mai have been hunted by human assassins for millenia. Can she navigate the perils of being a teenager while also saving her people from extinction?

WE LOVE SOAPS TV recently spoke with Samuels about her career, her new show and her guilty pleasures.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: We actually have two cats here at our midtown Manhattan offices, so this first one comes from them. Your character is described as having cat-like superpowers, and they would like to know if you, in real life, had those powers, which ones would you choose?
Skyler Samuels: You can tell the cats at the office I’m jealous of the claws. I wish I had claws, just because how cool would that be? But among my cat-like powers, I also would probably like to have super speed, just so I can get more done in a day. It seems like a much more practical superpower to me.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Would you share with us your guilty pleasure TV show?
Skyler Samuels: Oh, my goodness. My guilty pleasure TV show would have to be GLEE. I’m weirdly addicted to the show, and I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried. I’ve never been a big musical buff, or anything, but I find myself week after week, no matter what, tuning into Glee. So that’s definitely my TV go-see pleasure.

Can you tell us what we can expect this season?
Skyler Samuels: Well, this first season of THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING is filled with adventures, thrills, romance, comedy and drama, and a lot of heartfelt relationships. There is nothing predictable about this first season. It’s filled with a lot of unexpected twists and turns, and it will leave you on the edge of your seat.

How did you become involved in the project?
Skyler Samuels:  I had an audition for this show back in the fall of 2010, and I went in and I just fell in love. I loved the pilot before, and I was just, I was just in love with the script. Chloe and I have so much in common. I could hear my own voice in the things she said and did.

And a super-embarrassing story—when I walked in on the audition, I introduced myself as Chloe. I was totally embarrassed because I accidentally said Chloe instead of my own name, but sure enough, they agreed, because here I am playing Chloe King, and I’m having the time of my life.

I’m curious if you read the books to sort of prepare for your role.
Skyler Samuels: I have read the books. I read them before we started the pilot to get a little bit of a background about the show. But in all honesty, we’ve taken a lot of creative liberties with the books and our adaptations of the TV show. We kind of have a lot of the same basic ideas as the books—some of the mythology, a lot of the main characters are still the same. But we’ve taken a lot of liberties in making it more exciting, and more action-oriented, and really spicing it up. So I think that the fans of the book will really appreciate what we’ve done with the show.

Has it been a challenge for you playing sort of an element of the supernatural?
Skyler Samuels: Playing a supernatural is more realistic than I thought it would be. It’s a lot of fun, absolutely, because having super hearing and super vision and super speed and all of the super things you can have is certainly not normal, and it’s a lot of fun. But on this show, it always comes back to something very realistic that I can relate to from my own life. So it’s been not as difficult as I thought it would be to play the supernatural. It’s been quite fun and easy.

You were on THE GATES, and I love that show. I was wondering is there any kind of conscious attempt on your part to play in supernatural-type TV shows, or did it just work out that way?
Skyler Samuels: I had a great time working on THE GATES, and that was my first kind of real experience doing supernatural television—working with the special effects and the storylines and everything that goes into making a supernatural show. It was kind of complete coincidence that I ended up on THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING.

I guess I must be subconsciously drawn to the supernatural realm, but I’ve had a lot of fun, and one character—each character is not like the rest. They’re all different and they all have different powers and abilities. I’ve had a really fun time following the supernatural, and I’m certainly enjoying the experience.

Did you ever watch any supernatural/paranormal shows growing up?
Skyler Samuels: Oh, there were supernatural movies, like the Hocus Pocus and Luck of Witches and SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH. So I had a little bit of supernatural influence when I was growing up and watching TV. But I never thought anything different of it, compared to the rest of the shows I might watch. The supernatural never struck me as something that I really wanted to do; I just kind of fell into it by accident.

Can you describe Chloe?
Skyler Samuels: Sure. Well, Chloe is definitely more of a superhero than a supernatural creature. On her 16th birthday when she discovered that she’s got these heightened abilities—the super speed, super hearing, and these claws, and she’s got, you know, the ability to read peoples’ feelings. This incredible combination kind of leads Chloe to want to help people who are in trouble.

So even though Chloe finds herself running from bad guys and the ones who are trying to kill her because I’m this special girl who can die nine times and people are trying to see if it’s true, and they’re trying to get rid of me and the rest of our feline race, the Mai. Chloe still finds herself trying to help people and save peoples’ lives using her heightened abilities. So she’s constantly torn between the chase and having to save the day.

What character traits of Chloe King that mimics your own?
Skyler Samuels: Chloe and I are both kind of quirky, odd balls out that don’t exactly go with the status quo. We’re both juniors in high school full time, and we’ve got quirky best friends and awesome relationships with our moms. But I think the biggest difference and the thing I admire most about Chloe is her willingness to just be adventurous, and take a risk, and do these incredible things. So, Chloe’s like Skyler, but amplified and I kind of love it.

Is there any characteristic of Chloe that is complex that you had to take time to adjust to it?
Skyler Samuels: I think Chloe definitely has challenged me as far as the situations that she goes through. Chloe is always involved in situations where it’s life and death, and I think having to put myself in the fear factor mode is definitely a challenge. But it’s been really interesting trying to adapt to that and trying to get into Chloe’s head and be like, “What does it feel like to be in this life and death situation? What would I do? How would I handle it?” So that’s definitely been a challenge; but a fun one.

Have you had a chance to see many of the episodes yet, yourself?
Skyler Samuels: No, I’ve seen the first episode; the pilot, which is very cool. But I’ve seen little bits and pieces and I work all the time. But, we just started episode eight this week, and it’s amazing to me, because looking back at what the pilot is, it’s like a completely different show.

I mean, the pilot is exciting, and it’s both thrill and adventure. But when I look at where we’ve come now—I mean this season has just taken the most incredible twists and turns. I think our audience is going to be really pleased with how this season ends.

In watching the pilot, and also just in shooting it, do you think it feels kind of more like a supernatural show, or an adventure show, or a teen series? Or does it have kind of more a lean one way or another, or is it just a big blend?
Skyler Samuels: Well, when I first saw the pilot I cried. I was so excited at what I saw. I mean, making it, I had the most incredible time, and to see it all put together, it was better than I could have hoped for. It was absolutely magnificent. It had everything that I dreamt and thought it would.

It was filled with real emotion and realistic relationships between my friends, my mom and I, all the people on the show. It’s a very grounded show, and there’s a lot of heart. The action was incredible, and I was like Chloe King is officially the coolest girl I know. There’s just no contest. So I think it totally encompasses everything you’d want in an hour of television.

How did you get started in acting?
Skyler Samuels: Well, I’m from Los Angeles, and growing up here I’ve always been enamored by Hollywood and the industry. It’s just something I grew up with, and I loved it. I’ve always just been drawn to it—just an inexplicable attraction I have, and I just love. I want to be on the screen, I want to play dress up every day, I want be different people, I want to have fun, I want to use my imagination.

When I was little, about eight years ago, I got started, and slowly just going out and audition, starting out with comedy and kind of getting into other things. I just, I fell in love. Now I’m 17 years old and I’ve been doing this for more than half my life, and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.

What would be kind of your ultimate dream role? Other than this show, if you could pick anything.
Skyler Samuels: I think I would love to do a role where I completely transformed myself and I looked completely different, acted completely different, and I did some kind of crazy, cool, action drama where I was like undercover saving the world. I guess it’s got a hint of Chloe King, but maybe a little more spiced up.

If you had someone that doesn’t necessarily watch the supernatural, and doesn’t necessarily believe in it, or it’s not really their thing, how would you describe the show to get them to tune into it?
Skyler Samuels: Well, I think that the really cool thing about The Nine Lives of Chloe King is that while it has a lot of supernatural elements and Chloe is kind of a superhero, herself, it is not all about the supernatural. I mean, this show, week-to-week, deals with the struggles of Chloe trying to manage her relationship with her mom. Her mom’s a single mom trying to raise a teenage girl, and so that presents a lot of difficulties, as in what that brings when her mom starts dating, and how does Chloe feel about getting a new dad, and how can she maintain relationships with her friends in high school as they go through all these changes?

And how can you maintain a relationship with a boy you really like if you can’t really be with him. There’s a lot of realistic, really grounded, heartfelt relationships and dynamics on this show to the point where the supernatural elements don’t even strike you. It’s like it all just seems to blend in and make sense.

What was it about Chloe that when you first read the script or got the sides for her that really made you want to play her?
Skyler Samuels: When I read the pilot I sat down and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so fast in my entire life. I was completely just eyes glued to the page, and I just kept turning and turning, and it got more and more exciting. When I finished it, all I could think was, Chloe King is the girl I would fantasize about and I would dream to be. She’s fearless, she’s fun, she’s funny, and she’s quirky, and she’s honest, and she’s cool.

Just everything about her I was like, I want to look up to her and she’s totally a role model in my mind. I’ve got to be this girl, you know, she’s incredible. I’m a lot more cautious than Chloe is, and Chloe’s kind of taught me how it can be fun to take a risk. The things I’ve done playing Chloe King have been some of the most incredible experiences of my entire life. So I’m just so thrilled to be Chloe.

When you’re doing the show, do you often get to ad lib, or do you follow the script? How does that work with this show?
Skyler Samuels: We have a variation. Certainly we mostly follow the script, but I think the fun is now being almost at the end of the season, we’ve had the ability to kind of ad lib quirky things because we’ve really developed our characters. So everyone kind of has their idioms, so to speak. So, we’ll throw those in here and there. But the writers on this show are absolutely fantastic, and they write in a way that’s just so real and believable. It’s not like watching actors say lines; it’s like watching two people have a real conversation.

What’s been your favorite either moment, or favorite scene you filmed?
Skyler Samuels: Well, there’s been a lot of really cool favorite moments, but I think one of the most incredible scenes that we’ve done was in our third episode we shot underwater, and I was chained up underwater for part of the episode. That was probably the most exciting and frightening thing I’ve ever done, but it was absolutely incredible.

Every week we’ve got all these big fight sequences, and that one happened to involve an underwater element, which I thought was so fun. And it was absolutely incredible to film.

Just quickly, are you on Twitter?
Skyler Samuels: It’s funny you should say that, because I actually just started a Twitter a couple of days ago. I’m really not that good at using it, but I’ve put out a few tweets and I’m quite proud of what I’m able to do. So you can tweet me. If I can figure it out I’ll absolutely tweet you back.

What’s the account name?
Skyler Samuels: It’s @skylerofficial— all one word.

So Chloe King debuts with Pretty Little Liars next week. How do you feel that the show sort of fits in to the ABC Family Network?
Skyler Samuels: Well, ABC Family has an absolutely incredible job in producing these hit shows. The ABC Family is where the good stuff’s at. I’m so excited to be a part of this network because they’ve really done a great job introducing shows that are heartfelt, that are exciting, that are kind of everything you’d want; everyday there’s something new and there’s something great to watch.

But being paired with Pretty Little Liars is a high honor, in my opinion. I’m so excited, and I think it’s going to be really great, because I feel like the ABC Family audience, while they’ve gotten a lot of really great shows like Pretty Little Liars and now Switched at Birth, they’ve never had a genre show before. They’ve never had action in the way that Chloe King has action, and excitement, and thrills. So I think Chloe King will only add to the excitement of being great shows on ABC Family.

Do you have a favorite moment from shooting the pilot?
Skyler Samuels: When we were filming the pilot there was a scene when we were filming in the school. Ben Stone, who plays Alek—he’s kind of this tall, beautiful, searing, most popular boy in school—comes walking down the hall bouncing a basketball, and he’s throwing it over my head while I’m talking to my best friend, trying to get my attention.

When we were filming, he accidentally missed and got us both in the face with the basketball. Though it kind of hurt, it was absolutely hilarious. We both had the word Spalding indented on our foreheads, and it was very funny. To this day, we give him a hard time about it, but it was kind of a fun, bonding experience that we still keep with us.

What have you learned about yourself from this experience so far?
Skyler Samuels: That’s such a wonderful and complex question. Being a part of The Nine Lives of Chloe King has absolutely changed my life. In so many ways, Chloe has really opened up this new courageous, brave side of me that I didn’t know I was capable of.

I couldn’t say that I had a fear of heights, because never before was I running on top of buildings and doing the things that Chloe does. But sure enough, being there, sometimes I would think, “Gee, I’m 15 stories above ground level, and now I’m going to jump across a roof. This is a little frightening.”

But every episode I do it, and to think that I’ve been able to accomplish all of these magnificent things is really incredible. But Chloe, also, throughout her emotional transformation on the show; the things she has gone through and experienced, she’s just kind of taught me a lot about myself and life, and to enjoy and take risks. I mean, Chloe teaches me things every day. It’s a never-ending list.

Now that you’ve only done part of the season so far, what’s something that they haven’t done yet on the show that maybe you would really like to see happen to your character?
Skyler Samuels: It’s hard to say. Chloe is definitely becoming a very interesting and complex young lady throughout this transformation. But I would be very curious to see if maybe Chloe falls into a bit more trouble in Season 2. Maybe Chloe will kind of team up with a villain, or goes undercover, or does something maybe a little grittier than her daily routine.

How many episodes are there for this season?
Skyler Samuels: We have ten for this season—nine additional to the pilot.

Are the claws LCG, and is all the kind of effect things LCG, and do you have any prosthetic things you have to do?
Skyler Samuels: Well, we use a lot of different kinds of media on our show to make that happen. We have an incredible special effects makeup artist, Ed French, who won Emmys for his work. I mean, he is absolutely the best of the best. He came in at the beginning of the season and all of the Mai feline people, we all had claws made, which is very cool.

We had to dip our hands in this like seaweed goop and we made these nails. So we have actual physical claws that we put on. But we also use visual effects like CGIs to make them come in and out. So it’s kind of a balance between the two to make that stuff work.

Does it take a long time to have to deal with any of that, or is it pretty easy?
Skyler Samuels: In the beginning it was kind of messy. We had glue all over and everybody’s claws were sticking to everything. They collected so much lint it was so funny—everybody had glue everywhere. But now that we’re in the eighth episode, we’ve kind of perfected our systems and now we can do it in less than seven minutes with no mess. We’re quite proud.

Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a staff contributor at writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features. To contact Kevin, email [email protected].

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