It’s kinda strange to sit down for an interview with a teenage girl, but ComingSoon.net’s many interviews with Dakota Fanning prepared us for our chat with Carly Schroeder, the 16-year-old star of Andrew and Elisabeth Shue’s Gracie. It’s a family drama set in the world of high school soccer about a teen girl fighting for respect in her male-dominated life, and it’s loosely based on events in the Shue family past, including the tragic death of their brother and Elisabeth’s background as the first girl to play on a boys soccer team.
Like with Fanning, ComingSoon.net discovered that Schroeder is another smart young actress with a really good handle on her career, even sending the interviewer a personalized Thank You card, something that Dakota Fanning has never done despite the many times we’ve interviewed her!
ComingSoon.net: You’ve been acting for a long time, but this is the first time where you have to carry a movie. How did you find out about the project?
Carly Schroeder: Well, I had the script two years before they even started casting, and as soon as I read it I was like, “You know, I want to play Gracie.” There was just something about her spirit and how she was a fighter and how she never gave up that just inspired me to want to play this.
CS: How did you get your hands on the script?
Schroeder: Just through my manager, normal process.
CS: What was involved in the audition process? You knew that there was some soccer involved, but what else?
Schroeder: Right, right. I was very nervous when I found out that there were 2,000 girls sending in tapes for it that were soccer girls. I went in and did the normal auditioning process, and I ended up getting it. Normal auditioning process was that I went in and met with Davis and Elizabeth. I was the first person to go in, and I was in there for an hour and a half just talking to them, reading the sides over, then after that, I came back and did a little bit of soccer in Venice with Andrew. Then they called me about two or three months later and said, “You got the part.”
CS: Had you played soccer in school or had any soccer experience?
Schroeder: Um no. I knew that I was going to have to do some soccer, so I kind of started messing around with the soccer ball and I went to this guy Pepe in Kisimi Valley who I found through the paper. I went and started playing with this guy, so he helped me out with a little bit of soccer skills in the three weeks in-between.
CS: It’s not something you could just learn to do overnight.
Schroeder: No, it’s not, and once I found out I got the part, I trained for three full months with the captain of the Galaxy, so that was pretty intense. I did three days a week. I did circuit training for two hours, and then after that, I did three hours of ball control, then Tuesdays and Thursdays was six hours on a soccer field with these amazing girls, who were Division 1 soccer girls that just worked their butt off, playing as hard as they could and showing me all these different skills. Then Dan Couchman, who was my trainer for this entire time, just really worked me over and made sure that I not only looked the part but that I played the part, because if you didn’t have the muscles than it wasn’t believable. If you couldn’t kick the ball right, it’s not like they can move your foot in post-production and make it look real. You had to have the skills and you had to have it right. I trained every day, and I had to give up french fries, which as a teenager could have killed me. (Laughs) It was incredible.
CS: Did you like soccer?
Schroeder: I love soccer, and as soon as the World Cup started, I was glued to the TV. I’d get up at 6 in the morning to watch the first game, and it was incredible.
[At this point, even though she’s much younger and I should know better, I start ragging on her choice in soccer teams, because she’s wearing an Italia jersey.]
CS: Were you familiar with Andrew or Elizabeth’s work as actors before working with them?
Schroeder: Nope, I didn’t, but when I got the part, my mom ended up going out to rent “Adventures in Babysitting” and I loved it! So I actually had to go out and buy the movie and now we have it, so I can watch it any time I want.
CS: How was it working with Elizabeth, knowing that you were kind of playing her and she was playing your mom?
Schroeder: Actually, when we got to New Jersey, we had a girls’ night, no boys allowed (laughs). She took me all the towns and showed me around and the pizza parlor where she used to hang out and the soccer field where she first played soccer and the house where she used to live. We had really good girl talk and we talked about boys and relationships. We talked about hair and all the things that girls really should talk about, and she really made me feel like I was part of her family, so after that, she really became like my big sister. We went shopping together, hung out together, she’s amazing!
CS: Would you say that the soccer scenes were the hardest part to shoot?
Schroeder: I’d say the hardest part was kissing the boys in the movie, because it was my second and third kiss ever in my entire life, so I’m not really looking forward to my current boyfriend seeing the movie. (laughs)
CS: But surely he understands that this is work and they only got to kiss you for a job where he gets to kiss you more often.
Schroeder: Yeah, you tell him that! I’m going to have you call him and tell him that. (laughs)
CS: It must have been hard to kiss that one guy who was kind of being a jerk towards you.
Schroeder: Yeah, yeah, but it’s just difficult for the fact that you’re on set and you have all of these people watching you, and it really creeped me out that I was in the car with these people that I’d really never met before, and it was just like “Oh, I dunno.” It was almost like that stranger danger factor almost. (laughs) I was 15 and I was like “Oh, no!” kind of like a cat being put into water.
CS: Well, that’s one of the hurdles of being an actress. Once you get over that, it’s all easy.
Schroeder: Yeah, I know, but it’s so hard and everybody always teases you about or asks about it and it’s probably one of the most uncomfortable things to do.
CS: You brought it up by the way. I didn’t ask about the kissing.
Schroeder: I know, I know, don’t worry about it.
CS: What was your favorite scene in the movie to shoot?
Schroeder: I think the soccer scenes were probably my favorite. Okay, I have this great story. I was doing the scene where the coach is sitting in the car, and he was watching me kick soccer balls into the net. They had a soccer stunt double there to do it if I couldn’t, and they ended up not having to use her. It was really late at night and we had ten balls lined-up and they said, “Just hit them as close to the net as you can. If you get them in the net, that’s great, we can go home.” I hit three right into the upper corner, and I was so thrilled, ’cause they were like “Great, we don’t need the stunt double, moving on!” I just had this feeling like I accomplished something. I set outI couldn’t even kick it seven yards into the goal and now, I can kick three out of ten into the right upper corner, it was such a moment of triumph for me, and I think that was probably one of my favorite scenes to shoot. I have another one where at the beginning of my training, I couldn’t even do half a chin-up, and then by the end of it, I could do twelve, so on my 16th birthday, the last shot of the day was me doing ten chin-ups, and they ended up using only five for the movie, but I know I did all ten. I did two more than Kevin Costner in “The Guardian” but they didn’t show it. (laughs)
CS: Was there anything else about Gracie you were able to relate to?
Schroeder: I do have a smaller family than Gracie for sure. My brother and I are both very competitive, not really against each other, just competitive in sports or him with the video games (laughs), very competitive with that, and I have a thing where if I set a goal, I don’t stop until I reach it. That’s another thing that I can share with Gracie, but other than that, I haven’t gone through any of the things that Gracie has gone through. I can’t smoke ’cause I’m allergic to smoke, and I had to smoke for another movie and I couldn’t do it. Any type of smoke I’m absolutely full-on allergic to. I was sneezing for pretty close to ten minutes straight.
CS: You’ve been acting since you were very young, so how did you get into it?
Schroeder: My cousin did it, and then I did a Shake ‘n’ Bake commercial when I was 5, and basically, I started getting into it and when I did that commercial, the guy who played my dad on the soap opera, said that he wanted me to play his daughter, so he flew us out to California, and I got the part. I was under contract so I convinced my mom as a kindergartener to move our whole family to California from Indiana.
CS: You’ve stuck with it for a long time, so does it get easier as you go along to deal with the audition process, looking for jobs, etc?
Schroeder: Well, it’s definitely difficult in the fact that I have to juggle it with school, and I had to tilt my whole school year so it would work, so it was a very challenging role, ’cause I didn’t have any days off and I was working the maximum amount of hours that I can possibly work every day that I possibly could. Everyone seems to think that the crying part is the most difficult and all the emotional scenes, but I was on a soap opera for seven years, so that stuff kind of comes more natural than all the soccer. Then having to work on set with a schoolteacher, that’s always difficult, too. I think that it might get easier after I turn 18 and I don’t have to go and do schooling on set, but I also want to go to college, so that also might switch things up a bit. I definitely want to go to some form of college, even if it’s just for a year and then I go do a movie then go back for two or something like that. I just want to make sure I have a higher education, basically as a back-up plan in case acting doesn’t work out for me.
CS: Are you like other teen actresses who are trying to be independent, in that you want to go off to college and do your own thing?
Schroeder: I’m really a family girl. My Mom’s like “As soon as you’re on your own, we’re going to move back to Indiana.” Well, that might be when I’m 26. (laughs) Everybody always talks about how they can’t wait until they turn 18, so they can go out on their own and get their own apartment, and I’m like, “I want to be with Mom!” I have it good. She does my laundry, she cooks for me, she’s always there if I need support, I can always go crawl in bed with her and talk to her, and say, “Mommy, I need help with this decision” or something. My Dad’s always there for me, too, so I have it great, and my younger brother Hunter, he’s in the movie, too. He plays my younger brother. It’s always good to have a good family that’s supporting you.
CS: Well, I can vouch for the fact that your mother will be there in 20 years if you need her, too.
Schroeder: Yeah, as long as you treat them good now. I mean, she tells me that I’m a pretty good kid. I know I have doubt every once in a while, but I haven’t gone through the rebellious phase that Gracie went through, for which I’m sure my mom is pretty grateful, too.
CS: If you go to college, are you going to be the ringer on their soccer team?
Schroeder: Oh, no. I wouldn’t even dare try and compare myself with those girls. They’ve been playing since they were six and they’re incredible, so I’d never go and be as bold to say that I could play with them on their level.
CS: At this point, do you actively go out pursuing movie roles and do auditions so that you can be working all the time?
Schroeder: I’m so thrilled. I’ve now been doing this for ten years and I actually got to skip a stage of going to casting directors, and now I meet with the directors, either for lunch or an audition room, and I still read sides, you’re never going to get around that, but I’m not the best person to go on an audition. It’s so hard to automatically turn on the charm and be this person they want you to be. It’s almost like what they expect, because a lot of people don’t really have imaginations to see you in their part. They just want the right person to walk in and hit them. That’s definitely difficult and its hard to do, especially when they give you ten pages of dialogue and they just want you to do one page, and it’s the emotional scene, and they give it to you the night before, so it’s like c’mon. They expect you to be able to turn your emotions on and off, especially since it’s not a very comfortable environment. Especially when you don’t know these people, it’s difficult to go in there and try and wow them with that, but I’m getting used to it, and it’s all a part of acting. There’s always going to be a part of your job that you’re not really fond off. I’d have to say that’s the least happenin’ for me, but I’ve been reading 15 scripts a month, so keeping up with it. My mom reads them before me and then she decides if this one is good or it’s too I’ve been getting a lot of scripts that are very sexual, and I’m totally not into that, so she just keeps pushing those away.
CS: It must be nice to have a movie like this where you can literally hand a casting agent the DVD and give them a good idea of what you can do.
Schroeder: Yeah, but I usually want to go in and meet them personally and talk to them. The best thing is that I get to meet with the director straight away instead of the casting director and the second casting director call and all these different calls that don’t really mean so much then when you go ahead and meet with the director. But it usually takes a long time to get to this stage, so I’m very fortunate to be able to do that.
CS: Do you have any other movies coming up?
Schroeder: I have another movie called “Eye of the Dolphin” set in the Bahamas, and Katherine Ross plays my grandmother. It was an incredible shoot, and we worked with dolphins of course. Then I have another movie that I’m waiting for the script revision on that I’m very excited about that shoots in Hawaii. It’s so difficult, especially when you haven’t signed the papers yet, and everyone’s asking you about it.
CS: This is my final question, which isn’t really a serious one, but I figured I’d ask. Are you glad that Hayden Panettiere is doing well on TV now, so that you can get more of her roles?
Schroeder: No. I mean I think she’s an excellent actress, so anything she does I think she’s phenomenal in. I would never say that (laughs) but we have gone out for a lot of the same roles. She went out for this one. I think she’s an incredible actress, and I know it seems weird, but I’m very proud of her and her career. She’s done excellent. And she’s totally nice. A lot of people always seem to be like that, many parents especially, very catty, that’s why I can’t go into auditions by myself because when I was 13, I had a bunch of parents kind of swarm me and be very rude to me in an audition room. I was just like, “Mom, I can’t do this on my own because I can’t be mean to people. It’s just not part of my nature.” I’m sure people probably say that about me, “I’m glad she got this movie ’cause I didn’t want to do that one, so now I can get all her other parts.” There’s no way I would say that.
Gracie opens nationwide on Friday, June 1. Also check out our interview with director Davis Guggenheim and producer Andrew Shue.