opportunity presents itself in the most unusual of places. Like,
for example, the spam folder of your email account.
Take the case of
Firth is an
eighteen-year-old upcoming figure skater that had never considered
doing anything else. However, out of the blue, her coach was
emailed with the chance for Firth to audition for the lead role in a
remake of the classic 1978 ice-skating weepie movie Ice Castles
– which was being directed by the original creator of the film.
Her coach’s email
system, perhaps sensing that this offer was too good to be true,
immediately deposited the offer into its junk email folder.
Firth, the coach stumbled across the email that would change her
life – pointing out the importance of checking your spam file
periodically. (Though be prudent – chances are those emails that
you have been receiving from the terminally ill widow of the African
cabinet minister are not your golden ticket.)
Ice Castles starred Lynn-Holly Johnson – also a figure skater
who had never acted before. (She went on to other roles in the
James Bond film For Your Eyes Only and the Disney film The
Watcher in the Woods.) Johnson played Lexie Winston, an
on-the-rise figure skating star that was mostly blinded in a skating
accident. With the help and love of her boyfriend (Robbie Benson)
and family (Tom Skerritt and Colleen Dewhurst) she was able to learn
to perform without sight.
The new film is
rather faithful to the original film, even using a new version the
original’s theme song “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” by Melissa
Manchester, which had quickly become a wedding classic. (The new
version by Britt Nicole has been given the more compact name
“Through the Eyes of Love.”) The role of Lexi’s (they also
shortened the spelling of the character name) boyfriend – played
here by Rob Mayes – is beefed up a bit over the family; however the
movie is a satisfying update of an old favorite.
Firth went back
to skating – though she had to drop out of the trials for the
upcoming Winter Olympics due to a medical condition – but she would
love to do more acting as well as seeing where her figure skating
career leads her.
Ice Castles was due for release on DVD, Firth sat down to chat
with us about making the leap from skating to acting.
Castles obviously came out long before you were born, but growing
up around figure skating, were you familiar with the film?
yeah. I’d seen it quite a few times when I was younger. When I
first started skating people in the sport were like: “You have to
see this movie!” So, of course I watched it when I was quite
young. I really didn’t remember much of the story line. I was
asked to try out for the film, but once I was asked I went out – it
took a little while to track down a copy of the movie, but we found
one. I fell in love with the story all over again.
How did it come
about that you were asked to be in the film?
Well, I was on my
way to skating one day and my coach called me and said, “Are you
sitting down?” (laughs) I was like, yeah. It turns out
they found an email in their spam file asking if I wanted to try out
for the role of Lexi Winston. I was like, umm… yeah! How
could you not, right? So I got to the rink that day and they
printed out the script that was sent. They said, “Okay, you need to
send out your audition tape tomorrow.” I couldn’t believe it was
going to be that fast. I figured I would get months to prepare.
This is, I
believe, your first acting job. How weird was it to start off in
such a large role?
Oh, my word! At
first, it was an overwhelming thought to me, but I couldn’t have
been more excited. I was absolutely thrilled. I was almost a
little intimidated that I was going to be working with seasoned
actors and actresses. But, it was so much fun! I can’t even
explain how much it meant to me. Everyone on the set – the crew,
the cast – everyone was so supportive. I was really one of the only
ones that had never acted before. They never made me feel inferior,
not in the least.
performed before in skating. Did that help you get more comfortable
Absolutely. I realized that there are a lot of connections between
acting and figure skating that I never really thought about. But,
I’d definitely have to say that my figure skating background was a
huge, huge, huge help.
you most about acting?
It was a lot more
work than I was expecting. I was going into it with the idea that
I’m an athlete, so this is going to be nothing. I’m just going to
be talking all day. But there’s a lot more that goes into it that I
never thought about. You can say something in a sad voice, but
unless your face looks that way, it doesn’t really connect. Or, if
you’re really that upset, how would you sit? You wouldn’t sit
straight back, all proud, you’d kind of be hunched. So there are a
lot of different things that go into it. With skating, it’s easy to
just keep one little role, but through the whole thing with acting
you had to have a voice. You had to have your eyes. Everything.
Everything goes into it.
As an actress it
was often important for you to fall down in the role – which is
obviously the exact opposite of what you are instinctively trying to
do. Did you sort of have to unlearn a lot of your instinctual
skating habits to play the role?
To be honest with you – my coaches would probably die if they knew
that I was saying this – but as a figure skater, or as an athlete,
all athletes go through it. You know, you play those little mind
games on yourself and all, thinking I can’t do this. I can’t do
this! So, that was actually a really big help for me. Even just
the one scene where I had to be falling and falling and falling and
almost hitting the boards… it was kind of easy for me to do it,
because I knew exactly what I had to say to myself to psych myself
out. To mess up and fall. Even with the scenes that I had to be
emotional and crying, skating definitely helped me with that. I
knew what to tell myself to get to that point where I was able to
break down and cry and just really get to that raw point.
In the later
scenes when Lexi becomes blind that’s adding an entirely different
level. How was that to deal with as a novice actress?
It was hard, but
the whole thing was really fun. I did have some troubles with
that. I didn’t want to be offensive to anyone. I didn’t want to
make people who had an inability to see – I didn’t want to make them
out to be incompetent or something like that. So I was trying to be
careful on what I was doing and how I was portraying someone that
couldn’t see – that lost their sight. It was definitely a struggle
for me, but like I said, the cast and crew and the director Donald [Wrye
– who also co-wrote and directed the original film]
was absolutely amazing. He really, really, really helped me through
every single scene and got what he needed and got what the film
The original film
has so many fans – and of course you are working with the man who
wrote and directed the original. How much responsibility did you
feel to live up to and maybe even surpass the original?
Yeah, you know, I
have to say I really hadn’t thought about it beforehand. Even just
to be compared to someone like Lynn-Holly Johnson [who played Lexie
in the original] is so amazing to me. That people will actually be
able to say, okay, Lynn did this and Taylor did this… how many
people would love to even just be compared to someone like that? To
me it is a huge honor. I mean she probably did way better than me
with most of the stuff (chuckles), so…. But, hey, it was an
original. I mean, it was just an absolute blessing and a huge
excitement for me to even be able to try out for it – let alone
getting the role.
Johnson appeared in the DVD extras, but did you get a chance to meet
her or talk with her and discuss the character and making the jump
from skating to acting?
I did speak with
her on the phone a few times when I was actually in Nova Scotia,
just about to start filming. You know, it was really great to hear
from someone who had never acted before – who was in basically the
same exact situation that I was in. It gave me a peace and I didn’t
have to worry too much. You had to take everything one step at a
time. Just know that I could get through it and I could do a good
job doing it.
Was Rob [Mayes]
easy to work with in some of the more romantic scenes, because you
obviously haven’t done that type of thing before?
Yeah. It was
very intimidating at first. And I have a boyfriend at home, so that
was real hard for us to get through. But, you know what? Rob was
an amazing guy. He was like my big brother. I mean, of course, I
wouldn’t kiss my big brother, (laughs) but he was like my big
brother. He was a sweetheart. He really, really wanted me to have
a really great first experience in the film industry. My boyfriend
at home understood and we got through it. It was a little bit of a
struggle for us, but it just made us that much stronger as a
family members, what was it like with Henry [Czerny] portraying your
It was actually
fairly easy. Henry was a really great guy. He was definitely like
a father figure. He was very encouraging and literally was just
kind of a mentor for all of us on set. He’s done so much with films
and it was really cool to be working with him and to get feedback
In the film you
did a lot of skating on ponds rather than rinks. Had you done that
before and how is pond skating different than in a more controlled
I have skated on
ponds before. It was never my favorite place to skate when there
was a stress involved – when I was doing a show and I had to skate
on a pond. But for the movie, it was a completely different feel.
It was really laid back and we had the most beautiful pond. It’s
probably one of my favorite places in the world now. It was
absolutely beautiful. It just reminded me of the little simple
things in life, like the beautiful world that God has given us. It
was just so cool to be able to skate there. It’s like two of my
favorite things. Then to be able to act on top of it there. But we
didn’t have the best weather situation for the ice. It was a little
warmer than we would have liked. The ice kept melting and kept
cracking. They had to scrape off a few layers of ice every now and
then. At times it was like I was skating on a snow cone that was
covered in a really thin layer of ice. So, it was a little hard at
some points, but you know what? It just added to the experience.
It was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Now, when
I watch the film, I can be like: oh, I remember what the ice was
like! It was so hard, but somehow they make it look amazing. I
don’t know how they were able to put something so beautiful together
when I was on the ice thinking okay I have no idea how this is going
to turn out. They are going to fire me on the spot.
Looking back at
the original, how do you think that the figure skating world has
changed in thirty years?
become much more complex, with the new system of judging that’s out
right now. There’s a certain element of almost craziness to it.
(laughs) There’s so much more that goes into every single
program, going from counting spins every position that you’re in,
counting your revolutions, making sure you’re on the right edge
after a turn. Everything is so much more critical. Every little
piece is very important in a program. The new system has definitely
taken away from the simplicity and the beauty of skating, which was
definitely one of the key things that we were trying to look to do
with making the programs. [Choreographers] David [Wilson] and
Sandra [Bezic] and I really wanted to remind people the simplicity
of skating and the beauty of it.
Now that you’ve
done this film are you looking to do more acting, or are you going
to focus on skating?
I would love to
do more acting. I really, really thoroughly enjoyed it and I really
hope I get another chance to do it again. It was probably one of
the best experiences that I ever had. So, yeah, I would definitely
love to do something like that again. In my perfect world, I’d be
able to do something that was a film with skating. Then, on top of
that, I would love to do something with the Christian film
industry. I really would love to get my message out there. I would
love to be a positive role model for the world that we’re in.
What are your
plans for the Winter Olympics?
As far as the
Olympics go, I was looking to be in the Olympic try-outs this year,
but I ended up getting sick right before my first big competition
and I was in the hospital quite a few times.
Oh my, what was
I have really
severe asthma. So, I was having some serious lung problems for a
while, but I’m finally getting it straightened out. Things have
been going well. So, I unfortunately missed the trials this year,
so I’m going to be watching it from home. I have some of my
favorites picked out. I’m really just excited to watch it.
Will you be
trying in 2014?
You know, I’m not
positive. I’m trying to decide what I want to do. At this point,
who knows how much longer my body will be able to compete and if my
lungs will be able to handle it, even?
considered doing anything like Disney on Ice or something like that?
definitely. That’s definitely high on my list of possibilities. I
would love to do something like that. I’m a performer. I love
skating and I love being in front of people. So that’s definitely
high on my list of choices. Hopefully, God will lead me in the
What would people
be surprised to know about you?
I don’t know. I
really love having fun. I love running. I like being busy. I like
learning new things. I have probably the best sisters and family in
the world. I can untie any knot you give me. (laughs) So
in case you ever need it.
Good to know. If
I ever get kidnapped, now I know where to go.
How would you
like people to see your work?
I just would
love people to be able to get a pureness and a joy out of it. I
really had a blast filming Ice Castles. I really hope that
can shine. I’m a very strong believer in Christ as the Lord, so I
would really like to get that message out and be able to be a
positive role model for young girls and people of all ages.
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