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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actresses > Feature Interviews F to J > Taylor Firth

 

Rob Mayes and Taylor Firth in 'Ice Castles.'

Taylor Firth

Through Her Eyes

by Jay S. Jacobs

 
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 25, 2010. 

Sometimes opportunity presents itself in the most unusual of places.  Like, for example, the spam folder of your email account.

Take the case of Taylor Firth.

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. 

Luckily for 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.) 

The original 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. 

Soon before Ice Castles was due for release on DVD, Firth sat down to chat with us about making the leap from skating to acting. 

The original Ice Castles obviously came out long before you were born, but growing up around figure skating, were you familiar with the film? 

Absolutely, 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. 

Rob Mayes and Taylor Firth in 'Ice Castles.'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. 

Obviously, you’ve performed before in skating.  Did that help you get more comfortable with acting? 

Definitely.  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. 

What surprised 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? 

(laughs)  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 needed. 

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. 

Rob Mayes and Taylor Firth in 'Ice Castles.'Lynn-Holly 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 couple. 

Speaking of family members, what was it like with Henry [Czerny] portraying your dad? 

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 from him. 

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 environment? 

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? 

It’s definitely 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 wrong? 

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? 

Have you considered doing anything like Disney on Ice or something like that? 

Yeah, 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 right way.

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. 

(laughs heartily)  All right! 

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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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2010. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Video. All rights reserved.
#2 © 2010. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Video. All rights reserved.
#3 © 2010. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Video. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 25, 2010. 

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Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 25, 2010.