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"My summer working in Oregon was awesome! It was like Camp Mean Creek up there!"
"I too just noticed boys. All of a sudden, it was like an apple falling on my head."
"Just getting to wake up and play somebody else for an entire day is just an amazing thing."
"I've always been more of a camera hog than anything and it's just another way to get it all out!"
"I think it's really important to give back and show other people that you care."
"I'm just a normal person and this is what I enjoy doing."
Carly Schroeder  

Interviewed by Mark Sells
November 2004

Carly Schroeder turned 14 less than a month ago and yet, speaks with a confidence and professionalism attributed to an industry veteran. Perhaps that's because she began her career at such an early age? After all, she was only three years old doing print campaigns for Sears, Spiegel, and Land's End. And she was only seven when her enthusiasm and humor in a Shake n' Bake commercial led to a starring role in the long running soap opera, "General Hospital" and its sister, "Port Charles." Cast as Serena Baldwin, Carly participated in more than 480 episodes of the hit soap and earned back-to-back nominations for her role at the Young Artist Awards in 1999 and 2000 - all before the age of ten!

Of course, all the positive attention helped usher in a variety of roles and guest appearances on shows like "Dawson's Creek," "The George Lopez Show" and "Fox News." And Carly even lent her voice to several characters along the way in both "Toy Story 2" and "Babe: Pig in the City." More importantly, she landed the recurring role of the devilish Melina Bianco in Disney's number one series, "Lizzie McGuire." And soon thereafter, "The Lizzie McGuire Movie." It was Carly's first foray into feature film and it opened the door for another breakout role - a leading part in Jacob Estes' "Mean Creek," a powerful film about revenge and responsibility.

Today, Carly is out auditioning after school. And despite the frantic surroundings, she is able to concentrate and share a few laughs. While discussing her work with children's charities, I realized one thing. Not only is she wise beyond her years; she's a young star in the making.

Reel Questions, Reel Answers

First, for those unfamiliar with your work, tell me a little about your career - i.e. your early commercials, your work on soap operas and "Lizzie McGuire," and your transition to the big screen.

At first I did commercials and I did them out of Chicago. I did Shake and Bake commercials, Oscos, Ziploc, Sears, just a whole bunch of commercials here and there. And then I did the series "Port Charles" and its sister soap opera "General Hospital" for seven years.

Then I started working on "Lizzie McGuire," which was a great show to be on, mainly because I got to be evil, which I don't get to be at home. And then I was in "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" and then ended up doing "Mean Creek."

What was it like spending your summer in Oregon, in a boat, away from home?

Oh my gosh! I think my summer working in Oregon was awesome! It was like Camp Mean Creek up there! Every day we'd have to get in a van and drive all the way up to the creek and everything and it was always so beautiful and so much different from what I'm used to in California.

As the only girl in a cast full of boys, what was the atmosphere like? Were you an outcast or did they embrace you as one of the gang?

Actually, being the only girl in a cast full of boys wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Of course, they did pull a few pranks and try and gross me out for the first week, but after they realized that I wasn't going anywhere, they basically took me in as their little sister.

It was kind of funny. They really didn't change their way of life. They didn't change their words in front of me or do anything differently. They were just themselves. But they did include me and it was very nice to be part of the gang.

Your character in the film (Millie) acts as the voice of reason for the rest of the kids. But unfortunately, she has her innocence stolen from her because she happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What were Millie's motivations for going on the trip? And what was she feeling during the slug scene?

Well, the motivation for her going on the trip, of course, was because she was going out with Sam. And she didn't realize that this was going to happen. She didn't even know that there was a prank involving George.

As for the slug scene, I really don't want to give it away if you haven't seen it, but it's mostly showing the vulnerability and the connection between George and the slug and how she's changed through her life and is never going to be able to go back.

In what ways are Carly and Millie similar? Dissimilar?

In a way, Millie and I are the same because I too just noticed boys. All of a sudden, it was like an apple falling on my head. And I realized there were guys in my school and I just figured that out.

But other than that, we don't really have that much in common. Most definitely, I would not have sat around and waited for the prank to happen. I wouldn't have waited for someone else; I would have taken charge.

"Mean Creek" deals with heavy subject material and the Motion Picture Association in response, slapped it with an "R" rating, denying many teenagers under 17 the opportunity to see the film. Do you feel this is a film teenagers should see with their parents? If so, why?

There's a reason why it's rated "R." I mean, when you walk down the halls of school, it's definitely rated "R." Like everything you hear at school, there's no holding it back. Everybody just says what they feel and this movie really shows it. It doesn't go by the stereotypical process that most movies in Hollywood go through. It doesn't have a good versus evil theme to it. It's got normal kids, everybody's made a mistake in it, and everybody has regrets. There's no pulling for the good guy, pulling for the bad guy. Everybody feels bad for everybody. And I think that's really important.

Have you, your brother, or anyone close to you been the target of a bully? What do you think one should do if they are being bullied?

Of course. I live in LA and I work in Hollywood. Of course, I've had bullies (laughs). But that's all I'm going to say. The best thing to do is to just try and ignore them.

What was your favorite memory or moment from the making of "Mean Creek?" What was your worst or least favorite part?

It was a great movie to work on. I really don't have any regrets. But the greatest thing that I can remember is having the freedom to go in whatever direction you felt like going in that day. You just go and act it. That's really the beauty of the movie because it's so natural. Everything flows together because you're doing what you would do in a real situation. And just getting to wake up and play somebody else for an entire day is just an amazing thing. That's what I do for a living and that's what I enjoy.

Probably the worst part was having to put on sunscreen nonstop. And I just hate the feeling of sunscreen. And then they'd be yelling at us during every single break: "Put on your hats, put on your hats!" We were so happy the last day that we threw all of our hats in the water and just stomped on them and threw our sunscreen in the trash! We hated being on the water just because it was so hot.

You'd think that because the water was cold that it would be cold out too; there'd be a nice pleasant breeze. But the sun was reflecting off the water and bouncing onto us. Even though the water and surroundings were beautiful, it was so, so hot! It wasn't enjoyable, but it wasn't the worst thing either.

Did anybody get burned?

(Laughs). Oh, yes. Yes. Most definitely.

One of the things that impressed me most about you is how active you are off camera with children's charities. In particular, Kids With A Cause. How did you get involved with the organization and why is it important that you participate?

I work with Kids With A Cause and other organizations because it's important to give back to the community. No matter what you do, you have to do something. Whether it's planting trees, going out, or making kids feel special, I think it's really important to give back and show other people that you care.

I read on your Home Page that you were working on a teenage reality show. How's that coming along?

I've basically put it on the back burner just because I'm reading so many scripts right now and trying to balance everything out with school and acting and hanging out with my friends.

It's really difficult to work on everything, but I'm still working on it, still thinking about ideas for it.

Since you were three, you've been doing print work and commercials for Sears, Chuck E. Cheese, and Shake n' Bake. And soon will be seen in advertisements for Abercrombie & Fitch. What is it about modeling or endorsing products that you like best? Do they give you a lifelong supply of power tools, pizza, and t-shirts?

(Laughs) Oh, I wish! No, actually they don't. But I just like the artistic nature of it, the beauty of it, getting to be yourself and smile. (Laughs) And I've always been more of a camera hog than anything and it's just another way to get it all out!

Child actors have gotten a bad rap over the years, struggling with fame and fortune. What do you find to be the hardest part about being an actress/role model? And what kind of role do your parents play in keeping you grounded while also supporting your career?

My parents are a huge deal. They're great people, they support me no matter what. And I don't find it difficult, really. I see a lot of people who have gotten into trouble because they have done some things. But that's not the way I am, that's not the way I was raised, and that's not what I'm going to become.

I'm just a normal person and this is what I enjoy doing. It's not like, "Oh, my God, I just saw myself on T.V.!" That's just not who I am. I enjoy doing it and then watching it with two or three of my friends. And then hanging out and goofing off afterwards. It's like going and playing soccer for other kids. It's a hobby.

What's it like seeing yourself on the big screen? Is it awkward?

It's the exact same thing as watching a home video. You watch yourself, but you know what's going to happen next. I actually enjoy watching everyone else's performances more. And I like to watch the audience's reaction too because it's interesting to see how they react to what I'm doing on the screen.

I'm a big fan of crime dramas like CSI, Without a Trace, Law and Order, etc. And you recently made a guest appearance on "Cold Case" in an episode directed by Emilio Estevez! Tell me what that experience was like.

Emilio Estevez was great! And that experience was really awesome. I got to play a total psycho. And seeing how I'm not a total psycho, it was twice as fun to play. I got to go to school and study people and use them as a basis to act off of. So I watched all of these people and saw all of these things that I could work into it. I thought it turned out really well, the overall performances, and everyone was cast really well.

(The show) was really scary. I couldn't believe how scary it was. And some of those things, I didn't even remember doing them. It was pretty crazy.

And what did your friends think?

My friends. Most of them told me they were pretty scared of me after that. But then I had to babysit someone two weeks after they saw the show and they said "we're going to have to get a different babysitter!" (Laughs).

It's funny, but most of my friends think it's pretty cool. In fact, one of my friends joked around with me and wrote me a note the other day that said: "You have to die," just like I say it in the show. It was so random, but yet, so funny.

And lastly, when you're not working on a film or television show or commercial and not in school, what kinds of things do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I really enjoy hanging out with my friends. They're really cool. And I just enjoy being a normal kid.

I also like going to the movies, I don't know why. It's not really an obsession, but I have to do it. I love watching them. And I don't watch them once. I have to watch them more than once so I can soak in every detail.

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