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"I was so lucky that I got to live out my dream."
"When I got the part, I was running up and down the hallways screaming!"
"It's like being a boy and wanting to become Batman or Spiderman."
"My number two dream is to play Reese Witherspoon's sister or Goldie Hawn's daughter in a movie."
"Not only did I have to play a different person on the inside, but it was also the first time I had to physically transform."
Sara Paxton  

Interviewed by Mark Sells
March 2006

Ever since she was a little girl, Sara Paxton dreamed of becoming a mermaid. Heavily influenced by the Disney classic, "The Little Mermaid," she imagined herself as Shelly the mermaid, frolicking about in local swimming pools, and even kicking up water with her legs tied together. Now, many years later, her childhood dream has come true. Cast in the title role of "Aquamarine," Sara plays a displaced mermaid in search of romance. "I was so lucky that I got to live out my dream...it was much better than anything I could have expected."

That dream, of course, began in 1988 in Woodland Hills, California when Sara was born. After a brief stint in the commercial world, she leapt onto the big screen alongside Jim Carrey in "Liar, Liar." And even though it was a small part, it helped propel her into a series of guest starring roles, from "Malcolm in the Middle" to "Will & Grace" to "Frasier" and "CSI." And the industry began to take notice, awarding her a Young Artist Award for her performance in the comedy series, "Working." Afterward, a slew of major acting roles followed: "Greetings From Tucson," "Summerland," and "Sleepover." And then, her most significant role - the title character in "Darcy's Wild Life," earned her a Daytime Emmy nomination.

This June, Sara will be graduating from high school and looking towards college. But don't expect her to drop a thing. In between assignments, she successfully navigates a hit television series, more feature films, and voice-overs for "SpongeBob Squarepants." Oh, and she's also been in the studio, preparing for the release of her debut album, "The Ups and Downs." A vivacious and charming young actress, Sara certainly knows how to make a splash.

Reel Questions, Reel Answers

Okay. It's 1997, you're 8 years old, and you've got a few television commercials under your belt. Then, all of a sudden, you're cast in your first feature film role?with Jim Carrey in "Liar, Liar." How dramatic a change was that for you? And how did it help you transition into other opportunities?

It was a long time ago, so I barely remember anything (laughs)! But I do remember being really, really, really excited. I had done other movies but they were much smaller, independent films. And I just felt like this was my first big movie. I knew who Jim Carrey was and I loved all his movies. And I was just so excited. I remember when I got the part, I was running up and down the hallways screaming! I was so excited.

Even though it was a small part, it was my first experience on a 'real' movie set. So it kind of prepared me for later films. And it was the first time I got to see how the camera worked and how things go a little slower in film than in television. Overall, it was just a new experience and I was really excited to be there, just happy every day. And Jim Carrey was super nice.

You then went on to land roles in hit shows like "Lizzie McGuire," "CSI," "Malcolm in the Middle," before even bigger roles in "Greetings from Tucson," "Summerland," and "Sleepover." What do you feel has been the biggest break of your career thus far? Or when did you 'really' start to feel like you were an actress?

I didn't really start to feel like 'wow, I can do this for the rest of my life, I love this, I think I can do this as a job' until I was a teenager, when I was doing "Sleepover" and "CSI" and stuff. Because I was much older. When I was younger, it was just kind of like 'Oh, this is fun, I'm in commercials!'

But I feel my first big break would have to be the show, "Darcy's Wild Life," the very first part in which I play the title character. And that was a new thing for me. And then of course, there's "Aquamarine," the first movie where I play the title character.

Speaking of which, tell me a little bit about "Aquamarine," the character you play, and why everyone should go see it.

I play Aquamarine and she's a mermaid. And basically, what happens in the story, is that my character swims away from home to escape an arranged marriage. And she falls in love with a lifeguard that she sees on the beach. Then, she washes up in a beach club pool and enlists the help of these two girls played by Emma Roberts and JoJo to help her get the lifeguard to fall in love with her. So, it's kind of a mixture of "Splash" and "The Little Mermaid," with its own, unique twist.

I think everyone should go see it because it's a really good family movie. People of all ages have come up to me, not just friends and family but complete strangers, and said that this movie was not only funny, but it's really touching. And it kind of has a twist at the end. Unlike other films where you see the trailer and can guess what happens next, with this movie, there really is a surprise ending. And people will be shocked to see it. People will leave the theater being really touched.

I mean, I brought my two friends, two teenage boys, and they were crying when we left the theater. They were like, "Oh, my gosh, it must be ragweed season (laughs)!"

Of course, many movies have been made about mermaids. Most significantly, "Splash" and "The Little Mermaid." But what makes "Aquamarine" different? And what do we learn about mermaids from "Aquamarine" that we didn't know already?

"Aquamarine" is different because of its target audience. It's aimed at teenagers, unlike "The Little Mermaid," which is aimed at little kids. Although "The Little Mermaid" still makes me cry and I'm almost eighteen years old! And "Splash" is a little bit older.

With "Aquamarine," it has it's own spin on things. Even though she's a mermaid and has to learn everything about land, she's a kind of a cool, hip mermaid. Like, they give her this baggy t-shirt to wear because when she comes out of the ocean, she's not wearing any clothes, and she turns it into this really cute dress. So, she's this cool, older sister and yet, she doesn't even know that she's cool...which is a whole new spin.

And she's got this nail polish...

Yeah! Her nails change colors with her emotions, which is pretty cool. And that's never been done in any other mermaid film!

As a little girl, you dreamed of becoming a mermaid. And now, years later, you've become one! What was the whole experience like? And did it live up to your dream?

I was so lucky that I got to live out my dream. Because when I first got the script, I was so happy. And I told myself, "I have to do this, I have to play a mermaid!" It's like being a boy and wanting to become Batman or Spiderman - the same kind of thing. And it definitely lived up to my expectations. In fact, I didn't know what to expect and it was much better than anything I could have expected. It was just a great, fun experience.

So, that was dream number one. My number two dream is to play Reese Witherspoon's sister or Goldie Hawn's daughter in a movie. And maybe dream number two will come around, hopefully!

How difficult was it getting into costume, tail, and make-up every day?

It was really difficult getting into the tail. Every day, even if I wasn't wearing the tail, I would spend two and a half hours getting my hair and make up done. And then on top of that, when I had to wear the tail, it was an extra two and a half hours. So, it was about four or five hours in the trailer. And I'd have to arrive on set way earlier than everyone else. My call time would be 4 a.m. and I'd just sit there while they'd put the tail and prosthetics on.

And it was really, really heavy. It was over 100 pounds and maybe eight feet long. So, it was pretty tough sitting around in it. But I was naturally, very good at it. I got the hang of it right away since my whole life, I'd been practicing, I guess. And also, they had me do a month of swimming lessons beforehand. So, I was really strong and able to support my body in the water with the tail.

Were you familiar with Alice Hoffman's novel beforehand?

Yes, I read the novel beforehand. But it didn't really make much of a difference in my performance or anything because the book is kind of different from the script. In the book, she never gets legs. She always has her tail, she's always in the pool, or the girls put her in a wheelchair and put a blanket over her tail. And I don't think that would have been as interesting on film as it was in your mind and your imagination as you're reading it. On film, it would have been very limited for her to go places.

So, I read the book, and it was a really good book. But it didn't help me visualize the script any better. It did, however, help me with her personality, helping me get the feel for the kind of attitude she had.

What was your favorite memory or moment from the making of "Aquamarine?"

The whole experience was amazing. But I have to say, it was probably the funny things that happen on the set. I think one time, I was supposed to do a scene where I fall back in a hammock without looking at the hammock, and I missed the hammock completely and just fell back onto the ground. I think that will be in the bloopers on the DVD, but I'm not sure (laughs).

Or, it was my birthday on the set. And that was really cool because it was the first time I've ever had a birthday on the set. Everyone, cast and crew, sang happy birthday to me. And me, Emma, and JoJo went to this theme park in Australia called "Dream World." We went on all the roller coasters and Emma had never been on a roller coaster before. So, it was her first time and it was fun going on them with her. But the whole experience was just really great.

While juggling a hit television series, feature films, and school, you've also been in the recording studio! Wow! What can you tell me about The Ups and Downs, when can we see it in stores, and who inspires you, musically?

I'm not sure when the album will be in stores. It kind of got stalled because the movie was supposed to come out in April and they were going to coincide my album with the movie. But then the movie was pushed to March and so, I'm not quite sure about that.

It's kind of a pop rock album, a mixture of Ashley Simpson and Natalie Imbruglia. Although some people have told me it's a little bit like country actually. I dunno, I guess I have a country voice (laughs)? But it's basically about the experiences in my life. And I think a lot of people can relate to that, especially teenage girls because I'm a teenage girl and go to a regular school and have a regular life and have every day experiences.

I also sang a song (Connected) for the soundtrack to "Aquamarine" and that's doing really well. Everyone should check it out!

Which do you like better, singing or acting?

I like both; they're both really different. And they're both really fun. But I think I'll always think of myself as an actress. Even though I started both at about the same time, acting took off sooner. And acting will always be my number one.

With your mother's influence, you learned to speak both English and Spanish fluently. In your acting/singing career, do you envision making use of your bilingual skills?

I would love to do that! I have a lot of family in Mexico and they love getting my movie posters and love seeing me. And I think it would be a really cool thing to get in touch with my heritage and my culture.

In both film and television, who is your favorite character you've portrayed and why?

Aquamarine is probably my favorite, but it always changes. Every time I do something new, it's like 'that's my favorite!' But I really think Aquamarine is my favorite character because it's always been my dream to be a mermaid. And it was the first time I really had to change to be a certain character. I never had my hair changed before and they died it green. They made it really blonde and really green with all these extensions. So not only did I have to play a different person on the inside, but it was also the first time I had to physically transform. And it was just this new, cool thing for me that I really enjoyed.

Sara Paxton Interview (CONTINUED)



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