We sat down with the writer and creator of Trophies to get the scoop on what she loves about cheerleading and how it’s helped her to where she is today (hint hint, being a total boss babe in Hollywood).
What is your favorite cheer memory?
My first cheerleading camp. I was in high school and a group of NCA cheerleaders came to Toronto. I was new to cheerleading and I rallied two other girls from my team to come to camp. They were both fliers and I was a mid-base—we were still doing 2.5 high at the time in high school!!! ON WOOD FLOORS!! It was really hard for us to stunt together and most of the rest of the camp attendees were on full teams, but I did not care. I loved every second of it and spent every minute when we weren’t in classes practicing my cheers, dances, and jumps and stretching. I basically slept in the splits.
I also have many wonderful memories of my years training cheerleaders and coaches in Finland, Sweden, Scotland, China and many other countries. I was able to see the world through cheerleading and those experiences are part of the quilt of my life.
What is the biggest lesson/impact of cheer in your life?
There are so many! Stamina, and the personal mental discipline required to keep going. Working in entertainment I meet exceptionally talented people every day who have everything it takes to have a long, profitable and meaningful career in the arts, but so many of them lack the stamina and personal discipline required to stick with it. The skills I developed as a cheerleader to keep going no matter what stories I may be telling myself about quitting are the #1 reason I have had any sort of success in this business.
The second most important lesson I learned through cheerleading is related to the first and is about being in the moment. I remember being obsessed with Michael Jordan (the famous Chicago Bulls Basketball Star) when I was coaching at the University of Toronto in Canada. His philosophy was that he didn’t care what the score was, or how many minutes were left on the clock, he just wanted to put the ball in the hoop. I took that to mean that he was entirely focused on what he was doing in that moment, and nothing else mattered. This type of presence requires mental and physical discipline and becomes a skill that is transferable into any area of your life. Practicing being in the moment opens you up to being able to achieve at the highest levels of your personal capabilities. I practice being in the moment every day.
Why is it important for you to sign real athletes as actors?
I remember when I was growing up I would watch anything that had a cheerleader in it, and, as I learned about the sport, could always tell who the actors were and who were the real cheerleaders. I couldn’t stand seeing bent wrists and obviously faked tumbling. When I had my cheer company FlyGirl, I was lucky enough to work as a choreographer on a movie starring Samire Armstrong and Kevin Zegers called It’s a Boy/Girl Thing. I worked with three actresses who were playing cheerleaders and had to train them to be able to hit believable motions as game cheerleaders in the film. Let’s just say I took my job very seriously and made the actresses do push-ups when they didn’t make corrections. They were good sports about it, and I think they looked pretty good for the 4 seconds of screen time they had as cheerleaders, but I was a little intense.
I also helped cast a few commercials and choreographed the stunts for a killer Playtex Sport commercial with a basket-toss I invented that I still love where the flier back tucks and then kicks out into a split leg front stall. We shot that commercial in Argentina! It felt really fulfilling to be a part of it, and then I saw the commercial play at NCA College Nationals that summer and was really proud of the work I, and the cheerleaders in the commercial, had done to properly represent the sport around the world.
What inspired Trophies?
In the pilot episode, Caroline, the lead coach in the show, has been out of cheerleading for ten years and is dragged reluctantly to Dallas by her sister who is still coaching. When I wrote this pilot, I had been out of the industry pursuing my career in entertainment for ten years after my business FlyGirl imploded in 2008. I had been manufacturing cheerleading uniforms in China and had some major problems with the factory that were threatening to push the company into bankruptcy. At the same time, my father was dying from a very aggressive form of cancer. I knew, through my years as a cheerleader and business owner, that any problem was fixable if you were willing to focus all of your love and attention on it, but I made a very conscious decision to let my business go and be there with my father while he faced the end of his life, and he passed within 6 months. I don’t regret that decision because I was able to spend so much time with him, but I left a lot of things unfinished in terms of my hopes and dreams for the sport. Trophies is my way of creating the opportunity for myself to imagine my life if things had been different, to forgive myself for my regrets, and to heal.
On a grander scale, I hope to represent this sport that has meant so much in my life with honesty and integrity and to tell the truth about what type of young woman and young man is really attracted to this world. Focused, disciplined, enthusiastic athletes who truly understand what it means to be a crucial member of a team. I can’t believe it’s been ten years and I’m still having to explain to people that cheerleading is not a joke.
And as an extension, do you feel competitive/all-star cheer has ever been accurately portrayed in the media? If not, why not?
No. The reason I want to shoot this proof of concept (a proof of concept is a short version of an episode to display the tone, and visual style intended by the creator/showrunner/director) is because I am having trouble convincing the entertainment industry that competitive cheerleading is not a joke. Every agent or executive I have pitched to assumes it is a comedy – also because I am known as a comedic writer and actress – and brings up Bring It On!. Then, when I tell them it’s going to be an hour-long Dramady they assume it’ll be about ‘catty’ female relationships like those represented in many reality shows. I have a great deal of respect for women and the complexity of female relationships, and for the cheerleading industry and I don’t feel like this story can be told by anyone who doesn’t understand this world intimately. While the entertainment industry is working hard, post #metoo to make changes, they are still very slow, and a full pilot for a show like this would cost over $3Million to make. In order to convince the studios that there is an audience for this type of show, and that we are the ones to make it, we have to take this big leap of faith.
I truly believe the Goethe quote: “at the moment of commitment, the Universe conspires to assist you.” Since I’ve made the decision to jump in with both feet I’ve been quickly reminded of the generosity and support of the cheerleading community. I’m taking a big risk in shooting this myself, but this community, despite their differences, truly understands one of the coaching philosophies of Trophies’ Coach Caroline ‘the good of the team over the good of the individual’ and have been showing up to help bring this shoot to life in a big way. People like John Neville and Mandy Morgan of O.C. All-Stars who have graciously agreed to let us take over their gym for three days, and Angela Robbins and Edith George from CheerLife App and Mox!e Brands who are producing the Cheer Hollywood Experience Event and Tiy Fountain who will be coming out to scout athletes for his Talent Agency and my production team from LA and Toronto and this list just keeps getting bigger – all these people have agreed to help bring this show to life, and all of the athletes who are invited to come and participate in the Cheer Hollywood Experience and be part of the Trophies shoot are helping to make this happen too! It feels a lot like being on a cheerleading team again. I’m very grateful.
What makes cheer different from other sports?
It is the ultimate team sport. Very few other sports teams have to shut down practice if two people are missing.
What’s worse on the nerves: coaching, competing, or releasing a pilot?
Ha! Coaching. Once the music starts there is nothing you can do but watch.
Why Hollywood? Has it always been a dream/life goal?
Being an actor has, yes. I had my son at a young age, and didn’t start cheerleading until after he was born because I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any regrets about my youth that I may have ended up blaming him for later in life. Between the responsibilities of school and raising my son, Cheerleading was my place to be a kid. My son was a wonderful cheerleader for me and came with me to all my games (and many practices, both mine and teams I coached) when I cheered at the University of Guelph in Canada. Even though I was brave to still follow my dreams of being a cheerleader as a young, single Mom, I was not brave enough to follow my life long dream of being an actor (I did my first school play at age 5). I felt I wasn’t attractive enough to be an actress because my teeth were crooked. After my father passed and my business fell apart I was left with some money from his life insurance and I decided to straighten my teeth, and then felt confident enough to give acting a shot (although I was still terrified). I read a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron which I highly recommend for anyone who feels any sort of calling to the arts that helped me to realize I was the only one taking myself out of the running, and that I had been using my teeth as an excuse to stay small and not pursue my dreams. After reading that book I started to pursue my career as an actor and writer at the age of 35, studying improv at The Second City in Toronto, and then attending the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York, I moved to LA when I got my work visa (I am Canadian) in 2016 and I haven’t looked back (and my teeth are still sorta crooked, but it’s part of my charm). 🙂
As I approach the ten-year mark as an actress and writer Trophies brings me full circle. Back to the sport that infused me with the skills required to be tangibly successful in an industry full of myths—where success requires you possess the unique combination of discipline and dreaming that my deep involvement in cheerleading has nurtured. As a teen Mom, cheerleading gave me a sacred space to still be a kid. I want to honor that sacred space—Trophies is my way of saying thank you.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN AUDITIONING FOR TROPHIES? GET THE DETAILS HERE!
Cheer Daily Staff