April 6, 2018 Interview – Christine Lakin
Growing up a child star on television can be a double-edged sword. On the positive side, you are doing what you love, having fun with it, and hopefully setting the foundation for a bright future. On the other side of the spectrum, what you go through in your real life, such as growing from a child to a teenager, is completely exposed for the entire world to see. Fortunately for some of television’s brightest young stars it all worked out, as they continue to build success as adults, celebrating life with friends and family.
American Actress Christine Lakin is one of the handful of memorable child actors who has transitioned smoothly from early stardom to sustained work as an adult. Affectionately known for her role as Alicia “Al” Lambert on the hit 1990s sitcom Step by Step, Lakin has gone on to star in a list of films, do a list of voice-overs, and most recently star in the hot new series Hollywood Darlings. Expanding her horizons now as both a producer and director, Lakin shows no signs of slowing down. Recently we caught up with Lakin to talk her career as an actress, growing up on Step by Step, keeping grounded, Hollywood Darlings, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in acting in television and film since a very young age. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career in entertainment?
Christine Lakin – I don’t know that I was inspired to pursue a career in the beginning. When I began acting professionally I was 8-years-old, so it really wasn’t in my mindset that this was a career. It was always just something for me that felt very natural. I was drawn to it, I was constantly performing for my family. I was very involved in theater before I was doing anything professionally in television or commercials. I sort of say I fell into the business because it was something that was just really for fun, then it became something I started to do professionally, make some money as a child, but it was still always for fun.
I guess I had to really make the decision to continue to do it as a career when I became an adult, but I already had a lot of success. It is sort of like you are choosing something in reverse in a strange way. I have had to choose the career as an adult. Obviously it is a competitive business and for longevity in the business you really have to work at your brand, diversify; you have to find other roles, sometimes to go a little bit outside the box to have a career that is long lasting and one that you continue to make a living at.
For me, I think what has continued to have me choose this career is it is still the one thing that is the most fun and natural to me. I’ve been lucky that I’ve continued to support myself and my family doing it. I think if it wasn’t fun anymore or if I wasn’t having success at it, it would probably lead me to choose something else. I have definitely diversified in the last few years – I started writing, producing, and directing. Having more outlets in the business is really helpful. There are also creative pursuits because acting just wasn’t enough for me: I wanted to get my hands involved in every aspect of it. Which I think has been helpful in the long run as well on both sides – enjoying it and continuing to make a living from it.
CrypticRock.com – That is great that you still have a passion for it. It is really special that you continue to find new creative roads within the industry.
Christine Lakin – Yes. We just finished our second season of Hollywood Darlings, which airs April 18th on the Pop Network. I have to say going to work every day is a total joy. It is all the other stuff that comes before the job that is hard – the auditioning, pitching shows, trying to get money to do something, making up the deal, etc. That is all to me the b.s. stuff you have to go through in order to get to the fun; the fun for me is always the job. Sometimes it takes a really long time to get to the job. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and that can go within any career. As mentioned, you began your career as a child and had major success as a part of Step by Step for 7 years. What was your time like on the show?
Christine Lakin – I had a fantastic time on Step by Step. I was really one of those child actors who doesn’t have one of those stereotypical stories that people associate with child actors. I had a really wonderful experience, our producers were incredible people. The stars of the show, Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers, were both really lovely, very grounded, very personable, and they really set the tone for the rest of us on the show.
We really behaved very much like real brothers and sisters after a couple of years. We all got on each other’s nerves, but we all really loved each other. We played well together and there was really a lot of comradery on that set. I give a lot of credit again to the producers, I feel everything trickles down from the top. If you have great producers and great stars, there is really no excuse for any bad behavior and that is really what it felt like.
I started when I was 12 and ended the show when I was 19, so I definitely went through a lot of formative years growing up on television. That is a whole other topic in and of itself, but I just loved going to work every day. The balance between work and school was probably the most difficult aspect of it. I went to a private school in Atlanta, Georgia, and I would commute back and forth to my school. Keeping up with my school work and applying to colleges, that is when it started to get really tricky. I was in a lot of difficult classes and finding the time to hold down a full-time job, and trying to continue my 4.0 grade point average, it put a lot of pressure on me at the time. That was difficult, but it definitely prepared me for college because college felt like a breeze compared to what I did in high school. In some ways, I guess that was probably good.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it was a fun time, but also a crazy time. As you said, you started when you were 12 and it ended when you are 19. That is a time in your life where we all change. Growing up is hard enough as it is, one can imagine growing up in the public eye on TV weekly had to be a little difficult.
Christine Lakin – Yes, I mean there were definitely episodes where we tackled things in a comic way – puberty, dating, kissing, stuff like that. I was really going through all that in my real life. There were moments where everyone in the studio audience and producers were laughing, and I felt like dying a little bit inside because I felt so embarrassed. It felt so close to my own life sometimes. In some ways, yes, it is sort of hard to show everything. Go through all those awkward stages, such as braces and puberty, while the world is sort of watching you grow up.
On the other side of it, I think because I had a normal life in Atlanta, where I went back every 3 weeks when we were on hiatus – I had friends there and my high school was a very small, close-knit class – I felt very much like I definitely got a “normal life” outside of Hollywood. That gave me a lot of confidence because it made me realize it wasn’t everything, my career. What people thought of me such as fame, all that is real, but what it really comes down to when you go back to your normal life, the same rules apply. It is the way you treat people, the kind of friend you want to be. None of those people cared that I was on television and I think at a young age that was a really good lesson to learn because it gave me a lot of perspective.
The harder parts were really more the fame for me. I wasn’t used to caring what I looked like all the time. I went to a private school where we all wore uniforms – no one cared about what they wore, no one cared about your fashion sense, no one cared how you did your hair in the morning – we were there to learn. That was the other side of it, being out in public and not having any makeup on or not having done my hair, looking like a slob, and getting recognized. I had to realize that I had a kind of image to uphold in a way, that was probably more pressure than I was wanting to give in to at certain times in my adolescent life.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting, it seems it all worked out though. You chose to continue your career in entertainment with a long list of film and television projects through the years. Among those, you have starred in a good portion of Horror related films and even provided a voice for The Walking Dead video game. Do you have an affection for the Horror genre?
Christine Lakin – Oh yeah, the Horror genre is great! As a fan, I love watching scary movies. I have always been a big fan of Psychological Thrillers. I was a huge fan of The Walking Dead TV show and when I got the role as Jane in season 1 and 2 of the video game, it was a real thrill for me. I just loved playing that character and I totally understood that world. That is very much a Thriller, even though there is a lot of blood and guts.
For me, watching the show, it was always the anticipation of what was going to happen and trying to survive. It was a blast being on the other side, but once you are on the other side of it all it can ruin it for you watching something; you know how it is being done or you have an inkling of how it is being done. You start to think two steps ahead. It is always fun when you see a great movie that is totally unexpected. I thought Get Out (2017) was one of the greatest Psychological Thrillers because it was so unexpected and came from such a different angle. When something like that comes out, it is always really exciting.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, Get Out was very good; it took you by surprise. Seeing you have taken on a list of roles in television, film, and voice-overs, how would you compare the different forms of acting and which do you prefer?
Christine Lakin – Well, for me, they are all sort of rooted in the same basis. No matter what character I’m playing, I try and come from a truth basis, other than just something super ridiculous and slapstick or something serious and dramatic. You have to come at whatever that character’s truth is, their point of view. That doesn’t really change. The biggest changes in doing film and television versus say voice-overs, with film and television, time is money, so much money. Every moment that you are in front of that camera and you are not capturing what is actually going to be an option to be used is money. I am very aware of that because I am the executive producer on the show Hollywood Darlings. That goes for myself and my co-hosts Jodie Sweetin and Beverley Mitchell, we are all very much aware of what is next. We have been in this business so long that our job is not just acting anymore. We are in very close contact with line producers and ADs; we are constantly juggling things, we are trying to figure what ways we can capture this or that, because our days are so limited and the budgets are so tight. It is interesting that it’s not just about the acting but all of that other stuff that is going on.
With voice-over, there is a little more wiggle room because you just don’t have as many people. It is usually you, a director, an engineer, and a booth. It is so contained: you are not worrying about a plane flying overhead and you have to stop everything, wait for the plane, wait for sound, wait for wardrobe. It is just a more contained experience. The other thing that is different too is I can play any role I decide to set my mind to – I can be an old woman, I can be a young boy. The limitations of voice-over work are really very few. That to me is what makes it so fun and diverse. There is always something new in terms of characters I play. It is a blast!
I do a lot of audio books too. I find that to be a really interesting dynamic. You are not only reading someone else’s words, getting into their story and their characters, but there is a very technical side of it. You are reminded the listeners are not just listening to one or two lines of you doing a character, they are listening to your narration. There is a lot of making sure diction, pacing, and pronunciation is very precise. I think my musical theater training a long time ago prepared me for that side of that business. I never knew it would be something I would ever be doing, but here I am 50 some odd books later, I am still doing it.
CrypticRock.com – That is very fascinating. You have really spread out into various areas of entertainment. As you mentioned, Hollywood Darlings, was recently renewed for the second season and it will be returning to Pop on April 18, 2018. What can fans expect from the second season?
Christine Lakin – I think fans of the first season will see we really ramped up the comedy in the second season. I think we have gone even edgier with our storylines. I like to say this is a show we made about our friendship, about taking the heightened versions of ourselves, and kind of taking these ridiculous scenarios and sticking us in them.
What is so fun about the show is it is unscripted but we have these storylines/ideas we abide by. I guess you can say it is partially-scripted or a hybrid, something very much like a Curb Your Enthusiasm. The stuff that comes out of our mouths in the morning, when we are in a trailer with just the three of us sitting around what we think the scene is, sometimes ends up making it on the screen. You can’t plan for it necessarily. We will have a happy accident or Beverly will say something, Jody and I will start making fun of her and laughing where we’ll say we have to use it, it is too good.
It is done in a very organic way. I think fans will see a deeper peek into our bond/friendship; taking our roles a little more turned up. We have some really great guest stars such as Will Friedle from Boy Meets World, Tatyana Ali from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Soleil Moon Frye makes a comeback again this year. It was a lot of fun and I am really excited for fans to see it. We had an amazing team of women behind us this year which was such an incredible experience. We had a female director, another female producer, a female line producer; I just can’t say enough about them. The show has turned more into something that is more of half-hour, single camera Comedy, and less like a Mockumentary or hybrid Reality show. I think the production value is phenomenal this year. We will also be streaming on YouTube Red, so people can finally see it if they don’t get cable.
CrypticRock.com – That is very exciting! Seeing you have gained so much experience with directing, writing, and acting, have you thought of directing a full-length feature?
Christine Lakin – I would love to direct a full-length feature. I have done several shorts, a couple of music videos. I think it comes down to the right feature, the right team, and the right timing for me. I have a 2-year-old, so taking time away to go do something, it just has to be worth it these days. You have a family and your priorities do change a little bit. I love collaborating with my friends and if we could find the right script and get the right team together, that is something I would love to do in a heartbeat.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool, and completely understandable about family coming first. Last question. What are some of your favorite Horror/Sci-Fi films?
Christine Lakin – Oh wow. I mentioned Get Out, that was probably my favorite from last year. Night of the Living Dead (1968) is probably one of my favorites. If I had a genre, I guess it would be zombies, that is sort of my thing. I had such visceral reactions to Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) as a kid, they were so scary to me. I almost can never watch them again. I hear the Halloween music and I get shivers up my spine. Other stuff I am totally cool with. Even Shaun of the Dead (2004) I thought was a hilarious Horror/Comedy hybrid. I think that is really hard to pull off, but when it is done well I think it is the perfect genre for me.
I loved Avatar (2009), I thought it was so beautiful and unique. I am looking forward if the other ones ever come out. (Laughs) There is also The Shape of Water (2017) which I hear great things about.
CrypticRock.com – There are always those films as a child which have that effect on you. The Exorcist (1973) is one of those for many kids.
Christine Lakin – Oh yeah, my mother wouldn’t even let us watch that. Of course, at some slumber party we started to turn it on, we all got scared and started crying. She would say, “This is why I told you you’re not supposed to watch this stuff!” The same thing with Gremlins (1984), I wanted to see it so bad but it freaked me out. I was an only child, I didn’t have a sister or brother I could run to in the middle of the night to say, “There’s something under my bed.”
As a young kid, I was really freaked out by a lot of things. Even the M. Night Shyamalan movies such as The Sixth Sense (1999) were done so well. Again, I feel like that was sort of a new genre of storytelling where you weren’t exactly sure what was going on. It was more of a psychological mind game and I just love those movies.