I spoke to Christy (Carlson) Romano, who you know from Disney shows like Kim Possible and Even Stevens, about doing Broadway, being a writer and director, and how music-centric entertainment for kids has changed over the years.
After The Show: So you’ve done Broadway as both a child and an adult – how do you keep up the mental energy and physical stamina to perform night after night?
Christy Romano: You pretty much don’t have any other life but doing the show. It wears on your voice singing…if it’s a straight play you have more leeway, but pretty much you have to be dedicated to the show, just focusing on it. The upside is that you get to sleep late, but it’s tough on your body. You almost have to look at it like you’re an athlete.
When I was doing Beauty and the Beast I was getting acupressure and acupuncture weekly, on top of throat massages, and inhalers for my vocal chords!
You’ve balanced acting, film, academics, theatre, & music seemingly very effectively. Do you have any advice for kids and teens about achieving success, maintaining balance, and not burning out?
I think I did burn out after doing Beauty and the Beast and ran on fumes after coming back to LA & having a record deal and a book deal…My biggest advice would be ‘everything in moderation.’
In summer when I was on hiatus from Even Stevens I would be doing computer camp or basketball camp or sailing camp. There was one summer I loved doing sailing camp.
My mom was my manager and got me grounded, which is important [for kids] even when they get older. Have a real life outside their passion or dream…it’s great when they can coexist and help each other…my fiancé is also my business partner now, but we keep life separate.
What can you share about your current projects? I know you started Interstitial Productions & have been working on a short & a feature too?
Yes, that’s correct! I started directing, went back to school (Columbia University) for directing. I’m waiting to hear about AFI and hoping to go there in August, so my fingers are crossed right now. I directed a music video that did really well on YouTube — We had a lot of hits – over a million within a month.
The Mad Musician — Steph Gold is his name. Our budget for “The Sun” was small and that went well – there was buzz about it. I’d love to direct other music videos. Music and singing is always going to be my first love and first talent, but there’s so many things I want to do that are surrounding our industry.
Everyone Says I Love You is one of my favorite movies, so I think it’s so funny that you had a bit part as the singing Chiquita Banana.
I think it’s so funny too. I know someone really knows my work well when they mention that, because it’s so obscure. I’m so young in it and that was cool because I met Woody Allen.
Originally there was another girl — this flapper girl singing a different song — who played the banana and they actually recast her with me after they shot her. They wanted a different image…I guess they fired the old banana and put me in [laughs].
You authored the novel Grace’s Turn [Hyperion]. What was your goal with that book? Is that kind of writing something you might want to do again?
Absolutely. I’m in talks and writing a presentation to make another Young Adult book that’s somewhat based on Valley of The Dolls. I’m really excited about that and hopefully Hyperion will like it. My goal [with Grace’s Turn] was to do something different and share my knowledge in a different way – sort of a snapshot/semi-autobiographic take on my experience.
From your perspective how has kid-oriented music entertainment changed over the past 10 years?
Thank you for asking because I really do think about this all the time, having been someone who’s lived it. Even Stevens was the first [Disney TV] show to ever do a musical – way before Glee and way before High School Musical.
We did really well in our ratings that Disney decided to do more music stuff…and decided that was a direction that they wanted to take, when they started seeing that music was really important to the audience. In a way we feel responsible for paving the way for all these kids now.
If I were to see a Selena Gomez or Vanessa Hudgens – I did see Vanessa Hudgens a few years ago and she was so respectful and thanked me. When you’re a Disney kid you look up to the people who came before you. I’m impressed with the talent – the kids on Disney get more and more talented.
I’m glad you said that because a lot of people don’t realize the impact the music-centric Even Stevens episodes had. Do you have a favorite episode, music-related or not?
I remember this one episode where I had a pig that I had to be followed around with – it was a Sadie Hawkins day dance – I had to act with the pig and it was really sweet. Besides that I definitely didn’t like the one where I had to get a sundae dumped on me.
I liked the musical one [“Influenza: The Musical”] probably the best.
You’ve co-written some songs with The Matrix – what was that like?
Pretty fantastic. After my record deal with Atlantic I had a development deal and developed some songs with The Matrix and Kara DioGuardi – two development deals essentially. I learned so much as a songwriter.
I don’t really write music anymore. I was trying to find my voice because I didn’t want to be the type of person who was just going into it for the sake of it / the platform. What I wanted to do was more of a Sheryl Crow thing [than Katy Perry] and it was before women were coming out and having success with that. It kind of just didn’t work out and I think I’m okay with that.
You’ve mentioned that living in LA as an adult vs as a child actor feels really different. How so?
When I was younger I was really busy working and as an adult it’s really hard to stand out from the crowd. If you’re not a character actor, you’re just like everyone else. You have to be at the right place at the right time, and the writer or director has to like you for some reason – it’s so picky. Living here requires a lot of strategy.
Thank you Christy! Check out her brand new official website.