Carly Schroeder — Tough, but very Gentle.

by Kees Boer

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Sixteen year old Carly Schroeder is fast becoming one of the most recognized young actresses in Hollywood. She's worked in leading roles with stars like Harrison Ford, Hilary Duff, and Elizabeth Shue. As a matter of fact, I recently walked into the local Walmart and there was a huge poster of her right at the front entrance.

I recently had the privilege of doing a phone interview with Carly Schroeder, the star of the film Gracie. You might also know her as the young actress, who played Melina, Matt's tough friend in the Lizzie McGuire show. I found Carly to be very endearing and just very warm, down to earth and friendly. Although she is so gentle, Carly is far from a pushover. She has a graceful toughness that is both refreshing and rare. Carly is very athletic and could match any guy in any sport. It's no wonder that she was cast as the likable but tough Grace Bowen in the film Gracie.

We started talking about how she got involved in the entertainment industry. "I started off when I was five and I did a Shake and Bake commercial and Kin Shriner, who played my TV dad on the soap opera Port Charles said: 'That's the girl, who I want to play my daughter.' So, they flew me all the way from Indiana to California to audition and before we got off the plane back in Indiana, they told me I had the part."

On Port Charles, she played a 7 year old. As a young girl she had to play some really dramatic parts on the soap opera. Her character was blind for a year and she was kidnapped three times. She was so believable in her part that someone even thought that she was truly blind. "I actually had this lady come up to me in the mall and scream my character's name in the middle of the mall and pass out. And I was around 7 or 8 years old and I was looking at my mom like this lady is crazy. And my mom said: 'Ok, let's get out of here. I don't know what just happened, but this lady just passed out.' I looked at this lady and said: 'Are you ok, sweetheart?' And she said: 'Where is your cane?" I said: 'I'm not really blind madam!'"

It wasn't long till she was cast on the award winning show Lizzie McGuire as Melina, the tough friend of Lizzie's brother Matt (Jake Thomas). "Lizzie McGuire was great. I would never try and change that job. It was so much fun. I got to play the mean evil Melina and terrorize Matt. Hilary Duff was a lovely sweet girl. We were actually friends before that. She's like my big sister. Everyone on the set was just really down to earth and very sweet. I still hang out with Jake. I went to his birthday party. I also still keep in touch with Bobby Carradine (Sam McGuire, Lizzie's father) and I see Clayton (Ethan Craft) all the time at the Cancer Torch run."

After the Lizzie McGuire show and movie, she starred as the character of Millie in the film 'Mean Creek.' "Originally, I wasn't going to do that movie for the fact that it had so many curse words and pot in it and I didn't want to be part of it. Then I realized, when you're walking down the halls of school, you hear a lot worse things than that. So, why not put a positive spin on it somehow. I was the last person to audition for it. And when I was cast, I was overly excited, just like any other parts that you get and I got to spend the summer with an amazing cast, an amazing first time director: Jacob Estes. He's one of my favorite directors ever. He's very nice sweet caring guy and he helped me out." I asked Jacob Estes what it was like working with Carly. He said: "Working with Carly was a complete pleasure--she was always willing to make an attempt, always able to allow herself to be in the moment."

Carly commented on the story: "It was a beautiful script to begin with and the end product turned out to be very inspirational. We ended up winning the Independent Spirit Award for Best Ensemble Cast. It is pretty dark, but it definitely has some inspiration there, if you want to choose to take that message."

She explained how she prepared for the role. "I just read through the script, circled all the lines that said Millie, and thought about my character. I usually think of two girls that I know that have the same qualities that I want to use for the character and then put them together with some of my own qualities and that's how I make a character. I just mold two people I know, not always my friends, sometimes it is, and take their characteristics and made them into my character."

Carly was a huge Harrison Ford fan and she was so excited to be able to play the character of Sarah Stanfield, the daughter of Harrison Ford's character. "Harrison Ford was so sweet. He is awesome. I couldn't believe it when I stepped on set with him. I was looking at him, he came to me and he said: 'Hi, I'm Harrison Ford.' I couldn't even say his name. I started cracking up. When you're talking to someone, who is that big an actor and they are actually non-pretentious and nice, you just want to hang on to that moment forever. It was pretty incredible. We had some great scenes together and he was always very sweet. By the end of the movie, he was like a papa-bear to me. He was a very sweet guy and so was Paul Bettany. He was teaching me how to play the Beatles on the guitar. I play electric guitar. I like making noise."

In her recent film Gracie, she played the character of Grace. "Gracie is based on Elizabeth Shue's life, when she was younger and she was the first girl in New Jersey to play on a boy's soccerball team. It also deals with the fact that when she got older, she lost her oldest brother in an accident and how it really devastated their family." Shue actually played Gracie's mom on the film.

Carly took the role very serious. "When I did Gracie, I wanted to make sure that I was the best soccer player I could possibly be. I just lived soccer. I didn't do anything else for the two months before I did the part, other than just play soccer, train, weight trained, changed my diet, and watched the world cup. All I wanted to talk about was soccer."

Carly is actually quite used to being the only girl on a guys team. "I'm also playing tennis a lot. I'm on a four group team. It's three guys that I'm on a team with. It's a lot of fun. They make me play double, but I'm working on it. I'm going to beat them. I also used to be a wrestler on an all boys team. I used that experience [on the film Gracie] that guys didn't want to wrestle me or that they were either going to beat me, because I was just a girl or that they would take it easy on me, because I was just a girl. I would always fight harder on the guys that acted like they were something else."

At times the film also showed Carly's gentle side. "I'm a girly girl and at the same time, I can be a complete tomboy. It's always fun to be able to bring that across on screen, especially when I did Gracie. I had a few scenes, where I played a girly girl, but for the most part, I played a tomboy."

Carly actually loves the part of dressing up for a film. "I also love doing dress up. As soon as I go on set and I put on another wardrobe, I become a completely other person. I talk differently; I walk differently; I stand differently; my arms fold differently. It's kind of funny, but I really get into character, once I'm in wardrobe."

Carly also enjoys working with various charities. "I love the Run for Cancer. I created a project called Project Snuggle up, where people across the country send in blankets. It can be home made blankets, quilted blankets and they send it into Kids with a Cause and they disperse it to children, who've been taken from their homes, either through neglect or their parents have beaten them. They are just a bunch of broken kids. They were taken from their house, so they weren't able to take anything with them in the middle of the night by an operation type of thing. This blanket kind of offers them a little bit of comfort."

In the midst of that, Carly is very active young teenager. "I love hobbies. Right now, I'm very much into surfing. I'm working on graduating from a long board to a very short board. I'm trying for an under six foot board. I also do belly dancing. I got to do something girly in there. [Laughs] It can't all be sports. I love boxing. I also like going to the gym and swimming. I swim laps in the pool. I like reading my magazines. I love going to the movies and I like shopping, but what girl doesn't like shopping?"

Carly is not all fun and games though. She strongly believes in God. "I'm a Christian. I do believe in God. I was just baptized in our Church. I like going to church. Most kids think that it is a pain and they don't really enjoy going to church. I like hearing how people were touched by God and Jesus. It's really moving. I also like the songs that they sing. They are always so catchy. You get them stuck in your head."

We finished the interview by talking about what she wanted to known for at the end of her life. It was refreshing to hear her priorities. "I want to be known as a good family person, a good parent, a good grandmother, a good friend. Someone that would help others if they need it. I definitely would want to be a good family person though. I also want to be known as someone, who speaks their mind and making good decisions on your own. And maybe just maybe a good actress. That would be the topping on the cake though."

I really enjoyed my interview with Carly Schroeder, if you'd like to see Carly Schroeder's official website, you can click here.