IN CONVERSATION WITH CALLIE HAVERDA
Callie Haverda is the lead star in the Netflix series ‘That ’90s Show’, the spin-off of the wildly popular 90s sitcom ‘That ’70s Show’. The series is a continuation of the ’70s-themed series that follows Callie’s character Leia and her friends as she spends the Summer with her grandparents Red and Kitty in the basement where it all started. The series premiered in January and has already been renewed for the second season.
Callie, you’re the lead star in Netflix’s spinn-off series ‘That ’90s Show’, where you play Leia, the daughter of Eric and Donna from the original hit series ‘That ’70s Show’. How much research did you have to do before you began filming?
When I got the original audition, I tried to find as much content as possible. I found many good compilations made up of funny or dramatic moments on YouTube, my mom and I also purchased the first couple of episodes and watched them together, which led to my dad getting the box set and all of us binging it. I studied Kurtwood and Debra Jo, who I knew I’d be acting alongside. I also watched Laura and Topher closely, who play my parents.
From my personal experience, I see reflections of my own mom and dad in myself, their mannerisms have been carried on through me and my siblings, so I thought it reasonable for Leia to have inherited some of the awkward Forman tendencies or Donna’ss gestures. Becoming the character of Leia was difficult in some ways, I had to be mindful of the original show. I wanted to capture that same magic the original cast had, but I also didn’t want to just be a mirror of them, so I took what the writers gave me and learned who Leia was as a standalone character. Forming my perception of her with the knowledge I had of Red, Kitty, Donna, Eric and even Bob helped create the new generation of Forman-Pinciotti.
The series follows Leia and her newfound, unlikely group of friends she makes while spending the summer with her grandparents in the same house where her parents Eric and Donna fell in love many years ago. How similar would you say you and Leia are?
If you asked me this just six months ago, I would’ve said we’re exactly the same, but the person I currently am is so different from the person I was six months ago. I’ve experienced so much and I think the awkward, unsure Callie I used to be has evolved into a much more confident version. When I was on set, I could relate to Leia a lot. We were both in a new place with new people trying to fit in. We both turned 15 during the time of filming and both had our first kisses. Each time I read a script I felt I was just reading a reflection of my life. The writing is so real and truthful, which helped in being able to relate to the things the characters experienced. At the end of the day, Leia is a teenage girl trying to find herself and understand the person she is becoming. Maybe next season we’ll see a more confident, sure-of-herself Leia that reflects the person I am now.
How was it sharing the screen with the characters and actors from the original, iconic ‘That ’70s Show’?
It was so surreal, but a complete dream come true. It was a fever dream working with people I would’ve never imagined being able to work with so early in my career. In some ways it was more insane that I’m playing the character’s daughter, just because I had been watching them on TV and knew them as simply characters. To have them there in real life with me and being their kid was insane.
The series is filmed in front of a live audience. How hard is it filming live, in front of the audience? And how does it differ from your other filming experiences?
Filming in front of the audience is something that took getting used to. I’d only ever done single-cam dramas, but it was almost like second nature. There were times when we had a regular filming day when I was longing to be in front of the audience. They bring a completely different energy to the process. It’s electric and you can feel everyone in front of and behind the camera is affected by it. It was difficult at times, when we had a more serious personal scene, having sixty or more eyes on you than normal, but as an actor we block everything that doesn’t exist in our character’s world out and I quickly became comfortable performing for the audience. What’s wonderful about the audience is we get to experience in real time how the viewers will react to our jokes. Based on reactions we sometimes get our jokes rewritten and have to perform them for the first time for the audience. There’s a lot of anticipation, but it’s all more exciting than nerve wracking.
You didn’t get to experience living in the 90s as you weren’t born then yet. Now that you’ve got to experience some things that defined the 90s through the series, is there some that you’d say you missed out on while growing up?
I’d say existing in a world without technology is something I would’ve wanted to experience. A lot of people say it would be horrible living without our phones, but I’ve seen firsthand that kids can have fun even without their electronics. Being able to become yourself without the pressure of social media would be nice.
Before acting in front of camera, you were a big theater person. What are some of the most important things that you have learned from theater?
I wasn’t really a big theatre person. I did a few shows when I was younger, but I always preferred TV and film acting. Those few shows did help me with blocking and projection though, something that’s important as we film in front of a live studio audience.
For your role on ‘That ’90s Show’ you moved from Texas to LA. How big of a shock was moving to LA for you? What have you got to love the most about LA since it became your home?
My mom and I used to come to Los Angeles a lot during pilot and episodic season. I was homeschooled in middle school, so California quickly became a second home for me. I love the weather in LA. We get more seasons here than in Texas, which is lovely. Having the ocean so close is nice, I have a kind of infatuation with beach towns and driving along the shore up near Malibu.
Do you consider yourself a typical Texas girl?
I’m not sure what a typical Texas girl implies, but from my own knowledge, I would say no. Sure I love a lot of things about Austin, the city I grew up in, but Austin even is so different from Texas as a whole that if I didn’t move to California I probably still wouldn’t be considered a typical Texas girl. I’ve been influenced a lot by the people in LA and different states as I’ve traveled all my life. My first time on a plane was when I was just four months old. I think all people are similar and different in ways, and sure they’re impacted by the places they grow up in. But everyone can also become their own people. I’m just Callie.
What’s your view on fashion? How would you describe your favorite style?
Since I was very little, I’ve known what my style is and I don’t think there is really a word to describe it. It’s evolved over the years, but it’s really just if I see a clothing item I like, I’ll turn it into an outfit. I just purchased a dress on Depop the other day and it was way too short so I paired it with some jeans to create a kind of 2000s inspired look. My favorite style changes daily if I’m being honest. If I’m inspired by something then that’s my ‘aesthetic’ for the day. I’ve been really into 60s Parisian fashion, but that will probably change in a month.
What would you say are the biggest advantages for the young generation in the industry?
One of the advantages for young actors today is that there are stricter rules and guidelines in place about how we are able to be more equal to adults. I’m glad that a lot of struggles for youth in the industry have a spotlight shining on them now and everyone is aware of problems that we will hopefully move toward fixing. We, kids, are the new pillars of this industry and I think people are finally realizing that. I’m at the age where people take me more seriously and treat me as a peer. And now more than ever, it’s important for us to be heard. There are also so many more avenues through which you can get your work out. There are streaming services, social media, etc. There are so many more opportunities for us today.
Callie, what can you share with us about your upcoming projects?
I have a few different projects in the works. A screenplay I wrote and season two of ‘That ’90s Show’ among others that are under wraps, but I’ll share soon.
interview by JANA LETONJA
photography and creative direction NICK RASMUSSEN @bynickrasmussen
styling ANASTASIA WALKER @neoncomplex
makeup ADAM BREUCHAUD @ Forward Artists @adambreuchaud @forwardartists
hair RICHARD COLLINS using LEONOR GREYL @dickycollins @leonorgreylusa
editor TIMI LETONJA @timiletonja