I recently enjoyed a fun interview with actress Scottie Thompson (Trauma, 12 Monkeys, The Blacklist). We talked about her passion for dance, her acting career and the advances that are finally being made in roles for woman in the TV/film industry.
PC: Where were you born and raised? Was that Virginia?
ST: Yes. It was Goochland County, Virginia, just outside of Richmond.
PC: What was Goochland County like? What kind of place was that?
ST: It was pretty idyllic. I grew up on a farm. I have three siblings and it was a pretty good childhood getting to play with the animals, and we were so busy with other activities, we all stayed pretty darn busy. I was dancing, my brothers were playing sports and my sister was a horseback rider.
City life is pretty awesome and I love it, but to get to grow up in that clean air and outside space.
PC: What were you like as a kid: were you all into dance, performing and drama rather than a tomboy, climbing trees?
ST: My best friend and I used to put on performances all the time, lots of homemade plays, but I also would roll around in the dirt and constantly have bruises on my knees.
PC: That’s refreshing because usually it’s one or the other: either the wee ballerina types or the tomboys.
ST: Yeah, I was a kind of combination of the two.
PC: But you were always going to be a dancer or an actress?
ST: I definitely enjoyed… I loved being on stage, when I was on a little stage at home, once I got more into the dance stages.
PC: How did you take that to the next level when you were going through high school? Were your classes all music/drama/art?
ST: Actually during my junior/senior years of high school, I left school at noon everyday and would go down to the ballet studios and train with the Richmond Ballet (the state ballet of Virginia). They have a trainee programme and you get perform in a lot of the ballets, a lot of the major performances. Two of my friends – who went up through the school with me – we all got into the training programme and left school early. I crammed all my classes into the morning and sometimes, occasionally, I would miss a class; it was tough – I took a bunch of classes – it wasn’t like skating through school.
PC: Did you have to keep your grades up on the more academic subjects?
ST: Yes. I definitely had to stay on top of it, so I was a lot better at time management then than I am now. I remember going out with all my friends in high school: I’d go out on a Friday night and they would be like, ‘Okay, let’s go do this other thing,’ and I’d say, ‘ I can’t. I’ve got ballet in the morning.’ It became a little joke for us.
PC: Do you get to stay out late now though?
ST: Yes I have that option, I guess. Not on days that I’m working – you have to get up and make the most of your time – if you have 4 a.m. call time there’s no staying up.
PC: You recently did a play?
ST: That was a different kind of schedule, back to late night shows, hanging out with friends afterwards. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness! I’m not used to this.’
PC: Which do you prefer: do you like having the whole day in front of you, you know, getting it out of the way? Do you prefer early mornings or late nights?
ST: I like getting up early, getting as much done as possible, but it’s nice to change it up. In this business you do get that, I mean: sometimes you are working on a show and your call time is 4 a.m. on Monday and on Friday it’s 4 p.m. and you are shooting until 6 a.m. – come Saturday you are like, ‘Whoa!’
PC: It’s funny, as fans, we never really think of actors being out all hours in all weathers.
ST: It’s really different. You see the final product, but… the process can be much different than it looks in the end.
PC: You continued your education at Harvard: was that on a scholarship?
ST: I just went as an undergraduate, no scholarship. They like a well-rounded student body: my being an extremely focused ballet dancer sort of rounded up the more extremely focused academic set I guess.
PC: What did you study at Harvard?
ST: I studied literature and performance studies and did a bunch of theatre when I was there – that’s sort of when I started getting more into acting. They have a dance programme, but when I was at Harvard you could not major in theatre – which is funny because you could major in economics, apparently that’s not too vocational which I find to be hilarious – but since then they have changed the rules and you can now major in theatre. When I was there it was just a bunch of undergraduates directing plays with their peers. It was a fun community, really cool and it was all pretty inventive. We would have rehearsals from 6pm until midnight most days plus homework. If you want to major in theatre you had better prepare yourself for it.
PC: Were your parents totally supportive of your career choice? Because some actors tell me their parents would have liked them to be a doctor or a lawyer. But I guess, because you wanted to perform from an early age, they were tuned into that?
ST: I think they had no idea what I was doing. They were supportive of my dance, then they were supportive of me going to school, and then I guess they kind of assumed I would pursue a more traditional path, given my education. Bu they knew I loved performing and were always supportive of what I enjoyed. I lucked out because the summer before my senior year, I auditioned for a show. I knew I wanted to act but I had no idea how to go about doing it other than graduate school.
I thought, ‘Wow, it’s great doing theatre but I’d like to try out for film and TV’ and I’d done a couple of undergraduate films. I was working for a travel guide book Let’s Go over the summer in Boston; I’d already worked for them one summer in Greece and got to go travelling which was lots of fun.
So I took an audition for film and TV class in Boston. It’s really different there because in LA or New York it’s so hard to get an agent, but in Boston there are fewer projects, so they have a few agencies that cast parts locally.
I got an audition for a pilot for a 5-line role, and went to the audition not knowing what a pilot was: in the room was the creator of the show and that doesn’t really happen in LA for such a small role and even for larger roles. These days everything’s on tape, so for me to walk in the room with this big film director and the show’s creator was pretty special. They kept bringing me in for different roles. I ended up getting this recurring character and shot that pilot at the beginning of my senior year and then the show got picked up so it started shooting after I graduated. That was really lucky
PC: Yes perfect.
ST: I got an agent and thought, ‘This is easy breezy beautiful.’ It’s not like that, though.
But it was really nice to be able to ease my parents worries a little bit, when there was a possibility of working and I ended up calling my dad saying, ‘Dad, I got my first job. My first big job. I got a job after graduation!’ He was like, ‘Oh really! What?’ He was probably thinking, ‘I wonder what she thinks she can do?’
Then I moved to New York for 6 months and I was doing other odd jobs here and there: I was editing for this graduate school application essay programme (foreigners and Americans trying to do their graduate application essays); I did a lot of editing. When I got to LA I was tutoring, babysitting, all kinds of odd jobs to keep going, in between the acting jobs.
PC: Were you happy to leave your dancing behind at that point, given that you had trained for so many years?
ST: When I went to college I ended up dancing and [doing] plays, and choreographing things when I was there, but not a lot. I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional ballerina. The two other gals I went through the training programme with, one went on to become principal with the ballet company (she just retired this year, it’s a short career) and I thought, ‘Well, I’m choosing to go to college and eat a lot of pizza.’
That happened. But when I got there, I was like, ‘Well this is what I want to do. Theatre.’ You get to be on the stage but you also get to use your mind in a whole different capacity. Dancing certainly challenges your mind in terms of remembering movements and being able to have emotion within that, but theatre and film were even more incredible.
PC: Do you still use your dance training for exercise?
ST: I got certified Pilates 8 or 9 years ago, so I like to practise that. I have a friend who used to be in the Royal Ballet and he’s out here now and teaches a ballet class. He is like, ‘C’mon Scottie! Get inside!’ I’ve occasionally popped into classes; especially when I’ve been up for dance roles, (I would love to have an excuse to really get back into it). I take some bar classes which remind me of ballet but also don’t make me feel so inept – my body doesn’t work like it used to.
PC: Do you go to the ballet to watch performances?
ST: I do! I love it when companies come to town and when I lived in New York I loved to try and get in and see things. I loved watching it. I haven’t been to the Los Angeles ballet yet. I love dance. I feel like in New York it’s easier to get around than LA, sometimes it’s hard to get around in this heavy traffic city.
PC: Looking back at your career, you have been in so many productions in TV and film: are there any shows that stand out as a highlight?
ST: There was a great independent film I did where I got to live in New Orleans for a few months and played this deaf character with one leg – it was pretty challenging. I loved the character! The film was called The Lookalike, it was a wonderful cast. I got to play opposite Jerry O’Connell who is an amazing actor and human, and that was really fun.
I loved The Blacklist, being in New York that was definitely an awesome experience.
PC: How did you get a part on The Blacklist, was it a standard audition?
ST: It was a pretty standard process; although I was made aware of the role because a friend of mine was directing the first episode I did. He said, ‘I think you’d be really right for this role.’ So I got my agent to call them. I was in New York at the time, I guess he’d seen it on my social media or something. So I ended up having to make myself local hire (it’s pretty competitive and there’s a lot of local hiring happens now because of expenses of flying people out) and I was happy, happy, happy to be local to New York. Anyway he let me know about it and I went in and did an audition and I ended up getting the job. The first episode I didn’t have any lines so he didn’t get to direct me much, but it was nice he gave me a heads up about it.
PC: Had you watched the show before you joined?
ST: I’d seen the pilot and loved it and then once I booked the job I went back home to LA for a couple of weeks until they were due to film, so I marathoned the entire two seasons. I was like, ‘I have to know what’s going on!’ I got really into it. It was a fun one.
PC That scene where Red gives you the glass of wine and you start to feel ill, you were so convincing, the look on your face was exactly like when you start feeling ill from being poisoned. How difficult is it to do that?
ST: You just have to remember what it’s like when you feel sick and I just kind of like go into that space. You know, I’ve taken classes where you work with scenarios like: you are picking up a cup of coffee, or you are pouring yourself a cup of tea and you have to work with those things. But it’s not like miming, it’s feeling it. Like your morning coffee: what does it feel like when you are breathing that smell. It’s the same sort of thing playing an illness. I like the stuff that is physical acting, just because it’s my background, you know.
Just like the character I played on that movie The Lookalike having to be deaf and playing with how my vocal quality shifted a little and hopping around on one leg. I played another character who had ALS, I had to work with the body deteriorating, such an awful disease. You know the physical work is an amazing challenge and every time I get a chance to do that kind of work it’s really a treat.
PC: And what about crying? Can you cry on cue or is that almost always choreographed (for want of a better word) when an actor cries?
ST: It’s different every time. Sometimes I’m like, ‘I don’t want to cry [there].’ It makes sense for me to cry somewhere else, and just kind of let it flow (literally) at the moment, it makes most sense.
PC: Do you have to go to a place, like grandma dying, or is it another technique that an actor uses?
ST: I was talking about this with some actor friends the other day. You know, when I first started, there was that pressure to hit ‘the moment’ when you are supposed to. I would certainly be around set with my headphones in, listening to sad music and thinking of sad things just to get me in the headspace. For emotional scenes, you want to give yourself the space to be alone so you can act in that deeper, emotional well.
As I’ve grown more as an actor, I think I’m just more and more in the world of the play and can draw more from the reality of what is the character feeling in this time. Sometimes we get really drained emotionally. I just shot a short film about a woman who is an army wife; and they have these cut outs of their husbands to remind the kids what the parent looks like when they are away for a long time – it was par for the course in the mid-2000s. The character’s husband dies, but she doesn’t believe that he’s dead and then there’s a moment when she realises – it hits her – so it’s a pretty huge, deep, sadness. Thankfully we had an amazing 1st AD who kept everybody quiet on set; it was a really respectful set and I had to go deep into some things I didn’t want to, just to get into the space, and then go from there. By the end I was like, ‘Oh man. I’m losing steam. And I’ve got to do this again because we have multiple takes.’ Ha. And then I thought, ‘Okay. Maybe now I will think of something sad in my own life to keep myself going.’
I have a teacher who says, ‘Your body doesn’t know the difference. When you tell your brain that your mother died, whether it’s in a scene or it’s for real, your body doesn’t know the difference emotionally, so you have to honour yourself, and treat yourself well afterwards and say, ‘Okay, this was really traumatic, even though it’s not real’, it felt real in your body and your brain had to believe it was real.’
PC: Getting back to The Blacklist everyone on the show who I have interviewed, has gone into great detail to describe how wonderful James Spader (Reddington) is as an actor, and a person actually. What are your thoughts about James?
ST: He was really, really pleasant, and so professional. I mean: it’s amazing how much he is invested and has so much material to learn and also is an executive producer on the show. He’s so smart. There was a scene, we were working on figuring out what the set up was; I think we were in a bit of a time crunch as happens often on set, and he suggested to the director, ‘Well, what if we do it this way?’ The director loved it, because it wasn’t so time consuming of a setup. He could see that.
And he not only thinks about that as well as his performance, he talks with his co-stars and the people who come in as guest stars like myself. I’ve certainly heard stories of people who don’t take the time to say hello – he definitely does. He is just so generous with his time, there was a scene we were doing (and our characters had known each other a bit longer by the time this scene was happening) and I wasn’t quite in that ‘comfortable place’ – I think I was probably still a little anxious – and he offered me some and it put me at ease in terms of the character; it really helped my performance in the scene and I’m really grateful that he offered that up. Obviously he wants the show to be the best it can be; it certainly wasn’t required that he help me out, and it just make me look better too, so I was grateful.
PC: I read there was a scene cut where Red was asking if you had a record player, and handed you records by the likes of Chico Hamilton and Fred Kats and wondered, with James being such a huge music fan, if he was like, ‘Oh you have got to listen to this!’ Or is it not that kind of relationship you share?
ST: It was definitely his idea, as was eating the anchovies which I wasn’t keen on. When we were shooting that scene he said, ‘Just you wait,’ because we got really good ones, and by the end of it I was saying, ‘Oh they taste really good!’
But yeah it was his idea for the jazz records, I hadn’t heard of Chico Hamilton. When I read the script I was like, ‘I’ve got to listen to this album,’ and it’s just great music. That’s what is so cool about what we do – you are always learning.
Music makes such a difference in television but also in life in general, certainly in the final product of film or TV.
PC The music on The Blacklist has been consistently brilliant from Season 1, other shows are now catching up and are using music more effectively in the last few years I think.
ST: They have the budget to pay for bigger songs but it’s important for emerging artists to be used in music placement and in commercials because it’s how their music gets heard and it’s such a different world in terms of getting it out there and getting known…
PC: Absolutely, there is a British singer and band leader called Paul Stone whose music Jon recently picked up and used in a scene where James Spader and Megan Boone are dancing – he was blown away at it being picked,
ST: That is so cool.
PC: Some of the guest characters have returned on The Blacklist and obviously your character survived: you would be keen to return to the show I expect.
ST: If they brought her back I’d be there in a heartbeat. I’d be curious to see how I’d come back.
PC: Let’s get on to Jon Bokenkamp to get you back! 12 Monkeys has a huge following as well doesn’t it?
ST: I really love it. It has certainly been such a fun series to be on, I think it’s such a smart show with really strong female characters. It’s one of those shows you really have to pay attention to because it’s complicated – you can’t multi-task too much whilst watching or else you end up thinking what’s happening here? The Blacklist was really smart and complex too. But when it involves time travel, like in 12 Monkeys, I imagine it becomes even more so. For me that was such a treat to get to go back in time: I’ve always loved period pieces. I had so much fun dressing up for that. We shot some in Budapest which was so amazing! When I was there it was late September and it was beautiful. It just a really strong character who had a lot going on, which I love.
I’m playing a mother for the first time and with the whole time travel, they kept bringing me back. And that’s the great thing about that: you’re like, ‘Oh we are back in the ‘60s. Sweeeet!’
PC: There are so many really good shows, I must be the only person to have not seen Breaking Bad when it was originally aired but I just watched it all. It was very good.
ST: I’ve not seen it yet!
PC: You must, it’s amazing, amazing!
ST: I know. That’s what everyone says. I feel silly that I haven’t. I have seen the pilot and maybe another episode but as an aspiring writer as well, people say ‘you’ve got to watch it’ because you learn so much about structure – anyway it’s definitely on my list.
PC: I know actors have different ways of learning their lines: how do you get yours down when you get handed a script?
ST: I keep reading over it. The thing is, having just done this play, I feel like TV… well, you know, I’m not getting monologues like James Spader usually. He has so much material! A lot of times you are only shooting a couple of pages a day, and you are not having to memorise it all at once. I guess I’m pretty lucky with the memorisation thing: it’s never really been too much of a struggle point for me. Sometimes I will record things on my phone and have it in my voice memo so I can listen when I’m driving around or walking around – just getting it in my mind for when I have larger chunks of material, and then for meatier roles and jobs, I like to coach on it before so that I really understand the material; so the more I understand, the easier it is to remember it, because it makes sense as to why you are saying this here. The more you can link understanding to it, the easier it is to learn.
PC: Yes, then it’s not just random lines going through your head it’s connected.
ST: Yes and then, when it’s lawyer roles or doctor roles, it’s more challenging because you don’t have all the vocabulary to deal with it as a normal person. My brother is a lawyer and my sister’s a doctor, so I’m often calling them up saying, ‘What does this mean?’ My sister’s like, ‘Wait! You solved this disease in one episode?’ And I’m like, ‘Ah yeah.’ She says, ‘Wow!’ (Both laugh)
PC: That’s quite handy having your siblings doing those jobs though eh…
ST: Yeah, it’s helpful to have personal dictionaries in terms of understanding. I guess if I ever had a farming role I could call up my brother…
PC: How do you feel about woman in film now? Previously writers, producers and showrunners jobs were male-dominated. Do you agree real progress is being made and now there’s more women directing etc. or not?
ST: I think so. I am really excited about the fact that things are actively changing and it’s interesting the way a major domino effect is happening right now with the Harvey Weinstein situation. I want the trend to move in the direction of women and I think, what’s happening is so important right now, because there are going to be more conscious choices to include woman and it comes from a necessary pressure. I think that is going to encourage more woman who are just starting out, or were thinking about it but seeing a lack of opportunities, to really hone their skills and confidence, so more and more woman can continue to rise up and fill these roles.
It’s so exciting to think about what direction the writing is going to be going. From an acting perspective so many of these shows are male-driven. It’s usually split but I would say there are more male-driven, meatier roles for sure. I feel, so often, women who are empowered are perceived as being ‘a bitch’ and we are finally moving away from that. If a male lead character is a jerk, but is fun, we kind of forgive them for being a jerk and I find that’s not always the case with women – when you are a jerk like that, you’re just a jerk! But I think that things are changing and it’s going to be fun to see the new kinds of roles out for women. On 12 Monkeys it’s a male showrunner but he’s really passionate about strong female roles that are fun (you know he changed the Brad Pitt character from the movie to a female). I do think it’s a really exciting time to be in the business. I mean: look at The Handmaid’s Tale – it’s so well done – female lead.
PC: There are some very good showrunners and writers, like Jessica Goldberg on The Path and Jill Soloway on Transparent: there are really refreshing steps forward being taken.
ST: We have quite a way to go but it feels like it was sort of tip-toeing in that direction, but now I think it’s going to be moving much more quickly. I have so many brilliant friends who are female who are writers and directors in this town, and some of them have really struggled to get a foothold in the business – and it isn’t because they are less talented, or less willing to do the work, in fact often there are times I think they are more willing to do so because they have had to work twice as hard to get where they are – so I’m excited to see where it’s all going.
PC: Were you surprised or shocked as to the extent of the likes of Harvey Weinstein allegations that have come to light, as an actress? (I don’t mean from personal experience). Had you heard about this kind of thing happening?
ST: Yes, I’ve had experiences in general, but not to that extent, and I know other people who have as well. I don’t think it’s just in the film business at all. It’s important because this is something that happens in business in general.
PC: And not just to women, happening to men too, and of course the allegations about Kevin Spacey, resulting in a mess for the cast and crew on House Of Cards
ST: It’s so weird what’s going on right now. It’s been a long time coming!
PC: Let’s talk about your favourite film, In The Mood For Love, I haven’t seen it but I really want to. The music is fantastic!
ST: It’s incredible! It’s such a beautiful work of art: each frame is so stunning. It’s one of those movies you want to watch more than once. You have got to understand the language, which you are up against on the first viewing, then you just keep going. The first time I just enjoyed the visuals and then the second time I’m understanding more; but still just so in awe of what I’m seeing. It’s great for the senses.
PC: What other films have that affect on you?
ST: I love Amélie, it’s one of my favourites. I saw that… I was living in Paris the summer it came out, so I saw it in French.
PC: Oh yes because you speak French don’t you?
ST: Well I understood pretty much all of it except some shorthand phrases so I didn’t know what was happening at moments. When it came out in America, in English, I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ and I called my best friend and said, ‘Do you want to see this movie? It was so good!’ but he didn’t come with me when it came out. Then when he went home to Idaho for Christmas and went and saw it, seven times in two weeks!
PC: Really? Wow!
ST: Yeah, he’s like that with movies though! Another one of my favourites is: Bonnie & Clyde, that kind of role would be so much fun.
PC: It is exciting to think of all the roles you may get in your future years. I could be speaking to you in 10 years from now about a film or show,
ST: You just never know. I mean, I just watched Marlon Brando in The Fugitive Kind with Anna Magnani, based on a Tennessee Williams play. Another actress, Joanne Woodward – who played Carol Cutrere – she was stunning! All these old movies… I listen to this podcast, You Must Remember This, which is about the first 100 years in Hollywood. And they focused on Jane Fonda and Jane Seberg coming up at the same time but having very different eventual paths (but they were very politically-minded at the same time). Both of them were inspired by Brando; I’ve seen many of his films, but hadn’t in a while, and picked this up and just thought, ‘Oh my God! He’s so good!’
PC: It’s like Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men – my favourite film of all time! The entire film is set in one room – just fantastic.
ST: I haven’t seen that!
PC: You have got to see it. Get down to…I was going to say get down to the video store but that wouldn’t really work (laughs)
ST: There are so many amazing shows on Netflix, but they are all so modern and you forget about these classics.
PC: Yes and you have to watch 12 Angry Men when it’s snowing outside … Oh wait, you don’t ever get snow in LA, do you?
ST: Err no.
PC: Well when you go to New York and it’s snowing, when you are invited back to be on The Blacklist, you have to rent that movie and watch it because it will blow your mind!
ST: It was a little dreary the other day and I was like, ‘Oh my God! Dreary days are such good days because you don’t feel like you have to do anything: you can stay in and write the day off by sitting at home and watching something.’
PC: That was me today. I had to watch the three episodes of The Blacklist that you were in and my husband asked my plans. I was like, ‘Well I have to watch, it’s part of my work.’ It was really hard, (whilst the husband is loading the washing machine), ‘That’s not fair!’ (Both laughing)
ST: Yeah I don’t binge watch enough…
PC: I don’t like to. I feel guilty.
ST: I think that’s why I don’t do it either: I’m like, ‘I just spent a whole day staying inside binging.’
PC: For me it’s more just thinking how much work everyone has put into it, and you do miss stuff when you just binge watch I think. I try to limit myself to a couple of episodes per night since you lot have been putting hours and hours of work into it and I’m just whizzing through it.
ST: It can blur together if you watch it all at once and you can’t remember what happened in what episode; you lose something.
PC: I was talking about this with composer Jeff Beal, saying how a lot of the time you don’t properly hear the music score, as you are so focused on what’s going to happen next. But he said on the flip side, people will still be watching in 10 years, much like you and I with Breaking Bad, so it’s not all bad
PC: What about actors or directors you would like to work with?
ST: There are so many amazing artists out there, working today. Talking about House of Cards, Robin Wright: she is such an inspiring actress. I’d love to work with Jessica Lang, Ryan Murphy and my friend is on the new Alan Ball show that I’m really excited to watch – he is an amazing showrunner. I’m just grateful when I get a chance to work on a set with people who are telling meaningful stories.
PC: Would you like to be in the other side of the camera as a director?
ST: I definitely am interested in that! That’s why I’ve been doing some writing and a good friend of mine just wrote and directed her first feature (which was pretty awesome seeing that happen and inspiring). It’s like that feeling of: we are storytellers first and foremost. But I would like to get on the other side and keep opportunities coming that way and I think it’s important. Writing and directing would require a whole other kind of education, that I think I’d really enjoy. It’s just a question of finding the time for that.
PC: You are quite vocal about environmental, and caring for our planet, issues – let’s not bring Trump into this conversation.
ST: I just saw an article that people finally ‘get it’ – that climate change is real. It’s something I try… I don’t have the smallest carbon footprint with acting and travelling a lot, and driving around town looking for opportunities a lot, but I try and give back in ways that I can. If I’m on a beach I will take a bag and collect trash and try to carry around my water bottle. We will see if I get around to growing vegetables; I’m out of town so much that I’m not so reliable at keeping things going.
Just being conscious about recycling, taking steps where you can, but it’s hard, dealing with such a plastic world. I’m particularly sad that there are islands of plastic out in the ocean.
PC: What is it like in America? The authorities where we are, are really tough on recycling. In your building, do people actively recycle?
ST: I think in LA probably more so. I‘ve been on projects and had to create my own recycling bags because there would be recycling bins around, but not in the hotel rooms. It’s like trying to inspire those kinds of things: just be responsible as you move through your day.
Growing up, my dad was really into it. I learnt a lot about it, at school.
PC: Educating the next generation is going to be a big step. What about the charity you were working with: did you go to Nepal?
ST: Yes I went to Nepal and then earlier this year I went to Haiti. The organisation is called BuildOn: it’s a wonderful organisation that anyone can start a chapter with. They have programmes in 5 or 6 countries around the world and you raise the money as a group and then you go and you stay in a village for 4 or 5 days, taking up environmental responsibility, so there’s no trail of leaving your trash behind. You dig alongside the villagers and help start building a foundation for a school and then the BuildOn staff members and the villagers complete the project, so it gives a sense of pride.
A lot of aid programmes just drop what you need off and then leave. There’s another charity I work with in Cambodia called, The Trailblazer Organisation: they work on a scheme to provide clean water and community building; helping people grow their-own food; a community bank system which is better than a local bank. There are all these wonderful ways to help empower the communities. I think that is really important because the world is so crazy right now, and there so many tragedies happening, that it is important there is disaster relief and community empowerment. It is important to educate the next generation. It’s an awesome experience just to go live in a village and realise everything that you have.
PC: It is so great that you are doing your bit, making people aware and raising money.
ST: I think we may be going to Malawi this year.
PC: My son went for a month and loved it. He said the people were amazing, despite having nothing.
Moving on to music questions:
How did you get into a Counting Crows music video?
ST: Adam Duritz was a fan of NCIS, had seen me, and said, ‘I want her to do it!’ So there you go!
PC: You must be into music, surely it goes hand in hand with dance?
ST: Yeah I grew up listening to a lot of classical music, for sure.
PC: Whose influence was that or was it because of ballet?
ST: Yes just because of ballet and my dad is a huge classical music fan! He was in town for my play and he was here for all of 48 hours but managed to find a local Beethoven performance the other night. So I grew up with that sort of thing and it was really awesome.
I can’t say I’ve ever been super on it with like hip hop culture or any of that.
My friends always made fun of me on college they’d say, ‘Scottie you don’t know anything about popular culture do you.’ Now I know more, but I did know the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air rap – that was like my modern music.
PC: And with a couple of glasses of wine: we could still persuade you to do it now?
ST: Yeah! Haha. But I really like classical music.
PC: You would have gotten on well with James Spader there then, he’s a fan.
ST: Yeah I feel like if I could have really chatted with him more.
PC: Can you remember the first record you bought?
ST: Oh I think it was Bryan Adams “Everything I Do I Do It For You.” And then there was Kriss Kross “Gonna Make You Jump.” (Scottie bursts into song)
PC: What was the last record or download you got?
ST: I’m on Spotify streaming things but I love Lord Huron! I think that was the last download I bought. He’s been around for a while but I guess I’m behind the times. I just discovered him. I love him. He puts me in a good mood.
I have been studying sound healing too which is not really like party music at all, its chilled stuff at the end of the day to try and zen you out. A friend of mine, Helane Anderson recorded it, she is an amazing sound healer, and I did purchase her CD! (Sacral Sounds) It’s more of a mediation CD, but yeah, it’s good for the end of the day.
PC: What about live music? Do you get to see much of that?
ST: I don’t go to live music that often, although my friend’s mom runs a sound company. They have an amazing set up and they do these KCRW gigs I get invited to those pretty often. The last I saw was Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys – he was incredible!
PC: No way! I love those. Also I like those NPR Tiny Desk performances.
ST: What sort of music do you listen to?
PC: Oh everything that’s not mainstream. I like Alabama Shakes, Lukas Nelson, Elbow, Albin Lee, Meldau, and Frazey Ford. I like a lot of older music from Bob Dylan… The old standards everyone likes.
ST: Leonard Cohen!
PC: Oh yeah! Very varied: because I do like opera, classical, jazz and blues. Some Led Zeppelin… but really I can happily have music on 24/7. I was I going to ask you if you play any instruments.
ST: I learnt how to play piano as a child but I can’t claim to remember much of any of that and I have a guitar that I’ve threatened to learn to play for a long time, but I’ve failed to do that. I wish I did. It would be nice.
PC: Do you have a song that holds a special place in your heart? You know, that summer of love, that holiday romance. (Scottie hesitates and laughs)
ST: What was that song that Jason Mraz song? It was popular quite a while ago.
PC: Yeah, yeah I know the one. We could sing it. You start! (We both search Spotify to find it. I do and play it.) “I’m Yours.”
ST: I love that song. It’s special to me. Madonna: “Like A Prayer.” I used to go to parties in high school and put that on and start dancing, even though it wasn’t like what everyone was listening to – I was just having a dance party with myself.
PC: I was listening. I went to see Madonna in concert twice. Actually she posted on twitter recently, singing with one of her kids, who is a rapper, and she sounded really good – without any accompaniment or production which is always a pleasant surprise.
ST: That was one of the last concerts I saw, years ago, probably 2009.
PC: I saw her at Wembley, London, in the ‘80s, the show was spectacular but she was top of her game at that time.
When you are on a girls night out do you hit the dance floor?
ST: Yes, whenever I get up to an ‘80s dance tune I feel like such a nerd but that’s what I am! Own it!
Three questions we ask everyone:
PC: Favourite or most used word?
ST: Aaaahhh… I think my favourite word is…
PC: I think that is your favourite word!
ST: There you go! That’s my favourite word.
PC: How would you describe your perfect day?
ST: I think it would be a sunny day by the beach…
PC Isn’t that what you do most weekends though?
ST: Well I’m not very good at relaxing. I would know what I’m doing for the next while, so I’d know I could give myself a break – that’s the thing about this business you are always on the move – so I would give myself, in my mind, the freedom to just relax.
PC: Would that be with friends?
ST: It would start with my man. Have a lazy breakfast and coffee at our favourite restaurant – scrambled eggs and toast. Then we would hop on our bikes and go for a really long beach cruise and then come home to our imaginary home on the beach and have all of my closest friends over for a delicious… I love appetisers so we would have appetiser style food and oh! We’d jump in the ocean, of course. We’d have cocktails and there would be a lot of good music played by my friends via Spotify. (Laughs) It would probably be a full moon and there would be lots of fairy lights out on…
PC: Woah! It’s getting romantic now.
ST: Yeah! Good music and good drinks with good friends and a dance party would ensue or we might end up in a club later on and go dancing. I haven’t done that in a long time so I have been thinking about that a lot lately and it would be really fun! I don’t go to too many clubs but you know…
PC: What couldn’t you live without?
ST: The ocean.
You can find Scottie on Twitter
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Any opinions or views expressed within the interview are the subject’s own and publication does not imply endorsement of any such opinions or views by Absolute Music Chat or its personnel.