Missy Peregrym: Sticks It!
Feisty, pretty actress Missy Peregrym had a career as a model but is the first to tell you that she is a tomboy at heart and is still searching for her "inner girl". After living most of her life in Canada, Missy moved to LA., transitioned into acting and was popular as Jackie, a hot beauty on ABC TV's "Life as We Know It".
The tall, athletic 23-year-old brunette, who has taught high school girls' basketball, took on another sport to portray Haley, a rebellious gymnast who walks out on a promising career and turns teen rebel due to family problems in the new film Stick It. The movie is written and directed by the writer of Bring It On, the popular hit film that showcased the funny and tough world of cheerleading.
In white jeans and a crisp yellow shirt for our interview, Missy looked very "college coed" as she took a few slugs of her Red Bull and told us all about training for very difficult gymnastic moves, her high school dating days, leaving her strong Canadian support system to move to L.A., how she feels about the cancellation of "Life", her strong opinions about empowering women and her quest for film roles featuring strong female characters. You go girl!
TeenHollywood: I was surprised to learn that you hadn't done any gymnastics. You were good in the film. Did you have a great double?
Missy: It's all of that. The camerawork was amazing, the way that they filmed it. I thought the double was phenomenal. When she came in, we were in the middle of training and I was terrified. I was like 'guys, I can't get that big'. She was so muscular and so strong. I was like 'I don't know how I'm going to do that'. I'm willing to work as hard as possible but I'm like 'this is going to look so weird'. But it actually worked out perfect. I just didn't want this movie to look fake in that sense and for people to get out of the story to notice the doubling. I thought it was really cool.
TeenHollywood: What were you really able to do by the end of the training? Hand stands?
Missy: Yeah. I kind of went in there thinking I could do everything [laughs]. I went in there and was like 'okay, cool. I can do a handstand' yeah for like a second. Then I thought I could do a cartwheel and a front handspring and I was like 'see'. And they were like 'no'. It's all about form and it really took four months to learn the basics of gymnastics plus just to get the strength to even try some of the difficult stuff. Obviously, it's such a dangerous sport and they are not going to be like 'okay, guys, we're going to do three back flips right now and we want to see you land on your feet'. I'd break my neck so really it was about getting my body to look like a gymnast.
TeenHollywood: How much did you actually train?
Missy: We trained for four months, five days a week for six hours a day. That's a really long time. I was like 'yeah, this is going to be so much fun. I can't wait to get into this' and it was the most painful thing I've ever done. I was sore every day. Thank God Vanessa Lengies [who plays her nemesis in the film], was in the training with me because we just really bonded through that experience. It's so hard to get up every day and be that sore. You train and one day you can do every trick and nail everything but the next day you go in and can't do anything. 'Why can't I turn?' but that's just the way it is. It's a mental game. It's very emotional and, as our bodies were changing, it was demanding eating properly and being able to support how much we were working out.
TeenHollywood: Did it help you learn how hard the sport really is?
Missy: Yes. [Doing that much exercise] you lose your perspective for what's really important in the world. [At first] I was 'How does my a** look and is it going to be fine in a Leo [tard]?' Then it's like 'Missy, re-group. Not important'. I don't think this movie would have turned out as well as it did [if we didn't] have so much respect for all the gymnasts and what they do. It's such a difficult sport. I didn't know anything about it before I went in there. I was very athletic when I was growing up. I watched the Olympics and saw them perform there but you only see how good they are and are amazed but when you know the process of getting there, you just respect it that much more. Every gymnast is crazy for doing what they do.
TeenHollywood: This movie shows strong female role models. Do you think there is a lack of that?
Missy: Definitely, in Hollywood, I don't think there are a lot of those roles. That's why I was attracted to this role so much. I'm really passionate about the way that Haley is [rebellious] because I think a lot of teenaged girls are going through the same thing. I didn't have the same family life or the same issues exactly but every girl has this process of defending herself. I have kind of the same defense mechanisms as Haley. I make sarcastic jokes. I try to bounce everything off me like 'yeah, yeah, yeah, it doesn't matter'. You try to mask your disappointment or the hurt. Haley gets to a point of where she really deals with the real issues and she uses them in a positive way to make a difference instead of just being this wall to absolutely everything. She opens up and lets things in and really excels and gets the people around her to excel.
TeenHollywood: You don't have a "cutesy" love interest in the film. Were you happy about that?
Missy: I love that the story is not about getting the guy. It's not about looking good, getting a make-over, acting cooler, having a cute short skirt. It's about [Haley] really seeing who she is and evaluating that and coming to terms with that which I would love to see every girl be able to do because I want girls to respect themselves. I want girls to be who they are and what they have to offer. It's not based on what other people think about you. You really become your worst critic in that area when you're used to people putting that pressure on you. It's not just gymnastics. But, gymnastics is a very pressure-filled world at such a young age and that's why it's such a great parallel to this. It's really about loving who you are now so that you can make a difference later on in a really positive way. I love to see women to that.
TeenHollywood: We agree. What were you like in high school?
Missy: A boy. [laughs] I was a tomboy growing up, totally, playing in the dirt. I was never allowed to wear white jeans [indicates the ones she is wearing]. This is like amazing that I'm wearing them right now but it's only because I'm not outside playing in dirt. I hung out with guys all the time. I was very active in sports. I didn't watch a lot of TV or go to movies very much.
TeenHollywood: Did you date?
Missy: I wasn't allowed to date until I was sixteen and they had to meet my father so that was kind of intimidating for anybody.
TeenHollywood: Your father is a minister, right?
Missy: Yep and nobody wanted to come around [laughs]. It really wasn't that bad. More than ever, I care that my dad accepts the person I date and who I'm seeing because I respect my father so much and I would like to date somebody who he accepts because then I know I'm gettin' a good guy. I dated my best friend for a very long time and it was really cool. I felt not like a lady. I really don't feel like a lady now. I'm still trying to find where the woman is in me.
TeenHollywood: Haley's male buddies Poot and Frank in the movie, were those the kinds of guys you hung out with?
Missy: Yeah, definitely. We'd just go dirt biking and do guy stuff. It's funny because I still thought that I was one of the guys but I didn't hear all the guy jokes about the girls. I'm around guys now and I'm like 'what did you just say?' It's so normal but I guess I didn't see everything [they were up to] so it wasn't truly like a guy/guy situation.
TeenHollywood: On the set, did you hang out with the guys or the girls more?
Missy: I hung out with my lines and my food [laughs]. There weren't actually a lot of guys on set. It was mostly women. There were a lot of female gymnasts that were around. There wasn't too much time to really hang out to tell you the truth. It was so busy all the time. We had to be training or we had to be learning stuff. I had to be practicing my floor routine, beam routines, all that kind of stuff that was required in a week or so that I had to be filming so you're never really resting. There was always something to do.
TeenHollywood: Jeff Bridges plays your tough coach in the movie. Was it fun working with him?
Missy: I was very nervous to work with Jeff in the beginning. I was like 'Ah..somebody who has done this for so long and I admire his work and this is my first movie. I hope that I can work with him and be real and I don't kill the scene'. I remember when he first came into the gym, he was so friendly and so open. He really took me in and was just very encouraging to me. He was so genuine and sincere and taught me a lot. We wanted to make sure that it was a positive relationship between and gymnast and a coach. There's a lot of stuff that happens in the real world of gymnastics and we just didn't want to go there. We wanted it to be caring but not, creepy/caring if you know what I mean, so the audience isn't like 'what? Is something else going on [between them]?' He was wonderful to work with.
TeenHollywood: Was it a good experience when you did your TV series 'Life As We Know It'?
Missy: Yeah. I've been really blessed with all my projects I've just worked with phenomenal people and really genuine people. I've never had really terrible things happen on set at all. Television is different though. The one thing that I love about film is that you know the story from beginning to end. There's a character development and you get to see the arc and, in television, you are waiting script by script. 'What's happening with my character?' and, it's scary kind of because you don't know what you're going to be up against or what you're going to have to do but I did like television.
TeenHollywood: Do you feel like your show got a fair shake? You were moved around on the schedule.
Missy: It was and we were up against 'The Apprentice' and then 'The O.C.' so we just kind of didn't get a break there. We were on Thursday night which is like the hardest timeslot and we knew that. I'm not happy that it got cancelled. I thought it was a great show. It portrayed a reality of what was going on in teenagers' lives and it wasn't really a feel good show. They had humor to lighten it up but I really appreciated what it stood for but if that show didn't happen, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be a part of this film either so it's a double-edged sword.
TeenHollywood: We heard that you coached high school girls' basketball?
Missy: I used to coach high school basketball, yes. I loved it. I was always a part of the team. I remember the significance of having a coach that I was comfortable with. I really wanted to be there, not to just be the coach but be there for the girls and encourage them to be smart about the decisions they're making in life. I don't think, by any means, that I've got it all together but I loved being around them and I have a passion for that. I was going to go to school to be a PE teacher, a gym teacher. I'm going to, hopefully, start coaching again very soon at The Dream Center in L.A. They have a lot of kids off of the streets and they have programs for them so I'm probably going to go and coach there.
TeenHollywood: Was it a culture shock moving here from Canada?
Missy: Yeah, definitely. I waited a long time. I didn't want to come here. I was like 'no, no, no'. If I can stay in Vancouver, I'm gonna stay here'. I loved it. My family and friends were there and I could work from home and it was awesome but I knew that it was time for me to come here. Seven months was Haley's life in L.A. and then the next six months was me adjusting here and it was hard. It was really tough. It was scary and a lot of personal growth happened.
TeenHollywood: What was so hard for you?
Missy: Well, one, just being away from home and being away from my family and friends and having to like readjust and, secondly, for the first time, reevaluating myself, what I stand for, what I want to do, what I want to say. Just 'what is me?' Really, it takes moving away to do that, getting away from that home environment. You're challenged all the time and it was difficult but I've had great friends. My family and friends at home are so supportive that I've been blessed.
TeenHollywood: How do you feel coming from a background of morals and ethics to suddenly being in Hollywood? How do you balance that?
Missy: I want to stand for morals and ethics and have integrity within this position and not sell out how I was raised. I think it's possible. It's difficult, yeah, because there's not a lot of stuff that I feel comfortable being a part of but I've really got to believe that, if I stick with it, it's going to be rewarding and it already has. I'm not going to work all the time and I'm okay with that. I don't have to. I always say that I'll go back to McDonalds. I'll serve you some fries if you want 'um but I'm not gonna get naked. I'm not going to be a part of something I don't believe in.
TeenHollywood: Do you tend to take your character home with you?
Missy: Yeah. I can't separate myself from the work that I do. Some people are actors in the sense that they're this [character] but when they go home they are this [other person] and they're fine being the two different things. I can't do that. Even for this movie, Missy is Haley and they mesh together. The stuff that I do effects me and who I am portraying at the time. I went home and was totally sarcastic [like Haley] after a days' work and I'm like 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude'. But it happens so I have to be wise with the roles that I'm willing to dive into.
TeenHollywood: What's next for you?
Missy: I'm still looking for the next project that I find has that same amount of heart and a message that I would love to portray. I have a real passion for playing a role that's a strong female character, that's just not typical, with a lot of heart. It doesn't have to be a big movie but I'm just looking for something that I really, truly, one hundred percent believe in and am behind.
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.