Interview: Chelsea Hobbs and Ayla Kell from Make It Or Break It

We had the pleasure of talking with Chelsea Hobbs and Ayla Kell about their new series on ABC Family called Make It Or Break It. Here’s what they had to say:

Chelsea, I was wondering what made you want to be a part of the show.

C. Hobbs: Well, I think that it was just a very exciting opportunity based on the fact that Olympics is – the Olympics just passed and gymnastics is something that’s always been so popular, and it’s never been done before. There’s never been a one-hour drama based on the world of competitive gymnastics, so just the whole perspective of that was very, very exciting to me, and fresh and new.

Ayla, what have you found challenging about your role?

A. Kell: I found it very challenging to – for Payson Keeler, she’s finding everything out all over again. She’s never been in that experience, and I get to go back to one and learn about the world all over again, which is fun and challenging in that aspect.

What got you started in acting in the first place?

C. Hobbs: I started acting when I was eight years old. My parents were actually divorced, and my mom put me in it as a creative outlet, so I’ve been doing this since then.

A. Kell: I did dance forever, and while dancing, I saw that they were looking for a little boy in an opera. I went to the opera, and that, it just clicked for me, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

You both, from what I’ve read, have done a lot of dancing. Does that help you in these roles?

C. Hobbs: Yes.

Or gymnastics?

C. Hobbs: Yes.

A. Kell: It definitely helps a lot, but there’s so much difference in the posture and the way the arms are that our coach is really on us both.

C. Hobbs: But it’s also good just because I think we’re both really aware of our bodies, which is something that’s important, I think, if you’re playing any type of athlete, so it gave us a little bit of an edge, but it’s differently apples and oranges, I think.

A. Kell: Yes, I definitely agree with that.

How do your characters interact? Are they friendly, mean, competitive?

C. Hobbs: Ayla, you want to go ahead?

A. Kell: Yes, sure. Pretty much I’m kind of indifferent to her, to be entirely honest, because I’m so focused on gymnastics and what I’m doing. There’s so much stuff going on with her, and I really just want to train, but I’m supportive in her getting her opportunity to compete and be a part of the gym, unlike some other people.

C. Hobbs: But Ayla is also one of the only people that is warm to me upon my arrival, so I think that our relationship has a lot of growth ahead.

A. Kell: Yes.

C. Hobbs: I hope so. Yes.

A. Kell: Definitely.

Ayla, how is it working with Peri Gilpin?

A. Kell: She’s fantastic. She’s really inspirational, and what I love is that she’s willing to work with anything, and she asks you what you feel about the scene, and it takes you a second, like when I first found out that Peri Gilpin was playing my mother, I was almost like a little sick, I was so excited, and it was just fantastic, and now I see her every day in hair and makeup, and it’s still astonishing that somebody who I watched on TV for such a long time is now playing one of my family members.

Yes, that is really exciting.

A. Kell: Isn’t it? It’s so cool.

I’m so excited to see her on another series.

A. Kell: Yes, and she’s so funny in everything she does.

Absolutely. For both of you, do either of you experience body image pressure playing gymnasts, you know, with the little costumes and everything?

C. Hobbs: You know, yes, it naturally comes with the territory, but it’s also great because we have a lot of gymnasts on set, real live gymnasts on set all the time, and you see that every single one of them has different shapes, but they all work out and have a great amount of muscle mass. Some of them are bigger than others, and they’re just solid muscle. And so, you know, it’s nice to see girls that are healthy at least. It’s not something – if anything, we want to be bigger, not smaller, so yes.

A. Kell: When you’re hanging out with people who work out all day, it really just makes you want to work out. It’s not even about what you’re eating when it comes down to it. It’s really about the healthy, strong, feminine shapes that they have in spandex.

C. Hobbs: Agreed.

I know you both danced, but for gymnastics, how much training did you have to do before, and was it really difficult? Do you have to actually do a certain gymnastics, or is it more just like–?

C. Hobbs: Well, before the pilot, we had virtually hardly any time at all. I was cast last, so for me it was just a couple of days, so it was a lot of watching videos and trying to pick their brains, all the gymnasts, as much as possible. And then they gave us actually about two or three months after we found out the show was going to series, so we had quite a bit of time to do training. And I guess it’s more about looking like a gymnast and walking and acting like a gymnast.

And we also have been doing a lot of strength training. We’ve been doing beam and learning how to, you know, jump on the bars, so we have been – we’re slowly learning more and more every day, but we still do have gymnast doubles.

A. Kell: We do what gymnasts do as conditioning.

C. Hobbs: Yes.

A. Kell: It is what it is. I’m not all of a sudden doing triple back flips, but I can pull myself up on a bar. Chelsea has got some awesome pull-ups, but it’s that kind of stuff that really helps us understand what we’re doing.

I know for the past Olympics, gymnastics kind of became the sport that everyone paid attention to because of Shawn Johnson and other people, and I was just wondering if you look to any actual gymnasts for inspiration or if you look back on things that they’d done just to kind of get in the mindset of your characters.

C. Hobbs: Our gymnastics coach actually – our coordinator, she sent us a lot of videos, like YouTube videos and several past Olympians and other gymnasts to watch, and we actually had Nastia Liukin come to set, so she’s one that I know we all were like very gobsmacked to meet. We were all very star struck, and we definitely look up to her and Shawn Johnson and all those girls.

A. Kell: Yes, and when – it was just something we all watched and every event, and we knew all of the people. When this came around, and Carolyn was saying do you remember when – our trainer was saying, do you remember when this person did beam? And it’s just pulling from the experience we got to see from the Olympics and meeting Nastia Liukin, the best day of my life, and things like that.

Who do you think will be the show’s prime audience? Who will it appeal to?

C. Hobbs: I think that – I don’t know. It’s interesting because you have your Greek and Secret Life of the American Teenager age range that is an obvious, but we also have a great adult cast, and I’m really interested to see how that plays because I think that I know my parents are excited to see Peri, and there’s a Full House star.

A. Kell: Susan.

C. Hobbs: Yes, and Susan Ward, so we have a lot of great people that would bring in an older audience as well, I think. Ayla?

A. Kell: I definitely agree with that, and because anybody who puts their child into something that takes up so much time, whether it be soccer, ballet like my family went through, anything down to being a huge math star, your family sacrifices so much to get you to where you need to be, to the financial strains, to the cost for equipment. Everything takes a toll on the family, and it really shows the families who are hurting, like Chelsea’s family really feels a struggle. My family being Middle America really feels the struggle. And I think it appeals to anyone who has had a kid at a high level sport.

Do your characters compare to characters you’ve played in the past, and have you ever played athletes before?

C. Hobbs: I’ve played a dancer a few times. Definitely not anything like this. My character, as far as Emily goes, she’s similar to other characters I’ve played, but definitely I’ve never played anyone quite like Emily. She’s got a lot of depth to her and a lot of history, a lot of issues. So it’ll be interesting to see that all play out, for sure.

A. Kell: I did professional dance for a long time, and I usually get characters who do something athletic, but it’s usually not this involved, not this much of the character. And when it comes to other character traits, I haven’t really played somebody who is so one focus and really sees nothing else, so it’s really exciting getting to divulge into that and figure out all the little nuances.

Chelsea, what’s it like working with Susan Ward, and how is that mother/daughter relationship playing out?

C. Hobbs: Susan is awesome. I am in love with Susan. We all think she’s just so hilarious. She’s got such a great sense of humor. The set is so colorful when she’s on it, and it’s funny because, as much as we have a great banter and there’s something about Susan. We really work well together, but she’s also able to look me in the eyes, and we both can start crying. Like, there’s something about her that is just so magnetic, and she’s just such a talented actress. I learn from her every single time I work from her.

Do you have stunt people doing your tricks, or are you doing just low level stuff on your own?

A. Kell: We have some fantastic people doing our huge, huge tricks, but I know for myself, I do all of my own dance stuff, and I can do some awesome walking on the beam, and we do smaller scale things, and then we have fantastic, fantastic people who do the really, really impressive stuff.

What is your favorite part working on the show?

C. Hobbs: I just think learning something new and being able to have an appreciation for, I mean, really what these people do. It’s just so exciting to put your head into a whole new world, and really get really close to that and, yes, learn something new every day. It’s so exciting.

A. Kell: I totally concur with that, and I do love the people I work with. They make going to work so much fun, and the fact that we all go to that other place in a second is just, it’s so fascinating to me that that’s work.

C. Hobbs: I agree.

Can you tell us one of your favorite scenes that you filmed or something that’s happened?

C. Hobbs: Without giving any of the plot line away?


A. Kell: I don’t know.

C. Hobbs: Without giving anything away, it’s really hard.

A. Kell: I know.

C. Hobbs: I would have to say the competition stuff is really fun because we get to sit on set all day and just watch Olympians do what they do, so that doesn’t hurt for sure. It’s always fun to do the competition stuff.

A. Kell: Yes, I would have to agree. The competition days are the best because you get people like Tasha Schwikert and Steve McCain and just a huge long list of fantastic people who are just like walking around on their hands and stuff. It’s fantastic.

Have there been any injuries on set?

C. Hobbs: I’ve like torn my palm open doing the bars. That’s like the extent of my injury. But we do, we all get little things here and there just from obviously doing things that we’re not used to doing. But I don’t know. Ayla, has there been anything major? I’m trying to think.

A. Kell: I dislocated my knee a couple of years ago, and it just random things or sometimes pain, but I don’t think we’ve had any terrible, awful things happen.

C. Hobbs: They’re all professionals, so –

A. Kell: Yes.

Let’s hope it stays safe, right.

C. Hobbs: That’s why we’re not … yes.

Since the show is new and people haven’t seen it, how would you describe it for the new audience?

C. Hobbs: I guess I would describe it as a one-hour drama that takes place in the world of competitive gymnastics because it has everything else that all these dramas have, but it’s all based around this athletic component, which is really interesting and definitely changes all the motives and goals of every character on the show, so it’s definitely different. Yes, that’s probably the best way I could explain it.

A. Kell: And the sacrifice that everyone around them has to go through.

C. Hobbs: Yes. Of course, yes.

Are you all anything like your characters?

C. Hobbs: I think that you have to have a little bit of yourself in there. You know, I definitely can relate to Emily, maybe when I was a little bit younger. She’s coming into a new place, and the insecurities that come with that, and the toll it’s putting on her and her family, I can definitely relate to, yes, a lot of that.

A. Kell: I totally relate to Payson Keeler entirely. She sees one thing in her mind, and that’s gymnastics, and I know when I was dancing, there was nothing else for me at all, that I woke up, and I stretched my feet. And now for Payson Keeler, she wakes up and just goes straight to the gym. So I agree with Chelsea in that you have to have some similarities, or you bring some of yourself to your character somehow.

And sometimes sports shows and sports movies don’t, like to the actual sports people don’t realistically portray them. Do you think your show does a really good job of portraying gymnastics?

A. Kell: Yes. All of our gymnasts are constantly saying this is what happened. That’s the actual name. These are the kinds of tricks that would be happening, so yes. I’m very proud to say yes.

C. Hobbs: I also think that we also have the gymnasts consulting with the writers, which is something that’s really important. They’ll go up to the director, the writer, and tell them if something is off or if something is not right, as opposed to just sitting back. They’ve really given them an active part in the show because it’s really important for them that it’s as accurate as it can possibly be on a show.

A. Kell: Yes.

Do you have a favorite gymnastic event?

A. Kell: Floor, definitely floor.

C. Hobbs: Yes, floor and beam.

The show kind of marks Candice Cameron Bure’s return. What was it like working with her?

A. Kell: She’s fantastic. She’s really, really great. She is so sweet and so fantastic, and really comes in and does her work. I remember the first time we all met her. We all were so star struck.

C. Hobbs: We couldn’t pick our jaws up off the floor. We all grew up watching Full House.

What’s the best advice you would have for upcoming actors?

C. Hobbs: I think that the mistake that a lot of actors make is they don’t – they’re not themselves. They put too much on it. They forget when they walk into an audition room or something that when you walk in the room, the casting director wants you to be the right person, and they forget to just be themselves. They’re trying to be what they think the casting director or producers or directors want them to be, and I think that that’s a really important thing to remember is bring as much of yourself and take risks.

A. Kell: And you have to remember that auditions are a huge part of the process, and if you aren’t doing your best on auditions, and if you’re not trying your best on auditions, you’re setting yourself up. It’s work at all times. Even if you aren’t getting paid, it’s work.

What’s the hardest part of working on the show for both of you?

C. Hobbs: I think that we do feel a lot of pressure to make sure that everything is very accurate. It is important to all of us, so I know for me personally, I’m naturally slight in frame, and it’s something that I work really hard at every day making sure that I have the muscle mass to pull it off, and you know it is a lot of pressure to really make sure that you’re doing gymnastics justice, so we all are working really hard at that.

A. Kell: Yes, and on that level, I’m naturally curvy, and I have to be aware that it has to stay muscle since I’m in spandex every day, so the accuracy pressures and, I mean, when you’re doing a show, it’s stressful no matter what. And then doing a show about something so specific and something is such a top elite class know so much about, you have to really, really step it up.

C. Hobbs: Agreed.

A. Kell: You have to Make It or Break It.

Are there any guest stars we should be watching out for this season?

A. Kell: Are we allowed to say…?

C. Hobbs: Well, I think, I mean, Catherine, are we allowed to say Kelly Parker, who is playing Kelly Parker?

C. Graves: Yes, you can do that.

C. Hobbs: What’s her name again?

C. Graves: Nicole Anderson.

C. Hobbs: That’s right.

A. Kell: Yes.

C. Hobbs: I’m so bad. Nicole Anderson from the Jonas Brothers. She’s going to be on a few episodes.

A. Kell: Yes, and she was really sweet.

C. Hobbs: Yes, she’s really sweet, and that’s all we’re saying.

A. Kell: Yes, can’t say any more.

What is it like working with Joanna Johnson? I know she’s an executive, co-executive producer with the show, and our fans really loved her from her days on The Bold and the Beautiful.

A. Kell: She’s really, really great, and she is very interactive with her writing, which is so nice because if she’s shooting for something in her head, and she wants to tweak it just a little bit, she still talks to you in actor terms, which makes life so easy, and she’s just so wonderful.

C. Hobbs: And she’s hilarious.

A. Kell: She is hilarious.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Interview By: Emma Loggins

– Make It Or Break It Official Site


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