This article appears in the Pre-Fall 2014 edition of Eidé Magazine. Read it here, or click to read it in the issue below.
It’s all a matter of perspective; through the eyes of a character or the lens of a camera. For Kathryn Prescott, lead actress in MTV’s teenage drama “Finding Carter” and celebrated photographer, they are analogous ways to interpret and examine the human experience. Her new-found role as Carter Stevens — a girl who finds out her mother kidnapped her from her birth parents at the age of 3 and is propelled into a new world with her biological family — is a complex one. Prescott (best known for her role as Emily Fitch in the cult-followed British series “Skins”) was drawn to the intricate, complete female roles and familial undertones within the script, scattered with humor for punchy relief. And while her character is merely 16, the creation of a parallel experience through this younger identity forges an examination into family relationships and an appreciation for life in a way Millennials will respect — elaborate themes that are similarly prevalent in photographic art as well as scripted dramas.
We asked Prescott to share an inside look at her life from her perspective, and her camera.
Eidé Magazine: What does a day in your life look like — though we’re sure every day is different. Kathryn Prescott: There’s, now, no real, set schedule [on “Finding Carter”]. We have crazy hours. On Monday, I got up at 9 p.m. to go into work at 10:30 p.m. They have to give us a certain amount of hours to sleep and get ready before they can call us in the next day. So everyday, if we run over, then that means that we have to get up later the next day. So we have crazy weeks. We start on Monday getting up at 9 p.m., and then by the end of Friday, we’re shooting until 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. It messes with your brain because you can’t sleep. You don’t get used to doing nights, because you’re only doing nights like three nights a week.
EM: With “Finding Carter,” this role is very deep, which means you have to be in a really intense place with your character for so long at night, in the morning — all the time. How do you cope with that? KP: Actually, a crazy schedule helps with that, because you feel all over the place anyway. And since I’ve been playing this character for three months now, it gets easier to stay in it all the time and when I’m on set.
EM: How did this script and this character find you, and what were your first impressions of reading it? KP: I read it like 10 months ago. I got sent the script when I was in England. I taped myself doing the audition for it ... I really liked the script and character because of the shocking statistic that a lot of female characters in film and TV are usually only there because of their relationship to male characters. If there’s ever two women leading a show, it’s usually because they’re after the same guy. And it’s really weird when you think about it. But I read this script and all the female characters in this are complete characters on their own. Their storylines are not about chasing after a guy. Their storylines are about their own lives and their relationships to their family and friends. And their romantic relationships come secondary.
EM: The script is very unique. How did you prepare for this role? KP: The character is supposed to be a twin ... And I’m a twin in real life, so that really helps. All the scenes that I had playing my twin, it just helped a lot think- ing about my relationship with my own. I didn’t really read books about child abduction because the character didn’t spend her life reading books about it either — it just happened to her.
EM: What do you feel are the differences between you and your character? KP: Carter’s 16, and I just turned 23 — so there’s that. I do think she’s much older for her age because she has this great single mom who has opened her eyes to the wider world, and then she comes into this new family and finds out all this stuff, so she has to grow up faster. But she’s still very much a 16-year-old girl ... Carter definitely dresses younger than me. When the costume designer was deciding how she was going to dress, we were thinking about how so many teenage girls on TV don’t wear the same outfit twice, and that’s not really realistic. So she wears clothes from H&M, and she wears the same jeans all the time. She doesn’t have four walk-in closets full of clothes.
EM: For someone who didn’t know about “Finding Carter,” in your words, why should they tune in? KP: It’s unique for MTV. They’re starting to do more scripted drama. It appeals to a huge amount of people because even though it’s about a 16-year-old girl, it’s also about relationships in the family. So anyone who’s had family issues ever — which is everyone — could watch it ... It’s also hilarious. There were scenes I couldn’t even film because I was laughing so much. I think because the show is so dramatic they thought it needs some comedy, so there are funny scenes in it. It’s also about finding yourself ... She’s finding who she thought she was and who she is now in this environment, with all these new people.
EM: How do you spend your time when you’re not working? KP: When I’m not working, I do photography. I would probably be doing photography if I wasn’t acting.
EM: What do you love about photography? How does that fulfill you? KP: Acting is a hard thing to do. You’re creating something, but you can’t act on your own in a room because no one is there to watch it. But photography is something that once you create, you always have. I like that aspect. I used to do a lot of landscape photography when I started and always said that I thought I wasn’t that interested in photographing people, but as soon as I started taking portraits of people, I wasn’t that interested in landscapes anymore. Taking pictures of people is my favorite thing ... because taking pictures of people is all about trust and getting someone to show you their personality. I was talking to a photographer the other day and he was saying, “You can tell when the only portraits that work are ones where the person being shot trusts the person taking the photo.” That’s the actual skill of taking portraits. It’s about being good with people, getting to know people and not objectifying them to make an image out of them and that’s what is so cool. You can take a picture of twins who are exactly the same. And take another with the same camera, and it will be a completely different photo. You can’t take the same photo ever again.
EM: It sounds so intimate, getting to know somebody in that way for a portrait. KP: That’s the hard thing about it. I’m kind of still too scared to go up to people on the street because you are kind of objectifying them being like “Hey, can I take your picture?” The trick is making it about not objectifying them. It’s getting to know them and talking to them and after awhile being like, “You’re really interesting, and you’ve got an interesting face. Can I take your picture?” I think that’s the way to do it. I think the best photographers and the best directors are the ones that immediately are open and they don’t hold anything back about themselves. Those are the people who create the safest environment in which you can have your photograph taken or act in ... rather than if you meet a photographer that makes you feel instantly like they’re above you, like you have to impress them.
EM: Do you have any interest in doing exhibitions of your photography in the future? KP: Yes. I’m already thinking about the next one. Like you said, it’s really hard to do it while I’m [acting]. But when I get back to L.A. I would really like to do another one. I’ve been speaking with a charity organization in L.A. called HHCLA [Homeless Health Care Los Angeles]. They work with people on Skid Row. It’s a really good organization. I think I might do something in collaboration with them, but I’m not sure yet. I have to figure it out when we finish this!