Cassandra Sawtell on Harper’s Island and Gilliam| Interview

Actress Cassandra Sawtell, whom we hear at the empire know from Harper’s Island, has been nominated for Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) at the 2010 Young Artist Awards for her work on the show. Cassandra joins fellow nominees Valentina Barron, Ryan Newman, Miley Cyrus, and Miranda Cosgrove in the category.   The 31st Annual Young Artist Awards  will take place on Sunday, April 11, 2010 at The Beverly Garland in Studio City, CA.

Sawtell may be most recognized for her role as “Madison Allen” on Harper’s Island, but she was recently seen alongside Colin Farrell as “Olga” in Terry Gilliam’s latest film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.  In addition to these projects, Cassandra has been seen in over twenty five television and film projects, most notably on Showtime’s The L World, Sundance Channel’s Terminal City, the CW’s Smallville, USA Network’s Psych, and a lead role in the Lifetime movie Imaginary Playmate.

I had the chance to ask Cassandra a few questions about Harper’s Island, being a working actor and a kid, and more.  Enjoy!

Elena:  Since I know you from Harper’s Island, I wanted to start there.  In my recaps I always referred to your character as “creepy little Madison.”  Was the character intended to be kind of weird from the beginning, or was that a choice that was made after casting?

Cassandra: Yes, she was always supposed to be perceived as a little girl with…. issues.

What did you do to get into her head?  Were there any particular movie or book characters you used as inspiration?

I would try to portray different aspects of various characters from other horror movies, but I don’t think there was any particular character.

After doing a show that was essentially an 11-hour horror movie, have you been able to watch pretty much anything you want, or do your parents still try to “protect” you from certain things?

I love scary movies, I think I always have and with two older brothers, I have been watching them since I was really young!

How much “normalcy” has your life been able to retain since you started working?  Do you still go to school, or are you home-schooled/tutored?

I lead a fairly normal life, I go to public school, play on local sports teams, etc.

Do you think it’s been easier or harder on your studies to be a working actor?

Sometimes it is a challenge, however, it keeps me focused and definitely helps me with time management.

What was it like working with Terry Gilliam on Dr. Parnassus?  Had you seen any of his movies before you joined the project?

Working with Terry was a terrific experience, he has a great sense of humor… I adore the Monty Python movies!

 What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far?

I really don’t have a favorite, everyone I have worked with, the producers, the directors, the casts and the crews I would genuinely love to have the opportunity to work with again.

What’s your dream project—anything from working with a particular person to on a certain story?

So far I have found that every project was a dream project.

Your bio says that you love animals.  My dad, for example, has always loved elephants.  Any particular species that’s a favorite of yours?

This may sound odd, but I love alpacas! I also like dogs, cats and other domestic pets.

 Your bio also mentions that you enjoy writing and hope to become a screenwriter.  What draws you to creative writing?  Do you think you would have found it as a passion without your experiences as an actor?

I find that reading and writing takes me to a different place, I feel as though I am the main character.  Writing is definitely something I’d like to do as well as acting! Reading and writing help me expand my imagination and help me with my acting.

If you weren’t acting, do you know what you’d want to be “when you grow up”?

My passions are mainly acting and writing, and I would consider myself lucky to do that for a living!

Just a fun question to end with—what was a particular childhood favorite of yours, be it book or movie or TV show or anything else you really got into?

Hmmmm… Well I would have to say my favorite programs were Zoboomafoo and Timothy Goes to School, they always made me laugh!

Big thanks to Cassandra for taking the time to chat with us, and congratulations on the nomination!