From Vampire Slayer to Ice Princess: Casting Michelle Trachtenberg in the Role of Casey
Carlyle At the core of ICE PRINCESS is rising teen star Michelle Trachtenberg, who, as Casey Carlyle, finds her former life put on ice and a whole fantastic new world opening up to her when she uncovers her true talents as a skater. After starring in the movies “Harriet the Spy” and “Inspector Gadget,” Trachtenberg developed a major following when she took on the role of Buffy’s mysterious younger sister, Dawn, in the cult television hit, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Now, she takes on an entirely new challenge with her biggest role yet, and one that takes her not only into the world of competitive skating but into the heart of a teen girl trying to forge her own path in life. Amazingly, Trachtenberg had almost zero skating experience when she came to ICE PRINCESS, but through a combination of determination, hard work and great coaching, she was able to realize her own skating fantasies as she learned to glide and spin in record time.
For the filmmakers, Trachtenberg was the perfect embodiment of Casey’s mix of charming innocence and top-notch smartsand had all the right qualities to reveal her character’s rocky path from a timid, uncertain girl to a confident, mature, amazing young woman.
As producer Bridget Johnson notes: “Michelle brings a real vulnerability, a certain knowingness and a wonderful poise to the role. She has an inner beauty, a sort of unspoiled quality, yet she is also very funny, and that combination is what we needed for Casey. From the very start, Michelle was always our ‘Ice Princess.’”
Director Tim Fywell adds: “For this story to work, you really have to get inside Casey’s head and feel that you’re with her in her struggle to succeed, her drive to compete, her awe at suddenly being popular and her dream to take a wild risk and do something different with her life. Michelle has that ability and she also brings a fantastic warmth, a kind of kooky personality and a psychological truth to it that makes Casey very natural, real and just a lot of fun.”
The young actress found herself immediately able to relate to Casey and her struggle to figure out her future. “The most amazing thing about ICE PRINCESS is that it’s about a girl that everyone can connect with, someone going through an experience most people go through at some point in their lives, but in a really magical way,” Trachtenberg says.
“I think we all feel like we have a certain path we’re supposed to follow in life, whether from our parents or what we learn at school, but Casey makes a bold decision to follow her heart that takes her on this incredible journey of self-confidence and empowerment. I think a lot of girls will relate to that. I also hope that lots of girls will go to this movie and think, ‘OK, Casey took a risk and she reached her goal; I know I can too.’” Trachtenberg threw herself into the role with a commitment not unlike that of her willful character to training for her skating scenes.
“I knew I was going to have to train a lot,” says the actress, “but I had no idea that it was going to be months and months of the most intense training sessions, as well as intense ballet classes and hours and hours of being on the ice. I started from scratch and was trying to accomplish what my character accomplishes in the movie, which seemed rather impossible at first. But because I trained so much I can do a lot of fun tricks. And when I watch ice-skating I know all the lingo and I can say, ‘She didn’t get enough height in her axel’or ‘She flubbed her footwork.’That’s a cool feeling.”
While skating “doubles” performed the more difficult skating maneuverssuch as the double and triple jumps, which take skaters years and years of 7-days-a-week training and constant crashes to developTrachtenberg was able to do a significant portion of the on-screen skating herself, which makes her very proud.
She continues: “I always loved watching figure skating and I always thought it was so beautiful to see all these girls on ice but I also thought I could never do it, because I was such a tomboy. At one point, I even decided to take lessons but I lasted for only one lesson. That’s around the same time that I was cast in ‘Harriet the Spy,’and acting has always been my passion. But who knew skating was still going to be in my future?”
It was also a special thrill for Trachtenberg to meet, and skate with, sports idols and Olympians Michelle Kwan and Brian Boitano. “I thought I was going to be so intimidated by Michelle,” she recalls, “because she’s such a phenomenal skater, but she was such a sweetheart! We got on the ice together and she was just stretching and doing her usual warm-up and she was so sweet she turned to me and said, ‘You know, you’ve got this great comfort on the ice, and you’re really quite good, very natural!’And it was like, ‘Oh my God, Michelle Kwan just gave me a compliment on my skating.’”
Says director Tim Fywell of Trachtenberg’s skating: “She really threw herself into the whole skating side of the story very strongly. We discovered that, like Casey, Michelle has a natural kind of elegance and ability on the ice and, through her hard training, she’s become quite a skater.”
The film’s skating coordinator, Jamie Isley, agrees: “I think my very favorite moments in making ICE PRINCESS came on my very first and very last days working with Michelle as a skater. I so remember on that first day, she came on and had only ever skated a few times before in her life and we were holding hands to keep her steadyand to see her go from that to where she was truly pulling off real skating moves with so much realism and heart was incredibly fulfilling and special.”
Two further aspects of skating that Trachtenberg related to in ICE PRINCESS were the cold-blooded competition and the infamously meddling “Skating Mothers,” who were not so different, she discovered, from the “Stage Moms” she encountered as a teen in the acting world.
“I was very surprised at just how cutthroat skating is when you get to the elite level. There’s definitely a lot of backstabbing and a lot of parents pushing their kids so hard that it’s scary. I grew up in the entertainment world and you do see a lot of intense, determined parents. They push their kids, and it becomes the parents’dream, not their child’s. But that’s what makes Casey so remarkable. She enters this incredibly tough world and she learns to believe in herself and do it her own way, and she triumphs.”