Photography by We Are The Rhoads
Styling by JAK at Atelier Management
Hair by Castillo at Tomlinson Management Group using BUMBLE AND BUMBLE
Makeup by Ashleigh Louer at Starworks Artists using LAURA MERCIER
Best known for playing Emily Fitch on the teen drama television series Skins, Kathryn "Kat" Prescott is not your average English Rose; Kat is set to leave a mark in the world and pursue her American Dream. After countless flights back and forth from the UK to L.A., Kat landed herself as Carter Stevens, the leading role for MTV’s latest new hits drama, Finding Carter. Unlike her characters on screen, Kat is lively and vivid, winning many with her honest outlook and passion for life.
How did acting come into your life?
I have wanted to act for as long as I can remember. I wanted to be a singer for a while when I was really young and then a chef but both of those ideas came crashing down when I realized I couldn't sing or cook. I almost went to university to study to become a counselor when I was 18, then I got into photography when I was 19 but acting has always been there. My twin sister and I always wanted to do it. Neither of our parents is in the entertainment industry so we had no idea how anyone went from taking drama classes on a Saturday morning to actually getting paid to act. One day my Dad said he had spoken to a friend and heard that you need an ‘agent’. We did a Google search for agents in London and had a meeting with one who we eventually signed with. We had only a couple of auditions in the two years after that and we did one episode of a medical drama. Then one day we got a call saying that a British show called Skins - which had already aired two seasons - was looking for twins for its new cast. They said they were looking for identical twins so we lied and said we were. We got to the audition waiting room and there were four sets of IDENTICAL looking and identically dressed twins, we just assumed we weren't going to get it so weren't nervous during the first audition. We then screwed up every single call back we had after that first audition because we were so nervous and couldn't believe we were even being considered for a show that big. To this day I have no idea how we got those parts!
Tell us about your first gig.
Skins was an amazing experience. I had always wanted to go to drama school but had realized towards the end of college (high school as you call it in America) that there was no way I could afford it (in the UK it can cost $12000 a year for a three year course and you can't get a normal student loan for it). Doing Skins was like our version of drama school. We had to move away from home and live in another city during the week, we would come home on weekends but we had only just turned 17 and were suddenly in a very different environment with people we didn't know. It was kind of scary but really exciting to be learning on the job like that. It was nice to experience living away from home and having to keep to a schedule, act professionally, etc. at a young-ish age, I feel like it gave us all a good work ethic and it was nice to have my sister there to experience everything with (despite the fact that we didn't always get on at the time). Bryan Elsley (the creator and executive producer of Skins) literally taught us everything we know about TV, film and acting. He gave me some of the best advice I have ever been given and I still think about today. It literally scares me when I think about starting in this career without hearing some of the stuff he taught us when we were 18 years old.
How did you get involved both Skins and Finding Carter?
I was in England when I got the audition for Finding Carter. I had spent the last few years going to LA; every pilot season for auditions, spent basically all of my savings on a Visa, flights, apartments and car rentals for three years and had come home a month early the previous year, seriously considering never doing it again. I got sent the audition and put myself on tape for Finding Carter with a friend a few months after that. The next day my manager called and said they liked the audition so I had to tape another one and after that he called to say I needed to go to LA to test for it at MTV. That was terrifying, I'd never done an audition like that in the UK before, with that many people in the room watching you but not really speaking. I found out just before I got on my flight home that I got the part and had to go back in a few weeks to start prep for the pilot.
Was filming Finding Carter different from Skins?
Finding Carter and Skins were very different experiences, for a couple of reasons. I was much younger when we were doing Skins, I was with my sister in our own country and it was the first big job most of us had ever done. When we're shooting Finding Carter, I'm away from all of my friends and family so I don't get to see them at all, which is the only huge downside to any of this. I miss them all so much, I can't think about it too much because I just want to get on a plane. I feel like there are some inherent differences between how children/teenagers grow up in the UK as opposed to the US, just cultural differences that are reflected in how they are portrayed in TV shows about them and that have an effect on the experience of shooting one of them. Skins was inspired by a group of real teenagers that the creators knew and was written by people almost as young as the characters whose lives they were writing about. That gave it such authenticity – many of the things that were actually happening to us or to friends of ours in real life at the time were being written about in the show, without us ever talking about them to the writers beforehand. Life started to imitate art a bit and even though it was all obviously heightened for the sake of TV, it did get to the point where we wondered if the writers were secretly asking our parents and friends what was going on in their lives so they could write about it. That and the fact that we were all playing basically our own age, made everything feel very real. You could sort of just trust your instincts when reading the scripts or playing the scenes. Finding Carter is a very different experience because the fundamental circumstances that define the show are so extremely rare that it would be difficult to find anyone who has actually experienced them firsthand who you could ask questions or learn from. In that way Finding Carter is a little more like a fantasy and sometimes I have to think a lot more about how to play certain scenes and how to make them real because I have never experienced most of the crazier stuff Carter is going through and I don't know anyone who has either. Obviously there are relatable aspects to the show too, but they are all underlined by this big crazy thing that happened to Carter and her family when she was three. Playing younger than I am sometimes feels strange, but Carter is mature for her age in a lot of ways, probably as a result of the lifestyle she had with Lori (freedom, respect, treated like an adult, traveled, etc), so that makes it an easier transition. Both shows had/have a crew full of genuine and lovely people.
What is the funniest and memorable event that happened while shooting so far?
There have been several incidents with the on-set whoopee cushion. It has provided endless fun over the past two seasons; we have actually worn through at least one or two due to over use. The most memorable was when we got Cynthia (who plays Elizabeth) on camera during filming of season 1. Everyone played a part, even the director was on board. It was like Ocean's Eleven. It now exists forever on film. There are so many funny moments on set, the crew is hilarious. Towards the end of shooting season 1, there was one day where we were shooting a scene where Alex (who plays Max) was being rushed back into surgery around a sharp corner in a hospital, through a narrow hallway on a roller bed whilst we all ran after him. The logistics of the scene were so specific and the hallway was so tiny for so many people that it was almost impossible to get him and everyone else around the corner. We did so many takes which had to be cut short because they smashed Alex's bed into the wall or because one of the crew or cast members tripped. The scene was so serious but it ended up being impossible to keep a straight face because of how many times it was going wrong. There were so many funny outtakes this year that we were all begging for a blooper reel… we're still hoping one comes out with the DVD.
When life gives you lemons, …?
You get out from under the lemon tree.
What do you love most about acting?
What I love most about acting is really what I love about film and TV in general – being able to be a part of stories that could potentially change the way somebody thinks. I remember growing up I always used to watch films with my Dad and some of those films genuinely formed the way I think to this day. And they did so in a way that documentary film never could. I didn't go into watching those films thinking "I'm ready to learn about something new and maybe understand something or someone that I didn't understand before". They did it without me even being aware of it until the story was over. I feel like film and TV are such great mediums with which to inspire empathy or understanding about a topic or group of people completely foreign to the viewer, without them choosing to have that happen to them or even realize that it has. If you decide to watch a documentary about a specific topic, you are already deciding to educate yourself about that specific thing. But if you choose to watch a TV show or a movie, you're usually just looking for entertainment. There is a certain type of films (and these are my favorite films) that have the potential to permanently change the viewers’ opinion on something or someone by telling stories about real people and making them relatable, therefore getting the viewer to empathize with people that they otherwise might not have. I feel like in this way, TV and film genuinely have the potential to affect change in the world, even if only in a small way. I was speaking to someone literally the other day who was telling me that the diamond trade in America was so affected by Blood Diamond that they had to employ new PR strategies because they were so worried about the same thing happening once the film was released in Europe. Obviously there are more direct ways to affect change in the world than film and TV but I do think they both have a very unique platform with which to do so and that is ultimately the reason I wanted to do this.
Name 3 top items in your bucket list.
• Go to Tokyo, Poland and Malaysia.
• Foster a child (eventually).
• Write a film with my twin sister.
If you can go time-travel, which year would you go to and why?
I think I'd go forward, just to see it, and then come back and probably win a lot of bets.
Asides acting, is there something you always wanted to do?
After we finished Skins, I got offered a place at university to study Psychology and I took it, but then I deferred for three years because I kept getting little bits of acting work. I didn't want to do a half-arsed job of something I really cared about so I decided I would keep acting and taking photos until I had the time to go back and get my Psychology Degree as a serious student rather than a part time student crazily flailing around trying to get to her audition after class.
Lastly, what is your relationship with photography?
I love photography. My mum is an amazing animal photographer and when I was little I used to help her in her dark room. We had all her photographs hanging up in the house. I still look at her photos and think they are some of the best I have ever seen. She taught herself everything she knows and inspired me to just pick up the books/magazines and teach myself. I used to be really scared of taking people's pictures; I felt like I was objectifying them or making them uncomfortable. I would get so nervous that I was making them self-conscious that I just didn't want to put anyone through it. Then I started a project in London where I had to take photos of lots of people and it was a massive learning curve. Now portraits are my favorite things to shoot. The photos I love the most are the ones where the real person is being brought out of themselves, as opposed to pretending to be something or someone else, you can just see it in their eyes when someone feels like they have to pretend. I think that is the real art to photography, getting someone to trust you enough to show you their real self, because otherwise you are kind of just objectifying them. I read somewhere once that the relationship someone has with a camera is the relationship they have with themselves. I'm not sure I completely agree (some people are just more used to having their photo taken) but I always think about that when I'm taking someone's photo.
Photo assistant: Tyler Ferguson
Special thanks: Erica Gray, Cassandra Quarto