Written by Christina Radish
Described as a cross between Lost, Ten Little Indians and One Tree Hill, the new CBS horror series Harper’s Island promises thrills, chills and gore in its 13-episode season. This murder mystery follows a group of family and friends who travel to a secluded island for the destination wedding of Henry (Christopher Gorham) and Trish (Katie Cassidy). As the wedding festivities begin, friendships are tested and secrets exposed as a murderer claims victims, one by one, transforming the week of fun and celebration into a terrifying struggle for survival. Everyone is a suspect. No one is safe. No one can be trusted. By the end of the 13 episodes, all questions will be answered, the killer will be revealed and only a few will survive.
Although Katie Cassidy (who has been cast in The CW remake of Melrose Place, since doing this interview)stars as The Bride, she says that didn’t make her any safer than anyone else. With the entire cast kept in the dark when they signed on, she could have just as easily ended up victim or killer.
Along with this unusual television event, the multi-talented actress/singer/musician also spoke about the upcoming top-secret Chris Carter (The X-Files) drama Fencewalker and the status of her involvement with the Dallas movie.
Here’s what she had to say ……..
Question: As a kid, you did piano, guitar, singing, dancing and acting. When and how did you decide it was acting that you wanted to make a career out of?
Katie: When I was younger, playing piano and guitar were all things that I wanted to do for a short period of time, like any kid. After awhile, it was like, “Oh, I have to go to singing lessons. I have to go to piano lessons.” I got over it and didn’t really want to go. I wanted to go be with my friends. But, the only thing that really stuck, that I was actually excited to go to and stuck with, was theater. I loved being on stage. I was in elementary school when I started, so I couldn’t say that it was about the building of characters. It was just fun to be in a play and get to goof off with some of my friends. And then, as I got older, I started actually taking it seriously, and studied and took classes, and developed myself as an artist. It’s just something that was inside of me, that I felt like I needed and wanted to do, and it just started working out. It’s really fun! It’s just exercising a different part of your brain when you do that. It’s an outlet for me.
When you come from a famous family, is it hard to develop your own sense of identity, especially when you want to create a name for yourself? And, does it make the success that you’ve had that much more rewarding?
Katie: Yes. It’s definitely difficult, in the beginning, especially being David Cassidy’s daughter or Shaun Cassidy’s niece. I knew that that was going to happen because it’s my genes. I can’t deny where I come from. But, I also knew that that would fade. When you’re actually talented and you have something to offer, people start to look at you for you, as opposed to who you’re the offspring of. I feel like a lot of actors, artists or musicians who come from famous fathers or mothers, all deal with the same thing. It’s something that you deal with. People eventually do start recognizing you for you and your good work. My first few jobs, people were like, “Oh, she only got hired because she’s so-and-so’s daughter.” But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who your parents are. Sure, it does help you get into a room, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to deliver and you have to be talented because they’re not going to hire me because my dad is David Cassidy, who was famous in the 70’s. I have to go into those rooms and give it my best and work really hard. It’s not that I have to work extra hard, but sometimes it’s held against me because I feel like I have something to live up to. I just want to make my family proud, and I want to be known for me. I feel like I have to go the extra mile to do that, but I’m willing to do it and it’s fine. It’s nothing that I will complain about. It’s just another challenge that I will overcome.
How did you get involved with Harper’s Island?
Katie: I had just come off of Supernatural and it was the first or second thing I auditioned for, coming off of that show. I went in and auditioned, just like everybody else. I went through the testing process for the network and the studio test, and then I ended up getting it. Once they found out I was available, they were interested, but I still had to go in there. They weren’t like, “Oh, you have the job.” I had to go in there and do my thing, and I ended up getting it.
What can you say about what Harper’s Island is and who you play on the show?
Katie: It’s 13 episodes, and it’s kind of like a 13-hour movie. It’s an event. My fiancé and I grew up in Seattle. We went to high school together, and we would go to Harper’s Island and spend our summers there. Basically, one year, this series of murders happened and all these people died. John Wakefield was the killer and, apparently, he was killed at the end of it all. My fiancé and I go back to this island to get married, to revamp the island and bring it back to life because it’s had this dark cloud over it for so long, with what happened. So, we go there with some family and some friends, to get married on this island that we grew up on, and things start to happen. People start going missing and things start unfolding. It’s basically like Lost meets Ten Little Indians and One Tree Hill. There’s definitely a younger, pop-culture vibe to it. And, it’s fun. Every week, somebody’s going to die. It may be one person, or it may be more than one person. The whole experience, while we were shooting, was just amazing. We literally had no idea what was happening or when we would go, until we got the scripts. Getting the scripts and reading them, we would always flip to the end to see who was going to make it and who wasn’t. It was always like Christmas morning, every time we got a script, because we would all run into the green room and open our scripts really fast, and race each other to see who could read it quicker. It was fun, but it was also really nerve-wracking. I don’t really like secrets, so it was eating away at me while I was there. It was a little bit stressful, but it kept it really exciting. We also had no idea who the killer was. It could have been any one of us. So, when we were shooting it, nobody really told us anything. We were always trying to piece it together and try to figure it out ourselves. The amount that that went on, it made us feel pretty positive, in hoping the audience who watches the show will get that involved with trying to figure it out. We experienced the same thing that I think the audience will experience, which was interesting.
Did the individual(s) who ended up being the killer know they were killer, or were they just as in the dark?
Katie: As far as I know, everybody was in the dark.
How do you develop a backstory for a character, when you have no idea what you’re playing?
Katie: It was really difficult, in that sense. But, they didn’t want anyone to know because they didn’t want anyone to give it away. If you know, then you’re like, “Oh, that means that, if I were a crazy psychopath killer, I would be playing this scene, this way,” which would give people a clue to what was going on, and the producers and Jon Turtletaub really didn’t want that. So, everybody was in the dark. None of us knew. But, it was a really, really fun experience. Everyone that I worked with was really great and so supportive. We were like a team up there. If someone was going, you would take one for the team. It was bittersweet. You didn’t want to go, but you knew that it was really cool.
Even though you knew what you were getting yourself into, with this being only 13 episodes, and that you could be gone at any time, did you still become attached to your character and the other actors?
Katie: It made it extremely difficult because, especially shooting on location in Vancouver, it becomes like a family. You go to work, every day, and these are the people that you’re around, every day, for quite awhile. You grow attached to them. When everybody left and all was said and done, everyone probably had the same sort of bittersweet feeling. It was really sad leaving, and leaving these people, because it was such a great cast and everyone was just really great to be around. It was sad. It was like ending a show, when you find out your show is not going to be going any further and it’s the last time you’re working together. It’s sad, but it happens and you deal with it in any kind of job you’re working in. You develop relationships with people and it’s sad that they aren’t going to be the same, once you’re done. But, we all keep in touch and I hope that we will continue to do so.
Since you also do film as well, did the fact that this was a limited-run series make it more appealing for you?
Katie: That was definitely part of what was appealing to me. I knew it would be one season and then, if it went on, the way the show is designed would make it a completely different cast. That was interesting to me, and I liked that part of it. I do enjoy doing both film and television. I just want to do good work. If it’s a TV show and it’s something that I love, I’m not like, “Oh, it’s television. I don’t want to be on a television show.” I enjoy working, and I enjoy taking on different roles and characters. I just want to get myself out there and try different things. I really want to do comedy. I really want to do action movies. That would be really fun. I’ve done a little bit, with the types of films I’ve done before. And, being on Supernatural, I’ve done a lot of fighting, and that stuff is really fun.
What was it like to work with Christopher Gorham, and this ensemble of actors?
Katie: Christopher Gorham plays my fiancé, and he’s a wonderful actor. We had this relationship on set, where I was almost like his little sister. We just had this banter, back and forth. He’s so sweet and such a good guy. He became such a good friend of mine. I really, really admire him. He’s married and he’s got kids, and he’s such a great actor. It’s really nice to work with actors who actually help you bring out the best in you. He brought out so much of me, and I felt so alive in scenes with him, that it was just so fulfilling. He’s really great, and I was really lucky to work with him, as well as everybody else. Everyone was really great. Matt Barr, who plays the best man Sully, wasn’t a regular, but it’s an important role on the show and he’s such a good actor. It was so nice to see someone who is so fresh. He was refreshing to watch. And, Elaine Cassidy was wonderful. There was a lot of talent on the show and a lot of people to learn from. When I’m working with a cast, especially when I’m the youngest, I look at these opportunities like it’s such a great advantage that I am this young and I’m working with these older, experienced, wonderful actors, who I can be a sponge around and soak up as much as I possibly can. I really learned a lot from it and I’m really grateful.
Do you think there’s something in you that attracts you to these darker projects, like Harper’s Island, Supernatural and the movie Taken?
Katie: There is definitely something that has to be said for me liking the action, Lara Croft type stuff. I really want to explore that side of me. Ruby on Supernatural was this demon who fought and kicked ass the entire season. That was really fun for me. I was just exploring even more of that side of me. Without giving anything away, there are certain things that Trish (on Harper’s Island) has to take on, as the show goes on, that intertwine with the whole exploration of that part of me. I really love a woman who’s fighting back and kicking ass. I just think it’s really fun. I’d love to do more of it, but I also really want to do comedy. Those are two completely different things, but that’s okay. I want to get my hands involved in everything.
What can you say about Fencewalker and working with Chris Carter (The X-Files)?
Katie: Fencewalker was really great. It was actually really challenging for me to take on that role. I can’t say much about it, but I was going through a place in my life, while I was shooting that movie. I went through a difficult time, but it’s something that needed to happen, in order to get all the colors that Chris wanted out of this girl. That needed to happen to me. It was definitely an emotional experience, but nothing that I would ever take back. Chris Carter is a great director and a great writer. The script was amazing! And, I’m so happy to have been a part of something like that. It’s going to be really great. I think that will be out at the end of the year.
Is it hard to keep working on projects that are so secretive?
Katie: I hate secrets! But, it’s fun. It is secret and you can’t talk about it. I’d love to sit here and tell you all about the things that I’ve gone through. It makes it a little difficult when it comes to stuff like this because I can’t really get too in-depth with any of it, as far as the storyline goes, but it makes it exciting.
Has anything happened with the status of the Dallas movie that you were attached to? Is that still happening?
Katie: As of now, whether they’re going to remake it or not, who knows? When they do, I’m sure it will be a really great project, but who knows. You never know what’s going to happen.