Katherine Bailess plays the street smart Kyle Hart in VH-1's scripted cable summer series "Hit the Floor" which was just renewed for a second season. Follow Kat on Twitter: @KatBailess
Katherine Bailess has taken her training to the extremes. VH-1's popular show Hit the Floor has just the right amount of drama, dance and cheerleading moves to keep you wanting more. Throw in Katherine Bailess' perfect comedic timing and now you have pure entertainment!
Katherine was a pleasure to speak with on the phone. She possesses some rare qualities, including an open mind and honesty.
Why did you leave New York City to go to Los Angeles?
I love NYC. It was my first place to live out of Mississippi. My mom convinced me. I had an agency in New York and they said, "Are you sure you want to leave NY? You don't have a job yet." I said, "I did what I needed to do in NY, Broadway, modeling." If I wanted to book a job, it had to be in person not on tape. I'm one of those people that shine in person. And I guess I was right because I booked my first live audition and movie in LA, "Bring It On Again."
It's scary when you come out to L.A. You meet different people. I was the new girl in town, the fresh face and I didn't know any better and booked my first job. All of the hard work and training in NY helped - the dancing and acting training.
Why did you choose the William Esper Studio over the many other choices to study acting?
My manager had an influence on the Esper school. I was so young so I asked her. I went to Terry Schrieber's first, for a few months. My manager said she really believed in Esper. I did the six week course in the summer with Suzanne, his wife. She was hard, no BS. Then she asked me to do the two year program. You can't just assume you're going to be in the second year. I loved it. I love Meisner. You have to find your own nitch and who you are. I don't have one type of method.
You started dance and gymnastics classes at four years old. Who's idea was it for you to go these classes?
My mom put me into classes at four years old. She's a very big part of my life. My parents are very supportive. They said I was too busy for piano. I started dance first and when you're four years old, you're really just hopping around. Then I got into gymnastics and I had a very successful career in that. I won everything I entered. I got to a level where I was like "Uh oh, do I go to Texas and leave my family?" I ended up breaking my arm in gymnastics and that was my turning point. Gymnastics and ballet are so different. You cannot do point and gymnastics at the same time -- your feet can't handle it. So I stopped with the gymnastics. It devastated my gymnastics coach because he and I were a team -- I would do anything to win. I also think gymnastics makes kids work harder -- it's intense. I feel it made me work harder in academics as well. You have to figure out when to do your homework - before, during or after classes.
I started dance in a bunch of different dance studios in Mississippi to get a feel for what I liked. Then my mom found American Theatre Dance Workshop at Hofstra University as well as Ann Reinking's Broadway Theatre Project in Tampa Florida. I attended both throughout my high school summers. That's where I did all my training. I got into this because of my mother. I think my mom saw the potential, but then my teachers saw more.
I started dancing professionally at age 11 at the Miss Mississippi Pageant. I remember saying "I want to be up there, I want to be up there!" Mom said, "You can try out next year." I tumbled [did splits] and got the job. They wanted anything acrobatic. Just like the Devil Girls in the VH-1 show I'm working on now called "Hit the Floor".
Do you do your own stunts / acrobatics / dancing in "Hit the Floor?"
With being an actress, I don't want to risk getting hurt. Some of these girls tumble every week. They're in dance classes every week. I do not have a stunt double. My character, Kyle -- she flips on the side. I can still do front handsprings, etc. One of the girls actually kind of looks like me when dancing because of her long hair, so people sometimes think she's me -- flipping.
Round-offs for me are easy but the no hands in the air -- that's not me.
How long does it take to shoot an episode of "Hit the Floor?"
We actually shoot in what we call blocks. We shot two episodes at once; one director, two episodes. Trust me, it was pretty tough. Like a movie. I've done film before so I'm used to shooting out of order. You have to be on top of it as an actress. You really have to be with it. The directors and the creator are there for you. It takes about 13-14 days to shoot two episodes with the dancing.
Who's the choreographer?
Michael Rooney, Mickey Rooney's son, is the choreographer. I've worked with Michael before but he's never seen me dance like this.
The only thing I was worried about were my limbs and my muscles. I tore my hamstring during the pilot because it was such a hectic schedule and not a lot of time to warm up. I was on a bunch of Advil and Tiger Balm so hardly anyone knew I tore my hamstring.
Michael and his assistant, Danny Valle are amazing. There hasn't been a lot of dancing on TV, especially dancing in a pool. He should get praise for that. On the July 1 episode we danced in the dark wearing neon clothes and neon extensions in our hair.
It was one of the toughest dances I've done in my life. So tough. Even the girls who have been dancing the past 10 years 24/7 said they haven't danced like this since high school competition.
Have you had any surprises when reading the scripts?
I had to learn a new skill. We, the actors, don't know what's happening. They give us the script a week in advance. I went to my trailer, so excited and went "Oh my god. What in the world is this? That is crazy! I can't do this!" Then I was like "Of course I can do this." I asked my friends in Mississippi to send me things on how to do this skill.
Hog Auction Style. I practiced so hard. I didn't want to let the writers down, plus it would make the comedy more funny. I'm the comedic relief on the show which is a blessing for me because I love comedy so much. I did not audition with the accent. They asked me if I could bring my accent to the next callback and I truly believe it's what made me stand out and book the job. I think it makes the character more fun.
You get more air time each episode of Hit the Floor.
I really did not know how big my part was going to be when I auditioned. I knew I was one of the lead actors in the show. I knew Taylour Paige's and Logan Browning's storylines were huge. It's no competition for me. Every week I'd read the script and say "Wow, they're giving me more and more and more." Throughout the season you find out who Kyle really is.
Episode five shows way more of my character, Kyle. I was so glad because they trusted me as an actress to pull it off. I was like "Whew!" I'm just blessed to have the role and I'm blessed that they can turn this character into somebody that people really like. This character could have been annoying or too slutty or too bitchy and she's not. The fans that I have -- it's so warming -- you are the shit.
Do some fans think you're just like your character in real life?
People wonder "Is that who she is because she's no natural?" Of course there's a part of you in every character that you play. But I don't do that kind of stuff that Kyle does to get what I want in this town.
Do you have any nicknames?
My daddy called me Katherina Bambina. I almost changed my stage name to Kat because it's a little catchier. I already established Katherine as an actress so I said "I'll just leave it." I think Katherine is better to keep as my stage name. Some people in NYC never called me Katherine. They just wanted to call me Mississippi or Bailess. I think it's endearing.
What type of music do you like besides country music?
I can listen to anything. I love oldies. I can turn on The Temptations and jam out to them. I love Van Morrison -- he's one of my music heroes. I love the Top 40 -- Rhianna. Ray LaMontagne - I could play him all day long. He's a singer/songwriter. He's great.
Actually, being on the show has opened up my music ears. I now listen to all of these other genres. We have so many great songs on the show that are brand new, so that's another big plus because we have VH-1 behind us, so they can get new songs that are Top 10.
Do you get along with everyone on set?
VH-1 are super people. We're just like one big family. We all hang out together, go to the movies together, eat dinner together...
There's a really cool fire promo. Was the fire behind you real?
They were showing the fire promo at the Viacom building. One of my buddies in NYC sent me the Times Square video which was pretty exciting. That was real fire. It was insane. I got to the stage with baby oil all over my body. The director, Chris Applebaum, said "Let's go for it." The fire was literally right behind us. I said to myself, "Forget about the fire, just dance." I have scars all over my body from this job. That's what you get for dancing so hard.
Have you had any work done to your body?
I haven't had any work done. I'm all natural. It's just called "a lot of hard work". I've never stopped exercising my entire life. I never stopped. Like the quote from the movie "Legally Blonde" - "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." Reese Witherspoon is one of my idols. I love her to death. She's from the south, too.
What skin products do you use?
I always take my make-up off at night. Maybe there's sometimes when I fall asleep and I don't take it off, but that's very rare. I always take off my eye makeup. I've always loved witch hazel. It's never dried up my face because my face is combination. And I always wear sunscreen moisturizer; I never leave the house without it. So those are my little tricks.
If I'm tired, I use No Puffery by Origins. It's like a cucumber gel that you can leave in the refrigerator. You put it on for 15 minutes.
I also use the Clarisonic brush. It completely cleans your face and removes dirt that you can't normally do by yourself. I use it every other day. For the show, you can tell how tan I am. I'm not that tan in real life. I have to tan every single week. If I didn't have time, like if we were out of town shooting, they use Sally Hansen -- you can get it at Rite Aid. It's spray.
When I have the time, I go to get a spray tan at the salon. There's a place in Beverly Hills that I go to; they're really great. A friend of mine had mentioned that they were really good at customizing your skin tone and your tan together. They scrub you too and get all the dead skin off, then you get the tan. It's not cheap. The production is paying for it. They're great. You can't even tell. I still get one for the summer because it looks so natural. Everyone's fear is that they don't want to look orange.
I've never been a spray tan girl. I did it years ago for a modeling job and then I did it for a red carpet event, but that's it. I'm not really a big tanner. Laying out on the beach bores me. I can do it for 15-20 minutes then I'm like "Let's get up!"
How'd you come up with your signature for your autograph, like the one on your website?
That's my natural handwriting. It took me a little bit longer to do the one on my website because I wanted it to look legible. When I'm signing autographs, it's a little bit messier. It didn't take me that long to create it.
What's your biggest fear?
Disappointment. Disappointing my family and others around me. I'm a people pleaser, so it's hard for me to let that go sometimes because you can't please everybody. My biggest fear is wanting to be true to myself. Not letting others influence me. Granted you have to compromise if you're in a relationship - how am I going to do this without letting fear get in the way. Like in this job. If I was scared about showing my sexuality or being funny or different ideas for this character -- I didn't let that happen. I feel like I'm getting through some of those obstacles in my life.
No one is perfect. I've let people down. You can't make everybody happy, but I try to. I try to be a good friend, a good girlfriend, a good daughter. I'm very close to my family. The two people in my life that I do NOT want to disappoint are my parents. I will always be close to them. I've disappointed them in the past and we got through that. We're human and we make mistakes.
Do you have any siblings?
I have an older brother and a younger sister. They're both married and have one child each. One of them was born on my birthday. It was the day we were finishing the Hit the Floor pilot. My dad texted me, "Happy Birthday! Mom and I are getting on the plane in five hours to meet your new nephew!" So the whole day I'm on set freaking out and everyone is wishing me a happy birthday and I'm like, "My nephew is being born!"
I'm superstitious so I was thinking that maybe my nephew being born on my birthday means something - like the show is going to be a hit!
Any behind the scenes stories?
A little insight to the cast -- we watch the show together every week at a restaurant. We watch the East Coast feed and then L.A. again. On July 1, James LaRosa (creator) and I were on AfterBuzz TV -- it's online.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I used to be a host forever. I had all these followers -- it's a lot of fun. That's a whole thing I would totally be into. I'll stick to acting right now but maybe later on I'll have my own show. Hosting is such a skill. You have to be yourself and be likeable.