New Trier student Katie Chang did not have your typical spring semester last year. A junior at the time, Chang got the chance of the lifetime when she auditioned and won one of the leading roles in Sofia Coppola’s new movie, The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson. We caught up with the Winnetka native to get the inside scoop on the new movie and what it was like working on a Hollywood set.
What made you pursue acting?
I had always been interested in performing since I was kid—I did theater productions and used to make music videos with my dad’s video camera. So I always loved sort of showing off and performing for people, but it started to get serious around eighth grade. My mom found the ATC [Actors Training Center], and I took a class there and got hooked.
How long have you been with ATC?
I’m a senior now, so about four and a half years. I think I started taking classes when [ATC] was just about a year in existence.
Describe the process of landing the role in Sofia Coppola’s new movie, The Bling Ring?
A lot of casting directors and industry people come and teach workshops at ATC. And one of the people that did was Geoffrey Soffer, who was the casting director for Ugly Betty. I took a weekend workshop with him, and after, he asked to manage me. Then one day, [Geoffrey Soffer and Carole Dibo, ATC Founder/Director] saw a casting release for a 17-year-old Asian American, preferably Korean, with no accent. It was amazing because I was all those things and that never happens, so we were like, “We have to do this!” Then, slowly but surely, we figured out who was involved and realized how big this was. [The Bling Ring casting notice] felt like it was talking about me.
How was Sofia Coppola as a director?
Directing a movie must be one of the most stressful things in the world. She was in charge of everything, and I mean everything, yet I never heard her raise her voice. She never seemed stressed out, and so by extension, through the ranks, everyone [cast and crew] was so calm and laidback. As a director, Sofia was cool because each time, when we would end a scene, she’d always say, “Oh, hey guys!” like we were coming back from a trip.
Tell us a little bit about the character you play in the movie?
She’s very different from me. Her name is Rebecca. She is the ringleader of “The Bling Ring”—they break into houses and steal celebrity clothes and jewelry. She’s into drugs and partying—kind of everything that I stand against, but it was actually really fun to play her. [The role] was kind of like my own teenage rebellion without the repercussions.
Were you still a full-time student at New Trier while filming?
Yes, school is very important to me. At first, they [New Trier] were a little hesitant about all of this. We got all of my teachers on board. Everything was great. My teachers would email assignments and call me. I had tutors out there [in L.A.] as well. I mean, the first couples weeks were really hard because I had never done this before and so it was this weird transition period, but I actually managed to keep my grades up—in fact, my grades improved!
What’s some of your advice for aspiring actors on the North Shore?
Go to Actors Training Center! Everything happened for me there. Take classes and don’t stop taking classes, even after you get an agent or book a job. Do soccer players ever stop working out? Always train.
What are some of your favorite things about living on the North Shore?
The proximity to Chicago. I mean, Chicago is the best city in the world. I’ve been to a couple great cities, but I think Chicago is the best. And, Cafe Buongiorno in Winnetka is literally my favorite place in the entire world.
For more information on the Actors Training Center, visit wilmettetheatre.com/atc-home.