Katherine McNamara has long been an advocate and voice for those that have been victimized and affected by bullying. She has now put that advocacy into a film called “Contest.” The film is an anti-bullying movie that aired on the Cartoon Network. The project was created with the idea of reaching teens and tweens with an anti-bullying message as the story follows McNamara’s character ‘Sarah O’Malley’ and her high school classmates as they forge an unlikely friendship to partner in a cooking contest. McNamara stars alongside Kenton Duty and Daniel Flaherty.
I was able to ask Katherine a few questions on the film, anti-bullying campaigns, and much more.
Art Eddy: Tell me a bit about the “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” campaign on Cartoon Network?
Katherine McNamara: Cartoon Network’s #StopBullyingSpeakUp campaign is being a part of the fight against bullying. Bullying is such a problem in our society and something that really needs to change. It’s also one of the only major world problems that kids can make a real difference and help to change. If kids know what to do to prevent and stop bullying situations, it is our hope that this epidemic will end. We hope that through “Contest” and Cartoon Network’s platform, we are able to educate kids and help give them the courage to speak up and stop the bullying.
As kids, we have a front row seat to the bullying that goes on every day. Maybe we see someone around us being bullied and we don’t know how to help. Maybe we are the one who is being bullied for who we are or something we love. Maybe we are the bully who doesn’t understand how much our words and actions can hurt those around us. Whoever you are, you have the power to make a change and to speak up and stop the bullying. For more information and resources for parents, educators, and kids, go to StopBullyingSpeakUp.com .
AE: How did you get involved with the project?
KM: Some of the producers are old friends of mine from my days working on Broadway in NYC. They approached me and said they had this great script of this amazing story of a kid who is bullied for doing what he loves and how he handles the situation. I read the script and fell in love with the story, the characters, and the message of the film. I understood that “Contest” was a very important film to make in that it has the opportunity and the ability to truly make a difference in educating society about bullying and bullying prevention. I knew I just had to be involved in this project.
AE: What do you hope viewers will learn from this project?
KM: “Contest” is a very important movie for kids and their parents to see. It discusses the very serious issue of bullying. Bullying has become way too common in our society so common that it is now seen as an epidemic. Today, people prepare children to be bullied and treat it as a fact of life. My question to those people is why not focus that energy on preventing bullying in the first place. If kids and adults work together to stop bullying at its source, we may be able to make it stop for good.
This is the goal of Cartoon Network with their Stop Bullying Speak Up campaign which is why “Contest” has found such a great home with the network. Something unique about “Contest” is its point of view. Our goal with the film was to present these issues in a very authentic light, in a way that was true to life to what kids experience every day in schools across the country and the world. There are many films that do this, but not many that have a rating that is appropriate for kids of all ages. This film was made as not only an entertaining story, but also as an educational tool and a conversation starter for kids and their families to learn the true ramifications of their actions.
AE: Have you been a victim of bullying?
KM: I’ve actually been bullied quite a bit in my life. I was always the different one for many reasons and sometimes other kids don’t understand that being different is okay and they bully other kids because of it. I even had my face smashed into a water fountain once because someone didn’t like me. When I was bullied, it felt horrible. I was so sad that someone felt the need to make me feel bad about myself. I had however been taught what to do in these situations.
The first thing I did was I told my mom, my grandparents, my teachers, any trusted adult who would listen – just to make sure they were aware of the situation. I surrounded myself with people who had my best interests at heart, not those who thought it was okay to hurt other people. My mom reassured me and gave me a piece of advice I will never forget. She told me that as long as I was happy with who I was and knew in my heart that I was good and true, that is all that matters.
She taught me to let those unkind words and actions roll off my back and to not listen to the chatter of bullies. Bullying is horrendous and no one should have to go through what I went through. My experiences with bullying have given me a drive and a passion to be a part of projects like “Contest” and campaigns like Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying Speak Up to help prevent kids from being bullied in the future.
AE: What is your best advice to those who have been a victim of bullying?
KM: If you are being bullied the first thing you need to do is tell someone you trust what is going on. Whether that person is a parent, a friend’s parent, a teacher, a principal, a coach, a religious leader, or another trusted adult, it is really important that you make them aware of the situation. Bullying can escalate very easily from something that doesn’t seem like a big deal to a seriously dangerous situation in no time flat. If an adult knows what is going on and knows the history of the situation, they can look out for you and step in before it becomes dangerous.
If you are being bullied you need to know that it is not your fault. You are who you are and that’s amazing! Everyone has something special that only they can offer to the world. By being your unique self, you can use these gifts to help make this world a better place in a way that only you can. Always remember that.
AE: You are also in the brand new MTV pilot “Happyland” opposite Josh Groban and Shane Harper. What is the show about?
KM: I’m not allowed to reveal too much about “Happyland” at this point. What I can say is that it follows the story of people who live and work in a theme park. Everything seems perfect on the surface, but behind the scenes, it is utter chaos. Josh and Shane are both incredible. I had a great time working with both of them!
AE: You also play Becky Thatcher in the upcoming independent film “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.” How did that role come about?
KM: When I heard they were re-making “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn” again, I knew I had to get an audition. I was thrilled when I booked the job. I’m from Missouri originally, so it was a huge honor to be able to play such an iconic character from a story so near and dear to my heart. This version of the story is unique in that the characters of Tom, Huck, and Becky are aged up from their original 11 or 12 to 15 or 16 and in that is more geared toward the action movie genre.
AE: Looks like you have been busy. What do you do when you have down time?
KM: In my free time, I love to bake, knit, watch movies, read books, and spend time with friends and family.
AE: You have been on Broadway too. What was that experience like?
KM: I loved working on Broadway. It was such an incredible experience being a part of “A Little Night Music.” Working with legends of the stage and screen Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, and Elaine Stritch, I learned some priceless lessons I will never forget. These ladies took me under their wing and taught me so much about the business and life in general. Being a part of a show for an entire year, the cast, crew, and creatives, made up this amazing family at the Walter Kerr Theatre was a second home to me. I truly hope to have such an opportunity in the near future.
AE: Between Broadway and movies do you have a preference?
KM: I could never choose between the different performances media in the entertainment industry. Between film and theater specifically, each provides a very different experience, both of which are equally fulfilling and wonderful in their own way. In film, the experience in much more intimate and the smaller moments of the scenes can be made into something very special.
When working in an on screen medium, you are doing something different every day whereas in theater, you repeat the same story over and over again. I love this aspect of theater though as you get a much better understanding of your character’s arc because you relive it so many times. Also, the energy a live audience can provide as well as the spontaneity of each performance can truly not be found in any other medium.