Just imagine you are auditioning for a part in a film and you don’t have too much information on what the film is about. After a few auditions you meet the director and it is J.J. Abrams. That is the experience that Katie and Kellie Cockrell had when they got to be in Abrams’ new film “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
I was able to chat with the Cockrell sisters about acting, ballet, and what other upcoming roles they have in the entertainment industry.
Art Eddy: You ladies are in the film “Star Trek Into Darkness” that looks to be a huge summer blockbuster. Tell me about how you got to be in the film?
Katie Cockrell: It was really secretive. We went in to the audition without knowing what it was for, we just knew it was big because the casting director was really well known. Our agent said she thought it might be for the next J.J. Abrams project.
Kellie Cockrell: The audition process was a really long. It took about a two months. We went in for a callback that was more like a photo shoot, and then a few weeks later had a meet and greet with J.J. Abrams himself, which at that point, we didn’t know if we had the part yet. Then at the end of the meeting J.J. said “Ready to be on set?” He was the one who told us we got the part. We called our manager after and said, “I think we got it!”
AE: You guys are in a scene with Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk. Tell me about the scene and how it was to work with Chris?
Katie: You know when you see Chris on-screen and you’re just in awe? Well he’s even more attractive in person. Ha! I mean, it was incredibly intimidating because he is so good looking and a really talented actor. It takes a second to acclimate to the situation. But he was also so nice and easy going, just a really a great guy so that definitely helped. As far as the scene, all we can say is, I know a lot of girls are going to be jealous of our scene with him.
AE: J.J. Abrams is a director who is in high demand. What was it like to watch him work and see how he creates the fantastic films?
Kellie: J.J. is an incredible director. We are huge fans of his work, particularly “LOST.” It was and still is probably our favorite TV show. So meeting him, was amazing! We shot for one full day on “Star Trek,” but we did 10 or more 12-hour days of makeup tests to make sure we looked exactly like he imagined. That’s just one example of how precise J.J. is and how much he cares about every character and aspect of the film being just right.
Katie: Watching him work with the other crew members and other actors was also an experience in itself. He’s hands on and makes sure everyone feels comfortable. I mean, working on “Star Trek” with these famous actors can be hugely intimidating. He brought it down to a real, human level, like “Let’s have fun. Let’s create something awesome.”
AE: Were there any cool behind the scenes stories during the filming of the movie?
Kellie: We had some great talks with one of the executive producers, one of which was about how he became a producer. He said he started as a PA and then slowly worked his way up. It was really inspiring to know that almost all of these people working on this project from the makeup team to the lighting crew to even the catering company are the best of the best, and they got to where they are now because they worked hard and worked their way up.
AE: You two also are ballet dancers. How has being in ballet helped you in acting?
Kellie: We started dancing when we were four. It was our first experience with art and performing. I think understanding how much effort, practice and long hours it takes to become a dancer helps with acting because you’re already used to and know how demanding it can be. Dancing also helps with body coordination which is helpful in acting you feel more comfortable with your movements and can integrate elements of dance into your acting. Acting is also so competitive, having the skill of being a trained dancer just helps to give you an edge.
AE: You ladies also do some great work with the organization called “School on Wheels.” Tell me about your work you do with that group.
Katie: “School on Wheels” is an amazing organization that partners tutors with kids who are either homeless or in temporary housing. We volunteered as tutors through the program. We would meet with the kids once a week and work with them on their homework. We would go on field trips too. We went to the Getty Center one time, to a play another time. The kids were amazing! They helped us just as much as we helped them after a long week of auditioning and working and feeling overrun, we would go tutor and they put everything in perspective. They were so happy, positive and really bright. They inspire us.
AE: What is next for your careers? Are there any projects that you are currently working on?
Kellie: We just finished an indie film called, “Feels So Good”, where we play the two popular, mean girls of the high school and end up falling for the nerds. It was an incredible shoot. We filmed with really talented young actors like Matt Shively from “Paranormal Activity”, Brendan Robinson from “Pretty Little Liars”, Hutch Dano, and Rock Anthony from “Glee.” We all become really close on set. Our director, Josh Stohlberg was fantastic. We stay in touch with Josh all the time through Instagram and Twitter.
AE: What would be the ultimate role for you to play?
Katie: We would love to continue working together but also explore what’s available separately as well. Our immediate goal is to work more in television and gain a solid base of experience and then transition to more leading roles in film. I mean, that’s just one path we see as most plausible but are definitely open to opportunities!
We are also working on starting a business together as twins. We are super inspired by entrepreneurs and companies who do good like TOMS, or stone + cloth and women’s rights movements like “Half the Sky”. We are working to create something tangible that can, as cheesy as it sounds, help change the world.