When Michelle Trachtenberg was a young girl growing up in
Sheepshead Bay, she dreamed of being a championship ice skater
like her childhood idols, Michelle Kwan and Oksana Baiul.
"I took one lesson and said, ’I’m going back to acting,’" Trachtenberg told GO Brooklyn with a laugh in a phone interview last week.
It was probably the correct choice, since it was right about that time the former child model was offered a job on the long-running, daytime soap opera, "All My Children," which led to lead parts in the kids’ films "Harriet the Spy" and "Inspector Gadget," and, ultimately, her breakout role as Dawn, Buffy’s kid sister, on the hit TV drama, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
In her new, big-screen family comedy, "Ice Princess," the 19-year-old brunette beauty finally gets to finish what she started when she was 8.
To prepare for her role as Casey Carlyle, a Harvard-bound teen who puts aside her books to go for the gold, Trachtenberg spent countless hours in ballet and ice-skating classes over an eight-month period. Although stunt skaters were employed for some of the more difficult maneuvers, like double and triple jumps, Trachtenberg performed most of the on-screen skating herself.
"I knew I was going to have to train a lot," says the actress, "but I had no idea that it was going to be months and months of the most intense training sessions, as well as intense ballet classes, and hours and hours of being on the ice.
"I started from scratch and was trying to accomplish what my character accomplishes in the movie, which seemed rather impossible at first. But because I trained so much, I can do a lot of fun tricks. And when I watch ice skating, I know all the lingo and I can say, ’She didn’t get enough height in her axel,’ or ’She flubbed her footwork.’ That’s a cool feeling."
Asked if making "Ice Princess," which co-stars Joan Cusack and Kim Cattrall, made her feel like maybe she missed her calling, Trachtenberg assures that she is quite happy in the relatively safe, warm world of acting.
"I came away from the experience with a respect for skating and respect for what these people really go through and how hard they work," she says, noting she also came away with a variety of bumps, bruises and other minor injuries. "But I’m an actress first and foremost, so it was cool to step into their shoes and be a skater, but that’s not what I want to do with my life. Acting’s my love and my passion."
Confiding that she would love to have a career like Nicole Kidman’s, Trachtenberg says she thinks it is one’s constant ability to change that dictates how long she works in Hollywood. (She left Brooklyn for Los Angeles about seven years ago.)
"After I did ’Buffy,’ I got a lot of [offers to play] that book-wormy, smart-alecky character and I was like: ’Nope. That’s not it,’" she explains. "That’s why I did ’EuroTrip.’ A lot of people were like, ’I can’t believe she did a racy teen comedy.’ Well, that was the point. Breaking out."
After her appearance in "EuroTrip" and her four-episode stint as a demanding pop star on the acclaimed HBO drama, "Six Feet Under," Trachtenberg was ready for yet another change of pace, something sweet and fun like "Ice Princess."
"I had been meaning to do a movie with Disney about girls being empowered in a really cool, girl-centered story for a while," she says. "And they came up to me with a story about ice skating, so I was like: ’I’ll try my hand at ice-skating. How hard could it be?’ Little did I know."
In addition to a great part that let her stretch as both an actress and an athlete, the movie also gave her the opportunity to spend time with that ice princess who first caught her eye a decade ago - Michelle Kwan.
"To me, Michelle Kwan was such an awesome figure," Trachtenberg says. "When I was younger, I thought she was just so amazingly graceful and beautiful and to meet her in person, she was just like the nicest girl ever and we actually got on the ice together and she was very complimentary of my efforts in skating, knowing that I had only started recently and she was just a really, really cool, cool girl. Just like an angel gliding over the ice."
"Ice Princess" opens March 18 at Regal Entertainment Court Street 12 (106 Court St. between State and Schermerhorn streets in Brooklyn Heights). Call (718) 246-7995 for screening times and prices.