Michelle Trachtenberg Discusses "Ice Princess"

Michelle Trachtenberg and Trevor Blumas Photo
Michelle Trachtenberg and Trevor Blumas in "Ice Princess". © Walt Disney Pictures

Michelle Trachtenberg stars as a math whiz who decides to take on the world of competitive ice skating in the Disney comedy, "Ice Princess," co-starring Kim Cattrall, Hayden Panettiere, and Trevor Blumas.

Trachtenberg gained a following playing Sarah Michelle Gellar's younger sister in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Moving on to feature films, Trachtenberg's ready to put "Buffy" behind her and spread her wings.

INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG ('Casey'):

What kind of training did you do to get ready for this role?
…I trained extremely hard for the movie. When we weren’t shooting, I was working, training five hours a day, five days a week, and I had ballet every other day. I was constantly on the ice. And then when we were shooting, I was working seven days a week — because five days of shooting and then on the weekends doing all the choreography, learning whatnot, and I was working 20-22 hour days because I was one of the only adults on the movie outside of Joan [Cusack] and Kim [Cattrall]. And everyone else was pretty much a minor, so after 10 hours they went home and I was still there on ice skates, working my way around.

What’s harder – skating or acting?
Skating, by far. It’s cold and the skirts are short. I thought, “Okay, I do a bikini scene. I’m done, that’s it, that’s my sex scene,” you know?

But you know you have the little skirts and everything. It’s an adjustment, but the tights are really thick. So you have the good skating tights on, which is great.

Did you ever get hurt?
I did. I tore a couple of ligaments, dislocated knee or so, did a little bit of here and there. It sounds really bad, but those are all things that happen to athletes.

I mean, I’m very lucky because I didn’t get any stress fractures, which is one of the hugest things.

I’d never trained to be an ice skater before. When I was 8 or 9, I was like, “Oh, I want to be an ice skater.” And I took one lesson and it was like, “Heh, heh…no. I’ll stick to acting, thank you.” But I was obsessed with Michelle Kwan and everything was so pretty and Oksana Baiul. They were just perfect. And then when Disney came to me with this movie, I was like, “Okay! I can ice skate. No problem. I’m done. I did it at a party once.” They were like, “Right. So spiral.” Which is you’re on one leg and you have one leg completely behind you. And it’s really cool because one day my coach came up to me and she said, “If you had started this when you were five years old, you'd be able to do those double axles and everything.” So I was sort of natural at it, which was kind of fun.

What were you able to do by the end of filming?
I do waltz jumps and I can land a single toe loop, which was the day I think literally the entire ice rink started cheering. It wasn’t like the most perfect form but my toe pick stuck in the ice which was all I wanted. But I do a lot of the party tricks like the spirals and crossovers.

But my big thing, which none of my doubles could do — I had a stunt double who’d do all the falls and one that would do the double triple whatevers — no one could do an outside edge spread-eagle, which is basically your feet are like this in one line and you’re leaning back on the outside edge and going around on a curve. Not even a lot of skaters who are Olympic levels can do that because it depends on how your body’s [shaped]. So whenever they needed that, there’s one shot in the movie where it starts out on my feet and just moves up and it’s just across the entire rink. I’m very proud of that shot.

You mentioned that you admired Michelle Kwan when you were younger. What was it like to finally meet her?
Amazing. It was so cool. I was just like the biggest nerd. It was like, “You’re Michelle Kwan.” That was literally my first thing.

…She was so cool and so nice, and she was just supposed to do a cameo in the movie. We had B-roll that day and someone asked her if she would get on the ice with me. We all expected Michelle Kwan to be like, “Well, no, I’m sorry.” But she was like, “Okay.” She got on the ice with me, skated around.

First of all, to see her on the ice is like I would imagine watching Sean Penn or Dustin Hoffman work. It’s just so effortless and brilliant. And she turned around to me and she’s like, “You’re good. You’re a natural for what time you’ve had and what you’ve accomplished. I’m impressed.” So that, to me, that was the utmost compliment. She’s a really cool girl.

Is there a legimate basis for your character’s theories of physics relating to ice skating?
Oh, every theory that I say in the movie, every physic shout out is all correct. In fact, we shot one scene where I say m x a = m mass and all that stuff, and we mixed up a letter. So there’s one shot where you’re like, “Why are we on the back of her head?” Because we looped in the right term, because we didn’t want to teach any kids wrong.

PAGE 2: On a "Buffy" Movie, Her Boyfriend, and "Mysterious Skin"

Does the real you come out in your acting?
I don’t know. I should preface the real answer by saying that every character that I play is like a tiny percent of my personality sort of heightened. So I’m also very adamant about never really playing the same character again. Whereas people might see this and say, “Oh, that’s sort of like ‘Buffy.’ That’s sort of like this…,” it’s not at all because it’s my very first character that I have to be unconfident and scared and insecure and everything. That was sort of a struggle.

I guess my personality comes through in the skating in terms of ‘Casey’ because that’s like stronger and powerful. I think in acting not necessarily the real me comes out, because you’re acting, so you don’t ever want to be too realistic. But just parts — like different little parts of you. The real me is sitting at home, no makeup, in my old sweatpants, watching DVDs. And no makeup is a big thing because I love makeup. So that’s me. I’m there clicking on my Tivo watching “Law and Order” with my sister because I’m obsessed.

How did you like working in Toronto?
Toronto was great. Toronto was really, really nice. They’re very good to me in Toronto. All of Canada is actually. But my entire life, I’ve never worked in Vancouver, oddly enough. And that’s such a center for movies and such. I’ve only mostly done Toronto. My first movie was in Toronto 10 years ago, which was “Harriet the Spy.” Driving by the Sutton Place [Hotel], which was where I stayed when I was 10, was like [gasping], “I remember what that feeling was that first day walking into the big hotel.

It was really cool.” My boyfriend’s from Toronto. He’s from B.C. but has a place in Toronto.

Who’s your boyfriend?
Shawn Ashmore [“X2”]. He’s an actor. I had to think about that. I was up at 7 this morning, I don’t know.

How did you meet an X-Man?
Well, I put out an ad in the classifieds: "Wanted, Superhero.

I’m a damsel in distress." No, we just met, which is funny, knowing Shawn, he hates anything publicity. He's so not into that world. We met at an Oscar party and he was just like Mr. Grumpy, unhappy to be out in public and I totally approached him. I was the forward one. I take full credit and actually, we’ve been together a year.

You said you don’t like playing the same character twice. Does that mean you wouldn’t do a sequel to “Ice Princess?” What about the possibility of a “Buffy” movie?
I’m sure that there was tons of talk. I’d heard something here and there. The thing that I never want to play a character again… I don’t mean any disrespect for the creators and producers of my previous projects because I never pick a project carelessly. I always have some heart attached to it. “Buffy” was my all-time favorite show before I was on it. So I loved Dawn. She was an awesome character and that was where I was at that point in my life. I was, you know, 14-17, which is hugely different. I’m almost 20 now. I’ll be 20 in October, so reprising a character is something… Never say never. As opposed to a sequel for this — the story would have to be amazing because I really feel so proud of what we have on the screen right now.

It’s not a Disney kitschy movie. It’s a heartfelt, loving story. And to have anything less than that as a sequel would be doing a disservice to the original story. So you never know.

What if “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon came up with an idea for a “Buffy” movie in which Dawn was in a completely different place and much older? Would you be interested then?
You never know. Again, like I said, you’d have to see the material and also I have so many projects that I want to do right now after “Ice Princess” and all that, that you have to make sure it fits into that vein because I believe every actor’s path is sort of set. You don’t want to veer too much away from moving on and growing as an actor.

You have two totally contrasting movies this season. What’s your other project, “Mysterious Skin,” about?
”Mysterious Skin” was actually filmed before”Ice Princess” so it’s kind of interesting.

It was filmed right after “Eurotrip.” I was actually 17 when I filmed it. It is completely different. I mean, there’s no words to describe how insanely different these two movies are, and that’s awesome for me as an actress because it shows complete range. I never want to be pegged into something, like I keep saying.

It’s a true story that Gregg Araki adapted into a screenplay about two boys who experience something traumatic in their lives and how they each grow up to deal with it. And I play Joe Gordon-Levitt’s best friend who’s the wild-child boy. It’s very dark and very poignant and beautiful and moving and everything, and unlike anything anyone’s seen me in, and I’m very proud of it.

And it’s not G-rated?
No, I think we begged for the R rating on “Mysterious Skin.” Like, “Please?” “Okay.”