This interview was conducted in late May of 2009, and posted at The RealmCast a couple weeks later. Enjoy!
Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Tarah Paige, an up-and-coming actress who, aside from being involved with Tim Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderland, has not one but two roles in Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen. She has been a world-class gymnast, and aside from straight acting, is one of the industry’s most in-demand stunt women. But those aren’t her only talents.
We caught up with Tarah at the Frank & Son’s Collectibles Show in Industry, CA, where she was signing autographs for fans. As you will see from the interview, she was a delight to spend some time with.
Tarah Paige: (laughs) Yeah…
AW: I read about some of your accomplishments…wow. A musician, actress…it seems like lately – maybe I’m incorrect in approaching it like this – but it seems to be that stuntwork is your most prolific sub-profession right now. Is that something that you’ve always envisioned doing a lot, or is that something you’ve kind of ‘fell’ into, as a kind of means to an end to get to acting?
TP: Actually, yeah – no pun intended, it was something I just kind of fell into. I came out here to Los Angeles mainly to act and to model, and to dance. I was a dancer, I was a big-time gymnast; as you know I was on the national team for a couple of years, and I traveled all over the country, all over the world, doing my sport. So, that’s what I was pursuing, and then I was on set one day, and a bunch of people, who were really prominent in the stunt industry, saw me and said, ‘You know, you have the perfect background to do stunts, have you ever thought about it?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t even know how to get into the industry, that would just be ridiculous for me to start.’ Because most people who start that have, their parents have been, and their grandparents, and their…and a long line. And it’s relatively hard to get into. But I met some really great people, and through a series of contacts, I actually ended up pursuing that alongside my acting career. Which has been great, because a lot of times, they’ll even hire me to do a stunt job, and the, ‘Oh, by the way – she can act’. Or vice-versa, they’ll hire me for an acting job, and say, ‘Hey, we can save a lot of money, we should do our own stunts.’
AW: Or you get on their radar for maybe another project down the road, they remember you and say, ‘We can use her, she’s perfect for that.’
TP: Definitely, definitely, yeah.
AW: Ambition can be very important for any profession, particularly in entertainment and sports. You graduated early and left home with your mother for college while still a teenager. And you’ve often gotten your elbows dirty raising your own money for things. It seems like you were a pretty precocious kid at a very young age. Do you think that was a natural part of your personality that, later on in life, as far as pursuing your dreams, professions, or is that something that you, maybe, pushed on top of that?
TP: I think that, as part of my personality, this is pretty much the perfect career for me to go into. I was dancing and doing gymnastics, and singing, and just performing in general for live audiences, and on film and on television, since I was five. And I think that my personality kind of led me in that direction. My parents didn’t know anything about the entertainment industry when I started. My mom was a concert pianist and a clinical psychologist, and my dad was an electrical engineer, who now works with animals, is more like a blacksmith.
AW: They go to equestrian shows often, don’t they?
TP: Yes, they do! They raise pure-bred Arabian horses. Things that are completely unrelated to performing. And my brother is actually an aerospace engineer, so he’s, like, the braniac of the family. But I think that, even from a young age, I was attracted to the spotlight, and to performing, and just had a natural ability to perform, and pursue that entertainment quality. I think that’s what led me to what I do know now. And to stick with it, really.
TP: I see you’ve done your homework. (laughs)
AW: Do you feel that helped you grow up to be a more well-rounded person – especially in the entertainment industry, which can be shallow at times?
TP: I absolutely do. I think that my focus into the athletic world, rather than most – some parents put their kids into things dealing with like an outer-shell type of thing, really helped me stay focused and goal-driven throughout my life. Because, when you train as an athelete – I was training sometimes 7 and 8 hours a day, 6 days a week – and I think that you can’t help but, when you’re doing that, to adapt to that kind of lifestyle, and to realize that you have to work hard to get where you want to be, and just that driven personality that, kind of, is molding me to where I am today.
AW: Certainly. Do you feel that you’ve gotten more gigs by being somebody that’s well-rounded, with talents, rather than just maybe looking right for the part?
TP: I feel like, better about myself when I get a part, because I know that I have the talent to back it up, rather than just being like a supermodel who can look pretty on camera. So I feel like I maybe have the substance to back up what I do. I love this industry, and there isn’t anything I would rather do, whether it be for money, or whether it be for promotion of a movie, or whether it be just something that I’m helping my friends out with for YouTube, or for an internet project. I just, I love to perform, it’s like, in my blood. I’m an athelete and I’m a performer. So that’s the most important thing to me.
AW: Let’s talk a little bit about music. You’ve actually written some song lyrics, you sing, you play piano. You actually play the harp – nobody plays the harp anymore!
TP: I know!
AW: How did you pick that up?
TP: I started when I was in fourth grade. And the reason I started was, because they told me that I couldn’t join the choir unless I played an instrument. And I didn’t want to play an instrument, so I looked through the book, and all the instruments that I thought I might want to do, and I picked out the harp. So, they actually had to rent a harp for my school, so that I could play this harp, so I could take the choir, and all this stuff. But I ended up sticking [with it], and I love it, and I actually have my own harp now, and I’ve played at weddings. It’s kind of something on the side that I do for fun.
AW: And you’ve recorded pieces that you’ve done gymnastics to…
TP: I have, yes. There’s a special on Fox that aired a long time ago that I wrote for that specifically, and then played it out on the gymnastics floor.
AW: Wow, that’s fantastic.
AW: …not anymore?
TP: That was a short-lived thing, but it was really fun. We were a cover band, and we were just kind of playing live shows in Los Angeles. Which was fantastic, too. Because, like I said, I’m a performer. So that was fun. But that was short-lived, and that was just a fun little…
AW: Gotcha. what was your role in that?
TP: I was the lead singer, actually. Yeah. But it was really fun.
AW: Getting back to horses, you’re a bit of an equestrian yourself. Do you still ride?
TP: I do, I do. My parents raise pure-bred Arabians in Arizona. I grew up riding, and it kind of stuck with me. Just recreationally now, not professional, but I love horses. I love animals in general. It’s kind of a rarity, I think, in this day and age to – especially in Los Angeles – to have parents or people around you who own acreages, who, you can just go out and ride horses, and be with nature. Cause it’s so industrial.
AW: Have you ever thought about mixing that with the professional – like maybe getting into some westerns, or something?
TP: Um…no! (laughs) It’s not for me. I mean, I’m more of a performer than a rider. But I really love horses, and I love what my parents do.
AW: We’re a little bit more from the geek/fanboy angle, we’re Transformers fans here. We’re excited about the upcoming movie.
TP: Woo! Yay!
AW: Can you tell us what your role on that film set was, and what kind of stuff you did?
TP: I had two roles on Transformers, actually. My first was, I do a lot of the live-action sequences for Isabel Lucas and some of the other characters. And some of their stunt scenes. And I also have a part in the movie as well.
AW: Oh, so you do have a speaking role?
TP: I have, yes. I have a part in the movie. I’m one of the students that kind of gets blasted by the Transformers. And I have a little scene with one of the Transformers.
AW: Okay, great. I think that’s news to us, we’ll be looking out for that.
AW: What was it like working with Michael Bay and Tim Burton? And can you compare them at all? Or were there any obvious differences between the two, because they’re both big names in the industry.
TP: I had a blast. I think Alice In Wonderland was, by far, my favorite movie to date, that I’ve done. Just because every little girl grows up with Alice In Wonderland in their storybooks in their rooms. And for me to be able to be on set with some of the greats like Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp, and Anne Hathaway…Crispin Glover – I mean the list is a mile long – was just phenomenal. I had the best time of my life on that show.
AW: And for Michel Bay, anything you can…?
TP: And for Michael Bay… (laughs) ..he, um…
TP: Yeah, he runs a tight ship, but he is so good at what he does. He is a perfectionist, and he is, visually, the images that he comes out with are the best in the industry, I think. I don’t have any horror stories about Michael Bay, he was really nice to me, and we had a great time. I’ve seen some of the things…but, you know, that’s a story for another day. (laughs)
AW: Getting back to writing, you’ve actually written – or at least started to, and I want to ask if youv’e completed – plays, a novel, a screenplay. And it seems like you want to try to do it all in this business. Do you find it difficult to be focused on any one thing at a time, or do you just, when you have passion for one specific thing, you just go nuts with it?
TP: Well, I actually used to find it a lot harder than I’m finding it today, because I’ve king of taken on this motto that I am going to focus more on the things I love to do. I shouldn’t say ‘the things that I love to do’. I should say, I’m going to focus more on the things that I feel like are on my life path right now, and then later on I can explore some of the other things that I like to do. Like, even though I love to write in my spare time, and I’ve written a bunch of novels and screenplays, and short stories and poems, and I eventually even want to publish a book of poems, or get my screenplays published. I feel like, right now, what I’m supposed to be doing is acting, and doing stunts, and modeling. I kind of, am keeping that in the back of my mind, that that’s what I have to stay focused at this point.
AW: Wow – how do you find time to do all this, and when do you sleep?
TP: (laughs) I don’t, sometimes! But yeah, I have to kind of take some time for myself, too. And it’s hard, but, you know, you get really good at finding the moments, when you get so busy.
AW: Getting back to Transformers again. Were you aware of Transformers growing up? And was getting involved in a job like this, with this film…was there any extra incentive or excitement, because it’s a big, blockbuster summer movie?
TP: I was stoked. When I got the call that I was going to be in Transformers 2, I kind of like, started freaking out on the phone, and going “Ahh!”. I was in Arizona at the time, it was on my birthday, and I was celebrating with my family. And they called me up, the final call, and they said, ‘We need you to be on set the next day’. I had to drive through the night to be there on set the next morning at 5:30. But I was willing to just turn my life around because this is just such and awesome opportunity. And such an honor to be a part of this movie.
AW: What a cool birthday present!
TP: Yeah! I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
AW: At any early age, you collected My Little Pony and Beanie Babies.
AW: Or, actually, throughout your life, I think, still to this day, to a certain extent. Now that you’re tied to one of the biggest science-fiction franchises of the last 25 years – you know, it’s got a big fandom behind it, people collect the action figures, and whatnot – do you feel like you’re prepared with your own background, collecting My Little Ponys, and whatnot, that you can relate to some of the fans because you kind of know where they’re coming from?
TP: Definitely! Definitely. I was at my booth today, and I saw, to my left, I saw a bunch of My Little Ponys in their original boxes, and I was just like, “Oh, my goodness! That’s so cool!” And I know it’s really, like, nerdy and lame, but like, apart of my heart was like, “Wow, that’s so cool.” I can see why people get so excited about their favorite comic book characters. Especially now, they have such more cool ones then they did back then. I mean, times are progressing like crazy. Now they have Transformers. I can just imagine people are just so stoked about – not only the movie, but the action figures as well.
AW: It’s just, over the last ten to twenty years, it seems like, being into ‘geek’ stuff – for lack of a better term…
TP: It’s starting to become cool.
AW: …it’s a lot more socially acceptable, and a lot more people are getting into that kind of stuff.
TP: Definitely, I agree.
AW: Hasbro, with Transformers, and now the upcoming GI Joe, they’re having a lot of success with this stuff, and they’ve got a lot of properties, because they’ve been around for a while. And one of the properties they’re talking about doing a new project with is My Little Pony. They don’t know if they’re going to do a new movie, whether it’s live action or animated. Or if, maybe a new cartoon show. You might want to have your agent keep a finger on the pulse of that. Maybe you can get involved in that.
TP: Yes! I had no idea that was in the works. But now that I know, I will be on it.
AW: You once owned a Volkswagen Bug that you nicknamed ‘Pokey’?
AW: Is that named after Gumby’s horse?
TP: No, people have said Gumby’s horse, people have said Pokemon. But really, I’m going to set the record straight. It was a turbo, and you know how they always call the biggest person tiny, or, like the fastest person slow. So I named her Pokey ’cause she was really super-fast.
AW: An ironic nickname.
TP: Yeah. So the record has been set straight.
AW: That’s all we have, we thank you so much for your time, best of luck to you in your career, and onwards and upwards.
TP: My pleasure, thank you so much.
The audio version of this interview will appear on a future podcast. For more info on Tarah Paige, please visit her official site.