By Catherine Cheng, AKOM Editor
Chandler Kinney is best known for her breakout role on Amazon Prime Family’s “Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street.” Even outside of the show, she loves the magic of childhood and taking up challenges. To give back to the community, she crafts handmade blankets for foster children and sponsors a child in Ethiopia through the Compassion International Organization. Read on to find out more about her story.
AK: You caught the acting bug when you were cast in the stage musical “Twist.” Tell us a bit about the musical and your experience starring in it.
CK: The musical, “Twist” is based on the story of Oliver Twist. I had several roles in it, most of which were dancing roles. I was also the understudy for Oliver Twist himself. So not only did I have to learn many dances and songs, I also had a lot of dialogue. This show was directed by Debbie Allen, and I was cast in it when I was 9. We performed at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. Including all of the rehearsals, shows, and events, we were in Georgia for about 3 months, and we did about 50 shows! It was truly an incredible experience and I learned so much. I worked with many talented people who inspired me in many ways. The more I trained in acting, the more I enjoyed it. When I got back home, I wanted to really pursue it.
AK: You’ve appeared in a number of commercials. Which commercials were your favorite ones and why? Did you have trouble filming any of them? Were you ever nervous?
CK: One of my favorite commercials to film was a Jif commercial. It wasn’t for their regular peanut butter; they were releasing a new chocolate hazelnut spread. I had two scenes, one where I ate the chocolate spread on bread, and another scene with the spread on a strawberry. If you know me, you know that I love chocolate. So, while filming, I politely turned down the “spit bucket” and continued to eat it all day! At the end of filming, they gave me a jar of the product and it made my whole day! Yeah, I had a little stomachache at the end of the day from eating too much, but it was completely worth it and I have no regrets!! I can’t ever remember having any real trouble filming any commercials. I don’t get nervous for commercials because there isn’t as much pressure and it’s usually just a day of fun!
AK: You also appeared on many popular television shows. Tell us a bit more about your favorite one and your role in it. What is the hardest part about being an actress?
CK: I have guest starred on several shows including CW’s 90210, FX’s American Horror Story, and Nickelodeon’s Haunted Hathaways. They were all very different and lots of fun. My most recent guest star role, and one of my favorites, was on Disney’s Girl Meets World. I had watched the show before so seeing all of the sets in person was very cool. The whole cast and crew was really nice and fun to work with. The cast was so intelligent and talented. I loved getting to know them! The hardest thing about being an actress is auditioning. There are so many great roles and it’s amazing to even get the opportunity to be considered for them. It is hard sometimes to put everything into an audition and not be right for the part. You just have to stick with it if you love it, and you’ll do great work.
AK: You are best known for your role as Catherine Dillman on Amazon Prime Family’s Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street. What were your favorite parts about the show and your character? What made the experience memorable to you?
CK: One of my favorite things about Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street is that it’s the truest and purest story of childhood (of course, with a little hint of magic). We show the good, the bad, the awkward phases, and the beauty of friendship through it all. I loved playing Catherine and I’ve learned so much from the entire experience. One of the things that made the show so memorable for me is the people. We had the most amazing cast and crew. So many creative minds worked on the show and made a brilliant energy that was just wonderful to work in. Everyone put everything they had into their work and I think it is apparent onscreen. I’m so thankful to have met everyone and honored to work so closely with them.
AK: You started dancing when you were three. What do you enjoy most about dancing? Do you have a favorite type of dance? If so, why?
CK: I enjoy so many things about dance. I love when you get so lost in the movements and the music that it just becomes really fun. You forget about everything else because it forces you to let go and be completely in the moment. For example, I was at Youth America Grand Prix and I had injured my neck. I was in a lot of pain but I was about to do my solo and I really wanted to push through it. As soon as my music started and I began to dance, I wasn’t in pain at all until I got back into the wings again. I had the best time on stage. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s just a great feeling! I love ballet, hip hop, jazz, and contemporary. I can’t pick a favorite from these styles. I’ve always trained in a wide variety of styles, so I have always just enjoyed them all.
AK: What is it like to be in a dance company? What are your favorite parts and the most challenging parts about being in the Debbie Allen Dance Company and Los Angeles Ballet Academy?
CK: Being a part of a studio is a big responsibility and commitment. Competing in a group is a lot of work, and also fun. The hardest part about being on a team is all of the rehearsals and time put into dances and shows. It is necessary, yet it’s sometimes difficult to fit it in with my schedule, especially when I’m constantly auditioning and filming. The best part about being on a team is gaining great friendships.
AK: How did you first get into taekwondo? Tell us a bit about the activity and what you love about it.
CK: My two older brothers actually started taekwondo before I did, and I wanted to give it a try. It’s an awesome sport! Not only do you learn great self-defense techniques, but the sport also teaches you about the importance of respect, loyalty, perseverance, responsibility, discipline, and humility. Through taekwondo, I’ve also made some amazing friends!
AK: What were the hardest parts about becoming a black belt first degree? How did you overcome these challenges?
CK: Becoming a Black Belt isn’t easy, and I’m only a first degree! You must face many challenges. You have to be physically and mentally strong, and you’ll probably end up doing stuff you never thought you could do! Honestly, one of the hardest parts for me was my attendance. Because I was filming and competing in dance, making it to practices was a challenge. However, my coaches and family were able to help me get through it to receive my belt!
AK: You donate handmade blankets to charities in the winter. Tell us a bit more about the charities you donate to and why you believe in giving back to the community.
CK: My mom and I make no-sew fleece blankets to donate to charities for kids of many ages who are in need and aren’t as fortunate. Giving back is so significant because I want children to know that someone cares about them. It’s also a way of returning love to my community and showing appreciation. Lastly, it just feels good to help people who need it! If I am capable of making a positive difference on any scale, why not do it?
AK: How do you make blankets and when and why did you start creating them?
CK: To make the blankets, we first handpick out a wide variety of fabrics. Then we cut the trim of each blanket to make it even. We cut fringe around the whole border and tie knots in each fringe for style and to keep them secure! Depending on the size of the blanket, each one can take 30-45 mins. We just make them when we have the time. It’s actually easy to do when you are just talking or watching TV. We started Chandler’s Friends, my new organization, by sending these fleece blankets to a friend of ours in Missouri who is a foster mom. She is always taking in new children and a lot of times, they don’t have anything that is their own. We enjoyed sending them to the kids so much that we decided to make it an official organization!
AK: Please help us understand Compassion International Organization a bit more. How do you participate in the Organization and why is the Organization significant to you?
CK: Compassion International is a nonprofit child sponsorship organization designated to ending child poverty around the world. You are able to choose a child to sponsor and donate to. You also get to learn more about them, their family, and life. I love being a part of this program because there are so many children in the world who need help. I’m helping to change someone’s life for the better. Everyone deserves love, an education, and health care. Just from what I am doing, a girl in Ethiopia is receiving that and much more to improve her life. I love that so much.
AK: You’ve been pen pals with a child in Ethiopia for two years now. What are your favorite parts about the communication and how has the experience changed you?
CK: I enjoy writing to the girl I sponsor in Ethiopia. The experience has been truly amazing. I’ve learned more about her, where she lives, and about her culture. It has expanded my view of the world. I’d love to meet her and her family one day.
AK: What are your goals for the future – both professionally and personally?
CK: I’d love to continue to work and become a top actress one day. I would like to film consistently and produce strong work. I’d like to inspire, entertain, and make people think through my work. I’d also like to break boundaries and make positive changes. I hope to challenge myself in many ways. Lastly, I will continue to grow and learn as an actress and human being.
AK: What advice would you give to our readers about following their dreams and making a difference?
CK: Don’t stop chasing your dreams until you’ve caught them all. I have many goals I want to attain in my life, and some of them scare me, but I intend to achieve them! Things won’t be easy, but keep your head up and be your best. And if you want to make a difference, go for it. Small changes lead to big differences!
AK: Is there anything else you would like to add?
CK: Thank you so much for the interview! If you’d like to keep up with me and what I’m doing, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @ChandlerLkinney. XO