Arts & Entertainment

Lakeland Graduate Stars in Amazon TV Pilot 'The Interestings'

1a2b7c29aa90ce3dcf2d_e71dcf14141bd569c6fa_42248.PNG
Katie Balen stars in “The Interestings.” Credits: Screengrab/Amazon.com
fa7e62479bef9c35ebea_bb0c0c7af8894c059267_42247.PNG
Katie Balen
1a2b7c29aa90ce3dcf2d_e71dcf14141bd569c6fa_42248.PNG

SHRUB OAK, N.Y. - A Lakeland High School graduate last month, Katie Balen is ready for an “interesting” summer.

The Shrub Oak actress is currently playing the lead role in “The Interestings,” a television show produced by Amazon Studios. The pilot episode was posted to Amazon.com on June 16, along with seven other hopeful TV shows. The pilot episodes are available for free and, after watching, viewers are asked to fill out a survey. Based on feedback, Amazon decides which shows are picked up and which shows are not.

“It’s super-exciting and super-nervewracking,” said Balen as she awaits the news, which will be announced later this year.

Sign Up for E-News

Balen, 18, has been acting for years, landing her first professional gig five years ago in the first national touring production of “Mary Poppins” the musical, playing the role of Jane Banks. She has also appeared in several Yorktown Stage productions, starred as Glinda in Lakeland High School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” and has occasionally appeared in television commercials.

Hungry for another opportunity to display her acting chops, Balen said the audition for “The Interestings” came only a few weeks after she failed to land the lead role in her high school’s musical. Balen, who faced stiff competition, landed the lead role of Jules Jacobsen after a series of auditions in New York City.

“All of my friends who are also professional actresses auditioned for this,” she said.

After a few rounds of auditions, Balen and one other actress were called back. Each girl was put into full costume and make-up and read the pilot script with director Mike Newell (“Donnie Brasco,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”). Balen’s agent delivered the good news on a school night as she was getting ready for bed.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry to call you this late, but you got it,’” Balen said. “I didn’t have words. It was very cool. I worked very hard in taking the director’s notes, trying to improve with each audition. It was very rewarding.”

The format of “The Interestings,” which is split between 1974 and present day, makes Balen’s role of Jules Jacobsen quite different from a normal television role. Balen plays the teenage version of the character while Lauren Ambrose plays Jules as an adult. Prior to filming, Newell had Balen and Ambrose meet to coordinate how they would play the character.

“Lauren Ambrose is this fantastic actress,” Balen said. “At first I was like, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to play a younger Lauren Ambrose? I don’t how to do this.’ I met Lauren and we talked a little bit about the part. My director encouraged us to study her mannerisms and body language, even her voice. It was very detail-oriented. By the end of that, I had down her posture, the way she walks and things like that.”

Balen said her character is much more “chill” than herself.

“So I really had to tone it down for this role,” she said.

“The Interestings” is based off a novel by Meg Wolitzer and tells the story of a group of teenagers who meet at an art camp in the 1970s.

“It’s kind of just like this juxtaposition between that hopeful youth and what you think is going to happen when you’re older, and what actually happens,” Balen said. “These six kids, they’re all destined for greatness. Everyone says that about them. Jules is the new kid on the scene. She’s pretty normal, but they miraculously let her into the group and they become this squad and they go on adventures.”

Balen said she learned a lot working under the experienced Newell.

“He was really wonderful,” she said. “He’s very understanding of people and how they work. That’s really important for this drama because it’s character-driven. He had us go into rehearsal for a couple of weeks, which is really unheard of for television.”

While the series is based off a singular novel, Balen said she hopes “The Interestings” will be picked up for this year and beyond.

“The book is pretty big. There’s a lot of material,” Balen said. “There’s so many characters. What’s really cool is the writers are in contact with Meg [Wolitzer], who is the author of the book. She’s so excited about the pilot. They can come up with some additional stories for these characters.”

Balen is scheduled to study at Pace University in New York City, where she will continue to pursue an acting career.

“The Interestings” can be viewed at: amazon.com/b?node=9940930011.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Yorktown

Cuomo’s Frivolous Lawsuits Cost Us Money

Since Donald Trump became president, New York State has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the federal government. This includes those filed by both Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It does not include lawsuits filed by the City of New York. Most of them are political in nature, filed to please the plaintiffs’ voting base. In the real world, if we had filed ...

Live and Learn

When I was a senior at Fordham University (1970), the school initiated an experimental program allowing a small number of seniors to teach a professor-assisted accredited pass/fail course. I applied and to my amazement was one of three students selected. The course I taught was titled Philosophy of Education.

The underlying theory of my course was that every educational system has an ...

A Trip to the 'Liberry'

Raise your hand if you didn’t—did not—call the library the “liberry” when you were little. I’m guessing not a lot of hands just went up.

Didn’t just about all of us say “liberry” when we were learning to read? (Well, whaddya expect when a place is named something way too easy for little kids to mispronounce?)

OK. Now, raise your hand if ...

I'm Mrs. Heat Miser

To be perfectly honest, I did not need a large rodent with insomnia to convince me that we had six more weeks of winter. It’s been so cold outside lately that when I go out, my nostrils stick together. The dog is so hesitant to go out that he does his business right on the deck, less than five feet from the door, and then gives me a look of contemptuous indignation when he comes back in the ...

Should Valentine's Day Be Celebrated at School?

Dear Dr. Linda,

I’ve been a third-grade teacher for over 20 years and have never allowed my students to celebrate Valentine’s Day in my class. I know my colleagues think I’m mean, but I’m refusing to celebrate it for many reasons.

1) Children hand out cards to each other and there’s always some child left out or who gets very few; 2) Children are always asked ...

What Next for Sober Houses?

February 7, 2018

To the editor,

As Yogi Berra famously said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

As reported in the Jan. 25 edition of Yorktown News, 482 Underhill Ave. is back in the sober house business, this time operating as a “family,” not a convalescent, home. And because it’s operating as a family home, there are no town regulations, standards, guidelines ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, February 22, 7:00 PM

NY Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, Cortlandt Manor

Book Club for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

Sat, February 24, 10:00 AM

Jefferson Valley Mall , Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Indoor Farmers Market

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Sat, February 24, 12:00 PM

Club Fit, Jefferson Valley

Yoga for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown Receives GreenFaith Certification

February 16, 2018

The First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown has completed the requirements for GreenFaith certification (www.greenfaith.org). GreenFaith is an organization which helps religious communities grow in environmental leadership. GreenFaith certification was a two year process that required a number of accomplishments in the areas of stewardship, education, worship, environmental justice advocacy, and ...