Already labeled as revolutionary by Vice Sports, Amazon’s newest series The Kicks proves itself to live up to its high praise given by critics and fans alike. Centering around a Californian high school girls soccer team, the show originally premiered a pilot last year that was so easy to fall in love with you couldn’t help but want more. Season one officially released on Amazon Prime last Friday and before completely binge watching the show myself, I got on the phone with the leading lady Sixx Orange to discuss the new season.
Based on the popular young adult book series, The Kicks, written by Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan, it tells the coming of age story of Devin Burke (played by Sixx Orange) after her family makes a big move from Connecticut to California where she joins her new school’s underfunded and misfit girls soccer team. “The show is pretty close to the books but we changed a lot. One of the major things is that in the book I have a sister and in the show I have a brother,” Sixx says. “And also in the books, they kinda do some relationship stuff, like a love interest, and in the show, we focus really strongly on the girl empowerment stuff not so much the relationship stuff yet. So, it’s pretty close, but we changed a lot to make it our own.”
Being fans of the books already, the actresses and actors chose to use the source material as somewhat of a skeleton for their work, “I think we just took what we loved about the books and brought it into the show. Because obviously we want to keep the essence of it because we knew so many people loved the books originally and we wanted to make sure the show did justice to it I think we did that but everyone just took what they loved about the books and did what they wanted to do with their characters and we just made the show.”
“For me, it was a dream come true because I have been watching Alex Morgan since I was really young, even when I lived in Maryland, I would go watch her play with my dad whenever she would come play in town. And then, you know when I got the opportunity to come audition for the show it was like, insane because I’ve always looked up to her,” Sixx shares. The show manages to give Alex shout outs including a cameo in the pilot which allowed the girls to interact with her.
Talking about Alex, Sixx couldn’t help but talk so fondly about her with the excitement evident in her tone, “It was awesome to get to meet her she’s really chill, she’s really cool, she gave us soccer tips, she asked about the show. She just talked to me about soccer which is really cool because I don’t really talk to a lot of people about soccer, mostly acting. So we talked about like state cup or something and she actually understood what I was saying it was really cool! But yeah, it was really fun.”
Aside from the experience being incredibly cool and life changing for Sixx, Alex making her appearance also allowed Sixx to see the way Alex worked, “I learned a lot, when we were doing this one scene where we were doing a celebration scene or shooting or whatever, she would give us like a formation jump which was really cool kinda like what they did in the Olympics or something like that which was really awesome. Or like if she wanted a throw in to look really cool she would tell us how to do that. She just put in little tweaks that made the show look really, really cool but for the most part, she was just awesome. She took pictures with everyone we had a lot of girls there who were playing on soccer teams and stuff and she just played soccer with us, so she was just really, really cool.”
Having played soccer in real life since she was four years old, Sixx very much knows the hard work and dedication that goes into playing the game. But with that hard work and dedication, also comes with grappling with downfalls and loses. We talked a little about the idea of losing and developing that thick skin. “I think you need to get it as soon as possible,” Sixx said immediately when I asked her how quickly someone needed thicker skin if they wanted to play the game.
“It’s so funny because I literally had this talk with my team last night, my regular club team,” she continues. “Mentally and physically, I think as an athlete you need to have a tough skin because you’re not always going to win at games. You could be the best team ever and you still could have the worst game in your entire life and any team can beat you. I mean, obviously, you wanna win but mentally for yourself and your team you need to be able to keep your head up if you’re down a couple or if you’re losing by a lot you still gotta keep going and be there for your team and keep fighting. But also, I think when you win you have to stay humble as well. But, yeah a thick skin is huge to have as an athlete because you’re going to make mistakes, that’s how it goes and somethings aren’t going to turn out the way they’re supposed to. But, that’s just part of life, but also the life of an athlete.”
And while soccer is definitely a huge part of Sixx’s life, and thankfully doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, Sixx admitted to me that there was a time when she considered giving it up. “When I moved out here, I was on a team—a club team—and it just wasn’t working out. I didn’t really like the club I was playing for so I wasn’t really enjoying soccer the way that I had in Maryland because in Maryland, that’s all I did was soccer.”
Similar to Devin on the show, this huge change grew more and more as a learning experience for her, “I tried out for this higher level team and I didn’t make it—and I’ve never not made a team—and for me that’s where I think I needed to develop my thick skin. I just went through that path where I was like, ‘Maybe, I’m not good enough. Maybe, this isn’t my thing. Maybe, I can only do this in Maryland.’ I don’t know I was like freaking out. But, then after a couple of days of not playing soccer, it was brutal and I’ve been playing soccer since I was four so I started thinking of all the games and everything and I was like, ‘No, I have to play soccer.’
“So I just trained really hard on my own and then the team that I didn’t make is actually my current team right now. I re-tried out in December and it took me three weeks and then I made it which actually, I think, is one of my biggest accomplishments besides The Kicks is doing that because I didn’t make it at first, and then I put in the work, and now I did so I’m really happy I didn’t stop because I love soccer, I play it every day now. I don’t know what exactly I was thinking,” she laughs as she continues, “but that’s exactly what the tough skin is for.”
When it came to playing soccer, it’s fair to say that Sixx and the game were almost put together by fate. “I tried many sports when I was younger, I tried lacrosse, I tried basketball, I tried cheerleading none of that seemed to stick that well,” she began about how even starting soccer so young she knew she wanted to continue. As she explained soccer coming into her life, she tried to find the right words to explain how much she loved it, the passion evident in her voice, before she went on to say, “You know soccer is one of the sports that I think like everyone plays. Even when they’re younger they play it once and if you like it you continue it and if you don’t, you just stop, but you played it. But, I love being a part of a team, I love the physicality of it.” She quips with a laugh, “I feel like I’m better with my feet than my hands, that’s for sure. But, yeah I don’t know, something just made me fall in love with it I mean I’ve played on many teams in Maryland, I still keep in touch with all of them, but yeah when I was there, that was all you did was play soccer. So moving out here was convenient and really important to me because it was a big part of my childhood and my like, thing for myself, is that I want to keep playing soccer until I can’t and as of now I still can so I’m still playing.”
Talking a little more about soccer, I asked her what she would say to someone else who was thinking about quitting soccer or sports in general. She thinks for a second and then says, “It’s hard because it’s a personal thing but it’s like, I’d say just keep doing it until you’re not having fun anymore. If you’re not going on the field loving it, being excited having your adrenaline rushing, being excited to get into the game, you’ll know that soccer is not what you want to do and that’s 100% fine. Like, that means you should just go try something else and see if you have that excitement and love for something.”
She continues on with her words of wisdom, “I say focus to see how you feel because if you’re feeling like a sport is like a job or it’s stressful or like you’re not even excited to like go play it then it’s probably not the sport you want to be playing. Like, I know when I go to soccer practice, I’m excited because I get to work with my team, I get to kick the ball I get to play games. That’s what I’m excited for but that’s because I love soccer. But I know when I wanted to go play basketball or something, I didn’t really want to go to practice because I did not enjoy the sport. So I think you shouldn’t be playing for anyone else. You should be playing or doing something only if you want to do it because you’re the one putting the time and the hard work into it so you need to make sure you really love it.”
A newcomer to acting, Sixx’s acting career started about two years ago, “I came out here March 2014 for a week to go to the Kids Choice Awards and in that same week, I had got an audition for Nickelodeon, just to try it to see if I liked it. I did the audition, I loved it, it was so fun. I had never done acting, like ever, like never even thought about it and it was super cool, I loved being a different character. I loved performing in front of cast directors, it was really fun for me and then I ended up that same week getting agents and then I went to a couple meetings, got a manager. So everything just kind of happened in like one week and me and my dad talked about it and were like, ‘Well if we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna have to move’ because doing this skype thing doesn’t really work the same way you kinda have to be here for auditions and stuff. So I was like, well I really, really love it like this is definitely what I want to do. So we were like, once I finish this grade we will move out here for a year or two just to see how we like it and if we don’t like it, we’ll just move back.”
In September, Sixx booked her first acting role with The Kicks pilot. Describing the whole opportunity as something that “just all kind of happened,” she expressed how happy she was that they made this decision and that the outcome has been as great as the experience., “I never really thought about [acting] and I think that’s why I love it so much we kind of just found each other like it wasn’t forced it just happened.”
“Devin is very close to me, I definitely have an advantage,” she says with a laugh after I compliment her on acting ability after watching the pilot episode. “Devin is sort of different from me so I can definitely tell a difference between her and myself but I got to bring a lot of my essence into it with the moving, the anxiety of moving to California. You know, leaving everyone and everything you know behind like no one else is here, it’s just you trying out for a new soccer team like it was very relatable for me and that’s awesome because I love getting to share my personal feelings and how I felt during these things but now I get to share them through Devin. So that’s awesome for me.”
As we continue leading into talking more about the show, we first find ourselves geeking out over the original director of The Kicks pilot, Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum. “Oh my God, I love Liz! She’s the best! I’m actually 100% with you; my sisters and I used to watch Aquamarine like a thousand times so when I found out she directed it, I asked her like a thousand questions,” her voice full of excitement, she laughs. “But, no she is awesome. She was there for my second audition for The Kicks and I was two months in on acting and so she knew exactly how green I was and we spent about forty-five minutes in the audition room going over and over and over the script and she had me do all this soccer stuff in the room like she’s crazy but she’s awesome, she’s so much fun.”
According to Sixx, Elizabeth greatly contributed to the group becoming a family taking them all in, inviting them to her house for parties, letting them watch playback, and keeping the set fun and encouraging. ”She came back to refilm some of the pilot this season so we got to see her again and we all definitely feel like we want this season to live up to her expectations because she started it and we all love her so much the show would not be the way it is without her. She sets the groundwork for it so she’s awesome.”
If you haven’t binge watched The Kicks on Amazon Prime by now, you’re in for a treat. It’s easy to want to root for these characters and gain an interest in wanting to see more of them and watch them find their own footing on their soccer team and on their own personal journeys. “She [Devin] starts to experience what it’s like to be around mean girls and why they are mean, but she starts to talk to Mirabelle and figure out why she’s upset and she just starts to realize teamwork stuff. How important it is to work with the team that, even though not all of them are that good, she starts to realize, like, ‘We need everyone on the team. So whether they’re not good or not, we need to make them work,’” Sixx shares about Devins arc throughout this season. “And then also family stuff, she starts to realize what bad choices can end up having, she gets in trouble a couple of times because she makes some bad choices. So she learns to think out her choices more. Yeah, I think all around, it’s a really relatable teenage show she goes through school problems, she goes through sports problems, and she goes through home life problems so I think she’s not done growing, but she definitely grows a little bit through the first season.”
“In the show, I think the way we grow together is with the soccer like the girls really get to interact,” she says about how the girls get to bond on and off camera. “Like, I know the character Emma, who is played by Sophia Mitri Schloss she’s really bubbly and really caring and really smart and she’s always there for her friends and then we have Zoe Knoxx who is played by Emyri Crutchfield and she’s super energetic and very positive so if Devin is feeling like really negative or unhappy, Zoe is always there to make her happy. I feel like they all work together I feel like everyone balances each other out. But, obviously outside the show, all of us get along really well, we’re all like a big family, we all don’t think of it as a job anymore, I mean obviously it’s a job but when we come into work, it’s just fun you’re just there with your friends playing soccer and being in a school and stuff, it’s just really fun.”
With season one already done, the cast now awaits confirmation for a season two. If the response and excitement is anything like it was with the pilot, the show is sure to return. Luckily, if/when it does, Sixx shares that she hopes the show continues portraying more of what it’s like to be an athlete, “I remember, when we were starting this season, I was talking to the writers because I’m the only one on the show who plays soccer, currently. I know Sophia plays a little bit but I’m the only one who plays, like travel club and they were like ‘What are some scenarios that normal soccer players go through, like, is it like lost uniforms?’ Like all these common scenarios that girls have when they play soccer. So, I went through a list of stuff and we made some episodes out of it but now I hope that they go further more into it like, maybe what you said, the thick skin in soccer, we need to develop that. Or injuries or something, like we wanna make sure that the soccer portion of the show keeps exciting and new and relatable you know, that’s our big thing. We want everyone to relate to it like even if you’re a boy or a girl or even if you don’t play soccer like this can relate to any sport, you know like it’s just an athlete thing. I think that’s what’s really cool I want all the kids and all the teenagers to be able to look at the show and be able to relate to it so I hope that it keeps succeeding in that like if we have a second season or third of fourth or however far it goes.”
As for her favorite person to work off of when doing the show? “I think my favorite dynamic on the show, for me, I really like working with Alejandro Furth, who plays Coach Rivas, it’s really fun to play with him because I feel like we work off each other really well. When we’re both talking soccer, he played soccer so we’re both like on the same page and it feels really casual. We joke around a lot so it’s really funny. But, you really see our characters in the show. That one, I really enjoy scenes with him, we get it done really well. But also, I really love working with my TV dad, Tim Martin Gleason, because I’m very very close to my dad in real life so Tim will go and talk to my dad and be like, ‘So what would you do if Sixx did dadada,’ so he can get what it would be like to be a dad to really invest himself in the father spot. We have a lot of fun, our characters are very parallel so we try to make ourselves as parallel as possible but yeah we just, we have fun. It’s cool, I get to feel like I’m talking to my dad because he’s not really my dad in real life, but he’s also my TV dad.”
A show focusing about a soccer team is bound to have a lot of fun and action. One episode that is a great example of that just so happens to also be Sixx’s favorite episode to film, “My favorite episode to film probably was the boys vs. girls game. Because we had our whole girls soccer team there and then we had the whole boys soccer team there and we got to do some cool stunts in that episode. But, I think all the girls loved working with the boys because we actually do make it a competition. In between cuts, we’ll play like one cup or something and try to beat the boys and it’s really funny. But yeah, it was actually a really funny scene/episode to film because the boys like didn’t want to touch us, like they needed to be physical and like bump up against us so that we could, like, knock them off the ball or something and they did not want to touch us.”
She laughed before continuing with recalling the experience, “They thought they were gonna like break us or something and I was like ‘No, no, no you can push like I’m fine, you’re not gonna hurt me, it’s okay.’ So they like got used to us and it was really fun. Eventually, they started to not take it easy on us which is good, it looked really good. But, yeah it was fun it was like a ton of kids just playing soccer. So like I said, it’s not like a job it was just really fun.”
Reinventing what it means to be a triple threat, Sixx is not only a soccer player and an actress, she’s also a musician. While you can’t find her music out yet, Sixx assures that she has ideas for putting out some of that work, “I have been thinking about songs I would like to write myself and songs I would like to cover. I love classic music so hopefully, I would be able to put some stuff out later on.” Currently busy with The Kicks, Sixx has her main focus on promoting and working on the show, but she shares that she’s focusing on her music in her free time with the hopes of releasing at some point.
Closing out our conversation, I asked Sixx if she could share the best and worst advice she’s ever received.
“The best advice I’ve received was from my club coach in Maryland. He said, ‘You get out what you put in.’ And what he means by that and I didn’t get it when he first told me, but it just means that the work you put into something, you’re gonna get a good outcome out of it. Or how much you put into something, that’s what’s going to be your outcome like if I put in a ton of work into The Kicks, if I bust my butt, then the outcome is going to be great. I’m going to have a great outcome. But, if I don’t put in that much work then I can’t expect this great outcome. So, what you put in, you’re gonna get out. So that, I’ve always thought, because if you’re in a game if you’re giving a hundred percent, a thousand percent, you’re gonna get a great outcome so I think that’s the best advice that I’ve gotten.”
Thinking about the worst advice she’s received, Sixx takes a moment trying to think of something, “I don’t know if that was really advice, but when I was in Maryland, there were a couple people who—I was getting ready to leave and try to work in movies or whatever—and they’d just be like, ‘Okay, but just be realistic.’ And I was like, ‘What?!’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, just be realistic just make sure you’re realistic there.’ And I was like, ‘…Okay?’” She laughs a little before continuing, “And again I don’t think I really knew what that meant when I was moving but, now I get it, they were like be realistic, don’t expect a lot. I remember when I was moving, like fifty percent believed in me, were really proud, were really excited, like thought I could do it. Then the other fifty percent were like, ‘Yeah, you can do it, but I mean let’s be realistic here I mean you’re going into the acting industry, you’ve never acted before…’ that kind of thing. So, I think that was definitely the worst advice I’ve ever gotten. But, luckily I was not being realistic because I got my job and I made it a thing. But, yeah that’s definitely the worst.”
(Photo Cred: Brett Erickson)