A talented actress at the age of twenty-two, Kara Royster has played roles on Faking It, The Mentalist, Scream Queens and more recently Pretty Little Liars and KC Undercover. Well-studied in her craft, Kara holds a strong set of skills to enhance her acting including improv, stage combat, mime, dance, and theater.
“I have played a lot of mean girls,” Kara said about the roles she’s typically drawn to. “And I think it’s a lot of fun, I think that you always can’t do it wrong and to them, they think they’re the funniest person in the room and the coolest.” She laughed as she added, “So who doesn’t wanna be that?”
But while she may usually be a mean girl on camera, off screen she’s the complete opposite. “Yeah, I think that kinda makes it fun,” she explained. “I mean, I consider myself sweet and I like being nice to people so it’s kinda fun to play that other side. And it’s so funny because I always love, like, the villain in the movies. I always think they’re just so interesting.”
A fan of Pretty Little Liars before joining the show, Kara now plays Yvonne Phillips. Currently the girlfriend of Toby Cavanaugh (Keegan Allen), Yvonne is a well-spoken young woman interested in politics, “I always hoped for [being on the show], but it was such a surreal experience to actually be in a place where I could be on the show. It was such a fantasy world to me because I was into all the drama of it.”
While Pretty Little Liars is already know for it’s twists, turns, and surprises, one of the biggest for Kara when joining the show came with how her character would be included. “The biggest surprise was that I was breaking up one of the biggest ships, the Spoby thing. It was actually really funny,” she said looking back on her audition process. “When I got the audition, the first time I went in, they had a fake name and it was Bob. Then, I got an email about coming in for the callback and it said ‘You would be reading with Keegan Allen’ and I was sitting there like ‘Why would I be reading with him? He’s already with Spencer?’ and then I was like, ‘Oh no! Oh goodness!’ I was completely flipped out and I was like, ‘They’re going to break up Spoby! That’s crazy!’”
Still a huge fan, Kara freaks out over every twist the same way viewers do, “It was crazy because I was also in the finale so I got to see the huge reveal of the twins and everything. So, I was kinda almost sitting there trying to close my ears off to it, but I couldn’t I was so excited to find out what happens.”
Every character on the show has at least one huge secret and the character Yvonne was no exception. It was revealed that when she was in high school, she had an abortion, a secret Kara was left on a cliffhanger with when she was first told. “I was at a table read,” Kara recalled about first finding out what happened to her character. “It was one that Keegan couldn’t make it to and Marleen goes ‘Oh my gosh! We just wrote about your abortion! Hold on one second!’ And then she had to go take a phone call so that was how I was left for a couple days.”
While Pretty Little Liars isn’t afraid of handling touchy/heavy subjects such as abortion, they also made sure to put a lot of planning and consideration into it. “We actually sat down and talked about it and that’s what I think I love most about this show is that they are willing to go there and talk about it and they’re like pioneering, especially with their transgender storyline and everything. I think that’s awesome and I was happy that I got such an interesting driving storyline.”
On KC Undercover, Kara plays Abby Martin, KC’s (Zendaya) long lost cousin who turns out to be a spy working for The Other Side. “I knew from the get go but we kinda slowly started letting people know on the cast so it was kinda like a cool reveal on the table read so people weren’t sure. Suspicious, but not sure,” Kara admitted as we discussed if she knew Abby was secretly a spy when she got the part. “So, I thought that was kinda a cool thing because I was playing the best of both worlds. I think that the first half of Abby was very much me and that’s how I just kinda acted and like a very sweet and kinda nervous and weird and then she turned into the bad guy that I loved to play. So it was cool to play both sides.”
In one of the episodes of the five episode arc, Kara and Zendaya have a fight scene in a hospital elevator which Kara assures for the most part is all them, “I really got thrown against a couple walls by Zendaya which was a very surreal moment for me. It was amazing, I got to do three or four days of fight training and I’d taken stage combat in the past so that was cool to get back into it. Zendaya and I just went through it and we had the stunt doubles for some of the little crazier parts and stuff, but for the most part, that was us.”
“I think it’s cool because you find out she really is her cousin so it’s like even though she’s been led astray by other people like—actually her family so like—she could’ve been good,” Kara said referring to the route that Abby went. “She wasn’t, but she could’ve been good.”
The five episode arc also revealed that with secret long lost cousin Abby, came her secret long lost parents played by Rick Fox and A Different World alum Jasmine Guy. “That was insane for me to see,” Kara exclaimed about getting to have Whitley Gilbert herself as her mother. “That was unreal! That was crazy! My sister like grew up on it and things like that so she was especially freaking out. And to have Kadeem [Hardison] there too, to have them reunite was amazing.” In the television series A Different World, Hardison and Guy played the iconic couple of Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert, a joke which gets referenced in the show.
“She’s so talented and plays the mean girl like she is queen, Queen Mean,” Kara continued raving about Jasmine Guy. Not forgetting where Guy and Hardison come from, Kara mentioned how much fun it was getting to see the two interact in person both on and off screen. “That was so cool to see and there was actually a moment , I wonder if it’s ever going to be seen, but there’s a picture that was kinda floating around of all of us on set and when we were filming, they started playing the Different World theme song, so we all got to like sing and dance to it with them. It was such a cool moment.”
Since working on KC Undercover, Kara and Zendaya have grown close. So, when Beyonce’s Lemonade dropped a few days before our interview, Kara admitted she was both shocked to see Zendaya make her surprise cameo and proud, “I did not know that she was going to be in it! She kept very closed off about it, but we did watch it recently together. I was so shocked!” She couldn’t help but rave about how amazing Zendaya is as she continued, “But not at all because she is so fabulous and she needs to be in it. Like it makes absolute sense, but it was so cool to see and I know that’s such a big moment for her and a dream come true for her so. She killed it!”
While it was hard for her to pick a favorite song, she chose “Freedom,” the song which Zendaya along with other famous, influential black girls such as Amandla Stenberg, Chloe and Halle, Winnie Harlow, and Quvenzhané Wallis were featured in. “It’s [Lemonade] insane and just the videos and all of it is…it’s very Beyonce. I think Beyonce is an adjective.”
Next, she can be seen in the film Mono available July 8th on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming. “That was such a cool experience for me,” Kara exclaimed. ”I play Christina Madison, yet another mean girl. She likes to keep the status quo of high school and it’s [the movie] where all of the cool kids in school go to a party and contract mono. So the kind of outcasts of the school are left to run it and become the head of the school.”
Part of what makes Christina, Christina comes from the looks she serves with her fashion and makeup which Kara was more than fond of, “Oh my goodness! The hair and makeup and outfits were everything to me on that one! I wore so many false lashes I would just end up waking up with them on, it was incredible.”
Kara gave credit to the makeup artist Natalie for fueling her excitement,”That was Natalie, she was amazing! We sat there forever doing hair and makeup and I was the happiest camper. I mean, Natalie is magnifient, I wish I could remember her last name right now, but Natalie was the makeup artists and she was so incredibe and I love when that happens; when there’s someone that’s so incredible that I don’t have to be like ‘Can I get a little more—” like things like that so we kinda got to work together she’s like ‘glitter?’ I was like ‘yeah! glitter!’, ‘you want your hair way up here?!’ and I was like ‘yeah put more hair extensions!’ We were like two kids in a candy store together.”
Even though it may seem like there’s nothing Kara can’t do, there is one special skill she hopes to develop. “I wish I could sing. That is like one of my biggest things,” She said almost immediately after being asked the question. “I can mildly carry a tune, maybe, not really,” Kara laughed. “I think singing would be so much fun. Like I did some little festivals and things like that so to just see people open up their mouths and sing and to be able to have that kind of connection with their fans and to be able to be on stage, I think that’s such a cool experience. Especially being around Zendaya who just like every once and awhile runs a riff off like all of a sudden. So I think that would be the one thing that would be cool.”
“I’m just very, very close with my family and they have been so amazing to me and so supportive,” She said citing her family as her inspiration. “They inspire me to do stuff every single day. Anytime that I’m like, ‘Oh I can’t do this” or “Oh I don’t know about this” they’re always right behind me and pushing me. They think I can do anything which makes me think I can do anything.”
Kara also pulls her motivation for acting from getting to interact with viewers and fans. “Just getting to be these different people,” Kara said sharing her favorite thing about being an actress. “I love when I’ll post something or talk about a character and people will be like ‘Oh my God that’s so much like Jessica!’ And I like just being relatable to people in their lives and putting it on screen and willing to have fun.”
And with that, Kara also hopes to use her power as an actress to promote self-love and important messages, “I hope to influence people to be confident and maybe in themselves and just to be a little bit bolder. I think sometimes I can be alittle awkward or silly or something so to be able to play like these strong characters or like just get people out of their box. And also, especially with things like Pretty Little Liars where they’re tackling such big issues, to just like get people talking. That’s something.”
Kara will be livetweeting the new episode of Pretty Little Liars tonight on Freeform.
(Photo cred: Wes Klain)