“The Next Step” premieres Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel (Canada).
Not many actresses can say they died in Gerard Butler’s arms. But Alexandra Beaton did in the megahit 300, an auspicious beginning for a screen career.
Beaton then earned her stripes at ten as singin’ and dancin’ Baby June over a full summer season in the Shaw Festival stage production of Gypsy. From there, Beaton went on to TV and print commercials, shorts films and the lead in the TV pilot “Oona Explains It All for You”.
Now an award-winning university student, Beaton splits her time studying and acting the lead role of Emily in the new Family Channel series “The Next Step”.
Emily is the team leader of a troupe of ambitious young dancers in this unique series which Alexandra says will deal with the day-to-day personal challenges of the dancers as well as performance.
Emily says, “The Next Step is dance studio slash drama studio. We are everywhere. The Next Step is a semi reality show that follows the young students at Next Step Studios. We all have our dramas and see each other every day. We deal with everything, poverty, boy drama, dance drama and were really everywhere. I’m dedicated to it and I think dancers and teenagers will relate to it. Tune in because obviously I think it’s amazing.”
M&C: As the lead girl Emily, you had to make her your own. How did you do that?
Alexandra Beaton: Emily is very sassy, but she’s for the troupe. Everything she does is for the teammates and she does what she thinks is best. She favours her opinion over other people she really tries to keep emotions and business separate. Obviously that’s hard for a teenage girl. That’s what I brought to Emily. I’m pretty sassy but not as sassy as Emily.
I’m not exactly like Emily but I gave her a background, she’s insecure, she has her own life she has a good life and though she is everything for the team and she wants them to be the best, she’s also dealing with her own issues. There’s boys and obviously there’s boys, there’s always boys!! Then there is Michelle who plays off my biggest insecurity, a competitor in dancing. And she is an amazing dancer, Michelle is a national winner, but she comes into the studio and foils Emily’s plan that she has for the year. Normal growing up things.
M&C: You don’t have a lot of time to rehearse numbers but you’d never know it.
Alexandra Beaton: It was very challenging in the beginning, going in and not being so acquainted with your character and making her up as you went along, but it’s so rewarding because as you grow in your daily life so does your character and you constantly carry that and strap on your character and suddenly I’m Emily. And I am slipping into Emily’s skin now. I think we chose to do that way because it’s like a reality show. You can do scripts and all that but it does become something you have to play into and play ourselves.
M&C: So how did it all begin for you?
Alexandra Beaton: I think it started for me at a very early age. I was always bopping around singing acting dancing performances at home in friends’ homes, middle of the street so my parents said “We’ve got get this kid into something” so that’s where dancing started and acting classes and sooner or later I wanted to see where it would go and I landed here.
M&C: You played a full season onstage in Gypsy. Did you realise then that you loved acting?
Alexandra Beaton: Yes. I was pretty young so the gravity had really taken a toll on me but I remember it was amazing, so many people and the costumes the sets and going out every night and wanting to do my best. That’s why I decided to keep going, because of the emotional connection you had to the character and the body and it’s really gratifying.
M&C: You are such a busy girl and must be extremely disciplined. How do you buckle down?
Alexandra Beaton: Well, the first week shooting The Next Step, I chose to stay up really late one night and that did not go over well in the morning. And learning from it is what makes you do it. Yes you can have your parents telling you “It’s late, you’ll be tired in the morning” and I said “It is ten at night. I am not going to bed!” What I learned from it is that what really makes me get through. Now I make an honest point. “It’s ten? Why am I up? Why am I here”? It’s just learning from mistake every teenager in the world makes and we make a lot of them.
M&C: As well as your acting career, you are an award winning student at university. Would you describe yourself as “driven”?
Alexandra Beaton: What makes me so driven personally is the way I was brought up. We were taught to really strive for everything you want, and obviously if you work hard enough you can get it.
For school I had my weight issues and insecurities but if you play to your strengths and focus on your weaknesses, you tend to get there. In this business you get rejected and rejected and rejected and eventually you’ll get something, a play a commercial, maybe a feature film. If you don’t work at it how do you expected to get anywhere? You can try anything once and suck at it but try it twice and it might work.
M&C: You come from a show business family. Does performing and the desire to perform come naturally?
Alexandra Beaton: Yes and no. My parents have always been really supportive of anything I do and having a mother and grandmother in the business, they understand what I’m going through. For instance I’m going to bed at nine. And I’M tired and stressed and Emily wants to do this and this and they understand what I am talking about. But also, you are constantly living up to them because they’ve had amazing careers. I wouldn’t be where I was without them and having them, especially my mum and having them where with me for the ride me is another great asset.
M&C: Your mother Kate Wheeler is a well-known Canadian TV newswoman. Is she a bit of a stage mother?
Alexandra Beaton: Kate a stage mother? Oh. I love you Kate! She can be. She’s definitely not one to sit back and not be involved. She’s pretty good at letting me do my own thing. She’s not telling me how to act or what to do or anything. But she does have her own input and comments and I’ll be “Okay Kate! Alright!” No, Kate is a stage mother in the best of ways.
M&C: How do you envision your career down the road?
Alexandra Beaton: If you see me catapult to fame I won’t be upset – no thank you! I am going to university but obviously The Next Step is an amazing career move for me. Things could come up, anything can happen. I’m just trying to be smart about it and educate myself. And do what I love to do which is acting.
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