Exclusive: Netflix’s Purple Hearts star Kaitlin Huwe on balancing her many talents

Kaitlin Huwe
Kaitlin Huwe has a breakout scene with Purple Hearts co-star Sophia Carson. Pic credit: Kaitlin Huwe

Netflix’s new film Purple Hearts is a grown-up love affair film, a touching, genuinely sweet, and more realistic love story than served by the likely suspects of this genre, such as Hallmark. The premise centers around two unlikely people who find out they eventually rely upon and love each other despite the crushing odds against them. 

Kyle Jarrow and Liz Garcia adapted the screenplay from a book of the same name by Tess Wakefield. Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum, known for her previous work in Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, Dead to Me, and Spinning Out, is the director who helped actor and singer Kaitlin Huwe prepare for a memorable and tense scene with Cassie (Sofia Carson) inside of a drugstore.

The film sees Cassie (Sofia Carson) and Luke (Nicholas Galitzine) marry just for military benefits, which is illegal. Cassie has health issues and is a struggling singer-songwriter. Luke is a ramrod straight Marine with a bit of a past he’s running away from, and they find each other in a not-so-cute meet. Kaitlin Huwe co-stars as Kylie, who has a tense scene in the film.

And without giving away too much about the film, Cassie is a server down in Oceanside, California, struggling and trying to make it in the music industry, yet strapped with crushing medical debt. Then, she meets Luke in a scene reminiscent of the iconic film Top Gun’s “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” moment and instantly despises him. 

What starts as a phony marriage eventually softens into a poignant love story that shows how medical debt and being able to afford essential prescriptions is a luxury and not a birthright in America. Huwe has a moment with Carson in the film that will stay with you. There are many relevant issues the film addresses that play concurrently with this charismatic and unlikely love story, boasting some incredible performances and a beautifully textural voice from Carson.

Kaitlin is fast making a name for herself in Hollywood with several high-profile roles, including the Sundance Film, The Nowhere Inn, directed by Bill Benz and starring Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Carrie Brownstein. This Bay Area native is an accomplished singer/songwriter who trained at the famed Groundlings School in LA, is a graduate of the two-year Meisner Training at the Baron Brown Studio, and is a member of The Road Theatre Company. Kaitlin is getting ready to release a new album, and she performs live all over the country. 

Monsters and Critics spoke with Kaitlin Huwe about this breakout film for Netflix and how she approaches the two worlds of acting and singing.

Monsters and Critics: When you first read the sides to audition for this film, did you have any conversation with star Sofia Carson about how you wanted this play together?

Kaitlin Huwe: Yes. This audition came in the dark of COVID -so I hadn’t seen a script in a while. It was just coming out of the pandemic for me and getting some more opportunities. And so I was thrilled that it was more than one line, and now our industry’s coming back. So there was that aspect to it. And I think I honestly really related to this role. 

One of my jobs was working in customer service and at the theater’s box office. So I’m familiar with tense conversations with patrons or customers and the challenges. 

So the material felt familiar. Oh, I know this. I see this moment. I know this day. I know this feeling. And when I learned more about this particular issue and affordable medication, another layer of intensity came into the scene that heightened it. 

In my heart, I wanted to help Sofia Carson’s character. And yet there’s so much in the way of that. That was very real to me. On set, it was tense. Our director, Liz [Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum], was so great about letting us live in the moment, improvise, and be there. 

And these things came out of my mouth from my past in customer service. So once we got on set, we knew we just knew what we were doing. And we went into it, and Liz held that container. And she encouraged us to lean into the confrontation of this pivotal scene. 

M&C: Who brought you into the famous The Groundlings Theatre & School?

Kaitlin Huwe: My idols at Saturday Night Live, like Will Farrell and Kristen Wiig, had heard that that’s where they had studied, and that was on my bucket list of things to do to continue my training in Los Angeles. 

And what I loved about Groundlings was that it was improvisational. I laughed so much there. I felt like my heart opened there. I feel like I reconnected to a sense of play there. And then what’s so cool about the Meisner training is that we do these improvised scenes, and weirdly—rather than doing scene study—it got me more in the head of a writer and got me understanding the story more. 

I wouldn’t have expected that by doing improvised scenes. I would’ve thought, studying the great writers, but I’d already done that. So this was a great way of reverse engineering and figuring out what makes a great scene. What makes a great character arc? What makes a powerful moment and a performance? And so I’m grateful to that studio.

M&C: Can you tell me what the Meisner training at the Baron Brown studio is for aspiring actors, how you got involved, and how it applies in your career?

Kaitlin Huwe: Yes. I needed a place to train and where I could dig into a technique from start to finish. In undergrad, I learned many different styles and other techniques and exposure to so many different flavors. It came down to building out the capacity to be open and vulnerable.

And one of my mentors and dear friends, Monica Payne, who was getting her MFA at UCLA as an undergrad, introduced me to the Meisner technique. She would lead these weekly workshops, where we would do repetition. 

I learned how much subtext can go on any word. It doesn’t matter what the words are. But what you’re saying with the words. And so that was the journey. I knew that that was a technique that I wanted to explore more. Also, I was making music and wanted to go deeper into the depths of my craft. 

M&C: Do you consider yourself an actor first and a singer second?

Kaitlin Huwe: How much time do you have? It feels like acting and singing are just my right and left arms. They feel like two different sides of my body. Earlier in my career, I was more tormented between the two. What am I doing? Am I out here pursuing music? Or am I out here pursuing acting? 

My path revealed to me that it’s all connected. Especially it came through when I booked the St. Vincent movie where I’m in this film singing and doing comedy and acting—everything, all in one film. And I think that was the manifestation and physical proof that these all go together. So, yes, I can take time and be in the studio, focus on music, and do that. 

And then in another season, I can be acting more, doing a play or a series. So it’s like seasons in my mind, and in a perfect world, I get to do it all in one day, and I appreciate those depths I can find. So I think I’m going to write this music right now. or dive into this role right now, and it feels like it’s all connected. 

And my teacher at Joanne Baron & D.W. Brown, I was about to graduate, and I asked him, what do I do and which direction do I go? 

And he said, think of yourself as a three-season athlete who plays multiple sports. That unlocked my mind. I realized that it’s all part of a rhythm, part of a song, and a story. 

Rhythm and melody as a singer help me on stage, and where I know story and character, that also helps me in singing and songwriting. So just looking at the things I keep getting asked to do, it’s always at this intersection of heartful stories with music, drama, and comedy. I’m just starting to see a pattern of how it all is like a perfect storm.

M&C: You’ve been in many dramatic series: Animal Kingdom, SEAL Team. Are there particular roles that you shy away from or ones that you wish you could do more?

Kaitlin Huwe: I love it all. And I want to keep playing all of it. I’m very extreme, and I enjoy going and doing some extensive broad comedy or something dark and gritty. I want to expand my spectrum of what I can play and do. And that is what I’m interested in, a lot of really different things. 

And so one of the things coming up for me is working on my friend’s film, a Christopher guest-style mockumentary. Another project I’m working on is a more dramatic, heartfelt, music-filled TV series about death. It was like constantly going back and forth between the light and the dark. Someone else had said comedy and tragedy are the same. It’s just where you put the ending. 

I think the best comedy is when people are playing for the highest stakes and the highest drama, and it’s just about a stupid thing.

Netflix film Purple Hearts will stream on July 29.

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