Across the world, there is a universal fascination with gymnastics. It’s beauty and grace overlay one of the most competitive sports in the world. ABC Family’s teen series MAKE IT OR BREAK IT takes viewers and fans into this fiercely competitive world as seen through the eyes of four friends, Payson, Kaylie, Lauren, and the newest teammate Kelly (who replaces Emily, their teammate who had to drop out last season). The third season of MAKE IT OR BREAK IT follows the four gymnasts as they pursue their dreams of “Olympic Gold.” On the thorny path ahead lies more morale quandaries, boy problems, money issues, injuries, and other temptations. In an exclusive interview, star Ayla Kell shared a few insights about her character Payson and what lies ahead for her and The Rock teammates.
AYLA: I think it’s great that she’s so gung-ho and so go-gettum about achieving her own big dreams and that she never lets anything stand in her way. She knows what she wants so much that nothing can stop her at all. I think that’s such a great message for girls watching the show that you can achieve great things if you keep your mind at it and keep to it.
She also seems like she listens to own voice. If you could give Payson one bit of advice, what would you tell her?
AYLA: Relax, I think. She’s always so up tight and holds a lot in. That comes around this season when she’s forced to kind of get out of her little emotional box that she puts everything into — her little gymnastics box. So it’s a really exciting season for that because you get to see her come through this whole transformation.
Payson has had to go through quite an ordeal. She’s had the broken back storyline; she injured her ankle in the championships. Do you find as an actor that it is easier to portray a character who is injured like that, or is it harder to actually play a healthy character?
AYLA: I actually love it. I had a bad injury, so I relate to it completely. I know what its like, so I love getting to play the devastated character because there is so much emotional range you get to go through there. Then I got to fight my way back, which I think was really so much fun to get to do because a small part of you starts to feel like you’re achieving something when your character achieves something.
She’s had to work really hard to get back to that place. I was cheering for her!
AYLA: I had to work hard physically to get back to that place too. So I know I’ve done my fair share of hard routines to make sure that Payson made it back to being eligible for Olympic glory.
How hard do you have to personally train to look like somebody who is going to go for Olympic gold?
AYLA: Well, we have gymnasts on set all the time, and they are constantly working out because that’s their life. So we just try to keep up with them and sit with them on set, and that keeps you from getting lazy and just sitting around and eating craft services all day. But, on top of that, I always make sure that I stay active outside of it. I’m naturally an active person, so it’s not hard for me to stay in shape for the season. But its definitely added pressure having to wear a leotard.
Do you perform any of the actual routines yourself, or is that all done by the stunt people?
AYLA: I do only dance stuff. So basically for this last episode, what we did is I did was all the dance stuff and my stunt double didn’t learn the dance routine at all. She just did the two jumbling steps and that was basically it. Everything else was me.
That is remarkable! I admire so much just watching the people go through all that on the screen. It’s like, “Whoever’s doing that is doing a great job!”
AYLA: Thank you! My dance really got displayed when I did the Swan Lake routine and we had to face the cameras for the slow-mo cameras, I definitely wanted to grab the stills from that just to use because I was happy with them.
It also looks like Payson is going a new romantic journey with Max. But I’m kind of curious because I know the actor Josh Bowman got cast in another show, will he be continuing to work on your show as well or will they bring in another love interest for Payson?
AYLA: No, he doesn’t stick around with us for very long. We bring in a new guy pretty much right away. Where we’re going with this season is we’re at the United States of America training center — the Olympic training center for the U.S. team. So there is a whole new set of characters and people and coaches. It’s a new season with a whole bunch of new drama.
Are they going to address pretty quick as well the conflict as far as the Healthy Bar money versus the scholarship from Stanford being offered?
AYLA: Yeah, they bring it back up throughout, obviously because Payson is not eligible for college because of the scholarship, so her need to get on the Olympic team is obviously at a dire point. So when I have to decide to do a safe routine or really go out and do a completely spiced up routine that my boyfriend may see, I have to decide: do I want to play it safe or do I go for that big risk for everything that I’ve given up and my parents have given up knowing that I can’t go to college anymore? All of those things weigh on her conscience this season with every that she was building up towards in the last 10 episodes.
Is this the season that they actually go for the gold, the Olympics or is it just the training up to the qualifiers?
AYLA: We went to qualifiers this season in the last episode, so the goal this season is if the girls make it on the Olympic team, then they will go to the Olympics next season, hopefully.
That would be fun! There seems to be a lot of camaraderie between you and your co-stars. Does it feel like you’re really bonded over the past three seasons in such a way so that you’re having a lot more fun in portraying these characters?
AYLA: Absolutely! This season especially because we were all together all the time. The storylines all go off in different directions from time to time, but we were together a lot. And so it was a lot of time spent in the gym basically with each other to entertain ourselves. It definitely helped us to get closer and with what the girls were going through this year, it was really important how successful all the girls were, it definitely played into how our friendship got stronger.
It just felt warmer. It was nice to see that they were not as competitive amongst each other and they were leaning on each other more. That camaraderie just came through. This next season, as they are trying to achieve their dreams, are they pulling together more or is it going to make them more competitive with each other?
AYLA: Obviously, there is that realization that there is only one gold medal even though all of them having saying, “We’ll go to the Olympics together and we’ll get there together.” But there’s only one individual who gets the gold medal and that kind of sets in towards the end. But at a certain point they realize that their team and their bond and their friendship and support for each other outweighs the competitive level. Because even though it is an individual sport, it is also a team sport.
So what do you want your fans to look forward to this season?
AYLA: There’s all sorts of great stuff this season. I cannot say enough that this is absolutely my favorite season yet. We got to grow up our characters a lot this year, which led to a lot more situations, which we could deal with. Plus, we had Chelsea Tavares playing our new character Jordan Randall, who is a guy from the other side of the tracks who has a great storyline that they do with one of the coaches that they bring in and they give her a molestation case and it is one of those things that is really prevalent and I love that we were able to do something that is so current, so right now. I really think this is our best season yet with everything. All of the pieces just fell into place this year. And there’s a salsa scene — it was my favorite thing to shoot. Now you know there’s a salsa scene! I’m a dancer and Tom is not, so they put us in salsa classes — I’m mean I’m getting to do salsa classes — it was so much fun. So now when you watch and you see that scene, just know I was having a ridiculously good time.
What else are you looking forward to looking beyond MAKE IT OR BREAK IT as you go on hiatus again?
AYLA: Now that I’m back on hiatus, I have the joy of food back since I don’t be in a leotard. I get go back to auditioning for stuff. I have one thing already lined up, which is “New Gen,” which is a movie from a comic book series, and now I’m back doing auditions. So things are looking good. In this industry, a break is still running around and doing a million things.