Woman with an Unbreakable Plan: Rachele Brooke Smith talks inspiration, CENTER STAGE, and positive thinking
Today, MToT is sharing a long read – a conversation that we had with Rachele Brooke Smith (star of CENTER STAGE: TURN IT UP) who returns as Kate Parker in Lifetime’s new sequel CENTER STAGE: ON POINTE. On a late afternoon that found my phone almost blowing up right in the middle of the call, Rachele and I spent time chatting about coming back to this world she first discovered at 13, what it means to her, and the inspiring plans she has for the near future.
I’m a huge fan of CENTER STAGE – looking forward to the third one. What can we expect in this new movie airing Friday?
Oh you can expect a really, really, great film. The whole CENTER STAGE is really dear to my heart. Playing the lead in the second one was a literal childhood dream come true for me. CENTER STAGE, the first movie, was the movie that I sat in the theater when I was 13, going through a really, really hard time in my life. I cried and had goosebumps and didn’t want to ever leave the theater, and I said to myself – I’m going to be like that when I grow up. I’m going to be like that girl, which inspired me so much. To get to years later actually do that, and play the lead in the sequel, it felt beyond surreal because I had watched the first [movie] on a very regular basis to push me and guide me through challenges, so to get to play Kate Parker in the second one, I almost felt like I was living a dream [laughs]. To get to come back in the third one was really so amazing. It was really cool for me, when they talked to me about it, and I read the script, there were definitely a lot of similarities in my real life, with my real little sister. Because I have a younger sister in real life just like I do in the movie, and it was so much so that I talked to the writers like, “have you guys been following my life? What’s going on?” [laughs]. It’s just been so cool, to me, to see the similarities between Kate Parker and my real life.
You’re living your dream, you want to be playing this role, and here it happens. Now you’re getting to play the character you can draw from your own life again. It’s almost like, are you coming down to Earth yet? Is it feeling like you’re still in a dream?
I KNOW! [laughs] With this film, and so many others that I have coming out this year, it’s just one of those moments in life where I work really, really hard, and I’ve always been a very, very driven girl. I grew up a very competitive gymnast and I’m all about setting goals and dreams, and vision boards, and writing out gratitude lists, and sharing stories and inspiring others. I think I’m so obsessed with the power of storytelling and creativity and film making to really change lives because they change mine every day. I think my obsession or my extreme passion for them, I think that I put that out into the universe so much [laughs] that it’s coming back to me! It’s such a blessing and I’m so grateful. In the third one, when people see it, I don’t want to give away too much, my character does come back and you see how, from the second one, all that she got to do in the second one and coming back this world renowned, very successful performer. Being on set and seeing my same little sister that played Bella, I think it was like, 7 years ago, when she was 11, and I was 19. And now it’s years later and we hadn’t really seen each other since, so to get to see her, and how much she’s grown up and what I’ve done in my real life, and to share stories and experiences, we really do, me and her, have this special bond from the other one we did together. I was so proud of her and so proud to see what she’s done, since the film and for her for this opportunity. This film is really about her, and my character is really there for her, supporting her. It was such a cool thing.
It has to be exciting – thinking back to being the 13 year old girl, watching this movie, and then getting to go to set with the cast coming back for this third one, you have Sascha (Radetsky), Ethan (Stiefel), Peter Gallagher is back. What was that like to be on set with them? Oh man! [laughs] When I did the second one, there was a definite intimidation factor. I remembered the first day that I worked on CENTER STAGE and Peter Gallagher first came in the room, he’s one of those people that just has that presence. He walks in the room, and you feel it. I was so young and so naive. CENTER STAGE: TURN IT UP was my first big film, especially lead in a film, and I had literally just got done, the craziness of me getting to play the lead in the sequel, that I had moved out to LA on a scholarship program from a very last minute audition that I ended up getting. I moved to LA, didn’t know anybody. I had two weeks to get out to LA and get all set up, and I did the scholarship program and I couldn’t work for that whole year. It was a very intense dancing / acting / singing performance art program, and so I couldn’t have an agent, I couldn’t audition. It was right after I finished that program, it was only a couple of weeks after that I saw a sign on the wall for CENTER STAGE 2 auditions for the lead role.
I was like “no way!” It was just at the time when I could actually audition for something. It was right after I had gotten pretty discouraged. I had signed with a really great dance agency but I had been taking acting classes for a really long time. When you’re young like that, you think you’re really good [laughs]. I was not getting [roles], getting turned down from some acting agents. I almost didn’t go. I will never forget that moment where I went home, just looking in the mirror in the bathroom, and just having this feeling, this voice saying “you have to go. YOU HAVE TO GO!” I went in 6 different times. It was this roller coaster ride of emotions. I kept going back to that moment in the theater when I was 13. It was this very powerful moment. Everybody else had left the theater, my family was looking for me. I didn’t want to leave that moment when I felt so impacted by the first one. When I was doing the second one, playing with those characters, I felt so nervous all the time. I felt so much anxiety all of the time. The pressure, too, a lot of my heroes were playing dancers in the movie and I was the lead actress. I think it was a big lesson learned for myself, to be able to feel those feelings but really learn how to use that stress and fear as fuel to my fire, to work that much harder, and give it everything that I had. I don’t know if I slept during that whole filming process because I just worked so hard. I think a lot of that pressure and that stress, especially growing up, like a said, a competitive gymnast, I really learned how to use that, all of those feelings of when you’re hurt, and tired, you don’t feel good, and you keep going. I kind of have learned to almost love that feeling of giving it all that possibly have, and pushing myself to my absolute limits. When I don’t have days where I have to push myself so hard is when I have to work to not feel sad.
Oh I know that feeling! If I’m not busy, I don’t know what to do with myself!
One of my favorite moments on the second movie: I felt so intimidated by Peter Gallagher as an actor, he really just scared me at first! I just wanted to be good, so bad! The last day that he was working, I just remember him coming into my trailer and saying “of course you can dance, but you’re a really great actress. I’m really excited for your future, and I just wanted to let you know that I really loved working with you. I’m excited for what you’re going to do next.” I’m just like, tears, this overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
You’ve been so busy – you mentioned a few movies coming out besides this one. What else is going on for you?
I’m really, really excited. I worked a lot over the past two years on some really great films and it’s really cool that they’re kind of all coming out now, this year. Was just in the film NICE GUYS with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and that was really cool to work on. This one comes out on LIFETIME on June 25, and then on July 25th, I play the lead in this action movie, it’s a Syfy film, I can’t say the name of it yet, but it’s going to be the movie that kicks off Sharknado Week on Monday night. It’s going to be July 25th, Monday at 9PM on Syfy. Another dream of mine, after doing my next thing was to really get into playing action hero characters and playing bad-ass girls in film. When I was taking dance, I really got into fighting and martial arts. That feeling of doing this really cool, crazy athletic stuff I just love implementing into characters. And so to play this girl, she is such a badass. It’s such a cool thing, and going into it, I didn’t realize how much of a big deal this Sharknado Week was for people, but to get the film from the production company, they said it’s one of their favorite shark movies that they’ve ever had. We worked really hard on that movie. We filmed in Puerto Rico for a few months. I still have battle scars from that movie [laughs]. I did all of my own stunts and got to have some really cool fight scenes, and stepping over fire, and a lot of it was filmed on the water, so there were different boats that I had to jump back and forth between. I think people are going to be really surprised and like that film a lot!
In October, I have a film coming out called COLD MOON – I play one of the main characters. Her name is Belinda, and she’s like this Southern Belle character. Again, another story of dreams coming true – I’ve had this pattern in my life, when I decide what it is what I want and I am brave enough to say it and really put it out there to people of like, “This is what I want to do next, I’m working really hard on this, I just know that this is going to happen,” I see it happen. I love to tell these stories to hopefully inspire other people who have different goals and dreams. It’s hard sometimes to be brave enough to say “This is what I want in life; this is what I am going to do.” There’s definitely that fear of like “What if it doesn’t happen? I don’t want to say it out loud yet.” [laughs] I do know that every time I’ve done that, I’ve watched it happen, so it’s amazing to look back on. I play this Southern Belle character that’s in this suspense thriller. It’s written by Michael McDowell who did BEATLEJUICE; he’s such an amazing writer and the film is just so good. It’s the same production company that I did the shark movie with. They’re just brilliant. I just think that they’re going to be some of the best film makers, especially when people see these films. In this film, I got to play opposite Christopher Lloyd, who has always been a big hero of mine. I grew up watching BACK TO THE FUTURE and ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD and things that he had done, so it was really cool to play opposite him. And to play this type of character – two of my strengths I know are playing action bad ass characters and laying Southern Belle characters [laughs], for some reason, I come alive when I do those characters. And then I have a gymnastics film called CHALK IT UP. We don’t have the release date for that one yet. But that one was really cool because I got to work with some of my best friends. One of my best friends, Nikki Soohoo, that I did BRING IT ON with, we’re still best friends and we do a lot of stuff together. It’s a really cool film for all of the gymnasts out there. I’m actually working on a film now called BOMB CITY that is an inspirational true story about something that happened in Amarillo, TX. I think it’s going to have such an impact on the way that people just view each other and look at each other. People that maybe look different from us, the way people treat others that are different from them. [editor note: we spoke just a few days before BOMB CITY’s star Ron Lester passed away]
You speak with a lot of positivity – I know that’s one of the big things about Unbreakable. What is it, why does it mean so much to you?
I’m so excited, and especially with the release of all of these films, I’ve really tried to work hard to plan it out with Unbreakable coming out at the same time. Unbreakable is everything that is inspired from what I call my CENTER STAGE story. I went through that experience of getting that role, playing that film, I started to look back on my life as a child and a teenager and looked at the different things that I did to be able to achieve these things. I felt so grateful and so blessed that I wanted to do anything that I could to inspire young athletes or artists, really anybody, that they can do it, too. Just like films or storytelling, I wanted all of my life to do that, too. I never wanted Unbreakable to be like, “do it my way, because I know everything,” because I don’t. I’m not a guru, I’m not an amazing expert at life, but I do know that I’ve learned so many tricks of how to find happiness, to find the good in the bad, how to overcome challenges and heal better and stronger because of them, and to always get back up again. As an actress, even in CENTER STAGE, Tommy says to Kate, “That’s it, you’re just going to give up after one rejection? That’s what this business is, it’s rejection after rejection after rejection,” and that kind of stayed with me. It was like, what is it that makes people successful in this industry or anywhere in life, and I think it’s the ability to always get back up again, and be better and stronger because of the challenges that we go through instead of allowing them to knock us down.
I started doing a web show about different things, advice I could give about my experiences, about how to always get back up again, and what I believe, what I call the Unbreakable Philosophy: What did I do today to get stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally/spiritually? All of those main elements of us – it’s not just about getting physically stronger all of the time; it’s the mental strength that maybe comes first. My logo is three interconnected triangles that all represent those different kind of elements of us. To remind, honestly, myself [laughs], to remember to connect all of those elements of you, and to really make sure that every day, you focus on getting stronger in each one of those. Not just one [laughs]. I found when I really committed to that, really great things happened in my life. I felt good about who I was and what I was doing. And so with Unbreakable, I’m really excited, too, because with the release of CENTER STAGE: ON POINTE, I’m going to release an e-book called “Your Creative Roadmap to Being Unbreakable.” It tells my story and goes in depth. It’s a very interactive book, different thanks-giving and different exercises that I’ve done to stay happy, healthy, and energized, and stay positive and optimistic about going after your goals and dreams, especially after you get knocked down and how to get up again. Always know that you’re going to come out on top, no matter what.
I have these inspirational audios that I’ve put out – the Unbreakable Action Hero playlist – as an actor who is kind of obsessed with action hero films and action hero characters, I just watched how action heroes and heroes of the movies, how they go through all of these challenges, they find creative fun ways to overcome them. In film, you know that the hero is going to go through, have this ridiculous stuff to get through, but you know because of their character, they’re going to figure it out and they’re going to have a great time doing it. I loved that concept and bringing it into real life. We’re all the actor, the writer, the director of our own movies, and realizing that we can take that same mentality of knowing who we are as people and the power that we all have to be strong and to be powerful and to really go after our goals and dreams. I made the audios that are there now, and I’m going to continually add one a month to the playlist, or one every so often, so people can have something to listen to that is inspiring. To remind themselves who they really are, and the unique talent that they have, what I call the unique awesomeness of everybody, just connecting to that strength, that inner strength that I believe helps us overcome challenges and be better and stronger because of them. I listen to them myself [laughs]. They help me so much that it was like, “gosh, I just want to share these with anyone who wants to listen, to help other people because it helped me in my life so much.” Before auditions, or before I have a big scene on a film, or before I do an interview, right before bed, right when I wake up and I’m ready to start my day. I have different ones that are made for different times. Anything to help people change their state and remind them of the awesomeness inside of them. That’s something we can easily forget about when dealing with everyday life [laughs].
Is the idea to build a community then where people would interact and tell their own stories of how this helped them?
Ab-so-lutely! That’s my vision for Unbreakable and the e-book coming out. I’m going to launch it the same day the movie comes out, and really for people that purchase it, they have access to a private Facebook page where I’ll go through sections of the book live with people, answering questions and giving tips and having other people share their stories. Every Friday, doing a Friday-Feature of how people within the Unbreakable community are being Unbreakable and achieving their goals and dreams, and with my charity, which is Unbreakable Dreams, which is really helping, when I get stories and videos of their living the Unbreakable mindset of getting stronger every day, and I want to help them make it a reality.
It’s something that actors, writers, artists can apply to their lives, but it also sounds far-reaching and could really apply to everyone’s everyday lives.
Yes! I think even on days I don’t have anything, I still listen to them. I think our morning and our night routines are so important to get us in a good state. If I listen to something that is inspiring, or I watch a movie that inspires me in the morning, it just changes the rest of my day. I set that intention for the day, I had that experience to start. And before you go to bed – you go through the day’s ups and downs just as a reminder about who you really are. I want to constantly put out content and reminders that we can help each other. It’s definitely not about me at all [laughs]. There are so many people that already do this that I really look up to, and that are big inspirations of mine. With everything I do, I want it to be that same thing of sharing, storytelling. That’s what film is, storytelling. All of our life stories are these incredible movies. It’s up to use to decide that kind of movie you want to write!
Part of Unbreakable is, I’m also working on my t-shirt company which is called Disruptive Apparel, which also launches Saturday. It’s really about when I have look back on my life of how I have remained, I guess, Unbreakable through challenges is to be disruptive in my thinking – to ask myself on a regular basis – what can I do to make the situation better? What can I do today to be happier? Really questioning things and questioning the people in my life and the things that I did every day, and this concept of being disruptive in your thinking for positive change in your own life and the world around you. It’s so powerful and beneficial, so I wanted to have t-shirts that all have different messages on them that do that. One of the messages is “Be Disruptive.” Another one is “I Don’t Work, I Flow”; another one is “Life Before Likes.” We’re doing a big social media health push because I’ve felt a pretty big impact, in a not so great way, when I wasn’t being disruptive in my thinking with my social media [laughs]. It was kind of taking over my life, and I had to stop and say “I don’t like how I feel thinking about what I’m going to post next, or how many people are liking it.” What can I do to have a better daily routine and I don’t feel so scattered and all about social media all of the time, and missing my real life. I have Nikki with me, and we’re setting up all of these workshops along with the shirts to go inspire young actors and dancers and singers and cheerleaders, everybody that’s in our little world. Creatives. Our mission is to really inspire entertainers and entrepreneurs to use the power of storytelling and creativity and disruptive thinking to promote positive change.
It sounds like you have no time, but do you have time sit and watch TV and movies? What do you watch to get your mind off things?
[laughs] I always make sure that I’m watching at least one show. I feel it. I have to go to the movies on a regular basis or I’m just not a happy girl. That’s my happy place. There’s something about being in the theater, I think ever since I had that experience with CENTER STAGE, I love it so much. I say that music and movies are my drug and dance is my therapy [laughs]. That’s my thing! I make it a priority to go to the theater at least every two weeks, if not every week. And you know, QUANTICO, I got really into. And I was really into NASHVILLE for a while, but when I saw QUANTICO, I have a turn-off time, because otherwise, I’ll stay up way too late watching it, and I won’t wake up the next day [laughs]. That would be a dream role for me, something like that, so I love watching it and studying it. I think they did such a great job on it! I just have such respect for writers, especially for writers who write TV and series. It moves so fast and what they come up with, it’s amazing, and I have such respect, appreciation, and admiration for that.
Is that a world you see yourself in? Creating, writing, directing, producing?
I’ve been doing a lot more producing recently along with the shirts, we’re working on a series that kind of goes along with the different messages. I really do love producing content. Writing and directing are things that will come way down the line for me. I love to brainstorm and create concepts and brings projects to life that I’m passionate about, that’s one of my favorite things, and connecting really great people in different talents, and I think that’s what makes a really great producer. I’m very passionate about that. I never say never! Definitely the actual me being a sole writer and a director will definitely come in my future, but in the far future!
For more information on Unbreakable and Rachele, be sure to find her online: