TV star tackles studies at McGill
KIRSTEN PROUT: ‘Humbling to realize you . . . know nothing’
After three years as one of the stars of the ABC Family TV series Kyle XY, Kirsten Prout is trying a new role — she’s a first-year arts student at Montreal’s McGill University.
“It’s humbling to realize you basically know nothing,” says Prout, back home in North Vancouver for reading break. “I grew up on sets where I was treated like I was 25, allowed to make decisions for myself. It makes you think you know what you’re doing. In university you’re in classes with incredibly intelligent people — you realize you’re not an expert on everything.”
Kyle XY airs its last episodes in March. Prout played the girlfriend of the title character (American actor Matt Dallas), a mysterious teen savant adopted by a suburban family. Prout was playing her own age in the show, unlike the eight-years-older Dallas and most of the show’s other actors.
“It was so surreal. I had to put my head in that place where everyone was the same age as me. Otherwise it would get so weird. I think that made me grow up pretty fast,” says Prout, who attended West Vancouver’s Collingwood school while doing her TV work.
From an early age, Prout wanted to be like the princesses in the Disney movies. “It was just that desire to be a character, to be someone else.”
Her parents, a neurologist and a social worker, thought she’d outgrow the urge, but she kept asking her mother to take her to auditions. They finally gave in, and a first audition for a TV movie was encouraging, even though Prout didn’t get the role.
She scored a commercial with Wayne Gretzky that required the successful kid to spout a monologue that included the word “sustainable” and other polysyllables. “All the other kids were crying outside, their moms were like, ‘It’s Wayne Gretzky. You have to do this right.’ It was a big speech for a kid and I had a really good memory.”
That was when she was about 10, and soon afterwards the pre-teen Prout told her agent she didn’t want to do commercials anymore. It might have been that commercial she did involving kids on go-karts, where she was supposed to be cheering the other kids on.
“I let out this scream like I was being murdered.”
A casting director heard the scream and put her on an episode of TV’s First Wave as a possessed little kid.
“I was wearing makeup like I was dying. That was great. I had a lot of fun. I guess I was born 40. I couldn’t take Barbie commercials seriously.”
More roles followed, including her turn as a young martial arts whiz in 2005’s Elektra alongside Jennifer Garner at age 14. Then came Kyle XY and the balancing of a hectic TV shooting schedule with work.
“My mom was always very supportive. She saw that when I was on set, I just lit up. She couldn’t take that away, but at the same time she encouraged me to go to school.”
The Vancouver-filmed series aired on the U.S.-only ABC Family network, which meant Prout could be anonymous back home. And steady work meant Prout didn’t have to dip heavily into the education fund her parents had saved for her and her four-yearsyounger sister.
“They still insist on helping me out. But my parents didn’t have to buy me my first car. I was able to do that.”
That would be the Audi TT convertible she left back home, away from Montreal’s harsh winter.
This summer will bring a return to Vancouver and more auditions, and Prout concedes that acting work might sometimes interrupt her literature and philosophy studies. But she wants to go the distance, as earlier child actors Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman did.
“Natalie Portman skipped a Star Wars premiere to study for an exam. Those are my role models.”
North Vancouver’s Kirsten Prout has starred in Kyle XY for three years.