Generally, actors use their words to get a role. Bryce Saxon uses her fists.
After posting a video of her boxing skills to her Instagram page, the actress found herself being approached to audition for a project called Conrad, a new pilot out of Chicago. Described as a crime series driven by “badass females,” Conrad looks to stand out from the crowd and inspire audiences to dig deeper, and speak up.
Now, nine months later, Saxon has wrapped as Emily Hodge on Conrad, and is waiting with the rest of her team to hear if and when the series will be picked up. In the meantime, you’ll still find her boxing, but will also find her out and about – and on stage – in Chicago.
We sat down with Saxon to get a first look at the series, her character and how Conrad could change the game.
To start, can you give a basic, beginner’s overview of Conrad?
So, Conrad is a crime investigation series. It’s about a girl who works as a detective, and her dad is the chief of this agency. And her dad suddenly dies; it’s not of old age, he just dies. They deem it a suicide, but the daughter [Katy] says, “This is not true. I don’t believe it, I will not buy it.” So she goes and reopens this case, discovering a lot about herself, and the people around her. Everything that she knew growing up seems to be a story or a lie that was told to her. So it follows this [Conrad] family and…some secrets and things. It’s like linens and things, but secrets (laughs).
There are a lot of variations on crime shows currently, so what makes Conrad different from other shows in its genre?
It’s crazy because we’re in Chicago, right? So we have Chicago Justice, and Chicago P.D., all of those. So what makes it different…well we’re low budget. So we’re doing this kind of on our own, it’s not like a Dick Wolf production. We’re building something that’s really creative and really quite brilliant, with very little. But what really makes it different ARE those twists and turns. Every character has a secret, even a school teacher. That’s what’s so cool about Conrad. As I’m reading it, and being engulfed in the story, it’s closer to home than you think.
What attracted you to the project initially?
Well it’s funny because I met the creator on another set. We were in [Netflix’s] Easy together. So followed each other on Instagram, and I posted a boxing video of myself, hitting the bag, you know, getting some kicks and punches in. And she commented like, “Wow, you’re a badass, I think you should audition for this show I’m working on.” So I said, “Absolutely, let’s go,” and she sent me some sides and I learned a lot about her pitch. What she wants for the show is women empowerment. So the main character’s going out and getting what she wants, and being that power source, as opposed to being that passive character. So, especially when I hear that, I’m like, “Yes, I love women empowerment. Let’s go. Team estrogen!” That’s something that really attached me to the project.
And then, even when I was reading the sides, my character is just kind of silly, and really close to me where she’s flirtatious and adventurous. She’s a good friend. I felt that I connected to the character.
Digging in a little deeper on that, can you tell us more on your character?
Absolutely! My name in Conrad is Emily Hodge, and I am a school teacher for elementary kids. She is single, and really flirtatious, so she likes to go out to the bars a lot. She’s kind of like, “Hey, I like accents, let’s talk to this waiter who has an accent.” (laughs). She’s on the prowl, so it’s interesting. Like, come on, we’ve all left our number on a receipt before! (laughs).
Well, on Conrad’s Facebook page, there is a production still of you, teasing that you might be a foe to Katy. Without getting in trouble, can you give us any spoilers on that?
Without getting in trouble…hmm. Well, the character is still developing. We’re constantly writing and rewriting these scripts, and you know, at first, I was like, “yeah, this girl is her best friend!” She is there for Katy, she wants to listen, she wants to help…sometimes a little bit too much. But, in that picture she is being very genuine (laughs). I promise. Later on, we start to learn a little more of Emily’s secrets.
It seems like people have plenty of secrets on the show. Can anyone be fully trusted in Conrad? I don’t want my heart broken by a character I like.
I don’t think our protagonist’s secrets are real secrets, she just wants to find out the stuff she needs to find out. She’s just really determined and strong-headed like, “Just tell me what I need to know.” So you really want to root for her and you’re on her side. I think along the way, as you go through her journey, you kind of figure out, “Oh I DON’T trust that person, I don’t like them at all.” I hope to god nobody that you like really turns around and stabs, well, physically stabs someone in the back (laughs) but hey, we all have our moments.
Was there ever a moment where you personally were shocked by something Emily said or did?
Absolutely. It was actually at a recent shoot. You know, I’ve always pictured Emily as this super genuine person. She’s really close to me, like I’m only that positive, optimistic, want to help. I want to be there for you, I want to be there for everybody, what can I do to make your life easier? And then all of a sudden I get this new piece of the script, and she does this scandalous thing and I said, “Oh snap!”
Most of this series takes place in Chicago, with Chicago-based actors. Does that add any kind of comfort or “homey” feel to the set?
As an actor, I feel like you step onto any set with an open mind and open heart because you have to be changeable. So truly, I don’t think it throws anybody off. But yes, there is a comfort to being home in Chicago. It actually does add a sense of unity to the cast.
How is Conrad different from your personal past works?
So I have grown up in theater. I went to school at Ball State University for my BFA in Acting. So just doing film and TV is different. But I do believe my acting training has helped a lot in that, with stage work and mask work. All of that physical aspect has helped me understand my body in a way that I understand film a little bit better. And also, I mean, you do a lot of student films in college, and those roles are just a lot of drunk girls (laughs). But Conrad is deeper. It’s fun to dive in and have something that you can grasp onto and relate to.
You have some big names attached to this project. John Prosky, Shannon Brown, Minita Gandhi. What kind of learning experience has that been for you?
People like Shannon Brown, on the set, are just so amazing. He’s been on so many different sets and it’s great because I give a little, he gives a little. And then it’s like a give a lot, take a lot, let’s figure out this scene together and knock this thing out. He’s just so professional and so fun. With Shannon it’s literally bringing the fun, and don’t forget that acting’s fun! We always forget along the way like, I’m acting and I’m SERIOUS and I have a SERIOUS face, but honestly you’re just doing your job. You learn a lot about just being a human on set, as opposed to being an actor on set.
At its core, this is a brand new show that you’re all building from the ground up. Does that add excitement or pressure to the shoots?
It’s funny, actually, this started as a two-page script for a very short film. Ryan Atkins was the creator of that and he cast Jen [Karum] as his lead and she said, “Wow, I really like this, can I please write some more?” And that’s kind of where it started and grew. As for the pressures behind it, I have to give some props to Jen because she literally does it all. She is the writer, she’s starring, she’s a major producer and negotiator. I think she takes a lot of pressure off of people, because she does take care of her cast a lot. You don’t always see that kind of person, but yeah, she gives her whole heart into this show.
For me, personally, there’s the pressure of going to an acting school and having everybody at school rooting for you saying, “I can’t wait to see the show!” But I’m like, “Well, you might never see it.” So I hope people get the chance to see it, I pray that they do, because there is a lot of content in this and a lot of amazing people that deserve to have that breakout.
We touched on this a bit earlier, Conrad centers on Katy Conrad, a badass female protagonist, and you’re her best friend. We’re seeing more strong female characters in Hollywood, do you think this will help further that trend?
Yeah, I definitely think that! Because, also, what media’s doing right now is going for people who look normal. A lot of our cast, you know, we’re not 5′ 10″ supermodels that are 110 lbs. We are people who LOOK like people, who ACT like people and then just to add the characters on top of what we bring as humans to the table definitely helps. People want to connect to people that they CAN connect to and relate to on film. So seeing a stinkin’ Victoria’s Secret model play a badass…it’s just like, I don’t believe it. I could snap her in one kick, you know? Like we open our pilot with Katy Conrad boxing the shit out of her boxing teacher. Women are badasses, we can do this. So it’s cool to pop that stuff in there.
So if boxing got you the role, will we see any of YOUR skills on screen?
(laughs) So I’ve been talking to Jen about it! I’m like, “Hang on now, I think you need a new boxing partner. Your good old friend Emily Hodge.”
Best friends that box together stay together right?
Sweat together, stay together. Box together, stay together. Yeah! Yes, I agree with that. I’ve been trying, so we’ll see what happens.
What would you say to potential fans to get them to watch the show?
I would say, “Hey, do you want to go for a thrill ride that you can relate to and you’ve never seen before?” You know what, I actually did this on the train the other day. I sat down by a stranger and I said, “Hello, how are you?” and we talked a little bit and I mentioned Conrad. And once people realize, “Oh, that’s the girl I sat with on the train,” they want to see it. So, for me, it’s more connecting to people on a personal level, because there’s so much I can’t give away.
In terms of timeline, can you reveal when we’ll see Conrad hit screens?
We take a lot of pictures on set. We just taped a new trailer, giving you more story, so that’s coming out soon. But we are putting together our pitch kits. We then send those out to networks. But we go to festivals, as well, so we’re looking into those, and that’s the next step.
You can follow Bryce and Conrad‘s progress on social media.
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