Interview: Karen David of 'The Scorpion King 2'
Tue, 19 Aug 2008 17:30:41
Karen Shenaz David Videos
Karen David has boundless energy. In the time span of 30 minutes on the phone with her, I became infected by her upbeat, positive vibes. Miss David is on pace to become a superstar. She hasn't done it all—yet—but she sure is equipped with the necessary skills to attain a decent degree of fame. I'm not just saying that because I found her to be delightfully sweet and friendly, either. Read on to find out why David, who stars as a warrior princess in the recently released DVD The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, could find herself to be the belle of the ball sooner than later. She waxes poetic—sort of—about hand-to-hand combat, having two birthdays, young ambition, and her mixed ethnicity.
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is a prequel to the first film, which starred The Rock. This film features the fashionably named Randy Couture, an Ultimate Fighting champion. Why do you think these films invite bulky, buff stars as the leads? What is it about the characters that brings athletes to the set? Please, hypothesize!
Randy has such a huge following and when I see him in action doing his fighting scenes, I would not want to be in that cage with him. He has the build and the look and he steps into the shows, because he has the physicality for it and the fight sequences are fantastic and it fits. He is used to all the strenuous training for UFC, so stepping into the Scorpion King role is second nature. It's enjoyable to watch a pro at work.
Let's talk about your character, Layla, the feisty femme warrior. Are you an alpha female like her? Or did you need to prepare to play a tough girl?
Well, physically, with all the training, it's almost ironic that the last two films I did were back-to-back action and adventure films! I did this film The Color of Magic with Jeremy Irons, Sean Astin, and Tim Curry, which is coming out next year. I filmed that film, flew to Cape Town to do The Scorpion King, so I was already in the routine of training a lot, and when I was in drama college, I studied in London, England and had taken fencing classes and engaged in sword fighting and stage combat. I am tiny, but tiny girls can be mighty, too. I enjoyed those period pieces and I latched onto it. Maybe that's the tomboy in me that came out. In The Scorpion King, the stunt guys were fantastic and patient from the day I landed on set. It was straight into training and learning fight sequences because they are intricate and require fancy footwork. You have to be on top of your game and know your moves because it's dangerous if you don't and you hesitate. It's one thing to train in the gym, practice one-on-one, and go through the moves, but when you are on set, it's different. In the Greek Arena scene, there's 800 extras running and screaming. It was pandemonium, with arrows being shot down! You have to know what you are doing. It was scary. Even though I was training every day before and during the film, it was hardcore. My body was so sore.
Fans don’t know how tough it is to be an actor, huh?
On my MySpace site, I blogged and gave updates and fans would say, "It's so glam," and I would be like, "Are you kidding me?" It's so not glam. I am wearing a beautiful costume, in a tight corset and miniskirt or hot pants, but I have swords on my back and daggers strapped to my thighs. I'm running on sand, which is hard, and I am running through fire and over 20 foot walls, having cold oil sprayed on me, making me feel icky. My character is feisty warrior girl and it seemed like it was nothing for her. She is fearless, there is nothing she won't do, even dealing with snakes! Karen and snakes? Not so much! I am petrified of snakes. I hate fire and I'm not glam! It was fun, though. Cape Town at night was quite cold since we were near the mountains and they’d spray us with water. I was soaked to my underwear and sitting in front of a fire. But I had to keep my muscles warm in between. We had long hours, six days a week with fight scenes every day for two weeks. I was beyond exhaustion where I’d laugh at everything! I could cry a little, too, since I was so sore. I used all that energy and emotions for Layla, because the arena scene was so beautiful. It was a gift of a scene, as an actor, to do. When it was done, I was a vegetable.
How do you maintain the stamina?
It kept me in great shape. I am doing promo for the other film and this film and I have an album coming out so I am on tight deadline. It’s been cuckoo for me. It's never an even keel. I have been on the journey for a long time and I am grateful that it comes together so I won't complain. I get sleep when I can. At home, I have a lot of Pilates equipment and I do a lot of that. The Wii Fit is fantastic. I am a total gamer girl and it's a great way to keep in shape; it’s like having a personal trainer. I like routines, but I can't have it that way when I’m traveling and flying and have things to do.
The role was physically demanding for you . What did you do to combat the stresses and strains on your body?
It's funny because exercise is a great way to combat stress. Training daily gives you those happy endorphins. My mind was clearer when I was in regular training so that was a big help. But trying to get sleep, because it is so important and elusive, was hard. I walk into a film and am very strict, sticking to a routine, eating properly, drinking water and juice. I take my vitamins and have a regimen, since that all helps and makes the difference. I want to do the best for the film, the role and remain on top of my game.
You are a goody two shoes on set!
I am proud to be a goody two shoes and a nerd. You have to be when it comes to work. You need to train, then train some more. Trust me, it shows if you don't! It's not fair to the fans. The Scorpion King is part of a franchise and has a huge fanbase so I wanted to be proud of Layla.
Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with the film or your career and that you rarely, if ever, discuss in interviews.
I have two birthdays. It's crazy, I was born in the Himalayas and when my family immigrated to Toronto, I was a baby. They got my documents incorrect because there was another girl named Karen David, so they reissued my documents. They don't do that carefully in the Himalayas. So they put June 15 instead of April 15, my real birthday. It’s only two months difference, but my parents never told me real birthday until I was eight years old, which was old enough to accept it. I always thought I was a June 15 Gemini when they were like, "By the way, you have a different birthday." I milked it for what it was worth, celebrating two birthdays because they never told me, having two parties until I was 12. My friends said, "You're an Aries, deal with it." It's sweet because they call me on June 15 to say, "Happy Fake Birthday."
You're a multi-tasker: acting, singing, performing. What's your favorite medium to work in?
When I was a little girl, I was so in love with all things Olivia Newton-John and Xanadu. I wanted to be blonde and blue-eyed and that wasn't going to happen. She could sing beautifully and acted in films, so that is what I wanted to do. I told my parents I wanted to act and sing but I come from a normal family. They were like, "Look, we have no Hollywood connections so work hard and take the initiative." I found a cattle call looking for cute kids for commercials in the newspaper, tore it out, stuck it in their room, made a call and met an agent and started acting. My parents always told me that dreams aren't free. I made sure that I paid my dues and laid those foundations because I want longevity. I went to art school and studied at Berklee College of Music and went to Young People's Theater in Toronto as a kid. I had an agent, took courses, went on auditions, got hundreds of rejections, and went to England to go to acting school on a scholarship.
You have an eclectic ethnicity, too.
Growing up, I wanted to fit in. I have Chinese and Indian in me and a Jewish last name, but I was brought up Catholic! Try explaining that to kids. I wanted to fit in but I was a nerd that had to get straight As. I was quietly ambitious and mysterious, never talked too much.
You've played a few warriors. Ever worry about typecasting?
No, I don't. I am just like other people and it's funny, because my last two films are leather and sword fighting and I'm a bad ass, but in The Scorpion King, I am a goody-goody. I've been fortunate to play different versions. Being of mixed heritage, I have played different ethnicities, too.
Here's your chance to plug what else is going on in your career, so get to it!
I am working on an album. Find out more on www.karendavid.com.