Originally from rural Illinois, the exceptionally talented actress Callie Johnson has racked up an impressive portfolio within the industry. Her varied theatre career, stretching from leading ladies in avant-garde cult classic musicals like Stephen King’s Carrie, to playing Ophelia and Desdemona, Callie’s talents know no bounds. Not stopping there, she can also be seen as a recurring guest star on NBC’s Chicago Med, and featured in Chicago P.D. as well as popular Peacock series A Friend Of The Family.
Callie’s latest endeavour is one of her most exciting to date, starring in the AppleTV+’s new film The Beanie Bubble, releasing on July 21st, 2023. Playing the character Linda alongside actor Zach Galifianakis and Elizabeth Banks, we simply cannot wait to watch her shine in this flash-to-the-past film.
We sat down with the thriving star to discuss early beginnings, how she gets into character, and her exciting new role…
Read the exclusive interview below…
Hey Callie! How are you doing?
I’m fabulous! Summer is finally here, our backyard pool is open, and I’ve got some great books on my summer reading list.
When did you first begin acting and how did you fall in love with the artistry?
I started dancing at a very young age; my neighbor growing up opened a dance studio in her basement, and my mom knew it was something I’d love doing. She was right! I proceeded to dance in dozens of shows, including over 80 performances of The Nutcracker. As a kid, I grew up watching the great movie musicals like The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story. My eighth-grade year, our high school needed kids to play the Von Trapp children in their production of The Sound of Music; I auditioned and got the part! I remember having absolutely no gauge on how well I could sing or act, but I knew I wanted to give it a try. I continued doing plays and musicals once I entered high school, and then decided to pursue acting in college. The moment I fell in love with the artistry was my junior year at Columbia College Chicago; we were doing this gorgeous blue-grass musical based on true events called Floyd Collins, and a few of my classmates and I took a road trip to Kentucky to visit Floyd Collins’ home. I had a moment of realization that we were doing something incredibly special; we were immortalizing these people by telling the story of their lives. I feel a sense of such wonderful responsibility being a storyteller.
Do you remember your first role?
Louisa in The Sound of Music.
You have worked across stages and screens — do you have a preference? How does your process differ for each?
I love aspects of both mediums – there really is nothing like performing in front of a live audience, feeding off their energy, and having such fluid creativity to shift and change your performance from night to night. However, with on camera work, there usually isn’t a lot of rehearsal leading up to filming which leaves a lot of room to capture spontaneous, magical moments. All of that being said – my process preparing for both is the same. I’m always asking myself: why this word now? What is this comma or semicolon saying about my character’s state of mind? Where am I breathing? What does the other character say that prompts me to say my next line? What differs is with on camera work you have the chance to try again until you get it right – with theater, there is no do-over button. The show must go on!
Do you have a typical process of getting into character?
Once I’ve done all of the prep work of analyzing the text and mapping out my character’s emotional journey, I have to trust that I’ve done my best and that I’m as prepared as I’m ever going to be. All that’s left to do is ground myself; hand on heart, hand on stomach, breathe.
What initially drew you to The Beanie Bubble and the character of Linda?
First of all – Beanie Babies were a playground status symbol for me growing up. My brother and I had hundreds of them! The nostalgia factor was an incredible draw for me to this film, and I was so drawn to Linda’s character because I recognized her – she’s a 90’s mom who loves her kids. I grew up with this woman! What I love about Linda, is that she’s such an unsuspecting baddie; she’s got this sweet demeanor, a darling Midwestern accent, and once she’s lured you over for dinner, she’s filling you in on how she snagged a deal on her latest timeshare. But, like all of the women in the film, she’s got a twisted relationship to the American Dream – no matter how hard she tries, she’s undermined.
What was the audition process like?
To this day, it’s probably one of the quickest tapes I’ve turned in; I was just so excited to tackle it, and I felt like I knew exactly what my version of Linda looked like. I watched a quick Beanie documentary, threw on my mom’s *literal* 90’s Christmas sweater, and spent about fifteen minutes familiarizing myself with the script. The time I spend working on auditions varies depending upon what each requires, but this one felt like pure instinct.
Do you have a favourite moment from filming?
I remember feeling a lot of anticipation leading up to filming my scene with Zach Galifianakis. The night before filming, I had a minor wave of “Oh no, what if I’m not as prepared as I think I am!”, sonI went back to the script and walked myself through all the work I’d done. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about; the next day was such a blast. I felt really empowered to be myself and to give my creative input. Zach is so easy to work with and offers up such playful comedic gold for you as his scene partner to grab onto and run with. At the end of my workday, he was so encouraging and told me what a great job I did. I was really touched, and definitely cried when I got back to my trailer – I was incredibly proud of myself! Another highlight: although Sarah Snook and I don’t have any dialogue in the film, we got the chance to spend the day together during my final day on set and she is just the loveliest human. So down to earth and kind. She recommended a great Italian restaurant in the city, and my partner and I popped in that very night for a celebratory dinner.
What are you most excited for about its release?
Sharing the film with my closest loved ones. They’ve been on this career journey with me from the beginning, and I know they’re so excited to see my latest work!
Do you have a career highlight?
Definitely too many to name, but my theater career in Chicago is what made me the artist I am today; from diligent student, to award winning performer, to becoming a SAG-AFTRA member, Chicago gave me the courage to believe enough in myself to move on to the next stage of my career. And now, I’m here! No doubt little Callie is super proud of me.