Beauty, brains and a heart of gold — actress Charlotte Ross has it all! Originally hailing from Winnetka, the daughter of Illinois to Princeton and Harvard grads, it was expected that she follow in her parent’s footsteps and continue in the field of education. However, falling in love with acting in the tender years of her childhood, Charlotte had other plans in mind and decided at an early age she would follow the “Hollywood” route instead. The roller coaster ride began after the young actress moved to Hollywood and landed the role of ‘Eve Donovan’ on Days of Our Lives, a role that later garnered her 2 Emmy Nominations. Proving time and time again she was no one-trick pony, Ross jumped into a variety of roles on numerous TV movies and landed the lead in Aaron Spelling’s, The Heights (FOX), which earned a Gold record for her and the cast’s singing.
Through the years, Charlotte has remained a prominent figure in the entertainment industry, starring in TV series such as CBS’s comedy “The Five Mrs. Buchanans” by Marc Cherry, NBC’s “ER” and made her mark on the Emmy Award winning show, NYPD Blue” as the tough talking Irish Detective, ‘Connie McDowell’. Her role as ‘Judy Fabray’ on the runaway hit “Glee” and numerous roles in high profile films only added to her already impressive resume and creative fire. Her continuos growth and constant reinvention through a diverse array of roles, as garnered her legions of dedicated fans.
Her latest role is no less ambitious and continues to showcase her talent. More than 2.5 Million viewers were glued to their television this blonde bombshell ditched the conservative flare of Judy Fabray and stole the screen in the VH1 sizzling scripted one-hour dance drama, “Hit The Floor,” during its premiere! In the series, Ross stars opposite Dean Cain and Kimberly Elise (Beloved) as Los Angeles Devils dance squad director/ basketball wife, Olivia. This sexy, dramatic series follows the lives, loves and deceit of the premiere professional basketball dance team in LA. When it comes to drama, with a recipe like that — who could ask for more! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Charlotte Ross to discuss her amazing career, ambitious role on ‘Hit The Floor,’ philanthropic work and much, much more!
You are such a familiar face in the world of entertainment. Going back to the beginning, how did you get started on your journey and what made you pursue acting as a career?
I think it chose me more than I chose it. I am originally from outside of Chicago, a town called Winnetka. It is not a place where people become professional actors, so I kinda broke the mold! My father Princeton and Harvard and so did everyone else in my family, so that was the wanted and expected route. I was more of a sensitive, emotional artist! [laughs] I knew what I wanted to do as far back as I can remembered! I think I was four or five years old and I had always said I knew what I wanted to do. I studied and used to dream of coming to California. I barely graduated high school because I was working and auditioning so much! During high school, it was between Christina Applegate and myself for the role on “Married With Children,” back when FOX was just starting. I have been doing it for a long time, so I am really thankful to still be working! This is my twelfth series, so I have been plugging around for a long time! [laughs]
Who would you cite as your biggest inspirations or influences?
One of my biggest inspirations was Bette Davis. I think she was just so amazing at what people like to call a bitch but was still so fun to watch you rooted for her. She was really groundbreaking in that way. I am also a huge fan of Katherine Hepburn and Meryl Streep. They are all strong women who play strong female roles. I think it is very admirable. In terms of admiration in life, I am a big animal activist, so I love Jane Goodall and people like that who have done such amazing work for animals in need!
Speaking of strong female roles, you role on “Hit The Floor” is a terrific example of your work in that realm. How did you initially get involved with the series?
Ya know, I was hesitant to take on another series because I know what that entails in terms of having a life or not with all of the hours. Sometimes series don’t go but sometimes they do and they go for years. You really have to get serious about if you can really imagine yourself doing the same show and same role for a long time. When you do agree to a series, you have to sign a five year contract. I was ready to work and do a series again but there was just so much crap out there! There is not a lot of good stuff sometimes, so you have to weed through and be patient. When I saw this project, I jumped at the chance. James LaRosa, our creator, reminds me of a young Mark Cherry, in that he knows how to write layered female roles that are really interesting and very well done. I think the political arena, backstabbing world of what it is like to be and stay a professional cheerleader is right with drama. Also, my character, Olivia, was just show juicy, sexy, smart, driven and fun! The show just had fun written all over it! I am also a fitness fanatic and I really love and appreciate the athleticism of these dancers! It is really quite extraordinary to watch them stay in the shape they are. It is a really fun, cool part of our show!
What is your typical process for bringing a character from script to screen and how does it apply to this character in particular?
I had no idea what it was like to be a professional cheerleader in the basketball world! It looked a little easy and fluffy. I had no idea the true nuts and bolts of what it takes to be on a team and survive on a team. I also didn’t realize they have to re-audition every year. They have to stay in peak condition 24/7 and can never wane from that, which is so amazing and relentless to me! It is a real business with people who are very serious about making money. I have a lot more respect for that world in general now and for everyone involved from the dancers to the people who are the directors like my character. My character is one who chose not to have a family and just be really successful. I find that really interesting when women have to choose between having a child that might hold them back in their career or trying to have it all and juggle it. My character is very, very driven and is now married to a Kobe Bryant equivalent played by Rick Fox, which is really fun. That fascinated me because whatever you end up choosing, the grass is always greener on the other side. For example, a career woman who has no kids might look at a mom in a minivan with three kids and wish, whereas the woman in the minivan might look at someone with the huge career and wish the same. It is always interesting to find that balance. I think it is very interesting, what my character chose and I also think playing a strong female role is really fun but keeping from falling into the cliché “bitch”. You can still be a strong woman and not be a bitch. I really like that fine line! I also get to, unlike “Glee,” where I wore baggy clothes and played like Ann Coulter, [laughs] I get to wear tight dresses and great shoes! I play a rich LA character who has a wonderful wardrobe and hair. Because I am a fitness fanatic, it works that I was a former dancing star, it works for the character that way. I am definitely having fun with this role!
You just wrapped up the first season and have been greenlit for a second season! Looking back on your work on the series so far, what do you consider the biggest challenge you have faced?
I think one of the biggest challenges is the fact we are almost like a heightened, scripted reality show, in the fact that in one episode, my character will be taken down by Jelena where she is sabotaging my future and doing all of the things. On the next episode, it is a complete 180º. It is very unpredictable and to be honest, that is the fun of it! I like how it is fast-moving, fast-paced and very unpredictable. Every character has such high stakes they are dealing or falling with. I am definitely having fun, I don’t know hard I am making it! [laughs] I also feel like a den mother to these girls because for a lot of them it is their first or second series and they are started to get recognized and popular. It reminds me of when I first started on “Glee,” because I was only on the show for a little bit but I was on at the first season and saw all of these kids, no-names having their lives changed! I hope, of course, we are the phenomenon “Glee” is! I kinda give them advice and feel super protective! I really adore them and want to help them flourish in this bizarre business we are in!
As you said, you have been in the business for a long time now and been very successful with at it. Looking back at your career, how do you feel you have evolved as an actor since those early years?
I think we all grow in life. Certainly, you are not the person you were five or ten years ago. You probably wouldn’t date the same people! [laughs] We are different! The more you learn about yourself, the more you grow and of course that is going to translate artistically. There is one thing I have told the girls on my show, which I have learned but didn’t understand when I was younger. I did a series when I was younger with Judith Ivey and Eileen Heckart called “The Five Mrs. Buchanans” for CBS. Mark Cherry wrote it at the time, way before “Desperate Housewives”. I came in all excited because I had this review that said we were fabulous, a hit and said fabulous things about me. I can’t remember what it was but I came in all excited and said “Oh my gosh! Have you guys seen this review! It says this and this… it’s fabulous!” I remember Judith Ivey turned to me, she has three Tony Awards and is an amazing actress, and said “I didn’t read it.” I said, “How could you not read this! How could you not want to see what it says about us?” She said “You know, you believe the good and believe the bad.” I did not get that philosophy at all at the time! [laughs] Part of surviving as an artist in this business has been me really wrapping my head around that, because one minute you are getting tons and tons of accolades and the next minute you are wondering if you should pack it in, retire and never go back to work! [laughs] It is very extreme that way! The way I found I can survive in an emotional sense is not to ride each wave as much. That takes time and maybe it has been painful and that is why. I think one of the reason I am still in the business and still working, which I am very blessed and thankful for. It is a rarity not just to get work but to continually get work. I think a lot of it is because I just hang in there because for every job you get there are nine out of ten “No’s”. You have to really learn the tools of picking yourself up and trying to keep going. Part of that is, as I said, trying not to get too crazy when everybody says I am fabulous and try not to get to depressed when everybody says I am awful! [laughs]
I feel it is pretty safe to say you are definitely far from awful!
Thank You! [laughs]
As we have seen through the years, you have quite a range. Is there still a particular goal you want to tackle sometime soon? A bucket list item, so to speak.
It is funny you mentioned a bucket list because I am definitely doing something on my bucket list this month! I am going to go climb Mount Kilimanjaro! People don’t really know that side of me! I play a lot of rich bitches in high heels and tight dresses but the truth is I am a tomboy at heart and someone who really loves nature! I have been wanting to climb Kilimanjaro for a while. I have been using the word bucket list a lot because I think we all have one and talk about things theoretically as time goes by but you are only young and in good shape for so long, so you should try to do some of these things! I am really excited because it is just as much a physical challenge as is an emotional challenge. There is always the question of “Can I do it?” or “Will I do it?” Hopefully, I can but it i intimidating! That is on a personal front! Artistically, I would do anything to work with people like Jodie Foster or Meryl Streep. And when I say that, I mean ANYTHING! [laughs] I would shave my head or shoot in Russia for a year! I don’t care, whatever it takes! [laughs] I just want to work with people I love and admire artistically, whether it is on the big screen or the small screen. I always want to feel like I am moving forward and growing. You never want to feel like you are going backwards.
You mentioned your love of animals earlier in the interview. I know you have worked on a campaign with PETA in the past, as well. Tell us a little about your love of animals and your work on their behalf.
I think everybody immediately loves animals. I just believe they should have more of a voice. It’s a voice for the voiceless kind of thing. It doesn’t mean you need to be radical or extreme. I did the “I’d Rather Be Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign, which I loved. I don’t know if people are really aware that eighteen to twenty-five animals go into one coat and how barbaric it is. Also, fake fur is so fashion forward now and warm, that it is really an archaic fashion that should be phased out. I did just get the Humanitarian Animal Advocate of the Year Award from The Humane Society of The United States. That is the stuff that really means the world to me. When you can have a modicum of success in one field and use that to bring awareness to things you are passionate about, it is a real gift that I don’t take for granted. They sent me to Washington, DC, where I lobbied and spoke on Capitol Hill about releasing chimps from testing labs. The United States is the only remaining industrialized nation in the world who tests on chimps. It needs to be phased out because the medical community has spoken and they are not the correct genetic model for HIV, Hepatitis B and C. The chimps are finally being released to sanctuaries, which by the way, costs taxpayers 1/10th of the amount. I recently hosted an event in Seattle for rescued chimps at the sanctuary. It really brings me a lot of joy to try to see these animals freed. My other big focus is our local county and city shelters and how many healthy, adoptable dogs and cats are put down on a daily basis. It is really tragic and I wish we had more no kill shelters, like Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary, which is located in Utah. We just don’t have enough space for all of the animals, so they put them down. I think people tend to think, “Oh, this dog is old.” when it is all of five years old and will live to fifteen. People need to realize if you drop that dog off at the shelter, it is not finding a home, it is being put down between 12, 24 and at the most, 48 hours. It is putting them to death. It is a big pet peeve of mind and it is something I try to bring more awareness to.
Absolutely! We are happy to help you spread the word on these worthy causes!
Thank you so much!
My last question is , as we are short on time, where is the best place for readers to catch up with you online and learn about all the irons you have in the fire?
Follow me on Twitter, @charlotteross! I am very into tweeting right now! I give a lot of fitness tips, talk about fashion and discuss a lot of the philanthropy I am involved with. I think it really helps you keep a pulse of things without even having to turn on the TV… except for my show! [laughs] You can also catch “Hit The Floor’ online now, as well!
Terrific! Thank you so much for your time today, Charlotte! We will be spreading the word on all of your work!
Great! thank you so much, Jason! It was fun talking to you!