If you were placing bets on how the warm and bubbly Kelly Stables would get her big break in Hollywood, chances are you wouldn’t have guessed “playing a creepy little girl who attacks Naomi Watts in a bathtub.” But thanks to legendary makeup artist Rick Baker, who helped her land the role of “evil” Samara in The Ring 2, that’s exactly how it happened.
Luckily, Stables has found a role closer to her cheerful personality on the hit show Two and a Half Men. She plays Alan Harper’s girlfriend Melissa, who has been described as “Tinkerbell with knockers.”
Stables recently talked to us about breaking into the business, working with Charlie Sheen and John Cryer and her “make-me-pee-my-pants-if-it-ever-came-true” dream.
Where are you originally from and where do you call home now?
I now call Los Angeles my home. I’ve been out here going on 10 years, and I love LA. But I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Cardinals are in first place by like 10 games now, which is very exciting. I still follow the St. Louis Cardinals because, if you’re born in St. Louis, you’re just kind of born rooting for the Cards.
But that’s where I was born and raised and I went to college at the University of Missouri. I graduated early and packed up the old Ford and moved out here. Nine and a half years later, here I am.
How old were you when you decided to make the big jump and to head out west?
To be fair, I’ve always wanted to pursue acting. My mom was a teacher and she’s taught second grade most of her life, and she would always tell me, “Well, Kelly, I get to act in the classroom every single day. I get to read in fun voices to the kids and you can do that too.” I actually majored in education for a semester, but my thesis at the end of that semester was “I don’t think I want to actually be a teacher.”
I had wanted to do it for as long as I could remember, but I didn’t do it until right after college. So I guess I was 21 or 22.
If this has always been something you’ve wanted to do, is it then safe to assume you were always involved in drama and things like that growing up?
I remember being five years old and being an angel in the Christmas play and the two other little angels were giggling because they were nervous up on stage. And I remember thinking, “You know, if I’m being an angel, then I wouldn’t be giggling. I should just be watching over people” or something ridiculous. I’m like, “Why are they giggling? They shouldn’t be giggling.” So even at five years old I was thinking as that character should be thinking.
That was just itty bitty, but then I got involved in school plays and quickly found out that I could really be myself when I was acting. I always got a lot of support from friends and family and I was trying to do any play available in school. In Missouri there really isn’t an opportunity to do on-camera work, unless you want to be an anchorwoman or something with the news, so I majored in communications because that was the only place to do that. But yeah, it’s something I’ve always had a passion for.
Packing up and moving halfway across the country is never easy. How tough was the transition, and how tough was it to break into the business?
It’s very tough. I’m definitely an underdog. I didn’t know one person in LA. I moved out here alone. I didn’t have my Screen Actors Guild Card, and I wasn’t in any of the unions. But I knew that this was what was in my heart and I had to at least give it an honest try. But it was tough, because so does everyone else who moves out here.
I started out doing “extra” work, just so I could be on set and see what it was like on a movie set. It just so happens that one of the very first movies I got cast in was Planet of the Apes, where I played a little extra monkey, and through that experience I met Rick Baker, who did the amazing makeup for that movie. He remembered me from that and referred me for The Ring 2, so I kind of found out that this is just like any other business. You meet people and build connections. You just try to get out there, do a good job and be on time.
Was there ever a time when you thought you might have to give up and do something else for a living?
Absolutely. It wasn’t until The Ring 2 that I stopped my day job, so to speak. I did accounting at a theater company when I first moved here, and then after that, I did the bookkeeping for a small production company. I definitely had to have that source of income. (Laughs). I knew I couldn’t wait tables because I’m not strong enough to hold those big trays, and plus, I’m so short that they would be hitting people as I walked past them.
You mentioned The Ring 2. What was it like to be a part of that sequel?
It was amazing, mainly because I was the canvas for Rick Baker. He’s an Academy Award winning makeup artist and is just awesome. He has such an amazing imagination, and works so well with the director and producers. I’ve been asked before, “Were you scared shooting the movie?” when we were actually shooting the movie I wasn’t because everything was so technical.
It was Dreamworks, and they have a lot of money to spend, so they would take the time to get each shot exactly how they wanted it. And the wig that I wore as Samara was $15,000 because each piece of hair was sewn on individually. It was pretty cool working on it, but I wasn’t scared filming it. When I’ve watched it and would see the parts that people would get scared at, I was sitting there thinking, “I remember when we shot that. We had lobster for lunch that day or that’s the day so-and-so got sick.” I guess I just remembered everything going on at that time.
I’ll tell you what was interesting and what I learned about fear of the unknown. That’s why they wanted to keep Samara’s face covered with the hair. They didn’t reveal my face too much because you want the audience to be wanting more. If you show it, well, then they’ve already seen it. The fear of the unknown is a very powerful fear.
You’re a very warm and bubbly person. Samara? Not so much. What was it like to play a role like that?
(Laughs). Well, the difficult part was that it took five and a half hours to put all that prosthetic makeup on me, and then we would shoot all day and night. And then it took an hour and a half to take it all off. Obviously that’s a lot of time required, but it was all part of playing that role. I think the roles I play on television are a lot closer to me. First of all, there’s not that prosthetic mask that I’m hiding behind. But it’s acting, and not to sound too cheesy, but it’s my passion and I like to play all different kinds of roles.
You’ve appeared in such shows as Til Death and How I Met Your Mother. What’s it like to walk onto the set of an established show like that?
It’s very important to know your lines and hit your marks. In my opinion, you need to just do your job that you were hired to do. It’s not really the time to go out and have fun and be like, “Hey, check out my improv skills.” Do your job and make it easier for all those people who have so many other things to worry about. But I think you’re treated well, as long as you go out and do your job.
How did your role on Two and a Half Men come about?
Through a regular audition. I got called, had an audition, went, got called back and this is one of those moments I will never forget. I was sitting in the hallway right after I auditioned and they were letting all these other girls go except for me. I was working on Greek that day, and I knew I had to show up there a couple hours later and the casting director said to me before all of the other girls left, “Hey Kelly, can you hang on a sec? Your agent wants to talk to you about Greek.”
Well, they let all the other girls go and he says, “Really, we just wanted to let you know you got the part and Kelly, this is big.” My heart just sank and I tried with every fiber in me to not start screaming and crying because I was so excited. I tried to play cool and was just like, “Oh, thank you very much,” but then I got in my car and was screaming. I was so, so happy. But it was just like any other audition, which is why I say that the majority of my job as an actress out in LA, who came out here knowing no one, the majority of my job is auditioning. I just try and do a good job and make a good impression during my auditions because when I actually get the opportunity to work, that’s the icing on the cake.
That brings up a good point. How many auditions do actors and actresses go to before they finally get that break?
It definitely depends on where you are in your career and the credits that you have. Now, keep in mind, I moved out here with no credits, except for my local theater work. It’s a Catch-22 because you can’t book a job unless you have credits, but you can’t get credits unless you book a job.
There are ways that actors who are just starting out can submit themselves. They can actually submit their stuff online – their pictures and their credits, if they have any – and try to get smaller, independent movies. That’s what I started doing. That’s how you get credits and they’re movies that people will never see, but at least you have something. You gain experience and some ‘know how.’ There’s been times when I did a couple of auditions in a day, and then others when you go a couple weeks without doing any. You just kind of have to expect the unexpected.
Getting back to Two and a Half Men, you play the bubbly and energetic Melissa. How was the role described to you when you first auditioned for it?
She definitely was not described as petite. As a matter of fact, I’m sitting in that waiting room with all of these beautiful, voluptuous women and I’m thinking, “Why am I here?” you find yourself in that mode and you have to quickly talk yourself out of it. You get somewhat of a character description, and I don’t even remember if it said bubbly. I’d have to go back and check. But I do know when Berta calls me a Smurf or “Tinkerbell with knockers,” all of that was written after I got the part. There was one point where the writers came up and asked me if it was cool to write in that stuff and I said, “Do it all you want. Go for it.” It’s not like I haven’t heard it before. I can take it. I’m a big girl … well … not literally.
When you landed the role did they give you any idea how many episodes you’d be involved in?
No, not at all. I was told one, with the possibility that it might recur.
Well, you definitely seem to be making the most of the opportunity. What’s it like working with such established guys like Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer?
It is the most fun and rewarding, and it’s been a great honor. Jon Cryer is such a professional in every sense, and his skills are amazing. His physical comedy is hysterical and he’s just the nicest person. He’s a family man and he loves his work and being around him has been a great lesson for me. He always shows up on time, knows his lines and does great work. He’s just unbelievable. Charlie Sheen is the same way. They’re both such professionals. It’s such a great lesson for me, and it’s so much fun. So much fun. I’m extremely grateful for this time in my life.
Talk to us a little bit about Greek and your role as Janette.
It’s a show about fraternity and sorority life in college, which is something I lived through. People back home ask me if the show is accurate, and yeah, it actually is as far as all of the politics behind the Greek system, rushing and all that. It’s a really great show on ABC Family. Its super fun, and I guess being associated with that network, they were able to offer me a movie that’s going to air on that network at Christmas called Santa Baby 2, with Paul Sorvino, who plays Santa Claus and Jenny McCarthy, who plays his daughter. I am vying with Jenny for the right to take over for Santa Claus’s job, so that’s a cute little family movie coming out around Christmas.
But like I said, Greek is just a super fun show and it’s got great characters, and the actors are really great to work with too.
What else are you working on these days?
The most exciting one is the pilot that just got picked up. It’s called Romantically Challenged, and it’s with Alyssa Milano and Kyle Bornheimer. It’s a sitcom and Alyssa and I play sisters. It will air on ABC as a midseason replacement and it is just really funny. All of the writing is hysterical, so I’m really excited about that. We should probably start shooting sometime in October.
What goals do you have set for yourself?
I would like to continue doing amazing, funny and fun work on TV. I’ve found that to be very rewarding and really fun. I’m also a writer and I’ve been dabbling in screen plays. I don’t know if I have the quick wit to do TV, but I’m trying to write a screen play by the end of year. That’s my goal.
Is there a specific genre you prefer?
I love chick flicks. The Notebook and Beaches are two of my favorites of all time. Movies with the mother-daughter relationship are compelling to me.
Chick flick or not, who in Hollywood would you like to work with?
I’ve always been a big fan of Kristin Chenowith. I admire her and feel like I should thank her for opening the door for petite little blondes. I’ve always been a big admirer of Sally Fields and Reece Witherspoon is another great actress. Those are a few great, strong actresses. My ultimate dream would be to do a movie musical with Baz Luhrmann. I’m a theater nerd, and I love musicals. My ‘make-me-pee-my-pants-if-it-ever-came-true dream’ would be to do a movie musical with lots of glitter. (Laughs).
Can you sing?
Yes! I love show tunes! But I probably carry too many tunes. (Laughs).
What do you do in your free time?
I like to do home improvement. I’m going to be installing new cabinets this weekend, which is something I like to do. My stepfather is a carpenter, so he taught me how to do some stuff. I like to get ‘hands on’ and see immediate results. Although, admittedly, everything takes me 10 times longer to do than it should. But I’ve installed a fireplace, replaced the hardware on my doors and rewired the cable. I like to do all that kind of stuff.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
My feet are not ticklish whatsoever. You can put the tiniest little feather on my foot and I won’t laugh. Maybe I should put that on my resume.
Interviewed by Brian Murphy. You can learn more about Kelly Stables at her official website.