An Interview with Callie Johnson
Callie Johnson is an actor known for A Friend of the Family, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med. Having spent 12 years working in Chicago theatre, Callie stars in the upcoming AppleTV+ film, The Beanie Bubble. I spoke with Callie about her theatre background, landing her first role, and The Beanie Bubble.
Did you always want to pursue a career in acting?
I can remember the exact four-way intersection where I told my mom, in a fit full of tears, “No, mom, you don’t understand; I want to be an actor!” I have absolutely no memory of why I was crying (I was twelve, that could have been it), but I remember how fervently I needed her to understand my dream. At that point, I’d never acted in anything before, but I was no stranger to the stage. I’d been a dancer for most of my life, and I loved performing, but I also loved movies and musicals. I can’t put my finger on why or how I decided that I needed to be an actor; all I can say is that it was this deep knowing inside of me. Twelve-year-old Callie’s instinct has guided me and kept me grounded and focused throughout the years. I know she’d be so proud of where I am today!
Did you receive any formal acting training?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater from Columbia College Chicago, and since graduating I’ve continued my training by delving into classical theater like Shakespeare and Chekhov. Studying the classics has drawn me to material that utilizes heightened language. I still love musicals, but I consider myself to be an actor first and foremost.
How did you land your first role?
I’d grown up watching movie musicals, a favorite being The Sound of Music. My eighth-grade year, our high school announced that they’d be hosting auditions for the Sound of Music for their spring musical, and that they needed younger children to play the Von Trapp family. I’m so grateful that I felt brave enough (again; I’d never acted before, let alone sung publicly!) to throw myself into the ring. I booked the role of Louisa and haven’t stopped performing since.
Your background is in theatre. What was the transition from stage to screen like?
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!
Who are your acting heroes?
I’ve always admired Toni Collette. She’s such a versatile, fearless actress, and I’ll watch anything she’s in. She isn’t afraid of going to dark places or of being messy. From The Sixth Sense, to The United States of Tara, to Hereditary, I find her incredibly captivating. Her career is *chef’s kiss*.
Could you discuss your role as Linda in the upcoming film The Beanie Bubble?
My character, Linda, is a suburban Chicago mom whose cul-de-sac becomes ground zero for the Beanie Baby craze - with Linda at the center. She may seem like just a soccer mom, but below the surface she’s a fierce entrepreneur with a knack for finding ways to creatively capitalize on the “Ty” brand. She really admires Ty Warner as a businessman, and I think Linda’s ultimate goal is to be recognized for her creative gusto and to be treated as a peer by Ty. For me, this film really explores the female relationship to the American Dream and how it’s often undermined.
What are you currently watching/reading?
I’m actually in the middle of doing a Carrie Coon deep dive; I really admire her work, and I feel like we would play similar characters. I recently watched her season of Fargo, and now I’m on to The Leftovers. I won’t lie - I feel a certain kinship to her, being a fellow Chicagoan, and her presence on screen is so Chicago. Grounded in complete truth. Fully listening to her scene partner. It gives me goosebumps. Aside from that - I’m always watching What We Do in the Shadows and I loved this most recent season of I Think You Should Leave. Few things make me laugh harder. Currently reading, surprisingly enough for me, a fun young adult fantasy novel called The Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. It’s definitely outside of what I’d normally read, but I’m enjoying it! I took my first real trip into a memoir-land, reading Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner, and I won’t ever be the same. Highly recommend it. Be prepared to feel all the feels.