Check out our interview with star actress, choreographer, and dancer Tori Caro who is best known for her recurring role as Kayla in the Netflix TV series, JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS. In addition to playing Kayla, she is also a choreographer for the show.
At the young age of 16, she began her choreography career working on a national TV commercial. Some of her additional choreography credits include: the TV series/movies THE KISSING BOOTH 2 & 3, BARBIE PRINCESS ADVENTURE, MOTHERLAND, LET IT SNOW, RIVERDALE, SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, MAGICIANS, and the short film DAYDREAM.
Follow Tori @toricaro
Hi Tori, please tell us a little about you?
Hi, I’m a 19 year old actress, choreographer, and dancer who has worked on shows including Julie and the Phantoms, Kissing Booth 2&3, Motherland, and Barbie Princess Adventure.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Versatile, resilient, adventurous.
Who is your biggest supporter?
My biggest supporters have always been my family. Whether it was my parents and sister, making sure I had the opportunity to try and train in anything I wanted… or my Grandpa Ben who would drive me to all of my classes, auditions, and competitions…my other grandparents who kept me fed and taken care of…or my sister, who has given up so much to be there to support me in all of my activities. Professionally, Kenny Ortega, Paul Becker and Blake McGrath have mentored me selflessly and challenged me to use my skills and create with love.
How’s a typical day in your life?
My days are constantly varying in activities when I am booked on a job. If I am not booked for a job I am hustling, training, reflecting or learning. I am a morning person and like to rise with the sun. I review my calendar and habits to achieve and the journal a bit. I then stretch, workout or run. I come back to eat breakfast and shower. I try to get ready for the day even if I am at home for meetings or online classes. You always have to be ready to go!
How did you get started into acting?
I have always liked performing where I was telling stories. I have been lucky enough to have opportunities dancing on film and TV which have led to me telling stories through dialogue.
How has this changed your life?
I grew up dancing and competed for more than a decade. About midway I realized that I was not as passionate about dance the way others were. However, I always put storytelling first and it has opened up a whole world of creativity. It has made me realize my passion for creating films and TV as a writer, director, producer, and actor.
What is the best and worst part of being an actress?
I think the coolest part about being an actress is that you get to live in someone’s shoes for a bit and that builds empathy which helps me in my real life learn about someone else’s experiences and understand others’ point of view even if I don’t agree with them. When characters have similar experiences it helps me realize I am not alone. The worst part is that sometimes you really have to be vulnerable to digging deep into who you are a person and face sometimes your most undesirable traits. However, it can ultimately help you grow as a person.
Tell us about your work in the Netflix TV series “JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS?”
I was hired as one of two assistant choreographers to Kenny Ortega and Paul Becker, who I have assisted on several projects. I was involved creatively by creating some of the audition numbers, casting, workshopping & pitching choreography to Kenny based on his vision, block and stage movement on set for camera, and even danced in a couple of numbers. Kenny Ortega created a very collaborative environment.
I was also fortunate to serve other roles which gave me the opportunity to learn and witness how a show is put together. I helped Kenny and Paul review script changes, shot lists, daily raw footage (called dailies), and edits of what is now final form. I was humbled to be able to witness how decisions were made, considering the bigger picture, by the producers Dan, Dave, and Kenny. I just tried my best to learn and soak in everything such as who was in the crew and their roles. It was so exhilarating watching everyone work so well together! The best part was when I was able to contribute and be productive.
And about your role as Kayla?
Kayla was not originally a character on the show but, as I mentioned above I was hired as assistant choreographer and was extremely motivated to contribute and learn. I had just completed a job with Kenny Ortega for a show at the Wynn Las Vegas, and he was able to see me perform on camera. I have always loved performing and when Kenny suggested I audition for his new show, I of course jumped at the chance. I didn’t book the specific job but the producers asked me if I wanted to play a role. It was fun and motivated me to continue the craft.
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
I am still learning the craft and would like to initially play roles on shows that inspire people, make them laugh & spread joy, encourage and let them know they are not alone. I would also love to play some romantic comedy and/or action roles. Ultimately, I would like to be versatile and play more serious roles that bring to light stories that would not have been told.
Do you have a favorite actress or actor that inspires you?
Dwayne Johnson is so inspiring to me as an actor and business person. He is extremely determined and his work ethic is supremely reflected by his success and hasn’t let his ethnicity or circumstances hold him back from his accomplishments. He is versatile in acting & producing from wrestling to his movies and he appears to commit to his roles 110%. I love how he finds and shares humor with us on and off camera. I would love to work with or for him in any capacity. His ex-wife managing his career is just a testament of who he is and who he surrounds himself with. He perfectly demonstrates that you can recreate yourself successfully building and learning from your experiences and that doors closed is just leading you to an open door — as reflected in the name of his Production Company, Seven Bucks, which is the amount of money he had when he left the Canadian Football League. He personifies resilience.
Now tell us about your choreography credits in very popular TV series and movies like RIVERDALE, THE KISSING BOOTH 2 & 3, BARBIE PRINCESS ADVENTURE and MOTHERLAND to name a few?
I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to contribute to the creation of many projects ranging from assistant to lead choreographer. My initial choreography experience was for stage and live shows. Working on TV and film has enabled me to grow as a storyteller, choreographer and as a person. I have also been able to learn the business side of choreography such as budgeting, working with scripts and creating dance that actors can perform.
Motherland was the first large number I assisted and involved both experienced dancers and actors. It taught me the lesson it is not just about the dance moves and that the script and its historic influence is important in helping tell the story. The Kissing Booth was so much fun and the main work was performed by actors Joey King, Taylor Perez and Joel Courtney. I really developed a deep sense of respect for their professionalism and commitment to conquer the hard choreography we set. The Barbie movie was my first animation movie. It was incredible to see the technology and process to develop moves that translate into full animation. Last year was my first job as lead choreographer for a Netflix TV series. I was so nervous and the environment of Covid certainly presented challenges I have never experienced. I relied on my training, adaptability and of course my mentor helped me navigate.
When did you start dancing?
My first dance class was Ballet at the age of 3.
Did you take dancing classes?
At the age of 7 I started competing with dance studios and for more than 10 years I took at least 25-30 hours a week of dance classes at Neisha’s Dance Academy, Danceology and Los Angeles studios such as Millenium, Movement Lifestyle, and TMilly, and the Edge. My training included traveling to conventions (Radix, Velocity, Jump, Nuvo, 24/7, Pulse/Nexus, Adrenaline) just to take classes from leading choreographers. Several of those years I was able to assist and help with the live stage shows that performed at the convention. This developed my skills in choreography, staging and blocking.
Any advice for aspiring dancers?
Train in as many styles as you can from a variety of dance choreographers and always find a way to grow from positive and negative feedback. The world of dance is large and there are so many opportunities and avenues to work in this field so don’t get discouraged.
What do you love most about dancing?
I love that dance gives people another medium of telling stories rather than the linear dialogue that happens in everyday life. Growing up a dancer has also given me structure and many life lessons on how to work hard and persevere; and I have been able to apply these lessons into so many different aspects of my life and work. I also love that dancers have an awareness and control over their bodies, unlike any other person.
What type of dance do you like best?
I love performing Jazz because of how dynamic and sassy it can be. It makes me feel like a queen.
Best advice ever given?
Do everything out of love and align your actions to your reason for living or purpose.
In relation to career and life my mom wanted us to try lots of activities and do well in school. The idea of trying and doing your best at a lot of things especially at school is not to be the best at everything or be the smartest but to not be discouraged by failure. This is important especially as a woman since opportunities recently were so limited. When you limit your choices you eliminate the ability to choose and this ability is by definition the basis of humanity.
What we can expect of Tori Caro in 2021?
There will be a release of a TV series I choreographed late 2020. I am currently working on two TV Movies. It is still early in 2021 but, you can expect Tori to be having the time of her life and taking advantage of every opportunity presented.
What are the five things you can’t live without?
Extraordinary meals, time with family, music, stories and adventures.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would meet the late Garry Marshall. I admire all of his projects and the way he was able to craft films and shows that uplifted and warmed hearts while at the same time speaking to real subjects that would normally leave the audience heavy with a darker tone. I get really sad sometimes that I will never have the chance to work and learn directly from him. I aspire to be like him in my upcoming career.
What is your favorite song? Why?
I love that music is tied to memories and I have several that fit different reasons and changes as I experience life. At the moment I am studying music theory and my current favorite is related to how a song is structured “In Too Deep” (featuring Kiana Lede) by Jacob Collier is a feel good song with an undertrack and beat that hits your soul just right. I love Jacob Collier’s harmonies and the way he pushes the envelope and breaks “rules” to control the narrative of how you’re supposed to feel with those certain harmonies. My favorite inspirational song is “You Will Be Found“ from Dear Evan Hansen because it reminds you that you are never truly alone. My favorite love song is “You Don’t Dance“ by Ryan McMullen because ironically to the title, it makes me want to dance and Ryan’s voice is just butter.
Who is your role model?
I have many role models, including Debbie Allen, Garry Marshall, Kenny Ortega, Priscilla Chan, and Dwayne Johnson. I have found that my role models all have similar defining qualities: they are versatile, hard workers that empower others through the projects they create and participate in.
Name one your strengths?
My willingness to jump into any situation, role, or setting and give it 110%. I have never let my fear of the unknown stop me from taking up new opportunities, whether it be a new group of friends, job, hobby, or adventure.
What is your own definition of happiness?
Happiness is the ability of me being loved and being able to give/show love freely.
How would your best friend describe you?
I asked two of my best friends to describe me.
“I would describe you as a hardworking, smart, fun-loving, hot and warm with selective procrastination and there’s a French word that doesn’t exist in English that fits you which is “rassembleur” which loosely means someone who unifies people and brings friends together.”
“I would say that you’re the most approachable and down to earth bad bitch that I’ve ever met. Also you are super talented but always ready to get better at what you do (whether it’s in your line of work or not). You’re constantly looking to better yourself and it’s super inspiring”
How do you spend your spare time?
I usually spend my spare time with loved ones, outside on an adventure, eating good food, creating something in some capacity, or watching a favorite show. I love learning new things and improving my skills.
What kind of music do you like?
I love all types of music and believe it is a powerful universal language that transcends time and cultures. Songs are a fantastic medium for storytelling and my go to music is Country. I love to dance to pop and hip hop. Road Trip playlists are essential and include those plus anything that gets me in the zone from classical to alternative.
What hidden talents do you have?
I am secretly an animal whisperer and sometimes feel like snow white. Animals have an affinity towards me, especially anxious, nervous ones. There have been many times where I have rescued small animals in need.
How would you describe your fashion style?
My fashion style depends on where I am going or who I will be around. One constant in my wardrobe is that it always has to be comfortable.
Where would you like your career to be in the next 5 years?
In five years I would like to have acted in a role in an action movie, contributed to writing a TV or film script, and released an EP. If my path takes me this route, I would have also graduated from college. I would also have either contributed or started a charity/foundation to benefit elderly, animals or our environment. I have some other goals that I want to keep private 🙂
Your idea of a perfect Sunday is?
Spending time with friends and family, celebrating my faith & eating good food.
Do you support any charities?
I strongly believe in giving back to the community. When I didn’t have money I gave my time. I donate to the Leukemia Society in honor of my Grandfather who passed away from a rare blood cancer. He devoted his retired life to taking care of my and my cousins. I am a Food Bank registered volunteer and plan to work with my mom and sister to aid in feeding kids in LA and San Diego.
What do you think of Social Media?
I think social media is an amazing way to connect with people all over the world, share your story, and be inspired by others. It is also a great way to serve as a resume to create opportunity for work. But, I am conscious that on a personal level, platforms show a snapshot in time of our life and don’t always give a complete picture and do prefer in-person connections when possible.
Where can we follow you?
All of my socials are @toricaro
Book: War of Art
Quote: 1 Corinthians 13
Movie: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Schindler’s List
Tv Series: Friends or The Office
Favorite Food: All, but if I had to pick Noodles/Pasta or anything my Dad cooks Travel
Destination: The Hawaiian Islands
Sports Team: Edmonton Oilers
Cover Photo Credit: Z Gildar (@artsclive)
Behind the Scenes Photo Credit: Paul Becker