Positivity and performance: Get to know actress/singer Kyla Carter
Kyla Carter is here to spread positivity. The multitalented performer made her acting debut at the age of 5, when she appeared in the Nickelodeon animated series Wallykazam! Three years later she made her Broadway debut in a stage production of The Sound of Music. Carter has since gone on to dominate both mediums, appearing in hit shows like TrollsTopia & The Leftovers, and acclaimed plays like White Christmas.
Carter’s desire to connect with audiences has led to her landing a successful music career as well. She covers pop songs on her YouTube channel, and her contribution to the Trolls season 4 soundtrack, “Because You’re You”, became a hit with fans. When she isn’t acting or singing, Carter is the host of Kyla’s Korner, a podcast that allows her to interact with listeners and share heartwarming stories.
Film Daily had the privilege of talking with Kyla Carter about her varied career, her ability to juggle different mediums, and her desire to promote self-love and acceptance. Here’s what she had to say:
Tell us about your history in show business. How did you start your journey?
My love of acting was inspired by Shirley Temple. When I was four years old, a commercial for the Shirley Temple DVDs came on the television. I begged my mom for the whole set. I watched every movie, color and black and white over and over, and I said to my mom, “I want to do what she does.”
I started my professional television career when I was age 5 and was cast as Hattie the Witch in the Nickelodeon series Wallykazam! and Young Nora in the HBO series The Leftovers. My professional stage career began at age 8 when I was cast in the Broadway National Tour of The Sound of Music, directed by three time Tony Winner, Jack O’Brien. I toured the USA and Canada 18 months, performed over 500 shows, visited 50 cities and 26 states, and never missed a single day of work or school on the road!
You started acting from an early age in the aforementioned popular shows. What did you learn from these early roles that you still apply to your career now?
I learned at an early age that I must be patient and mature because time is money! I am there to get a job done, not fool around. I also learned that planning time for school, work, training and even down time, keeps me focused and successful in every area of my life.
You also made your Broadway debut at the age of 8. Does performing at such a young age help you deal with things like stress or performance anxiety?
I still get super nervous right before a performance. I think that if I didn’t get nervous, it would mean I didn’t care! However, performing on the biggest stages in America in front of 5,000 people at such a young age, as well as working with adults, has given me an extreme amount of confidence that most kids my age just don’t have.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
Without the support of my parents and brother, I would not be able to live this dream. However, my success can be accredited to my agent and the amazing coaches and mentors I have had since I was 5 years old. I am so thankful for those who believed in me, who helped me every step of the way, and who continue to support me on this journey.
I don’t believe you can go out and find mentors. I believe that they find you. When I work with someone, I can tell right away whether they believe in me and are willing to stick with me through the good and the bad times. When you find those special people, don’t let go of them. Keep the people who believed in you from the very start close to you always.
You performed classic tunes in productions of The Sound of Music and White Christmas. When did you decide that you wanted to write and perform music of your own?
I have been told that I was singing before I was speaking. Music has always been in my blood. I play the piano, violin, ukulele, and guitar. I have a song journal and have been writing song lyrics and melodies in it for the last 9 years of my life. Since Covid gave me the gift of time, I embraced it and I recently decided to release all of these ideas I have been collecting since I was 5 years old.
Does your approach to performing change when you are singing your own words versus someone else’s words?
That is an interesting question. I grew up a performer, so it is easy for me to perform someone else’s words, but it is more meaningful to me if I am singing my own words. When I cover a song I often make the song my own by interpreting the lyrics and music differently than the original artist interpreted it. So, my approach when singing and performing is always an interpretation of who I am.
You recently put out a new single, “Average Puzzle Piece”. What was the inspiration behind the song?
“Average Puzzle Piece” is a song about being comfortable in your own skin and being true to who you are. There is so much pressure from society to blend in, but I have learned that it is ok to be unique. I see the world as a big puzzle where everyone is supposed to fit together.
However I never really fit into what society defines as “normal,” therefore I am not an “Average Puzzle Piece.” “I stand out,” which is part of the lyrics in the song. What I want people to take from this song is that having confidence in yourself is more important than what others think of you.
The lyrics in “Average Puzzle Piece” promote self-love and confidence. Do you feel it’s important for your art to include positive messages for listeners?
I love how this song has resonated with so many people, because everyone at one time or another has felt knocked down. I think it is very important to spread inspiring and positive messages through my art, as long as they are honest and from my heart. I think the song has done well, because I am singing about my experiences, and the lyrics are from my heart.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Broadway musicals have had a huge influence on my love for music. But now as a singer/songwriter/recording artist, I am influenced by Taylor Swift & Kelsea Ballerini. I think they are both classy, insanely talented, and appreciate their fans. Their music is inspirational, relatable, and their sound is similar to mine.
You currently star as CJ Suki on the DreamWorks animated series TrollsTopia. What’s the biggest difference between voice acting and live action acting?
A day on set or on Broadway includes, attending school with a set tutor, long hours, great wardrobes, and lots of fun. It differs greatly from voice acting. What is interesting about being a voice actress is that you are in the recording studio just for your character’s session. Many of the DreamWorks Trolls characters live in different parts of the United States, and we record remotely via video conferencing at a local studio.
Another interesting fact about recording is that most lines are said 3-5 different ways and the creative team picks what they like best. A voice actor has to be able to think quickly on their feet and take direction fast! One time I was asked to say a line like Batman would say it! Creativity is key!
You have also played CJ on Trolls the Beat Goes On. What is it like to have a character that connects with children from around the world?
It’s important to me to be a role model and it’s an honor to portray a character that sends lots of positive messages about friendship and love.
Your song “Because You’re You” was a standout hit from Trolls the Beat Goes On season 4. Does writing for a soundtrack require a different skill set than your solo material?
When I auditioned for the role of CJ Suki for Trolls The Beat Goes On, I had to sing a pop song. Therefore, I knew if I booked the job, I would be singing in the show. However, I did not know that CJ Suki was going to have her own pop song written just for her!
Recording my very first pop song in the studio for DreamWorks Trolls was an amazing experience that I will never forget. In fact, my love of pop music began with CJ! I do think that writing a song for an animated television show is a very different skill set than writing music for radio. I am really lucky that I am versatile in both styles.
You recently found success in the podcast world with your show Kyla’s Korner. Did the show come about due to the COVID pandemic or was it something you had previously considered doing?
The global pandemic was a curveball that no one saw coming! I had a major project where I was the title role put on hold. But, I always try to find the light in the darkness and the rainbow on a rainy day, so I embraced the time I had and worked on songwriting. During that time, Mark White from The Mark White Show interviewed me and after my interview, about a week later, offered me an opportunity to have my own segment on his show. Kyla’s Korner was born!
It is a podcast segment featured weekly on TMWS and several radio stations across the country, where I share encouraging and inspiring messages. The main message that I try to relay to my listeners is to “Live Life Sunny Side Up.” I was really excited when Mark offered me this opportunity, because the theme of his show is making a difference. I believe that if I can make a difference in someone else’s life, even if it is just one person, I am making a difference in this world.
Kyla’s Korner places an emphasis on positivity, like your music, but there’s more opportunities for fan interactions. How much do you enjoy hearing directly from the fans?
I hear from fans all over the world including Ghana, India, Guatemala, Indosian, France, Egypt etc. I love interacting with them and hearing how my podcast has made a positive impact on their day or even their life.
Do you plan to continue the podcast even after the pandemic has subsided?
I cannot imagine my life without Kyla’s Korner in it! Not only does my message help my listeners, but it helps me reflect every week on what is really important in life, and reminds me not to sweat the small stuff!
Since you’ve had experience as a dancer, a model, an actor, and a singer; which do you prefer?
I love them all, but singing is my SUPERPOWER!
Is there a part of the entertainment industry that you haven’t attempted but want to at some point in your career?
I would love to be in a feature film. I just need someone to take a chance on me!
What has been your biggest failure?
I am too much of a perfectionist to fail. However, my biggest struggle is MATH! We just don’t get along!
How about your greatest success?
I have been blessed to have many successes! However, I am so proud to work for DreamWorks Animation. Recently they hired me in the title role of a new DreamWorks animated series! This was a DREAM COME TRUE! Sadly, however, the pandemic has put the project temporarily on hold.
What advice do you have for aspiring entertainers?
Trust yourself – You may have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to certain roles. Don’t overthink it. Go with your first instinct because it is most likely the best one.
Be confident – You will be criticized a lot. You may be too pretty, too perfect, too short, too tall, but remember never to take it personally and know that you are enough. You may not fit that role, but you may fit another down the road. Never change who you are.
Stay positive – If you love what you do, keep doing it. There is a lot of rejection, again don’t take it personal. Keep grinding away because the right role may be just a phone call away.
It is a journey not a race – Slow and steady will win the race. Never push for something that is not meant to be.
Eyes on your own paper – There are so many talented people out there. Support your competition, never be jealous, and focus on your goals. Don’t worry what anyone else is doing, we all have our own amazing path in life!