“It doesn’t feel like work. I love what I’m doing, and I think that helps me get through it because it’s fun.” -Camren Bicondova
Such is the mentality that pushes sixteen-year-old Camren Bicondova through a grueling schedule in a career that’s only just begun. The actress honed her skills on the stage as a professional dancer, performing for the likes of Ciara, Pitbull and Christina Aguilera at the Kids’ Choice Awards, as well as with her dance troupe, 8 Flavahz, on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. “I became a professional dancer when I was ten.” Most recently she’s taken her talents to the silver screen to play Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, on the hit FOX series Gotham. “Then I kinda just happened to fall into the acting industry. It’s been really exciting.”
She landed from this fall with the grace of a cat, and hit the ground running with an impressive determination for her age. “I think Gotham was my 95th audition,” she recalls. “It was getting frustrating because all these casting directors were like ‘We just want someone with a longer resume.’ And it was like, ‘Well how can I build my resume if I don’t get any jobs?’” Ultimately, it was the casting directors that pounced on her. “They had me do a mock audition. On the breakdown, it said that the character’s name was ‘Lucy,’ but in the sides, it said ‘Selina,’ so at first I was really confused. It said ‘street kid, thief, very vicious when cornered, must be good at cat movements,’ and I was thinking, ‘You know, this sounds a lot like Catwoman…’” says Camren. “I choreographed some different cat movements to show them, and then I found out that I got the role and my instinct was right—it was Selina Kyle! I love playing her, she’s like my alter ego!”
Aside from a wide repertoire of dance (“I do hip hop, ballet, jazz, contemporary. I take African classes,” she says), she’s also trained in Parkour, a discipline spurred from military training that optimizes body movement to get from one point to another in the most efficient way possible. The gymnastic-like training, which involves a high-level of mindfulness, isn’t the only military influence in her life. With a father in the military, it was an integral part of her upbringing. “With my dad being gone all the time, it allows me to do what I need to do, because I know that he’s doing what he needs to do. It’s taught me discipline, and strength, and humility.”
While some girls her age would whine about an absent parent, Camren finds inspiration through challenge. She’s able to tap into an important psychological element of acting and reap the therapeutic benefits of playing a street thief. “I get to dig deep into feelings that I don’t normally use, and it’s really fun, but really challenging also because my character has feelings but she tries not to show them.” When asked if she considers herself a feminist, Camren answers with a resounding yes. “I just feel like as women we should be treated respectfully, because… people wouldn’t be on this earth without women!”
Check out The Untitled Magazine’s full interview with Camren Bicondova for The #GirlPower Issue below!
Indira Cesarine: Tell me a little bit about your start as a performer. I know you started really young, when you were five years old?
Camren Bicondova: My parents put me into dance when I was five, so I’ve been dancing for about ten years now. So that’s how I started. I got into the dance industry, became a professional dancer when I was ten, and then I kinda just happened to fall into acting. It’s been really exciting.
IC: What kind of dance do you study?
CB: I try to do everything. I do hip hop, ballet, jazz, and contemporary. I take African classes. I like to learn different styles just so I can morph everything together when I need to do something. It’s really fun. I just really like exercising in general. I like to run with my dad and I like to take Parkour classes.
IC: I understand you did a few commercials and whatnot before your current role on Gotham, but was this your first big TV series that you were casted for?
CB: Yes, this is my first TV show, TV job, actually. It’s a really cool job to be on for your first gig. I think it’s pretty awesome.
IC: Yeah, that’s huge. I know you had done some TV commercials, and whatnot. Can you tell me a little bit about your previous experience on TV before you got the role?
CB: As a dancer I danced for Ciara. I danced at the Kids’ Choice Awards behind Pitbull and Christina Aguilera. I’m part of a Crew also – we were on America’s Best Dance Crew, on MTV. Those were the main TV things. I also assisted the choreographers of So You Think You Can Dance in a convention called “The PULSE on Tour“ and because of that I got to be part of the behind the scenes on different shows, like Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. I was able to assist my mentor Cassandra Travis in the choreography for that. It’s just really cool to know that different things lead to other opportunities and I just love being part of the entertainment industry.
IC: Dancing is just such a great expression, isn’t it? I understand that when you originally auditioned for your role on Gotham, that you weren’t auditioning for that part?
CB: Well I did, but they tricked me. They had me do a mock audition. On the breakdown, it said that the character’s name was “Lucy” but in the sides, it said “Selena” so at first I was really confused. I was like “wait, is there a mix up here?” And they were like ”no, no no.” When I was reading the breakdown, it was saying ‘street kid, thief, very vicious when cornered…must be good at cat movements,” and I was thinking, you know, this sounds a lot like Catwoman, but the breakdown said “Lucy.” I was just going with the flow! On my final audition, which I think was like the 6th or 7th, I choreographed some different cat movements to show them. Then I found out that I got the role and my instinct was right, it was Selena Kyle.
IC: That must have been a pretty big shock when you found out what you were going to play.
CB: Yeah, it was really cool. I was actually nervous because, being my first TV gig, and with these huge actors and actresses like Jada Pinkett Smith, I’m like, ‘Oh my god it’s like I’m getting thrown into this amazing project.’ It was actually comforting because I knew I could utilize my dance.
IC: Do you relate to your character on the show personally?
CB: In some ways, yes. I would be a very bad street thief, but on the other hand I feel like I’m very independent and I’m kind of an introvert. With that I think I relate to Selena Kyle. I love playing her, because she’s like my alter ego. I get rid of any negative energy when I’m playing her. I get to dig deep into feelings that I don’t normally use. It’s really fun, but really challenging also because she feels feelings, but she tries not to show them. The challenge is showing feelings that she’s trying to not show.
IC: Do you like cats? You have your own cat right?
CB: Yes, yes. I have two cats. I have Mr. G. whose six years old, and I have Savvy who is about seven months. We adopted her.
IC: Do you think you’ve been relating to them a little bit more since the show?
CB: Savvy is considered my mom’s cat—she doesn’t necessarily like me. I think it’s actually kind of distanced me from her more, because she kind of wonders why I’m staring at her all of the time. Sometimes I play with her on purpose to see how she moves and stuff like that. She just thinks I’m a weirdo.
IC: You were telling me about your Parkour, the training discipline that I understand is developed from stunt techniques?
CB: Yeah, I really like Parkour because I have this thing about being upside down, for some reason I close my eyes. It makes no sense to close your eyes while you’re in the air! With Parkour, the technique is within the movement and if you do something wrong, they teach you different techniques to get out of it. I really enjoy that, because with gymnastics, if you do something wrong, at least with me, I fall on my head.
IC: Do you get to do a lot of stunts yourself when you’re on the show?
CB: Yeah I do a lot of stunts, I mean, as much as legalities will let me. I try to do as much as I can. Sometimes I see plans that the stunt coordinator has going on and I’m like “Hey! Can I do that?” And he’s like, “We’ll figure it out,” and usually I get to do it.
IC: Have you ever had a moment where you were like, “This is gonna be a really really complicated one,” and you get really nervous?
CB: Not yet. I’m looking forward to it though. Being on scaffoldings and going on fire exits and stuff like that, it’s a little weird because it shakes, but other than that, I’m just excited for it. I really want Selena to do a fight scene.
IC: That’s so fun. Your parents are in the military. I know that they’ve been super supportive. How has that influenced your work?
CB: Ooh, that’s a good question. With my dad being gone all the time, it allows me to do what I need to do, because I know that he’s doing what he needs to do and he’s supporting our family. I feel the need to do my part. It’s taught me discipline, and strength, and humbleness. It’s hard when my dad’s gone, but like I said it, it helps me keep going and do what I need to do. So, being a military brat is really cool.
IC: You need a lot of discipline to be a serious actress so, it’s probably a good thing, right?
CB: Yeah and it also helps because, growing up, if I fell or something, my dad would always be like, ‘Don’t cry. You gotta breathe through it! Don’t cry.’ So now, when we’re filming in ten degree weather I just hear my dad’s voice going over and over ‘Go through it, go through it, be strong.’ He’s always been very supportive of my dance. He respects the ballerinas especially because of all the hard work that they do.
IC: Do you feel like your parents mentored you? Did you have other teachers that really mentored your career?
CB: Mentor-wise in my acting career it would be my coaches, just because they’ve all taught me different things. I don’t really have a mentor in the acting industry. I just utilize everybody that I know, like my friends and my family. I have mentors in the dance part of my life but not necessarily the acting part.
IC: With all your dancing and filmmaking with the TV show and everything else, do you have time for friends and fun?
CB: I don’t get to see my friends often because most of them are living in LA and I’m living in New York right now, but I do FaceTime them. When they do come out to New York I see them, so, it’s cool. I also like just getting my homework done and doing what I need to do.
IC: What do your friends think about your success with the whole show and everything?
CB: They’re really excited. They all watch it and they really enjoy seeing me be the so-called evil character that I play. They think it’s really funny and they really love Robin Lord Taylor playing Penguin so, it’s amazing.
IC: Are there any actresses that really inspire you?
CB: One of my favorite actresses is Chloe Grace Moretz because I think she’s really versatile in the types of movies that she does. I feel like she’s a great role model for teenagers, for women, because she’s very humble, she’s beautiful, and she’s a really cool person. She’s one person that I would want to meet in the acting industry.
IC: What about dancers?
CB: Yes. One dancer that I’m inspired by is from my studio in Hawaii, 247 Dance Force. Her name is Laurel Thomson. She’s just always been an inspiration of mine because she’s versatile in the types of dances that she does and she’s always on tour with a huge artist. She’s very humble and I think she’s a great person. She’s one of my favorites.
IC: Do you have a favorite film or anything that’s your ‘go-to’?
BC: Oh man, I have a lot of favorite films. I just watched Unbroken the other night and that was amazing. The acting in that and the writing, was just amazing. I love the fact that Angelina Jolie directed it too, cause she’s a Gemini like me.
IC: Are there any words of wisdom you tell yourself when you need to motivate or get through a moment?
BC: Now that I think about it, it’s usually my dad. It’s not really a quote that I remind myself of, it’s my dad that I remind myself of, because of what he does and what he does for my family. I just remember that he’s sacrificing for us so I can sacrifice a little bit of my body heat, in this case when we’re filming, to get this take.
IC: How do you get the inspiration to work so hard? A lot of kids are just in school at your age and you have a hardcore career as an adult technically. How do you get through that?
BC: I just enjoy doing it. To me, it doesn’t feel like work. I love what I’m doing and I think that helps me get through it because it’s fun. I mean, the only thing that I have to push myself through is the school part. Because it’s online. I just remind myself if I don’t do school, I can’t do Gotham, so that’s the main thing. I mean, I like getting knowledge, I just don’t like school, you know?
IC: Yeah exactly, it’s tedious! What sorts of words of advice would you give other girls that want to be actresses or dancers?
BC: Honestly, this is gonna sound cliché, but just don’t give up. If you set your mind to something, you can go and get it. The other day, I said, ‘I’m going to run past the Williamsburg bridge,’ and you know what, I did, and it felt great. Laughs. I think Gotham was my 95th audition and it was getting really frustrating because all of these casting directors were like, ‘We just want someone with a longer resume.’ It was like, well how can I build my resume if I don’t get any jobs?! Once I stopped taking it personally and I just went with it, I got Gotham. That’s what I would say is just don’t give up. I was at an event with John Doman and he said, ‘Just think of it like a math problem. The casting director has a problem that they need to solve and you’re either their solution, or you’re not. If you’re not their solution, you’ll be the solution for another casting director down the road.’ I really liked what he said there too.
IC: This is our “Girl Power” issue. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Is that something that you relate to?
BC: Do I consider myself a feminist? Yeah, I do. The reason why is because I get really irritated when someone talks about a girl wearing too much makeup, or calling someone a very sexist name. I just feel like as a woman we should be treated respectfully, because people wouldn’t be on this earth without women! I feel like girls can do anything they want to do and in this case, anything a man can do, cause, there are women who are CEO’s of businesses! It makes me really sad when I see little girls who don’t think they can do something because another little boy or someone told them that they couldn’t. We can do anything we want to do.
IC: Well I think that that’s the most important thing, right? I mean look at you, you’re Catwoman. So there you go!
BC: Yeah. I feel very strongly about it, but every time someone asks me regarding feminism, I blank because I want to say all of these things, but then I keep talking and then I make no sense.
IC: It’s a very sensitive thing… because like you said, it’s hard to voice your opinion on it, because there’s so many issues around it.
BC: It’s very sensitive. I think the thing that’s twisted with the idea of ‘feminism’ is that a woman who’s a feminist is against a man’s rights. That’s not what it is. By definition it’s the belief that women and men should be equal. Not “women should have more rights.”
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The #GirlPower Issue
Photography by Kim Meyers Robertson
Stylist: Francis Urrutia
Hair by Mark Anthony
Make-up by Brian Duprey
Photographed at Gary’s Loft
This article originally appeared in The #GirlPower Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2015), pick up a copy of issue in our online store.