Ceci Balagot Proudly Represents the LGBTQ+ Community in Nickelodeon's 'Monster High: The Movie' | Hype | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Interview: Ceci Balagot Proudly Represents the LGBTQ+ Community in Nickelodeon’s ‘Monster High: The Movie’

Ceci Balagot Proudly Represents the LGBTQ+ Community in Nickelodeon's 'Monster High: The Movie' | Hype | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
Interviewed by:
Francesca Escarraga
Interview Date:
September 2022

What inspired you to be an actor? Can you tell us about your background and how you developed a passion for the entertainment industry?

My grandpa was an extra and a camera man back in the day, and we loved to talk about the industry together. My parents discovered really early on that I could sit still in front of a camera, so I did a lot of modeling before I was conscious enough to care. When I started doing commercial work, I gained awareness to the fact that what I was doing was very fun, and that I was super fortunate. From then on, I started taking it pretty seriously and committing to the industry 100%. I’ve always loved the quick changing pace this career offers. I’m a naturally creative type of person so this lifestyle has been very fitting for me. 

Congratulations on your film, Monster High! Why did you want to be involved in this project?

I really love working in children’s media because everything is always so lighthearted and fun. Nobody really takes themselves too seriously, which leaves a lot of room for us as actors to be big and crazy. And as someone who loved Monster High as a kid, I can’t believe this franchise is making a comeback. However, as someone who was frequently made insecure at a young age from comparing myself to dolls, I’m the most excited for Monster High to be much more body positive than it was before. It’s important to me that kids are confident in themselves, and I feel that this movie will give a lot of them an outlet to further understand and love themselves.  

Can you walk us through the process of auditioning for the role? What were the challenges and breakthroughs you’ve encountered along the way, and how did you overcome it?

This was a really long audition process, which makes sense because there are a lot of moving parts to this film. For the first round, I did a tape reading as Frankie, a clip of me singing, and about a minute of dancing. I really hadn’t been dancing that much at the time, so it was pretty difficult getting back in shape just for the audition. We did some chemistry reads over Zoom as well, which is such a crazy concept. This round of callbacks is all about how actors interact when they’re in a room together but being at the height of the pandemic we had to settle for digital. Despite being online, I was still able to get a really good sense of my costar’s personalities when we finally read all together.  

Can you tell us more about your character? What do you love about this character? How did you bring the character to life? Were there particular circumstances or personal experiences that shaped the character?

Frankie Stein is the first official non-binary Monster High character! I’m so proud to represent the queer community in this way and hopefully introduce the idea of trans identities to families everywhere. I really love how their story doesn’t hinge directly on queer trauma, instead, transness is completely normalized in this universe. Kids deserve to see characters like them thriving on tv! Of course, longtime fans will recognize that Frankie is just as positive, peppy, and clumsy as they’ve always been. 

What makes this story different from others? How do you think this story will change and make an impact in today’s society?

Monster High is all about embracing what makes you unique. It’s a coming-of-age story at its core; trying to find a place where you belong when you feel like an outsider. I think what makes this story a little different is that the outsiders aren’t really trying to fit in, because that’s just not as important to them as being authentic. This generation of kids has been raised up with really strict standards of what beautiful is. It may feel entirely impossible to live up to the filtered version of yourself, especially when you’re in those really formative years. Monster High aims to show kids that the things that make you stand out are the most beautiful things about you. 

What was the dynamic like between you, your castmates, and film crew? How did they make you feel? Were there particular moments on set that you’ll always remember?

As soon as we met each other there was instant chemistry. It was just one of those really special experiences where all the cast is so happy to be there and ready to give it their all. One of the first things we filmed was Clawdeen and Frankie’s first day at Monster High, and pretty much everyone gets to be in that scene. We spent the whole day goofing around and getting close to each other, and I think that energy is really reflected in the film. I think the audience can tell when you’re having fun, and it’s impossible not to have fun with this cast!

Can you give us a sneak peek of what we can expect from this film?

This is the first movie musical version of Monster High, so you can definitely expect big dance numbers, catchy songs, and some monsterrific costumes! 

What films and which filmmakers have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

Comedy is totally my favorite genre. Movies like Airplane! really shaped my sense of humor growing up. I’ve seen every Christopher Guest film and rewatched every Michael Schur sitcom over and over again. I think a combination of MGM movies my grandpa put on and Gilmore Girls my mom put on resulted in me having a very subversive sense of humor. 

There couldn’t be a more perfect time to celebrate strong, diverse, and authentic characters on screen. What were the monumental life lessons, mistakes, and things you’ve learned in your acting career that you would like to share with aspiring or emerging actors, storytellers, and creatives in general?

In many ways, acting has formed who I am as a person. I learned to be confident and self-assured at a young age, I paid close attention to pop culture, and I learned how to work with directors and other artists. For a long time, I really couldn’t picture my life without it. Though I love it, it’s been far from easy. For one, men in Hollywood are some of the most difficult people in the world. I’ve been dismissed and told a job was “just too hard” for me, and I’ve been chastised about my eating habits. I’m also new to being out as transgender in the industry, and it’s no surprise that’s been a complicated journey as well. What I’ve learned as I’ve grown into my career is that I need to be strong, not just for me, but for people around me. It’s extremely important to me to uplift women and queer folks in the industry. I’m sure we’re all ready for new stories and perspectives.

The pandemic has greatly affected the entertainment industry. How did it affect your side of things?

It’s sad that I don’t get to have that face-to-face connection with casting anymore. I used to love going into the room and making people laugh, and now I don’t get to lead with my personality. However, it’s really nice to be able to go again and again, and send in my best take every time. Also, I’m a commuter, so it definitely saved me on gas.

What kind of roles do you want to take on in the future?

I love playing the funny best friend characters. Most people want to be the star of the show, but I always gravitate to the lovable idiot types. Any role that I can bring a bit of physical comedy too is the most fun for me as an actor. Also, I’m hoping that in the future, people will be able to look past my gender identity and consider me for roles even if I wasn’t even what they originally had in mind.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as an actor?

I just hope people in the industry think I’m a kind and hard-working person. 

What’s your advice to young actors who want to break into the entertainment industry?

You have to get really comfortable with rejection. There’s going to be a lot of no’s, no matter if you went to the top acting school in the country or if you just started. At an audition, you’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position in front of strangers who are going to judge you for things you can and can’t change. Maybe it was an off-performance, or maybe you just look too much like the director’s ex-girlfriend. Whatever the reason is that you don’t get to go back in the room, the best thing you can do for yourself is brush it off and move onto the next thing. Keep your eyes toward the future at all times!

Do you have other upcoming projects you want to share with us?

Monster High: The Movie comes out October 6th on Paramount Plus and Nickelodeon

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