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Christy Carlson Romano

Christy Carlson Romano just woke up from a nap in her dressing room at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where she has been packing the house as Belle in Beauty and the Beast since last February. Every matinee day, she puts on her super-comfy, holey jeans and her Broadway Show League "Beast" team softball shirt she doesn't play--she doesn't have time and squeezes in some Zs between shows. It's no wonder she's tired; she's been working nonstop since age six. Romano made her professional stage debut in an Atlanta production of Annie, toured with The Will Rogers Follies and The Sound of Music, and made her Broadway debut in Parade at the age of 14. She's best known for her Disney Channel work, which includes two Emmy-nominated Disney Channel series, Kim Possible and Even Stevens, as well as the feature Cadet Kelly. Despite her early success as an actress--not to mention a bright near-future as a recording artist--this 20 year old is slowly pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science from Barnard College and plans to run for public office someday. With only about a month left as Belle, she recently stole some time from her decidedly un-provincial life to talk to Broadway.com about playing a princess, Kim Possible, politics, music and being a bona-fide Disney chick.

What does it feel like to play a Disney princess? You're pretty much living every little girl's dream.
But it's a Broadway show, so even if you're Christine in Phantom, you're still a princess. All female leads are princesses whether they're Disney princesses or not. For me, it's quite an honor to be Belle just because she is my favorite Disney character. It's cliché to say that now, but she really always has been.

Why Belle?
Belle is this all-time classic Disney heroine. She's the smartest, most intelligent heroine they have. And also a brunette, I might add.

Your time with the show is coming to an end soon. What about this experience has been the most memorable for you?
My opening night. In the three weeks of rehearsal, I worked probably the hardest I've ever worked--to memorize, to characterize, to really become Belle. So by the time it was opening night, I was really ready. I think that was the first time in my whole 20-year-old existence that I stepped up and became an adult. And I'm really happy with the results.

How have your Kim Possible fans been reacting to the show?
Great! But see, some of them are so young that they see me and they just see Belle [rather than Kim], but they still like it because they hear my voice and it's familiar to them.

I was wondering about that. It must be a little strange for them.
It is, but it's familiar, and that's why their parents bring them in the first place. I think it's all good just because they know me. I'm accessible for them. Some people say [about pop-culture figures in Broadway shows] 'Oh, she's a pop star!'--or whatever she is--'She's not really credible.' That's absolute bull. If anything, it's good for the production as a whole.

So what is going on with Kim Possible? Are you finished with production?
Yeah. Production for the third season is done. Generally, a Disney series only has three seasons--or 65 episodes--and they decided to cap it off with me singing a song. I think I'm going to put together a compilation under Disney's name of my songs that I've done for them--because I've done six or seven by now! The latest was for the Princess Diaries 2 soundtrack. So that's the next thing that's coming out.

I was really amazed to discover how large the Kim Possible fan base is. I even stumbled on a web site dedicated to preventing cancellation of the show.
Oh, I didn't see that! Aww. I think I should send that to the president of production, who's a good friend of mine over at Disney, because I don't understand their methods sometimes. They've been really great to me, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with what they do. Kim was a sure thing from the beginning. The animation is killer, the casting's killer--I'm sad about it. I'm glad that Disney theatricals knew that this was going to be a smart move, to cast me as Belle. And it worked. And it showed a lot of people a lot of things. Because I don't think Disney understood how much of a fan base I had either. I didn't even understand how much of a fan base I had.

What's next for you?
Developing a series is a next step for me.

A series? About what?
It would be a half-hour comedy that would really showcase my personality so my fans could get to know me. And I'd love to keep working with ABC. At this point, I can't say what network would be picking it up, but I know that it would be a success. In my heart of hearts, I know that whatever I do is going to have integrity, and I'm going to work really hard, and I know that fans are going to take to it. Because I'm not trying to throw people any curves. While I'm trying to be different, I'm trying to be very conservative at this point in my career. You know, I'd love to do a Maxim shoot. But I'm not going to do it, because that's just stupid to do.

You must have some dream roles, though. If you could create any role for yourself, what would it be?
To play the first woman president in a major feature film.

You've said that you have some real-life political aspirations as well. You're majoring in political science at Barnard College, you interned with Senator Chris Dodd [D-Conn.] last summer…
Yep. But first I want to get my master's degree at Columbia's School of International Public Affairs. So I'd say within the next 20 years.

Where does your acting career fit into your political plans?
I think what's going to happen is if--when--I progress further into the acting community, I want to have much more of a public stance on any issue. I want people to be able to say, 'Oh, well, what does Christy Romano think about that?' Just like Tim Robbins is very political--and obviously, Arnold Schwarzenegger must be--I want to be able to have this public personality that's considered authoritative. And after I make a lot of money, I'll be able to afford running for office. So it can take some time.

I understand that right now, you are a spokesperson for the American Counseling Association's Healthy Skin/Healthy Outlook campaign [which deals with self-esteem issues related to acne].
Yeah. I did some public service announcements saying to kids that zits happen to everybody, and blemishes still happen to me, and I think it's the start of me really getting my opinions to be heard in a positive way.

You've also been doing some songwriting?
Yeah, I've written three songs. I'm co-writing now; I'm collaborating with a bunch of different people. I've worked with Avril Lavigne and Vanessa Carlton and Jessica Simpson--you name it! And I'm working with all these great people at Sony Publishing. So that's what's going on right now, and I'm looking to put out an album within the next six months.

Wow.
Ooh. Yeah. I gotta get working, you know? I've been too busy. I've been trying my hardest, but it's really tough.

Frankly, just talking about your schedule is making me dizzy. What do you do to relax--if you relax?
I don't, actually. I sleep, but I need to sleep, so that's a priority, too! And I go out to eat because I'm in New York and they have the best food here. So I'll go eat places and then I'll run it off in the show. Pulls up sleeve to reveal toned bicep Look at that! That's crazy. I don't even know how much I weigh. I don't really care. So that's for now, and then when I get to L.A. I'll have to be all health-conscious again.

While we're on the subject of relaxing, I heard that you went to Disney World on your vacation.
Cause it's free! And I've worked really hard for it. My friends and I had this wonderful suite in the Grand Floridian and it was so great, you know? Disney's the happiest place on earth. I also never went there when I was little because I was too busy working and traveling on national tours. So a lot of me is still a little kid, and I think that kind of helps alter my sense of reality--it makes me able to just become Belle every single night.

Between Even Stevens, Cadet Kelly, Kim Possible, and now Beauty and the Beast, you're sort of…
The Disney chick?

Quite the Disney chick!
I'm a firm believer that if you're a hard worker and a good worker, that people will cast you again and again and again. That's just the way this business works. You're a reliable commodity. The cool part about working for Disney is that they've allowed me to be a change agent. They've trusted me, and I've grown with them. Sometimes Disney likes to package people--as the perfect blonde, or whatever. And I'm really not the perfect anything. I'm just me. I'm kind of the 'What's she going to do next?' girl. And I don't know yet either, but I think of it like, 'OK, what are you guys going to give me next?' And then I'll do it!

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