Most horse crazy girls will remember The Saddle Club book series, by Bonnie Bryant. In 2001, the first episode of the TV version of The Saddle Club aired; it is now available on YTV in Canada. Lara Jean Marshall played Lisa Atwood, one of the three main characters in the show. Lara also volunteers at the Swan Centre Outreach in LA, caring for neglected horses that have been taken in.
1. Tell us about The Saddle Club, and the role that you play.
The Saddle Club mainly is about friendship and the love of horses. Based on the Bonnie Bryant books The Saddle Club shows that strong friendships can overcome any obstacle.
I play Lisa Atwood, one of the main three characters in the series. I am smart, an overachiever and I love to ride horses. My favourite colour is orange and my mum always dresses me up in the best fashions. I have a little sister Melanie who I think is the “perfect kid sister.” My mother is overbearing and sometimes takes charge of situations where I want to make my own way in the world and choose my own friends. I meet Stevie and Carole and it’s a rocky start, but they change my life forever. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for each other. I am not a great rider at the start of the series, but with Stevie and Carole’s help and the situations I get put in I become a great rider and love every second of it.
2. Were you familiar with horses before you were cast in the role?
I had done trail riding before, but I grew up by the beach, so it was difficult to ride. When I was cast as Lisa I trained a month before we started filming by the Lord of the Rings horse trainers. I, as Lara, found my love of horses and riding after that and haven’t stopped.
3. What was the funniest thing to happen on set (concerning horses)?
One time we were rolling and in the scene my horse Prancer (real name is Rocky) sneezed on me. And I’m not talking little sneeze but the biggest sneeze you could think of. It was hilarious. We needed a whole lot of hair and makeup and had to do the scene again. He is very cheeky.
4. What do you enjoy most about working with horses?
I love the different personalities they have. The bond you share with your horse. Prancer (Rocky) and Patch are such beautiful horses and always made me feel better whatever the situation was. I also loved to ride them. Feel the wind in my hair. It was liberating. Felt at one with my horses.
5. Had you heard of The Saddle Club book series before you were cast?
The other two girls had, but I started reading them when I was cast in the role of Lisa and I fell in love with the books. I feel very grateful to bring the character and story out of the books and into real life.
6. What was your most enjoyable moment from filming?
Creating friendships with the other girls. We are still friends to this day and catch up at least once a year. Wish it could be more but Sophie lives in Toronto and Keenan lives in New York. I will never forget the times we had and the times we are still having together. Also, working with an amazing crew. We were all like family and I felt very supported.
7. With regard to horses, what was the most difficult scene you had to film, and why?
When I had to do a falling off the horse scene. We had a stunt on standby, but I said I would like to do it myself. I had to ride quite fast and slip off the side of the horse onto an inflatable mat. It was actually quite fun, but after the seventh take of the falling off the horse I was exhausted!
8. Did you have a favourite horse to ride?
Prancer (Rocky) and Patch because they were my horses and they fully had my trust. Have my trust.
9. How has being able to work with horses affected you as an actor?
Instead of just putting my attention on my acting and what I had to say, all the tasks, including working with horses (riding them, brushing them, feeding them, saddling them) within the scene created a real space for me to work from. So in my acting now I always try to keep busy as that’s what we do in real life.
10. Do you have any upcoming projects to share?
I have just shot a pilot for the We Were Tomorrow series alongside Gyton Grantley (Underbelly, The Dressmaker, House Husbands), Alicia Banit (Dance Academy, Tangle, Summer Heights High), Chai Romruen (The 100, Mako Mermaids), Nikolai Nikolaeff (The OA, Fargo, Daredevil), Chris Kirby (Camp, Matrix), Tim Pocock (Xmen, Dance Academy), Nic Westaway (Home and Away), Tessa James (Home and Away, Neighbours), Johnny Brady (Home and Away), Jason Wilder (Terra Nova), Amie Casey (After the Elysium) and the creator of We Were Tomorrow, Madeleine Kennedy (Charlies Farm, Boar). I get to play a bit of a villain this time around, so it was very different to the characters I have played before, which was fun. It will be coming out soon and guess what I got to do some more horse riding in it! Yay!