(Photos: 1. Courtesy Disney 2. fotosportif.com/J. Bierbaum 3. Courtesy Maddy Curley)
I recently had the opportunity to chat via email with multi-talented Maddy Curley, and she graciously agreed to an email interview for Gym2Day. Maddy is probably best known for her role as “telephone girl” Mina Hoyt in the 2006 gymnastics film “Stick It” (starring Jeff Bridges and Missy Peregrim), but she is also a former elite, a UNC Tar Heels all-arounder, an actress, screenwriter and producer, fierce CrossFit competitor, not to mention a competitor and official for ESPN2’s 2011 Evolution professional gymnastics competition and Pro Gymnastics Challenge in 2013. She and writing partner (and Tar Heel teammate) Brooke Buffington wrote and produced the 2016 gymnastics romantic comedy “Chalk It Up”—co-starring fellow “Stick It” alumna Nikki SooHoo, and a cameo by the legendary Svetlana Boguinskaya—available on Netflix (here). I had the pleasure of watching Maddy compete as a Tar Heel several times in 2003 & 2004, and interviewing her here, I discovered that she is just as nice as a person as she was talented as a gymnast, actress & screenwriter.
My questions were all over the place, and Maddy was a good sport and answered every one. Here is the first part of the interview:
G2D: When and where did the idea for “Chalk It Up” come to you, and how long did it take to develop a script? How did you meet Brooke Buffington, and how long have you two been writing together? [confession: At the time I didn’t realize that Brooke B. had been a Tar Heel teammate of Maddy’s, but in my defense I didn’t start following NCAA gymnastics seriously until the year after Buffington had graduated].
MC: I had the idea for Chalk It Up shortly after Stick It in 2006, but at the time I wanted to call it “Stick It 2 Ya.” Disney said they didn’t want to give up the rights to Stic
k It 2, so we changed the name to “Chalk It Up.” It took us about 8 years to develop it, but during that time we wrote MANY other scripts: features and TV shows and were basically learning how to be writers.
Brooke and I met in college my freshman year. We were both on UNC’s women’s gymnastics team. Go Tar Heels!
G2D: Looking at the credits, quite a few cast members in “Chalk It Up” are people you worked with in “Stick It”, most prominently Nikki SooHoo. Besides Nikki, had you stayed in touch as friends with any of them, or did you look them up for this project based on having worked together before?
MC: I’ve stayed in touch with Nikki and Tarah Paige, who played Tricia Skilken. The rest of the cast has been harder to keep up with. Tarah and I see each other every year at IGC Camp in Pennsylvania. I definitely wanted them in the new project because I wanted as many people from Stick It as possible. Originally Kellan Lutz had signed on to play Chet, but by the time we got funding to film, he was busy on another project.
G2D: About a few specific people: How did Hissoni Johnson come to be the director and cinematographer? He gave a very professional, cinematic look to the film (that drone shot is spectacular!). And then there’s Bogey, who is a real favorite of mine; I know you worked with Svetlana Boguinskaia on ESPN’s Pro Gymnastics Challenge, but I imagine you two met at International Gymnastics Camp, yes? I know she is coaching, does she have any acting ambitions, or was it just kind of a cameo for her?
MC: I worked with Hisonni as an actress on a few pilot presentations and found out he was a gymnast. He was very excited about being a part of the project.
I met Svetlana originally at IGC Camp as well, but yes, we also worked together during the Pro Gymnastics Challenge. She had always been an icon in the sport to me, so I was excited when we became friends and then she immediately said yes to being in the movie. I believe this was simply a cameo for her. 😉
G2D: Back in the spring on a YouTube interview with Nikki SooHoo, you talked about a series pilot you and Brooke Buffington wrote that was getting some very positive attention. Tell us about “Division One” and where it stands now, several months later. And where are you now on the script for your Christmas movie?
MC: Division One is still being shopped around thankfully! It’s never a fast process in Hollywood, so we’re trying to enjoy the ride and continuing to write and audition in the meantime. A company called Beyond Reality Entertainment optioned Christmas on Fire, so hopefully they will have a great production deal soon!!
G2D: Going back in time to your competitive gymnastics years, I imagine it was a big change for you to go from L10/elite club gymnastics in Florida to NCAA gymnastics at Chapel Hill. What were the biggest changes, both in your personal life, and in training and competition when you became a Tar Heel. Any of your former teammates you still keep in touch with?
MC: I still keep in touch periodically with Natalie Halbach, Skylar Inman and of course Brooke Buffington. I’ll see some of the other girls at meets and on Facebook, which is nice to see and check in on their lives. I’m also still friends with all of my teammates growing up in Florida, since we did gymnastics for over 15 years together.
The biggest changes to being an NCAA athlete were all positive. We received higher scores in college, which is probably the biggest perk! We worked out less because the
NCAA mandates that you only train 20 hours a week maximum. We were also encouraged to start a life outside of gymnastics, because college is usually the end of the road for most gymnasts. I LOVED my time in college so much and I think a lot of that was due to my amazing coaches: Derek Galvin and Penny Jernigan. They made it such a fun environment.
G2D: Back when you were a Tar Heel, the FIG Code of Points wasn’t all that different from the NCAA Code, unlike today. Even so, were there still adjustments you had to make to your routines transitioning to college gymnastics? What do you think of the new FIG Code of Points compared to the old 10.0 system still used in college competition?
MC: I’m a little bummed by the new FIG Code of Points and perhaps that’s just because I don’t fully understand it. That said, I really don’t like that someone can fall and still win, I think it takes away a valuable piece of what makes gymnastics gymnastics: accuracy. I’ve won many big competitions with skills that maybe weren’t as high valued, but that was because I would stay consistent. And I think that’s important and a major piece of what makes a great gymnast. I wish that they would just devalue a lot of skills so it’s harder to start at a 10.0, but still keep the iconic “perfect 10” for people to be excited about.
G2D: Anything else going on these days you’d like to tell us about?
“Chalk It Up” is out on Emirates airline now as well as Netflix!!!! Lots of dreams coming true. 🙂
End of Part One. Stay tuned for part two, where Maddy talks about the horrible revelations of sexual abuse by Dr. Nasser, about her two summers training in Russia while she was a Tar Heel, about “Wonder Woman” and how difficult it is for muscular, powerful actresses to get cast in Hollywood for anything but action heroes and athletes, and about being a Christian working in the Babylon that is Hollywood.