INTERVIEW: Katrina Elam and Christopher Cain PURE COUNTRY 2:The Gift

“Dream big, reach high ,don’t ever be afraid to spread your wings and fly”
In 1992, Strait was the star in the movie, Pure Country, a love story and a movie about country music all wrapped together. A love song from the soundtrack, “I Cross My Heart,” ultimately reached No. 1 and became one of his biggest hits to date. In Pure Country II: The Gift,  It all starts with a gift; the gift of a truly transcendent singing voice, given by angels to a baby girl who is orphaned at birth. The beautiful Bobbie is raised by Auntie Ella, a loving, matronly black woman who always tells her "Never lie, be fair, and never break a promise"; the rules that the angels have set up for her to keep her gift. She obeys, her singing grows in power, and soon Bobbie has big plans for her big voice.
As a young woman, she buys a one-way bus ticket to Nashville, but life in the big city doesn't immediately go as planned.
It's up to Bobbie to reclaim what she has left behind in pursuit of fame and fortune, to return to those who truly love her, to appreciate the many gifts life has given her; with or without her voice. George Strait is not the lead character in this movie, nor is the theme about love, but it is about country music and getting back to the basic truths about love, fairness and being truthful.
I sat down with the star of the movie, Katrina Elam and the director, Christopher Cain after attending the private premier showing of the movie in Nashville.

Bev:  The movie was great, I truly enjoyed it. Since the movie was shot here in middle TN, in and around Nashville,  how did it feel to be sitting in the audience watching it with so many of the cast members?

KE: That part was so much fun. My favorite person was the character “Wes”, Adam Skaggs, so I was so excited to see him there. He cracks me up.

Bev: Katrina, you had no acting experience prior to this. Was this the first time you had seen the film or had you seen it prior to last night?

KE: I saw it a couple of times over the week, it was not all new to me, but is still kind of hard to get use to. I remember when I did my first music video and saw it on just a TV, I was “Oh my gosh”. Seeing myself on that big screen is scary.

Bev: Christopher when you look at the movie as a whole and the concept about singing from the heart and that music is a gift, you found a way to introduce “the gift” as a mystical or animated character that has a voice so to speak; how did you come up with that idea?

CC: I don’t know how I come up with these ideas but I have about one a minute. Most aren’t worth repeating. The concept for the movie came to me over time as I have been in the movie business a long time and I‘ve worked with a lot of young people; seen their lives disintegrate. If you look around, you see politicians and you see athletes and you see singers, actresses and actors and they seemingly have the world by the tail. They have fame and fortune and money and everything and all of a sudden they are headed for jail and rehab and their lives are destroyed. You ask yourself “why does this happen”. The reason is there are rules in life, if you follow them, life works, if you don’t follow them, it probably won’t. So that was the genesis for the story. The angels up in heaven firing down the gifts? I don’t know where that came from. It keeps it from becoming too serious and heavy. At this point in my life, I don’t want to be heavy and serious.

Bev: After the screening last night, what were the comments you received on that part? Did people like it? Not like it? What did you hear?

CC: I haven’t heard anything negative. I use to think people don’t tell you the truth, but they do. They tell you in interesting ways. If they like the movie, they will come up and tell you about scenes and specific things that touched them. If they don’t like it they usually don’t come up and talk to you. You can gauge either way. This movie is surprising me a bit. It was received better than expected. I thought it was going to be well liked, but I didn’t know it was going to be this well liked. I think it probably caught the studio off balance too.

Bev: Katrina, being that you didn’t have the acting experience, what was the hardest thing for you to get acclimated to? You have the singing and some music videos and that is kind of toying with it a little, but what was the hardest part of actually being in a movie like this?

KE: Well, day one, he threw me in the mud and there was more than mud in that mud.

Bev: How many takes did that scene take?

CC: A lot.

Bev: But you’re an Oklahoma girl and you’re use to that.

CC: It was a tough day but that is how you break a new actress in, throw them in the mud.

Bev: Was that the hardest scene?

KE: Learning all the lines was surprisingly easy for me. I had been really nervous about that and then Chris told me that we were only shooting a page of the script at a time. Honestly the little stuff was harder for me than what I expected.  I was surprised I could turn on the tears when I needed too, but the little stuff was hard for me.. 

CC: I can answer that question for her. I don’t think anything was hard for her. I think her instincts of how to approach acting are so “dead on” and I think the only thing that might have been difficult for her was the “unknown”, not knowing if she was any good or not; like the scene where she was crying on the porch and I think that was the third day. She said “did I really suck?” She didn’t know and I had to tell her no, she was fine. I have worked with, and we counted them, I think 19 actors with academy awards. I don’t think any of them are instinctively just right on from an acting stand point and no better than she is. I don’t think she had a false moment in the movie.

Bev: Is having a boyfriend in the movie hard for you; because you are just recently married?

KE: It was so weird because my husband is gorgeous and you would think I would be accustomed to being around men like that, but I was like a giggly little 14 year old. I remember when we had some people coming in for that part and the first guy that came in was a decent looking guy….

CC:  After the first scene she was fanning her face.

KE: I’m getting red just talking about it. My husband is so much cuter than any of these guys and I am a basket case. I did a music video with my husband once and even with that, they said to kiss and I was laughing and I said I couldn’t do it. It was hard.

Bev: Was there any scenes where people weren’t getting along? A difficult time connecting?  Not necessarily fighting on set, but things that didn’t click and you might have had to work through?

CC: Nothing she had, no nothing that she had at all. We shot this movie fast. I am too old to deal with people that are difficult. People from Nashville were so good and happy to have the job, they were glad to be there.

Bev: Are there any other events around Nashville that will be promoting the movie?

KE: I am doing the “Dream Big” song for the Inspirational Country Music Awards.

CC: Friday night we have an event at The Stage as a kick off for the movie and they are giving away posters and other things.

Bev: Katrina, I read in the production notes about the special needs children and how that touched you. Can you elaborate a little on that?

KE: A few years ago, I taught special needs gymnastics and I was glad that I had had that experience. Sometimes it can be intimidating, but I just love those kids and still have their pictures up on the refrigerator at home. I was hoping they could be there last night. It is amazing, I don’t know how you can be around those sweeties and not be inspired. They are just so sweet. I was telling someone that Chris did such a good job because it could have been patronizing and it wasn’t. It was just so sweet.

Bev: Was the ranch that was in the movie part of the “STARS” program, the horse program that they use so they were comfortable in their own setting or was it some other place?

CC: We shot at Charlie Daniel’s ranch; they came to his barn. As soon as you bring the kids in, you put them in three feet of sawdust and some horses they are fine. What was interesting was their response to the music. When she would start singing, you would see the kids up dancing, they are so happy and so delightful. I think all kids have special needs, especially mine…(laughter). Nobody is perfect or everyone is; one or the other. I am not sure which.

Bev: Will you be doing any charity work around this since we do have that theme in the movie?

CC: I don’t know. I say that because it has been a quick release of this movie, but as time goes on, I suspect there will be some things. From Dallas, we have started having some requests to do some things and I am happy to do that.

Bev: In the final scene where George Strait is with you and all of the children; being that the kids are special needs, how did they react to him?

KE: I don’t think they cared. There was one girl, her nickname is “Porkchop”, she stood up at one point…she recognized who he was and got quite animated.

CC:  George came walking in after the second take, getting ready to do it before the cameras and she said “Are you George Strait?” and he said he was and she grabbed him and wouldn’t let go. She had tears in her eyes. It got to George too.

Bev: Katrina, how has the movie changed your life?

KE: One of the things I loved about this project is it was done in only four weeks. It all happened so fast and it was so much fun. With the music business, it dominates your life all the time, but with this project, it was great.

Bev: I saw you when you came in last night and there weren’t a lot of people rushing up to you. After the screening, as the movie is coming out, is that going to change? People are going to recognize your face even more.

KE: I don’t know. I don’t really care about that. Nashville is pretty cool about treating everyone without a lot of attention and fanfare if you are out and about.
Bev: Chris, what else can we expect from this besides the awards?

CC: I don’t know about that. The movie is what it is and is an entity by itself. Pure Country, the first one, still runs. Sixteen or seventeen years later it is still out there. Unfortunately, the bad movies still run too, but not as often. It will be around for a long time. That is one of those things about movies and music; you write a great song and it is going to be there. I like the movie, I am happy others are enjoying the movie.

Bev: What was George Strait’s take on it? Have you heard from him?

CC: I’m never going to let him see this movie. (laughter) After the first “Pure Country” he got a lot of offers to do movies; turned them all down. His answer was hey look, I made one movie, I like it, I dodged a bullet, it could have been terrible, I’m not taking that risk again. I called him for this and he said he would do it. He came in and did it and then about a week later, he called me and said he would be interested in doing another movie if we could find something. He said he didn’t have to be the star, he could be the second or third guy. I told him the day we shot his scenes that he would get the bug again.

Bev: The scene where he hits the father in the movie and then he is walking out. Obviously he didn’t really hit him and get hurt, but does he enjoy that type of stuff because he is not a physical person or angry person I should say.

CC: If you remember, in Pure Country, he did the same thing, but it is just acting.

Bev: Katrina, had you met George before? Was it intimidating?

KE: No, I hadn’t met him before, this was the first time. It was intimidating, but he is so nice. I think within about ten minutes he was talking to my Mom about lion hunting in Africa.

Bev: As far as promoting, are you going to utilize the social media websites like Facebook and the others?

CC: We hope to. The website is up now and the trailers are out. I think Facebook started today. It is so fast. You put something on Facebook and 30 million people know about it. We think it is going to work.
Bev: Katrina it is wonderful to see you again and was so fun to share the premiere night with you, and Christopher it has been such a pleasure to meet you and get to know you. I look forward to seeing the movie again and more from you in the future.
KE: Bev, it was so fun and I am sure we will see each other again soon. Thank you for everything.
CC: Yes, thank you and I hope to see you again as well.

For more information on Pure Country II: The Gift visit  

Interview by Bev Moser  Transcribed by Pam Stadel

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