Amanda Schull’s journey from dancing ballet to acting in both film and television has been anything but ordinary. Her latest project 12 Monkeys, a television adaptation of the 1995 film by the same name, which starred Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, and Christopher Plummer, premiered on January 16 on Syfy. Schull stars as Dr. Cassandra Railly—who is based on the original film character Kathryn Railly (played by Madeleine Stowe)—a virologist whose life changes when she meets Cole (played by Aaron Stanford), a man claiming to be from 2043. He warns her of a plague that must be stopped before it destroys a majority of civilization.
“He has been sent back in time to 2015 because of a recording that my character has made (or will make) specifically requesting his help,” Schull explained. “The two of them must try to stop the plague from ever even starting, and there are a lot of people who have reasons for them not to be successful in this mission.”
Since wrapping the first season, Schull said she’s just now getting back to the real world and is looking forward to seeing what comes next, whether it’s another project on TV or a movie role.
“I enjoy both film and television. With film, you have a starting and ending point with your character, so you are able to understand the arc of where you need to go with your role. Television isn’t always so finite; it can be much more open-ended and unclear where your character is headed,” she said.
Schull’s first foray into professional acting was her role in 2000’s Center Stage, a drama about a group of young ballet dancers, though she had done some musical theater growing up as well.
“I think that in the back of my head I knew that I always wanted to act, but I wasn’t completely certain how to go about doing it,” she said. “I also knew that I wanted to be able to live out my dance career while I was still physically able.”
Growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, Schull began dancing when she was 3, after her mother, who is the president of Ballet Hawaii, enrolled her in classes.
Dancing became more than just a hobby, and when it came time to head off to college, Schull left the sun, surf, and sand of Hawaii for the changing seasons of Bloomington, Indiana to study music and journalism at Indiana University.
“They are two very different places, beautiful in their own ways,” she said. “Being from Hawaii, I had never experienced seasons before, and Bloomington has some of the most incredible fall leaves. That is something I will always remember.”
The summer before her junior year at IU, Schull traveled to San Francisco to participate in the San Francisco Ballet’s summer program. She was given a scholarship to stay for the year in the school, which then lead to an apprenticeship. Afterward, she landed her first role in Center Stage.
“It was really a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” she said.
After traveling to several dance companies around the country in search of dancers who could also act, the casting director ended up stopping at the San Francisco Ballet.
“I just happened to be in rehearsal when she popped her head in our studio to have a look at the school students. I was given a script, and the next day she put me on tape for the role of Jody Sawyer,” Schull said.
Also starring Zoe Saldana, Peter Gallagher, Ethan Stiefel, and Susan May Pratt, Center Stage follows a group of 12 dancers at the fictional American Ballet Academy as they attempt to land spots on the fictional American Ballet Company. A number of professional dancers, including four in the main cast, were used in the film.
“Doing the dance sequences with all of the wonderful dancers from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater was a lot of hard work and very rewarding,” Schull said. “I also remember having complete giggle fits with the other actors on set on a pretty regular basis. I really had a blast that summer.”