In Nickelodeon’s new series BELLA AND THE BULLDOGS, Saturdays at 9 PM, Coy Stewart plays Texas high school student Troy Dixon. Troy is the quarterback for the school’s football team The Bulldogs – until erstwhile cheerleader Bella (Brec Bassinger) so impresses the coach with her throwing skills that she is given the quarterback slot.
Needless to say, Stewart is much happier about this turn of events than his character Troy is, as what infuriates the football player to experience delights the actor to play. Stewart, now sixteen, is already a veteran performer, with series regular credits on THE ELECTRIC COMPANY and ARE WE THERE YET?
AX: Have you been acting your entire life?
COY STEWART: I don’t know. I remember some stuff before I was acting [laughs], but I think I started when I was about nine or ten. I’m sixteen now, so about five or six years.
AX: Did you ever think for a moment you might like to do something else, or has acting always been your goal?
STEWART: You know, in the beginning, it was sports for me. I loved playing football and basketball, that’s what I was going to do, but once I started acting, this was the thing that I loved, so I had no doubts this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
AX: Can you empathize with Troy’s reaction to having Bella come in and take the quarterback slot?
STEWART: Absolutely. I think everyone can relate to it. It’s not just because she’s a girl, but it’s because football is extreme and being a quarterback and being a star of this football team, in Texas, where it’s so big, is his dream. So for someone to come in and jeopardize that and almost threaten it, I think everyone can relate to it. So I think that’s what I saw in the character the most, it’s nothing personal against Bella, but he’s protecting his dream and I think everyone should do that.
AX: Is playing the scenes where Troy is aggressive and unfriendly toward Bella fun, or is it difficult?
STEWART: It’s very difficult. I think it’s all of those, actually, but I think it’s all about your mindset and the way you approach it. Everyone has a different spin on it, but my mindset is, whatever job is for me is for me and I will get it, and if it’s not for me, then I won’t. It’s just as simple as that, which helps it out a lot.
AX: There’s a lot of physical action in BELLA AND THE BULLDOGS. Especially since you’re a minor and producers are usually not crazy about the main actors doing stunts, do they let you do anything?
STEWART: I try to do as many stunts as I can because I love doing stunts, I think just because I’m a teenaged boy [laughs], but actually most of the stuff we do, like getting tackled and things like that, is pretty safe. We always have a stuntman on the set. It’s usually not on the ground – it’s usually on a nice cushiony pad that we’re getting tackled on. But we do have stuntmen if it gets too serious, but most of the stunts, they let me do myself.
AX: How long do the football scenes take to block?
STEWART: We rehearse it a lot. We rehearse it once a day for three days, and when we shoot it, we already know what we’re going to do, and it’s not much different from when we rehearsed it, so it’s not too difficult.
AX: Was there anything you had to learn in order to play Troy, like doing a Texas accent?
STEWART: You know, we talked to the writers about that. I don’t have to do a Texas accent. Most of the characters, they’re from all over Texas. Our writer Gabe [Garza, BELLA’s show runner with Jonathan Butler] is from Texas, and Brec as well. They testified to the fact that a lot of people from Texas don’t even have accents. There’s one character named Sawyer, played by Jackie Radinsky, who’s just that grew-up-on-a-farm kid, has a huge Texas accent and everybody loved it. But no, I didn’t have to study for that. But I was born and raised in South Carolina, so I grew up around it, so it wouldn’t have been too difficult for me to do that.
AX: Did you have to learn anything at all for the part?
STEWART: Yeah. Brec and I did two weeks of football training before we started shooting, every day at a park in Sherman Oaks, and they would teach us everything from different plays and just general football rules to how to walk like a quarterback, how to talk like a quarterback, how to speak like one and all of these different things. So it helped a lot, the preparation for the role.
AX: Did that reignite any desire to be a football player, or did that kill it completely?
STEWART: It actually did kill it completely. After the first day of shooting and being in all those pads and being sweaty in the hot sun, I remembered why I stopped [laughs].
AX: If this is too spoilery, never mind, but is there the possibility of any romance between Troy and Bella down the road?
STEWART: I don’t want to give too many spoilers away, but it’s definitely considered, I’ll just say that. It’s definitely looked at. It’s a possibility.
AX: Do you have any desire to do live theatre?
STEWART: I’ve done theatre before and I love it. I think it sharpens your tools as an actor. And it’s different than shooting a TV show or a movie, where you can cut and restart. When you’re in a play, there’s no cutting. So I think it’s definitely an option. I’d love to do theatre again, and maybe do stand-up someday.
AX: Do you have any other projects we should know about?
STEWART: I just shot a short film called CHRISTIAN, which is about a young man who’s a bully, and we learn about his home life and maybe why he’s a bully.
AX: And is anything else you’d like to say about BELLA AND THE BULLDOGS right now?
STEWART: I think that this show has more than meets the eye. It’s not just about a girl who plays football, it’s about a girl who follows her dreams, a girl who beats the obstacles and who beats the odds, and I think that’s something that everyone can relate to. I think that’s why everyone will want to watch it. And we have a great cast, everyone is so diverse and hilarious, so I can’t wait for people to check it out.
This interview was conducted during Nickelodeon’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at the Pasadena Langham-Huntington Hotel.
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Article: BELLA AND THE BULLDOGS star Coy Stewart on the new Nick Comedy – exclusive interview