MTV’s summer series Finding Carter will have its first season finale Tuesday at 10 PM. But fret not, the drama about Carter (Kathryn Prescott), a teen who suddenly learns the woman she thought was her mom is actually her kidnapper, has already been renewed for a second season.
Paste caught up with Vanessa Morgan, who plays Carter’s best friend Bird on the series. The 22 year-old has been performing since she was six, and previously starred in My Babysitter’s a Vampire and A.N.T. Farm on the Disney Channel. The Ottawa native opened up about her hit series, her upcoming single, and what it was like to compete on The Amazing Race Canada.
Paste Magazine: How did the part on Finding Carter come about for you?
Vanessa Morgan: I got a call saying I had an audition for Finding Carter. I thought the role was really cool. Bird sounded like a pretty brave spirit-type character to play. I basically just had an audition with the casting director. I found out a week and a half later that I booked the role. I only had one audition for it.
Paste: Wow. That never happens.
Morgan: I know. Supposedly [executive producer] Terri Minsky saw my tape and that’s what she was envisioning for Bird.
Paste: Bird’s wealthy parents ignore and leave her alone for weeks at a time—not your typical high school experience. How do you relate to Bird?
Morgan: I can’t relate to her high school experience in terms of her parents. My parents were always around. But I can relate in terms of moving to LA by myself, and being alone. I definitely understand what it’s like not having family around when you want them there, but you don’t live in the same city. And when you’re in high school, I feel like everybody is trying to find their own way, and Bird is definitely a free spirit and trying to find herself. She might make mistakes along the way, and I think everyone in high school can relate to things like that—trying to find your path and create who you are.
Paste: What made you make the big move to Los Angeles?
Morgan: It wasn’t for a particular role, it was just about time. I felt like I’d done well in Canada, and the next step was moving to LA—that’s where most of the auditions and the roles are. I was like, “Okay, it’s time to bite the bullet. As much as I’ll miss everybody, I’ll move there, and see how it goes.” I moved in January, and got Finding Carter soon after.
Paste: Do you think the show is an accurate portrayal of today’s high school experience?
Morgan: I definitely think it is a pretty awesomely accurate portrayal of high school students today. The only thing is, I don’t think a lot of people have the option of their own hideaway place like Bird does, where everyone can just go party and chill. But other than that, I really like the show for that reason—for being so real and for feeling like a real-life situation.
Paste: You started performing at a young age. How did it all begin?
Morgan: My mom helped me get started when I was younger. I started with singing. An agent saw me singing on stage at the Palm Springs Festival, and recommended I get into acting, so I was like, “Oh, okay.” I just started from there, singing and acting. I booked my first series when I was 13. Acting kind of took control because I was just going from part to part at that point.
Paste: How old were you when you started singing?
Morgan: I was six. I really loved it. I was in a music class when I was little, and they discovered I had a talent and could sing. From there, I joined this singing troupe in California, and I would just go sing at festivals in this girl group, and perform as much as I could. My family was in Palm Springs, California because my mom took a teaching job there and then we moved to Canada after that.
Paste: So you always knew you wanted to be a performer?
Morgan: Yes, but with that said, I did go to university for a couple of years to make sure I had a back-up plan with school. I was studying philosophy at Queen’s University [in Ontario]. But I’ve just been so busy that I’ve taken a year off to focus on singing and acting. I haven’t been able to be in class as much as I’d like to.
Paste: And you have a new single coming out?
Morgan: Yes, I just got back from Nashville where I was recording my single. It’s called “Hold On” and I’m hoping to release it probably in October.
Paste: You recorded in Nashville. Is it a country song?
Morgan: I would say it’s pop dance. It has a little bit of a country twist to it. But it’s mostly the type of dance music you would hear when you’re out going dancing. Kind of like the song “Wake Me Up” by Aloe Blacc. I’m really excited about it.
Paste: And I read that you competed in The Amazing Race Canada in 2013.
Morgan: I did that with my older sister. It was awesome. We made it to the very last episode, and came in third. We did really good. Being small girls, we were the underdogs of the showm and we made it to the end against all these guys.
Paste: That’s great. The show always looks so difficult. I know I wouldn’t do well on The Amazing Race. What was the most challenging part for you?
Morgan: The most challenging part was the stress of not knowing what you had to do each day. You’re not sleeping that much, and you don’t want to be eliminated. The hardest challenge I had was when I jumped off the 44th floor of a building in the final episode. That was really scary.
Paste: How did you and your sister get along during the competition?
Morgan: We got along great. Obviously, we had our bickering moments when we were under stress, but after each leg we were just so happy. It was the best person I could have done the race with. We work really well together—no fighting after each leg. It was great. I would 100% do the show again.
Paste: Does tomorrow night’s first season finale for Finding Carter end with a big cliffhanger?
Morgan: I’m sure people will think it’s a big cliffhanger. We want to keep people coming back, and have something to look forward to, especially now that we know it’s returning for a second season.
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.