Acting, like many professions, is not the easiest to break into. Most aspiring actresses hear “no, no, no” repeatedly before they get a single “yes”—unless you’re Kelsey Chow.
After a stint in community theater got Kelsey hooked on the spotlight, her agent set her up with her first audition ever— a spot on the teen favorite show “One Tree Hill.” “I thought the role was for a cheerleader, so I went in a cheerleading uniform,” says Kelsey, who admits she was an “O.C.” fan and hadn’t seen “One Tree Hill” before the audition. “To book that was absolutely surreal,” she says of her first role ever, which she filmed while in high school. “I was the youngest of them all—I was 13 when I started, and the other actors joked that I was the only actual high schooler playing a high schooler. And I was nervous because it was my first gig, but everyone was unbelievably friendly,” she says. Perhaps that’s why four seasons later, several of her fellow cast members are still working together every day.
Her role called for a nerdy but boy-crazy character who meets series regular Mouth McFadden when they co-host the commentary during the basketball games. Though the guest role was short-lived, producers asked Kelsey to return a few seasons later as a bombshell college intern at Mouth’s news station. “At that point, I was 17 and now playing a 21-year-old,” she recalls. “I read the script every week, and thought, ‘Oh goodness, what am I doing now?’ But it was so fun to play that transition.”
Now, as one of the stars on Disney XD’s “Pair of Kings”, Kelsey plays Mikayla, the tough assistant to the show’s two kings (played by Mitchel Musso and Doc Shaw) and a guard in training. “It’s completely different from ‘One Tree Hill’,” she says. “It’s a world with infinite possibilities. I am so lucky because I love everyone on the show. We have such a family dynamic.”
And while she’s between seasons of the show, Kelsey heads back to the East Coast, where she’ll split her time between the two Columbias—the South Carolina city, where she is from, and the university, where she is studying global health. “I’ve been hearing classic college spring break stories,” she says. “I want to go back!” Despite being in relatively youth-oriented shows, Kelsey does get noticed on campus. “The mailman recognized me from ‘One Tree Hill’, and a girl in the elevator recognized me from ‘Pair of Kings.’ I was like, ‘you watch that?’ But I’m glad they’re watching the shows and enjoying them,” she says.
As the current TV season wraps up and the fate of the show that jumpstarted her career hangs in the balance, Kelsey is open to heading back for a potential series finale. “‘One Tree Hill’ will always be so special to me,” she says. “Mark Schwann has been very good to be me and I would be there in a second.”
At such a young age, Kelsey, who cites Natalie Portman as one of her role models, can take her time choosing her career path. “I’d love to explore different kinds of acting, whether it’s film, theater, or more television,” she says. But some of her short-term goals do have some sense of urgency: “I’d kill to work with people like Annette Benning and Sean Connery. But I read that he’s retiring—I better hurry!”
Header credit: Dove Shore Photography