This interview originally appeared in the July 25, 2000 issue of Soap Opera Digest.
At first glance, Kirsten Storms (Belle Black, DAYS OF OUR LIVES) appears to be like any other 16-year-old girl. She loves to shop, experiment with her hair and makeup, talk about boys, and debate the merits of her favorite bands, the Backstreet Boys vs. ‘N Sync. However, looks can be deceiving, because there is nothing typical about this career-driven teenager and her exciting existence.
Unlike most girls her age, Storms hasn’t been to school since the third grade. “I am home-schooled and tutored on the set,” she explains. “When my friends ask me if I miss going to a regular high school and being in that atmosphere, I think: OK, I’m working with Deidre Hall, I go to award shows, I get to go to parties, I’ve met the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, I’ve traveled to Canada twice for TV-movies. Do I really miss homework on the weekends and being stuck at school six hours a day? Nope, not at all!” she says with a laugh.
As far as other high school activities, like football games and proms, Storms still isn’t fazed. “I’ve already been asked to a prom this year, and it’s not that big of a thing for me to miss dances like that. Right now, though, limousines and gowns and going to industry parties, these are my proms, so I can’t complain!” she says, smiling.
In fact, according to Storms, the only thing she can complain about is her early call time. “If my call time is at 7 a.m., then I have to get up at 5, so we can be on the road by 6,” she explains. “My mom knows not to talk to me then. It’s a very quiet ride on the way into work. But once I’m there, I get into my little groove and I’m OK. Once I Start thinking about the work I have to do that day, I usually get excited.”
Storms has coveted work since she was 5 years old, growing up in central Florida. “One of the first agents I got, I told, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be on a soap opera,’” she says with a laugh. “’ You can get me commercials and stuff now, but what I really want to do someday is be on a soap opera.’ They were like, ‘Oh, little Kirsten, how cute, she’s only 5 and wants to be on a soap opera.’ No one took me seriously. But I knew, even though I hadn’t actually ever watched one, it was something I always wanted to do.”
Her father was a sportscaster for a CBS affiliate, she explains. “He used to bring me to work with him, and they would let me announce what was coming up next. I told him that I wanted to do my own stuff and that it was time, so my parents enrolled me at 5 years old in an acting school.” After her first year, a talent scout enrolled Storms in an acting camp in Pennsylvania. “That camp changed my life,” she says, “because when it was over my group put on an off-Broadway show in New York called Beginnings. All the kids in the show did skits and monologues. I wrote my own monologue, something about a monster and having a party. After the show, managers and agents came up to my mom and said that they wanted to represent me. So, for like the next four summers, we would drive from Florida to New York so I could audition for commercials and the soap operas that were based there.”
When she was 12, and had exhausted all her acting possibilities in Florida, Storms moved to Los Angeles with her parents and brother and sister. A recurring role on the WB’s 7TH HEAVEN quickly followed, and then the starring role on the Disney Channel’s Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. At 14, she landed what she calls, “my most privileged part,” playing Laura Linney’s character as a young girl in the TV-movie Love Letters, directed by film icon Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain). “It was an amazing experience. I’ve never worked with a director for [whom people] have had so much respect. HE was a walking legend on the set. It was such an honor to work with him.”
That role was just the national exposure Storms needed to make her 10-year dream of being on a soap opera a reality. “After that I had an audition and a call-back for Belle, and a third call-back for Bridget on THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. DAYS found out about B&B and was like, ‘Book her.’ And that is the story of how my dream came true,” she says with a laugh.
How did the dream compare to the reality? “Better,” she says, beaming. After her first-day jitters (“I remember my mom pulling up to the studio and us just sitting there quietly in the car for a minute trying to take it all in”), Storms hit her stride with the cast and crew. “I adore the cast, especially Kevin Spirtas (Craig). He is one of the world’s greatest people. Victor Webster (ex-Nicholas, Alamain) is such a sweetie, too. He is like a big brother to me and watches out for me. But if I were older…” she teases.
On-screen parents Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn (Marlena and John) have also been watching out for the newcomer and giving her valuable advice. “Dee has taught me that in order to make the work easier, you have to help the camera and lighting people,” she says. “You have to make sure the camera can see you, and make sure lighting gets the right show, and that you’re lit properly. From Drake, I’ve learned that even though this is a job, you can have fun. Even if you are having a bad day, he’ll come out with one of his weird stories and make you laugh. I don’t know how, but he has managed to remember every story and every joke he has heard in his entire life and he’ll pick really inopportune times to tell them! They are both very cool people!”
Another “cool person” Storms is close to is Jason Cook, who plays Shawn, Belle’s budding love interest. “Jason and I have a very brother-sister relationship where we are very sarcastic to each other. It will be weird when we have to be romantically involved, because we are so not like that. One time he said something sarcastic to me, and I picked up my script and started beating him with it. Then on a later show they had Belle hitting Shawn with her menu. I was like, ‘This is so cool. I get to hit Jason for money!’”
Storms notes that the DAYS producers and writers have been very attentive to her off-screen interactions, as well as her dialogue. “The producers came to [the actors playing the teens] as a group and said that if we saw a line or word that we knew we would not say, then to not be afraid to change it and make it our own. Sometimes they do come up with weird words. Jason had a line where he was supposed to say, ‘That’s score.’ And we were like, what does that mean? And they said, ‘Well, we used to say that when we were kids,’ and we were like, ‘Right.’ That doesn’t happen a lot, though, because they watch us. When we finish taping, were still on-screen, and we know they’re watching an listening, because some of the stuff we say will end up in script. I was on set once talking about how I had just been to a Backstreet Boys concert, and how much I love them, especially Nick Carter. About a month later, Belle says to Chloe, ‘Oh, my gosh. I am so in love with Nick Carter. What are your favorite groups?’ I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, t hey listen to me!”
Not only is Belle’s lingo important, but so are her trendy clothes and unique hairstyles, the latter closely paralleling Storm’s own interest. “One of my favorite things to do is play with my hair,” she says. “I was really excited that they started making that an issue, that Belle has weird hairstyles. We concentrate a lot on making me look different. I don’t always agree with some of Belle’s choices, but it’s OK to do it on TV — I just wouldn’t wear some of her looks to the mall in my real life. Like recently, she had these chopstick things in her hair, and I do own a pair, but I never wear them! They have to grow on me first!”
Most teens would love to trade places with Storms, a fact she readily acknowledges. “I know I’m very lucky to be where I am right now, although I did work very hard to get here,” she says. “Right now my life is practically perfect!” How many teenagers can say that?