The Musical Balance Between Acting & Real Life
Old-school rock ’n’ roll is having a TV moment. Earlier this year, HBO took us deep into the cocaine-fueled excess of a 1970s record label with its hit series Vinyl. And now Showtime is presenting its portrayal of the lives of a not-quite-in-the-spotlight rock band’s crew in this June’s Roadies. If the premise sounds vaguely Almost Famous–esque, that’s because the show’s creator is Cameron Crowe, the former music journalist whose experience as a fanboy covering the Allman Brothers for Rolling Stone inspired that 2000 Oscar winner.
“Cameron is such an authentic man,” says 26-year-old British actress Imogen Poots, who plays Kelly Ann, an idealistic young electrician working for the successful fictional group the Staton-House Band. “He still lives those stories so intimately and can remember them so vividly. He just felt he had to record them somehow.”
In a way, Poots’s character is the embodiment of both Crowe’s deep-seated passion for music and his anxieties regarding the changes affecting today’s tenuous, fragmented music industry. In the first episode, she is in the midst of an existential crisis, questioning her own love for the band to which she’s devoted years of her life and considering giving it all up for a shot at film school.
“She feels like she’s really a part of something, but she’s sort of a victim of the past and the old way,” says Poots. “She feels like now the band is at a crossroads between the commercial route and staying true to what it began as, which is sort of the universal question in any creative endeavor.”
Kelly Ann is also the sort of woman who’s “unafflicted” by the men in her life, which was a huge draw for Poots. “She’s very much her own person — she isn’t predictable,” she says. “Just like in the film industry, the crews are largely male. But she grew up in it. Her whole identity is attached to what that world is about. There is a sense of equality, a real sense of family.” She continues, “That’s not to sound whimsical or oversentimental. They travel together 24/7 on this tour bus, so that’s just the reality of a roadie crew.”
But while Poots loves that aspect of her character, full-career immersion isn’t her own m.o. “I need a real life,” she says with a laugh. “Life has to inform your work. If you’re just going to set, it’s amazing — but you’re not really living, and it can become confusing.”
To that end, this summer — which also sees the release of Poots’s other music-inspired project, the Andy Samberg comedy Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping — she plans on stepping out of Los Angeles, where she’s been filming the past several months. She’ll swing home to England to see her family and then spend the rest of her time in New York City, where she lives in the East Village.
“I’m a big reader — I’ve got a stack of books waiting for me,” Poots says. “I haven’t read The Goldfinch yet, so I’m gonna enjoy that. And I honestly really miss New York. It’s just not OK being gone. Life makes so much more sense to me when I’m there.”