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High Notes With Karen David

By Andrew Stone
Posted On Jan 08, 2016
High Notes With Karen David

Fun, sexy, and talented on a triple-threat level, Karen David is la-la-la’ing Galavant into our living rooms and our hearts.

It’s hard to love Karen David. We mean really love her. Two minutes into our conversation, we forgot that we had just met this beautiful woman, and that she’s the lead in the very Princess Bride-meets-Game of Thrones primetime smash  Galavant on ABC. But there we were, trading jokes and speaking at ease… She really is fun. As anyone playing a scale-trilling warrior princess in a farcical fairytale ought to be.

David is a multi-culti beauty, of Chinese, Indian, and Jewish heritage — born in India, raised in Canada, trained in England at the Guilford School of Acting. She has had a number of strong credits before Galavant — the film Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior, roles on the series Castle, Top Buzzer, Strike Back, Waterloo Road, and Pixelface.

Yet no part seems so sublimely tailored to David as that of Princess Isabella Lucia Maria Elizabetta on Galavant. She and “Galavant” Joshua Sasse weave in and out of outlandish fantasy scenarios, singing all along. What does David make of the dream character?

Let’s ask:

NEW YOU: Karen, when you first got a sense of Isabella, did you have to pinch yourself?

KAREN DAVID: Galavant was such an incredible surprise from the get-go. When Isabella was first described to me, I was told that she was sort of a Jennifer Lawrence type. I picked up the phone to my agent and said, “You have read the script and see she’s described as Jennifer Lawrence, right?” He said, “You’re feisty like her.” Well, I thought I look nothing like Jennifer Lawrence so no pressure here… I went in throwing caution to the wind, and that freedom is ultimately what seems to have landed me the role.

NY: How are you and Isabella alike?

KD: There’s a lot I can relate to with her… She’s a tomboy — tiny but mighty and feisty. I have certainly been described as all of those things. Now in season two, there is a roller coaster if experience for my character, one I really used my own life to bring about. That’s been so exciting.

NY: Galavant fans really love the show… Like, rabidly so.

KD: The cult following we’ve been getting is so intense and great — and still growing. It’s been so exciting and heartwarming to see fans get so excited by it. I think people sat down and watched all of season one in one sitting and became so besotted. That’s the beauty of our being a “limited series event.” The first season amounted to four one-hour blocks, and season two is five one-hours… People can really open their mouths and swallow a season whole. This show got to be a guinea pig for this format… and it worked beautifully from what I can tell.

NY: Now… It’s a fairytale show…with musical numbers… Who is your audience?

KD: Listen, you’re either going to love it or hate it. My husband’s cup of tea is not musical theater, but he loves the show because it’s very tongue-in-cheek. It’s very feel-good, funny, dry, and witty. I think that if you enjoy Monty Python, Princess Bride, and Spamalot, you’re likely to enjoy Galavant.

NY: The production value is pretty high, yes?

KD: It’s quite the elaborate production. We’ve gone to Morocco, to England to Jane Austen land… It’s always very beautiful. I just got back from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, where I got to act with all of these amazing guest stars — Ricky Gervais, Hugh Bonneville, Al Yankovic. Season two is bigger and better. That was our whole mindset: Go big or go home. A lot of the fans were stressed out with the season one cliffhangers, so they will be excited to see what comes about I assure you. We know that Isabella and Galavnat are seriously in love; she’s the voice of reason to Galavant’s bravado. And then they’re torn apart. Season two, we see a very frustrated and upset Isabella — she has to pull everything together, including herself. It all culminates with a battle of three armies, filming around this 800 year old city. I joked with the show’s creators:  “This is actually Game of Thrones” right?” Isballa gets to come in as this Joan of Arc — the people‘s princess.

NY: Tell us about your dynamic with the very talented Joshua Sasse…

KD: Joshua is the perfect Galavant. He has that hero vibe to him, and he is very funny. Working with him is such an adventure; we have a great time playing them bickering like a married couple. Then, we’ll be singing together, looking at each other, thinking, This is amazing. The music is wonderful, the storyline is beautiful, we are even an interracial couple!

NY: That last designation is something you know well, correct?

KD: Oh yes, I’m married to this Swede — a tall, gorgeous, blue-eyed boy. We are so opposite-looking, yet we fit perfectly well together.

NY: You are yourself a singer-songwriter…What has been the trajectory of your musical aspiration… before and after this role?

KD: When we’re shooting we are so wholly focused on the show… We can’t believe we get paid to do this, and all know we’ll never do a show like this again. We’ll all keep going as many seasons as we can. But yes, before this role I trained to be an actor to do straight drama, and I also have a musical background. I wanted to get into pop music. I had my development deal with Columbia, which fell apart for various business reasons. I was very sad at the time but looking back at now? Everything happens for a reason! I plan on putting out a new EP this year.

NY: How about your health? You’re obviously in great shape, inside and out.

KD: I can thank my parents, who are absolute health nuts. They go on and on about different things — vitamins and supplements. I always start the day off with hot water and lemon. Discipline in this way is so key.  Locking into a routine is very difficult, but it helps me so much. I know when I don’t go to the gym, my body craves it. When the acting starts up, with the punishing hours, it throws my schedule off but  even if I can do ten minutes a day — a “cup of coffee workout” — just some press ups and lunges and sit ups, then the day turns out totally different. Yoga and meditation are also very important… They’ve changed my life. Just three minutes of  breath and exercise work in my trailer before set causes this surge of focus and every.

Beyond that, the tomboy in me loves to find new ways of working out. I am actually taking up wushu — the sword fighting people might remember from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I love Pilates, and actually take a Pilates boot camp. My body responds well to that kind of exercise… And then I wind up being really sore. Meanwhile, I eat small meals throughout the day to keep my energy up. When I’m not working I always try to stop eating at 7 pm and drink coconut water

if I get a craving. I try to consume good carbs and take really good quality supplements from my naturopathic doctor. I also keep track of my adrenal gland. When the liver is functioning properly, it affects my whole body.

NY: You obviously have a lot of great belief in yourself… It’s inspiring… Where does that come from?

KD: I have a Chinese mother and an Indian father, so they screw your ego to the ground from the start. No time to be big-headed or act out of place. It was a very strict, humble family where everyone is equal. They knew from when I was a kid that I wanted to go into acting and singing. For a newly immigrated family, that is… unconventional. They spoke to me at age six and said: “A, we have no connections. B, we’ll support you if you get your straight A’s in school.” And they did.

NY: How have they shown up for you now that you are an adult?

KD: When I first came to LA to meet people after the Scorpion King, I would get calls from agents and run around town, wet behind the ears. I didn’t know how to drive. So my mom said to my father: “Go out and be with her.” For four pilot seasons, my papa would drive me to all my castings and wait… Just walk around and have a coffee while I auditioned. He was my security blanket. Whenever you audition you’re going to be nervous but knowing your father is in the car kept things very real. It was like having my own life coach. It was very bittersweet when I passed my driver’s test.

Cover Photo Credit: Starla Fortunato