When the offer for Ice Princess first came to Michelle Trachtenberg, “I was like, ‘Okay, I can ice skate, no problem. I did it at a party once,’ ” the actress says. But after a dislocated knee, a few torn ligaments and some intense workouts, the 19-year-old developed some real skills on the ice – even landing a single toe loop for her role as a math whiz who masters figure skating. Trachtenberg, who gained a following as Dawn on TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, recently talked about learning to love the ice, taking the fall and finding love off the rink.
So what’s harder, skating or acting?
Skating, by far. It’s cold and the skirts are short. (Laughs)
How many of the falls did you take yourself?
I fell on my butt a couple of times in front of a couple of thousand extras, that was awesome. They’re like “Yay, Dawn (from Buffy) fell on her ass! Woo-hoo!” But for the most part they were all very nice. I laughed. When you laugh it all goes away.
So was getting on the ice a dream for you?
When I was 8 or 9, I was like, “I want to be an ice skater,” and I took one lesson. It was like, “Ha. No. I’ll stick to acting, thank you.” But I was obsessed with (Olympians) Michelle Kwan and Oksana Baiul.
And Michelle did a cameo in the movie.
It was so cool. I was just, like, the biggest nerd. “You’re Michelle Kwan!” That’s literally the first thing I said. She got on the ice and we skated around. To see her on the ice, it’s like I would imagine watching Sean Penn or Dustin Hoffman work. It’s just so effortless and brilliant.
And by the end of this, were you Olympic material, too?
I had a stunt double, but no one but me could do an outside-edge spread eagle, which is basically when you’re leaning back on the outside edge and you’re going around on a curve. Not even a lot of skaters who are Olympic level can do that. There’s one shot in the movie where it starts out on my feet and just moves up and it’s across the entire rink. (Whispering) I am proud of that shot.
What about the workouts?
I had killer thighs, just like rock hard. I don’t exercise at all – and I know that sounds really evil, but I just don’t like physical activity. This is the best shape I will ever be in my entire life because after today I’m going back to Nutella and crackers and cheese.
Off the rink, we hear you’re dating Shawn Ashmore, of X-Men?
Well, I put out an ad in the classifieds, “Wanted: Superhero.” I’m a damsel in distress. (Laughs) We met at an Oscar party. He was Mr. Grumpy, unhappy to be out in public. I totally approached him. I was forward and I take full credit. We’ve been together a year.
You seem to be a really outgoing person.
Really? I tried so hard to be shy this time for the interview. (Laughs)