It’s been a couple years since I’ve been under that chandelier, and I still think about it often. Booking that show was literally life-changing (as cliche as that sounds) and it instilled so many of my core values. From what I want to do with my life, to the person I want to be, The Next Step was a huge milestone. And, like anything worth living, it came with some extremely challenging obstacles.
When I was first told I would be "Riley" on The Next Step, I had no idea what that meant. I thought it was a reality show, with cameras following you around and everything that comes with that type of show. I wasn’t really sure that was something I wanted. Once I stepped on set I found myself engulfed into the world of an actual ACTOR. It was glamorous and terrifying at the same time and became my new everyday life.
Each day was a new discovery. When I wasn’t in the studio rehearsing, I was being pulled into hair and make up for touch ups, and then thrown in front of the camera. Not to mention the script wasn’t really a script. At the time, the show was heavily improvised so it was up to a bunch of dancers (with little-to-no acting experience) to shape a scene. Our only tools were our personalities, paired with a few notes from the director, right before he/she yelled action. Suffice to say I was VERY out of my comfort zone.
Living in that frame of mind was definitely scary, but it had me discovering talents and skills I didn’t know I had. I always loved to perform, but transitioning that into on-camera acting was riveting, to say the least. I was pushing my boundaries for two months straight and LOVING EVERY SECOND OF IT. Going back to high school for my final year, after all that excitement was a bit of a reality check. It gave me some serious perspective and pushed me into deciding not to go to University. Which up until I booked The Next Step was always something I had planned to do, so this was a big decision.
Soon enough I was back in Studio A shooting our second season. This year was different; I was more experienced and had a much better understanding of the process. Not to mention I was finally starting to feel more confident about my choices on camera. I still had a lot to learn, but that process was much easier the second time around. And as a cast, we were officially our own little family. It was kind of wonderful.
The months that followed the wrap of season two took some getting used to. I went from having my entire life planned out for me, to having every hour of every day completely under my control. I didn’t need to wake up for school, or go to dance anymore. While all my friends were off at University I was lost, trying desperately to find a place I needed to be. So I was more than happy when Family Channel asked me to be a part of The Next Step’s first ever mall tour. We went across Canada to different malls and performed a few dance numbers from the show. We were expecting a couple hundred people to show up at each venue, so you can imagine our shock when a couple thousand popped by, at every stop - no matter how tiny the mall - all for a glimpse at the cast of The Next Step. We felt like rockstars, it was a turning point and from that moment on things would never really be the same.
After that tour we were suddenly very popular. There was a lot more press and exciting events, as well as much bigger tours which would eventually take us across the globe. It threw our maturity into overdrive, whether anyone was ready for it or not. It was as if we became adults overnight, or at least that’s how it felt. With all that attention and success at such a young age I had no idea what it was like to not have a constant form of income, which can be scary once that job - and said income - comes to an end.
Season four was our longest season to date, taking four months to film instead of two. And I knew it would be my last. Not because I didn’t love it anymore, but I was just too comfortable. I needed a new challenge, but had no idea how to go about finding it. Unfortunately, that was the year I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, so everything I expected to be challenged with was put on hold so I could battle myself back to health. That fight took a year and put all work on hold, but I was lucky enough to take my final bow with The Next Step in 2017, performing on-stage in the U.K. and Australia.
I was blessed to have that final goodbye, but like anything great in life, the ending was bitter-sweet. The people from that show, and the experiences that came with them will always hold a special place in my past. I can’t thank those involved enough for such an incredible journey. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world xx.