Teen encouraged to act rebellious

Challenge: A young actress juggles two roles, one on a New York-based daytime drama, the other as a student in Baltimore.

February 01, 2002|By Linda Linley | Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

Although she is just 15, Peyton List is leading a double life.

Since Nov. 26, she has been spending part of every week in New York playing the role of teen-ager Lucy Montgomery on the CBS daytime drama As the World Turns. The remainder of the week is spent at Roland Park Country School, hanging out with friends and taking classes in Latin, English, math, biology and social studies.

Peyton said she is splitting her time between the Big Apple and Baltimore because she wants to keep her acting life separate from her school life.

"I love my job and am grateful for the opportunity to act," Peyton said recently. "But I also love living in Baltimore. I'm tied to my school and all my friends are there."

Peyton, who lives in Roland Park, believes she can juggle the acting, commuting and school work.

Her teachers and family think that if anyone can handle the rigorous schedule, Peyton can.

"Peyton can keep all of the balls in the air," said Joan F. Smith, head of Roland Park's upper school. "She is a very bright student and is good at time management."

Smith said she has no doubt that Peyton will be able to balance her career and school, even with a three-year commitment to the show.

The teen-ager signed a contract in November to play 16-year-old Lucy, the rebellious daughter of Craig and Sierra Montgomery. The contract guarantees she will appear in an average of one and a half episodes each week.

According to a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the union representing actors on daytime television, principals in daytime dramas are guaranteed between $548 and $731 per episode, depending on the length of the show.

Peyton said her character sounds like a real teen-ager: "On the show, everything I say is something I would say in real life."

Peyton is a seasoned professional who has been acting and modeling since she was 8 years old. She has appeared in scores of magazine and other print ads for Ralph Lauren Polo, Abercrombie & Fitch and Limited Too, and performed in the Center Stage production of H.M.S. Pinafore when she was 11. During the past two years, she also has appeared on episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Sex and the City.

She spends an average of two days a week in New York for As the World Turns, which is taped about three weeks in advance of air date in a studio in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.

Peyton's father, Douglas, is a management consultant with an office and an apartment in New York. Her mother, Sherri Anderson, travels with Peyton, and her sister, Brittany, 18, is a student at the University of Virginia.

Most of the Peyton's scenes are with actor Hunt Block, who plays Lucy's father. Block, who grew up in Maryland, called her "a great girl. She has filled the shoes of the character. She is always poised, prepared and calm."

Martha Byrne, who won an Emmy last year as the Outstanding Lead Actress for As the World Turns, knows what Peyton is facing, trying to balance being a teen-ager and being an actress.

Byrne started performing on the daytime drama when she was 15. A native of Ridgewood, N.J., Byrne said that when she started on the show, she attended school in the mornings and taped the show in the afternoons. She said she participated in typical teen-age activities and credits her parents with being supportive and keeping her life in perspective.

Between rehearsals and tapings, Peyton spends time in her small dressing room, furnished with a daybed, a telephone, a chair and a lighted makeup table. A bulletin board contains pictures of her friends and her sister, and a Roland Park Country School bumper sticker hangs on a wall.

A laptop computer - her link to Roland Park Country School - stays in her dressing room so that she can study when she has down time. She communicates with her teachers by e-mail or by telephone when she is in New York and submits her homework via computer or fax.

Peyton, a freshman, said she was keeping on top of her class work until she ran into problems with algebra and geometry. "It was hard to figure out when I wasn't in the class every day," she said. Now, a tutor comes to her family's apartment and coordinates the class work with the teachers at school.

Leslie Goetsch, Peyton's school adviser, said Anderson has been instrumental in managing her daughter's schedules. She is in contact with the school regularly and provides teachers with Peyton's work schedule as soon as she gets it.

School administrators said Peyton does not receive special treatment because of her absence from school. She was excused, however, from her theater arts and physical education classes because of her acting job and her dance training.

"She is a remarkable student and doesn't expect any favors. She always turns her work in on time," said English teacher Ellen Krich.

Roland Park's Smith said that when Peyton is at school she is quietly there, never drawing attention to herself. "That's how she wants it," Smith said.

Goetsch said Peyton wants to maintain her relationships with the other girls at school and that she is popular with her classmates. About 280 girls attend the upper school, which administrators describe as a close-knit community.

When Peyton is in Baltimore, she is busy with her friends, going to the mall, the movies or their homes. At school, she has joined the debate club and the Jewish heritage club, and she has a big sister who is a senior. She played on the junior varsity soccer team in the fall but now has to limit her extracurricular activities.

She likes being in New York. There's Central Park, Soho and Lincoln Center - and restaurants and stores. "I love Bloomie's and Tiffany's," she said.

Peyton says she will graduate from Roland Park and go to college. But that is three years away. She wants to do a good job, and that means she has to focus on today, learning new scripts - and finishing her homework.

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