Kristy Swanson’s decades-long film and TV career began by reading lines from a “Bad News Bears” script.
The pre-teen Swanson knew some of her school mates had tried out for commercial appearances and figured she could, too.
And then some, as it turned out.
She ended up starring in genre-defining comedies like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” crushing cameos in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and, later, becoming one of Hollywood’s few, proud conservatives.
The latter paved the way for “ObamaGate: The Movie,” a film excoriating the FBI’s malfeasance in the Russian collusion hoax.
Swanson says she first got the acting “bug” by singing in church and appearing in local productions in Downey, California. Her parents, unabashed Christian conservatives, eagerly supporter her passions.
To a point.
They weren’t clamoring for their daughter to go Hollywood, given the negative influences that could await her.
She persisted. They relented.
Her family met with a children’s agent and Swanson landed the first two commercial gigs that came her way, thanks partly to her impressive reading of a “Bad News Bears” scene.
“I was on a roll at the very beginning,” she says, but her parents were watching every step of the way.
“They weren’t helicopter parents, but they were cautious and careful,” she recalls.
Young Swanson could sing and dance, but she eventually focused her energy on acting.
Commercial work eventually gave way to film and TV roles in her teens, made possible, in part, by being emancipated at the age of 14. Her parents homeschooled her while she kept piling up the acting credits.
“I had more freedom to work longer hours on set,” she explains of her legal status, adding that producers benefited by casting someone like her rather than 18 year olds playing down their ages.
Two small but consequential roles in John Hughes films — “Pretty in Pink” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” — pushed her profile higher, leading to sizable acting gigs in movies like “Flowers in the Attic” and “Mannequin: On the Move.”
Some of her peer group fell victim to 80s excess, but Swanson avoided those detours.
“I never brought my work home with me … I tried to have a normal life and not be attached to the Hollywood scene,” she says. “I just loved working.”
She still saw those unsavory influences around the edges of her Hollywood life.
“I was fortunate enough to never fall into any trouble, like casting couches or inappropriateness,” she says. “I certainly have stories, but they were always nipped in the bud in the get-go.”
She credits “instincts” with helping her avoid career pitfalls, adding many of the dubious characters in the industry left her alone.
“They knew I wasn’t easy to persuade,” she says.
All the while Swanson hid a secret so overwhelming she feared it might derail her career. She suffered from learning disabilities that made script reading a challenge.
“If everybody ever knew I was dyslexic I wouldn’t get hired,” the original “Vampire Slayer” says. “I hid it my entire career.”
Home schooling helped, but the accompanying shame wasn’t so easily conquered.
Swanson didn’t give much attention to politics early in her career. Some projects, like her work on TV’s “Call to Glory,” exposed her to glimpses of Beltway politics. She “loved” President Ronald Reagan and, later, felt uneasy about President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.
Still, she kept her focus on her art and hid any right-of-center sentiments.
“I’d get the evil eye,” she says after sharing a smattering of non-liberal views. “I learned to keep my mouth shut.”
Then she met a prominent member of Friends of Abe, a secret society of Hollywood conservatives.
“Everything changed,” she says. “I got to know those guys and I found a family. I was shocked to find some of the people I didn’t know were conservative.”
She didn’t go “public-public” with her conservative thoughts, though, until a certain real estate mogul ran for the presidency.
“Chelsea Handler said something horrible about Melania [Trump], ‘She can’t even speak English,’” Swanson recalls. “I was like, ‘Way to make Hollywood look tolerant.’”
Suddenly, Tucker Carlson was calling to have her on the air.
“I’m never nasty to someone unless they’re nasty first,” she says of her social media demeanor.
Swanson brings some of that swagger to the role of Lisa Page, the disgraced FBI agent, in “ObamaGate: The Movie.” The role found Swanson recreating Page’s “performance” during congressional testimony as well as her now-infamous flirtations with fellow agent Peter Strzok, played by Dean Cain.
“She was doing bad things and was very arrogant about it. She wanted to make herself look human,” she says.
Swanson had to improvise while creating the character since there’s little video footage of Page from which to work. So she spent 45 minutes on the phone with someone who worked with Page. One word echoed through the conversation:
Swanson reprises the Page role from last year’s play, “FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers,” which focused on Page’s relationship to fellow agent Peter Stzrok and their attempts to pin Russian collusion on President Trump. Only Swanson had never performed on the stage prior to the production.
“I can’t do that. I have stage fright. I’m not used to being in front of a live audience,” she told her potential co-star.
“You can do it!” Cain told her. “He’s such a cheerleader.”
The effort behind both productions mattered more than just conquering a personal fear.
“It’s important for people to hear that story … I’m not forcing it on anybody. It’s there, it’s real, and I know because I read it,” she says of a film that could have been three hours long given all the verbatim testimony, texts, and tweets compiled for the production.
As is, “ObamaGate: The Movie” does what film so often does — process reams of information into digestible bits.
“It’s an easier way to understand it and learn about it. Who’s going to sit down and read all of that?” she asks. “It takes an hour to watch it … it may inspire someone to dig deeper [into the matters].”
Swanson can next be seen in “Courting Mom and Dad,” a Pure Flix original co-starring fellow conservative actor Scott Baio. The current pandemic hasn’t helped snag her many new roles, but she appreciates being part of a MAGA movement filled with positive vibes.
“Everyone wants to make America great again and focus on our country,” she says. “I really enjoyed meeting all those people.”
The life of a working actress involves ebbs and flows, but she’s grateful for even the slower than usual moments in her career.
“Being able to work, to make a living, get married and have a baby, it’s been comfortable. I get to raise my child. I’m not away from him. That’s been great,” she says. “I consider myself blessed.”
And, as the now 50-year-old star ages into different roles, she’s ready for the challenge.
“I look forward to playing the grandma one day,” she says.