LOS ANGELES | Shoes tell plenty about your occupation, in case you didn’t know.
Scientists wear green shoes. Security forces, blue shoes. Agents, red shoes. The boss? Purple.
Selfies can also telegraph your personality. If, for example, you’re that boss, you cross your arms and look official. If you’re the no-nonsense one, you barely crack a smile and look, um, stoic. If you’re the fun-loving one? Be ready to smile.
That’s the word from three of the members of “Odd Squad,” the PBS Kids series that won a handful of Daytime Emmys last week.
“Kids will ask us to take pictures all the time,” says Millie Davis, the pre-teen who has played Ms. O, the boss, since 2014. “We’re always happy to see them.” Like the others, she’ll slip into her boss mode and pose. Then, to make sure she’s living up to her reputation, she’ll engage the fans. “We always ask if they have a favorite agent.”
Quite likely, those honors go to Isaac Kragten, the 14-year-old who plays the no-nonsense Agent Otis, or Anna Cathcart, the 13-year-old who’s the fun-loving Agent Olympia. Both have solid followings, even though they weren’t with the show from the beginning.
“It’s like a family,” Cathcart says. “They make it interesting for us every single day.”
Filmed in Canada, “Odd Squad” is designed to help 5- to 8-year-olds learn math. Agents investigate weird and unusual phenomena around them, using math to reach a solution. Viewers play along and, online, get to test their skills on other cases.
While Davis has been with the series since its inception, it’s not uncommon for agents to come and go. “When you get a little too old, you’re not a kid anymore,” Kragten explains. Currently, the oldest agent is 15 and, yes, it takes some work to get the gig.
All three say they auditioned for the show and had to exhibit certain character traits.
“Otis is straightforward,” Kragten explains. “When he has a task, he’ll do it. I’m like that, too. If I put my mind to do something, I’ll do it. But Otis is very plain and soldier-like. My personality is more playful and upbeat.”
An Emmy winner for “Odd Squad,” Kragten got into the business through dance. A big hip-hop dancer, he was involved in a number of Canadian competitions. “One of the judges came up to my mom and asked if I had an agent. Mom said, ‘No, we’re from a small town. We don’t know anything about that stuff.’”
The judge gave her names of agents, she followed up and Kragten landed representation. “Odd Squad” followed and now he’s preparing for a movie role.
Cathcart, too, has gotten work as result of the series but the business isn’t easy. “You might have to audition for 100 parts…and you might not get the role.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re bad,” Davis adds. “It just might be that the certain role wasn’t meant for you.”
Says Cathcart: “We definitely deal with rejection in this business.”
The actors also have to juggle school while the show is in production. Generally, they take classes in two-hour blocks but if there’s a lot to shoot on a given day, that two-hour block could move to another day.
“It’s really busy because you don’t always know your schedule,” Davis says.
“It’s fast-paced,” Kragten adds. “And, it’s a fun job.”
The headquarters set is as intriguing as it appears on television, the three say, and fills much of a Toronto warehouse.
“When you watch (the show) after it’s done, you notice things other people wouldn’t,” Kragten says. “It’s weird and cool at the same time.”
Naturally, fans think the three have great jobs. They agree, but they know they won’t last forever.
Others have graduated from the series. They will, too.
But if the “Odd Squad” demands another year of duty, they’re game.
“If we outgrow our uniforms, they can always make us new ones," Kragten says.
Red shoes included.