ABC Family’s The Fosters Features CalArts Alumna Cherinda Kincherlow

The Fosters is an acclaimed ABC Family drama about a blended family of foster and biological children being raised by an interracial lesbian couple. The show has been hailed for its handling of both racial and LBGTQ issues. 

The cast, led by veteran actors Sherri Saum, Teri Polo and Danny Nucci, began its second season earlier this month with CalArts alumna Cherinda Kincherlow (Theater BFA 02) resuming her recurring role as Kiara, a resident of the Girls United group home. (Kincherlow is also a featured player in the show’s webseries spinoff, Girls United.)

Cherinda Kincherlow

Cherinda Kincherlow

During a phone interview with Kincherlow earlier during the spring semester, the actor shared some thoughts about the show, her character and her time at CalArts—including a lesson from School of Theater Dean Travis Preston that she hasn’t forgotten. 

In the show, Kincherlow’s character Kiara has had a tough life. She’s 15 and living in the group home for various gang-related incidents. She’s also been raped and had an abortion to terminate the resultant pregnancy. 

“I draw from people I grew up with, pulling from my experiences,” said Kincherlow, who was raised in the ’80s and ’90s in L.A.’s Compton neighborhood as an only child in a middle class home. Gang violence was rampant; and though it never affected her immediate family, the activity was pervasive. She often thinks of a little girl who was shot and killed in her neighborhood, the victim of gang violence.

Kincherlow acknowledges that it took her a bit of time to settle down and focus on her acting studies at CalArts. She almost didn’t get the lead in Gertrude Stein’s Listen to Me because, she says, “I was on academic probation.”  

But by working with faculty members including Nataki Garrett, Susan Solt, Fran Bennett, Claudia Anderson and Craig Belnap, she says she managed to tame a rebellious streak—even though it meant repeating Shakespeare in her fourth year.

“Travis Preston was my favorite Shakespeare teacher,” she said, “even though he scared the crap out of me.”

She recalls that Preston—then Director of Performance Programs in the School of Theater—taught her a valuable lesson when she came to his class without having rehearsed her assigned Shakespeare soliloquy. “I thought I could wing it and didn’t prepare,” she said. Her plan didn’t go well.

Kincherlow says that she’s never forgotten Preston’s very irate response: “Don’t you ever do that again!”

And she hasn’t.

“When I audition, I come prepared… I understand the backstory of the character—not just read the words.”

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