Clearwater native Kristen Renton, who plays a trouble-making porn star in the television series Sons of Anarchy, can't reveal too much — at least when it comes to the plotline in the drama about a notorious motorcycle club. So when discussing next Tuesday's episode over the phone, the 29-year-old told her mother those three little words no parent wants to hear. Don't. Freak. Out.
This, naturally, instructs one's parents to do just that.
Kristen, a former Countryside High School student who now lives in Burbank, Calif., was referring to an episode in which her character Ima is featured in a pivotal scene. Now in its fourth season, Sons airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on FX.
Her parents, Edie and Jack Renton, will be watching from their Clearwater home. No matter what happens, three little words will be running through their heads.
It's. Just. Acting.
Edie, 67, is a former PTA president, an educator and a writer. Jack, a 66-year-old civil engineer who designs and builds airports, met his wife at a college mixer at Penn State. They've been married 43 years.
On one hand, the couple beams at their daughter's success in landing a role she's played for three seasons on a top-rated cable TV show. She's rubbing elbows with the likes of Katey Sagal, Ron Perlman, Tom Arnold and David Hasselhoff.
But then there's the delicate subject of the bare derriere — scenes when the camera lens trains on Kristen's thonged behind.
"Am I totally thrilled she plays a porn star?" asked Edie. "No. But she's acting and doing what she loves. It's her character; it's who she is on the show. Fortunately, she's nothing like that in real life."
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The real Kristen is a 5-foot-8, blue-eyed beauty who was always interested in science and math.
When she's not attending auditions or studying for her online college courses through Penn State's World Campus, Kristen may be out rescuing boxers and other animals from all over California, transporting them to foster homes or no-kill shelters in the back of her Chevy Trailblazer.
Or she may be using her celebrity to raise awareness and money for animal rescue groups. Just last Saturday, she cohosted an event with singer Kaya Jones, formerly of the Pussycat Dolls, at Boxer Rescue Los Angeles' biggest fundraiser of the year, Woof and Wine.
"To be able to use my name for something as important as rescuing animals is a very rewarding thing," she said.
She's always loved critters. Growing up, she was a catch-and-release tomboy with the nickname Fish. She thought she'd become a marine biologist — until she went to a cattle call in 1999.
She was taking lessons at an area modeling agency and was urged to attend the Tampa event. Reluctantly, she agreed.
There, an agent from Los Angeles spotted the dimple-faced Kristen, a sophomore at Countryside High, out of a crowd of about 350 Hollywood hopefuls. He thought she and two others should audition for the pilot season in Hollywood.
The Fish was hooked. Mother and daughter packed their bags and headed out for the bright lights. It would be a great bonding adventure.
They set up a second household in L.A. and learned quickly about the high cost of auditioning, portfolios, agents, acting lessons, rent — as well as the pain of rejection.
Then Kristen landed a spot in a Nationwide Insurance commercial.
After that, a role as a teenybopper in Now What?, an MTV series geared for the young tween crowd.
She's gone on to perform in three films as well as television shows like Days of Our Lives, The O.C., The Andy Dick Show, and CSI (New York and Miami). Her characters have included everything from the girl next door to a sorority president to a hooker.
She's on hiatus from a show called Strictly Sexual, a series on Hulu, an online video service. When her character Summer started dating a girl, she had to break the news to her mother.
Don't. Get. Mad.
Edie says she understands.
"She's so beautiful and looks so sweet — yet there is this undercurrent. I can see why casting directors cast her in these roles."
Kristen says she does have boundaries when it comes to her acting career.
"The audience sees my tush but that's where it ends. There will be no frontal nudity — that's something I keep for myself. Once it's out there, you can never take it back."
She works hard for her bum, partaking in Crossfit workouts and hiking the mountain where the big Hollywood sign is erected. She also takes a pole dancing class which she says keeps her trimmed and toned.
"It helps with my self-confidence; it helps me be comfortable in my own skin," she said.
About her character on Sons, she says the big hair, false eyelashes, heavy makeup and scanty costumes are all in a day's work.
"The fun thing about it is, I get to go through this physical transformation that is far removed from my reality."
Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.