Detroit native Kat Steel makes name as Web starWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s hard to describe Kat Steel’s charming on-screen persona without relying on a word that seems way too obvious — bubbly. Steel herself readily acknowledges that.
“I would use bubbly, but that’s an easy getaway,” Steel said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “I would go with … unmedicated. Hyperactive. Probably needs to calm down just a little bit. A little socially awkward. But I mean no harm.”
Those who haven’t seen Steel perform have plenty of chances to change that. A native of the Detroit area, the young actress is currently expanding her resume through a wide variety of wildly entertaining Web projects. This includes the comedy series “Fresh Hell,” which she co-stars in with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” alum Brent Spiner. The show just began its second season on YouTube.
“I didn’t wanna fangirl over him, because in our household, ‘Star Trek’ was like the thing,” Steel said of working with Spiner. “I mean, I grew up on Sunday afternoons watching ‘Next Generation’ with my dad. So, I really tried to play it cool, and try to just be really professional.
“Brent is so cool, though, that there really shouldn’t have even been that concern. But I waited until we were at least halfway through filming to be like, ‘My dad and I really, really love “Star Trek!”’ And try to leave it at that. And he was super cool! He’s the snarkiest, nicest, funniest guy.”
A self-described “nerd,” Steel grew up loving books and role-playing games in West Bloomfield, Mich. Performing had long been a part of her life, but the idea of pursuing it as a career never really took hold until she attended Albion College in Michigan.
“I was doing theater back when I was young, especially back, like, in high school,” Steel said. “I went to school and I got my degree in psychology, and I realized that as much as I love psychology, I wanted to use that for performing. So, I came out to LA after I graduated.”
Adapting to life inside the California bubble is always a challenge for new arrivals, Steel said. “It’s a culture shock when you move out here. It’s very, very difficult. I am very much a simple, Midwest girl.
“So, [when] I moved out here, my first job was doing club promotion stuff. And I had never done that before — I’m very introverted. I was not a clubbing type. And I took the job and it was this bizarre, surreal culture shock. And you meet people where their reality is very different from yours.”
Steel began making strides on camera, including hosting gigs on a few Web-based clip shows. The further along she got, the better she became, which she attributes to growing more comfortable on camera — in a manner of speaking.
“The older I get, the less I give a shit,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t think my mama is gonna be too happy with me swearing during an interview, but it really does come down to comfort. And people in LA are so obsessed with image and how they look. And sometimes, any semblance of comedy or humanness is kind of lost in that consciousness, and that need to look so good.”
One of her most notable characters is Miss Dementia, host of “Super Scary Horror Theater.” Poured into a fire-red dress with cleavage Elvira would consider excessive — and a bouffant that takes up half the screen — Steel said the character is largely inspired by scandal-ridden televangelist’s wife Jan Crouch.
“When I was little, I remembered her as this big, purple-haired lady who was on TV,” Steel said. “I saw it recently, and I thought, ‘Oh my god! There’s this woman and she seems so sweet and light — what if there was an evil version of her?’
“People don’t realize with Miss Dementia — that getup is, like, so uncomfortable! I don’t wear a lot of makeup myself, so being asked to do not only makeup but to do, like, ridiculous makeup — it takes me about an hour. And the wig is huge. And there’s so much makeup on my face, and there’s so much duct tape in places where there just shouldn’t be duct tape.”
Steel’s biggest exposure yet, however, has come via “Fresh Hell” — a show Steel said came to through her friendship with its writer, Harry Hannigan.
“He got in touch with me and said, ‘Hey, I don’t want you to be offended, but there’s this part that I think you’ll really be great at. Would you like to take a peek at it?’ And I was like, ‘Be offended? Oh, don’t be silly!’ And I read it and I’m like, ‘I’m so offended, this is awesome!’”
Steel brings cheerful charm to the character — a young actress looking for work in the, uh, adult film industry — and makes her a ditzy, loveable foil to Spiner’s cynicism.
“Dakota’s saving grace is that she is oblivious to the fact that her life and the way it’s gone would be viewed as sad,” Steel said.
As “Hell” continues its second season and more people get a chance to sample Steel’s work, there is plenty of reason for her to be optimistic about the future. But Steel said as long as she can entertain, she’ll be content.
“For stuff like Web [series], it’ll be really interesting to see where it goes. And I just hope that I can remain a part of it, in kind of just my dorky little corner of the Internet. And if I can keep doing stuff that makes people happy and makes people laugh, I’m pretty happy with that.”