The boom in the podcast industry over the last few years sometimes makes it feel like if you don't have your own bi-weekly podcast by now, what are you even doing with your life? Maybe that's why The Vampire Diaries alums Kayla Ewell and Candice King decided to split their time between acting and launching Directionally Challenged, a new podcast.
Any good Vampire Diaries fan knows that the two friends have practically been attached at the hip since the show first launched on The CW, back in 2009, and last year they decided to tie themselves even tighter together by launching a podcast that connects them more closely to their fans and also to some seriously useful advice that any good 30-something woman might need to know.
TV Guide sat down with Ewell and King to discuss how the idea of transitioning from TV to podcasting came about and how integral fans of The Vampire Diaries ended up being in their new project's success.
How and when did you guys decide to launch this podcast together?
Kayla Ewell: We were definitely listening to podcasts at the time, and then we might've had a few glasses of wine and we might've been sitting on Candice's bathroom floor.
Candice King: It was a friend's bridal shower at my house. And we'd both been talking about all the podcasts that we were listening to. We were still acting, but we were just kind of feeling the audition crunch of it all. And we wanted to do something a little bit different and get out of our comfort zone. And with a little liquid courage, we were like, "What if we did a podcast?"
Ewell: Well, here's the thing. We felt kind of lost in life and we felt like we weren't exactly where we thought we'd be when we were in our 30s. And we realized, "Hey, if we feel this way, I guarantee there are so many other people that do as well. So, why don't we start a podcast about it?"
King: Called Directionally Challenged. Because that's how we feel most of the time.
Ewell: And so, essentially, we stop and ask people for directions. So we have all sorts of guests on. We have New York Times bestselling authors and then we have cast members from The Vampire Diaries. And we have a really great guest coming up, Alie Ward. She also has another podcast called Ologies. And she is essentially the cool new female Bill Nye the Science Guy. I mean, it's unbelievable. So we kind of explore any direction we want.
King: And it's fun to be female podcasters in the podcast world. I know that there's obviously this running joke right now, which we totally fall victim to of like, "Oh, have you listened to my podcast?" Everyone's got a podcast right now. We know. But it's fun. It's especially fun to support other female podcasters and to explore that world ourselves.
Since this is your first time podcasting, what was it like sort of learning on the fly while you're in the midst of creating something?
Ewell: Terrifying. It was terrifying of course, like anything is when you start something new. But we record in Candice's living room, which is really comfortable, on her awesome plush white couches. And we sip our coffee and we just have our guests over and relax and have a real conversation.
King: I mean, [with] Instagram, your entire life is supposed to look curated. It was refreshing to enter into something that neither of us were particularly the best at and be OK with exposing our flaws a little bit and getting better with each episode.
How long did it take you guys to find the voice and the tone of the podcast once you got rolling? Was it there from the start?
Kayla Ewell: The idea was there from the start but finding our own voices, I think we're still doing that. And that's part of the whole process is that we are still lost. It doesn't matter how much you do something or how many things you learn, you're still transforming and becoming the best version of yourself as you continue to grow in life. And so, I've definitely discovered a lot. Doing this with Candice has been really fun too, because when you have a really close friend that you've had for 10 years, to be able to do something like this with them helps the entire process, that's for sure. It's more comfortable, you're more at ease. If I'm a little stressed out about something, she can call me and vice versa. And so, it's just nice to do together.
King: It's an interesting way to exercise vulnerability as well, which I'm not necessarily always good at, and it's a great way to connect with people. I mean, we are so grateful to have worked on a show that has a built-in fandom. We were discussing that before we started this of how awesome The Vampire Diaries fans are and they've supported us all these years later. So we knew that they would be there to support us, but it's a different thing as opposed to just posting a photo on Instagram. It's a different way to connect with your fans essentially. And we wanted to do that in a way that was organic to us, that felt vulnerable but we also didn't feel like we were forcing ourselves to overshare in a way that we weren't comfortable with.
Ewell: And what's nice is it started with the whole Vampire Diaries fandom. And then I think every episode, it grows too. So, yeah, all our listeners are really — we love them. And the interaction with them that's available, you don't get when you are just kind of through a television screen.
You guys have discussed a variety of topics, some of which are incredibly personal. Were there any episodes that really felt like you kind of had to bare a little bit more of yourself than you planned?
Ewell: Absolutely. Claire Holt came on for a pregnancy episode and I was pregnant at the time as well, and that's a very personal experience... So to be able to discuss that on-air was extremely personal because it is your own body you're discussing. But I wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way, with Candice and with Claire and to just have this amazing group of women to discuss all of that with.
King: We had Elsa Collins, who started This Is About Humanity, and talking about what's going on at the border, through just what her organization is experiencing and how they're helping. That's been really eye-opening and starting discussions like that. We've also had Shan Boodram on recently and she's a sexologist and she's incredible. But I think talking about female sexuality and, especially as older women in our 30s, it's not like we're just talking about — we're married, we've got kids. We're not talking about how to be single in our 20s. So it's a little bit more vulnerable talking about relationships at this point in life. Those have probably been some really fun episodes.'
How do you find that balance between teaching the audience something and "giving them directions" while also making them feel like it's just an entertaining hour of podcasting?
King: We always start by asking each other what we want to learn from the conversation. I mean, for instance, even something as simple as we had Gail Simmons on from Top Chef. And we realized that in our own life that we kind of maybe [have] not been cooking as much as we usually like to. Which for some people if you don't like to cook, that's not a big deal. But it actually, for our friendship, we talked about all these recipes that our grandmothers and our mothers passed down to us. And we got to sit down with Gail and she walked us through how she travels with her children and the meals that she makes. When she's been balancing a work-life balance and what she does to cook for her kids, which made us feel much better about ourselves, I think. So we started that conversation with what do we want to know from this person? And the question was what can we bring from our childhood and implement into our day-to-day when we feel like we're too stressed and where we're working moms. How can we nurture our kids with food, with love? So that's kind of one example.
Ewell: Yeah. I think starting off asking yourself a question and then what do we want to learn from this? And then at the end, we always recap like, "OK, so what did you take from this? What did we take away?" And that's the point is to sit, have a conversation with your friends, and then also have a bunch of things to take away and implement into your life. Then you can hold each other accountable for it too.
Is there one question that you guys always enjoy asking your guests?
Ewell: I think the one question that we usually ask is, "Hey, if you have any advice for any of our listeners, what would it be?" Because they come on usually as an expert in their element and whatever they are trained in. And so, we've gotten a lot of really great tips and tricks for people. So we had Manoush Zomorodi on and she was all about tech addiction, and that was really good. So she had a few takeaways like, "When you are in transit, don't be on your phone. Even in an elevator, just be in the moment." And that's simple. It sounds so crazy, but you realize how much you are on your phone: in the car, while you're walking, all these things. If you could just take that simple little thing and implement it into your life, makes such a difference. And I did it and it really helps.
King: We've also had a lot of guests talking about failure and how it's such a necessary part of success. And that's kind of been a theme that is after, I don't know, 40-something episodes? Everyone wants to start with the moments that were tough and the moments where they thought they'd failed and how that's what they actually needed all along.
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