Home. And they’re stirring the pot and making plans.
We caught up with the couple of ten years for a photo shoot at The Colton House Hotel, where we had so much fun while Christy modeled holiday looks (from Estilo Boutique!) that we ran out of minutes before Christy had to pick up their kids Isabella, 4, and Sophia, 2, and we had to do the interview the next day.
Christy has been acting since she was six. She’s a literal Disney princess after playing Belle on Broadway in Disney’s Beauty & the Beast and had long runs on the Disney Channel as Ren Stevens in Even Stevens and voicing the title character in the animated Kim Possible. She made her big screen debut as a pre-teen, in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You and has a litany of credits across film, TV and the stage. Much of the content you’ve seen from her recently has been streaming – on Hulu, Fox and recently on her own headline-making YouTube channel. She talks about it all on our call where the consummate multi-tasker is also baking an apple crisp for Texas WIC, a program that helps women and children with insufficient food eat better.
Christy’s been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, creating a string of shows centered around cooking, from Christy’s Kitchen Throwback where she mixed up entertainment in the form of cooking, singing and chatting with fellow famous faces to Bucket List Bistro, a travel-inspired show where she and Brendan made some of their favorite dishes from abroad while trapped indoors and unable to take trips during the pandemic. It’s currently available on Hulu where it was the platform’s first ever short-form series. Up next Brendan says they want to go bigger in the food space. He shares they’re re in development on a project with Guy Fieri’s Citizen Pictures and trying to cook up some ideas for Chip & Joanna Gaines Magnolia Network, although he says, they don’t know it yet.
“A big part of our life is food,” Brendan says. “Christy doesn’t drink, I drink rarely, so food is where we break bread. A big part of how we communicate and build community is over cooking or going to restaurants.”
Christy and Brendan met early 2011 while both studying at Columbia in their mid-20s, Christy during a break from acting and Brendan after four years in the Marines. “We were in a screenwriting class together,” Christy says, “We were 26 and 27-years-old and though we’d lived a million lives already we decided to go back to school.” They got married on New Year’s Eve in 2013. They made their first trip to Austin together as a stop while road-tripping from NYC to LA after graduation. Brendan had a cousin who lived here and says, “He loves Austin and is such a good ambassador of Austin, but he didn’t have to sell us too hard to make an impact. We both love water and greenery and Texas is such a desirable location, in Central Texas in the center of America.” They said they knew they’d like to come back, but at the time thought it was a pre-requisite of their careers to live in Los Angeles.
Cut to 2020. Not only was there a global pandemic but fires were raging in California. Christy says “I was at my house watching the fires get dangerously close to the highway. We were on the line of an evacuation zone and I was pretty terrified. That was the last straw. We moved while the haze of smoke was above my house and everything was burning around us.”
With the success of creating and producing shows from home during the pandemic, they realized they didn’t need to be in California anymore to work doing what they loved. Brendan says his brother had been living with them for a while and they sent him to Austin to check it out, “as kind of a litmus test.” The verdict? “He got here and the way he described it sounded like the place I wanted to live and raise my kids,” Brendan says. “Within a month or two of my brother moving here we moved here. California was bizarro land and we didn’t recognize it anymore. Christy and I share a passion for lake life and nice people. We wanted to move here and integrate into the Austin community, we want to be Austinites and give back to the Austin community. We want to be fully immersed in the Austin community, and I think we’re doing that. I think the fear that Californians want to come in and change Austin is misguided.”
They couldn’t be happier with the decision. When asked what she likes about Austin Christy is quick to say, “I love almost everything about Austin. I think Austin has a personality of its own. Austin still has the mentality that it’s a small town when it’s actually a big city with a tight-knit community. People are kind and that makes people feel connected to each other. I’ve never met my neighbors anywhere I’ve ever lived and here, right when we pulled in our neighbors were there and there was an instant sense of community. And I joined a mom’s club that’s a lot of fun. The ladies are all amazing and I was able to find friends right away.”
Christy and Brendan have also started working more collaboratively, under the umbrella of Thinking Cap Productions, creating content from short and long-form ideas to individual YouTube Channels. Christy’s has made her a regular in entertainment headlines with outlets sharing and dissecting each new episode. But, with topics like “Why I Don’t Talk to Shia LaBeouf Anymore,” “How I Lost Princess Diaries to Anne Hathaway,” and “The Truth About Disney Channel,” there’s no wonder they’ve garnered millions of views and sprung a new well of attention. Although, she says she doesn’t think it would have been possible, if not for Austin.
“Without Austin as the landscape and background for my walks, and feeling so at home here, I wouldn’t feel as comfortable being so vulnerable and open. There’s a magic here when you walk outside that hits you in the face and is nurturing to the soul,” she says. “I always hoped that I could be vulnerable, but for a long time, I didn’t think people really cared what I had to say…I had no idea this would get so much traction.”
Brendan also recently started his own YouTube channel with episodes like, “What Marine Boot Camp is Really Like,” “How I Met My Wife” and “How Becoming a Dad Made Me a Better Person.” “Brenden is starting to create his own brand because in Austin he thinks he can be himself, he can be respected as a veteran…” Christy says.
While they’re both doing well with their YouTube channels, Christy says, “We’d love to get back to making long-form content and think we’d do excellent in the family space. I’ve directed family films for Lionsgate and Brendan comes from a more serious space and I think we could do great content that is family-friendly and artistic, that can exist on Hallmark, but it doesn’t have to. Thinking Cap has all the equipment it needs to make movies in Austin, and we’d want to hire local people who want to work.”
On working together in addition to parenting and doing life together Christy says, “Brendan always consulted for me in some ways, but he was doing his own projects as a screenwriter and producer so I couldn’t really take time out of his schedule outside of him being my partner, but once we had our second baby and things got more complicated I thought we had a great opportunity to make good content and asked him to work with me. We always like to brainstorm together, we like to take walks together and brainstorm when we hike, which is one reason why Austin is so great and inspiring for us. Brendan and I make a good team because we pivot together. I don’t know if it’s his military training but he’s very good about seeing what’s working and not working and I try to think of it more holistically, so there’s a lot of conversation that goes into everything. We agree 80 percent of the time and the other 20 percent we don’t, but it’s necessary. If there wasn’t the other 20 we wouldn’t have any new ideas, if we disagree we use it to our advantage.”
Brendan adds, “The beauty of being here is we’re now saying no to a lot. We realized the yes mentality was trying to keep up with the Joneses in LA and that the power of no in the most polite, Southern way has made us much happier, because we want to give ourselves space.”
Quick Takes with Christy:
Holiday cooking song: I really like this silly song Turkey Lurkey Time. When it’s game time on Thanksgiving I’ll put it on, put on an apron and cook
What are you most grateful for right now? I’m most grateful for Austin and that I found a home here and my mom and my husband’s brother are close by.
Go-to non-alcoholic holiday beverage: Apfelschorle, it’s a German apple cider drink. You float apple cider on sparkling water. It’s my favorite mocktail.
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? There are so many things I would want to say. Don’t just balance your work life, learn to balance your emotions as well. I should have put focus on my mental health at a younger age.
What advice would 60-year-old you give you today?
I think I need to learn how to laugh more.
Favorite restaurants in Austin: Hestia, Sushi Bar ATX, Intero…Brendan, who says he has a ‘pizza problem’ adds Favorite Pizza and Sammataro
Favorite Hair Salon: Melanie Jacobs at Deep Roots Salon
Other Austin Favorites: Austin FC and AC