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The difference between Bobby Coleman and his character Dennis from Martian Child is immense. Bobby walks into a room full of journalists, shakes every one of their hands in turn, and then sits down to discuss how he got into the character of an abandoned, withdrawn boy. His co-star John Cusack calls him “a little rock star,” and he’s definitely got that same ease with a crowd. 10-year old Coleman has been acting most of his life, but Martian Child marks his first starring role. Getting to play an alien before you hit puberty? Talk about hitting the big time.
What did you first think, say and do when you found out you got the part?
I’m always really happy when I get parts. It’s so cool, because I love acting. I don’t really know what I thought. ‘This is so cool!’ or ‘Are you tricking me?’ When I found out it was really true, it was really cool, that I got to work with John Cusack.
What do you like about acting?
I love traveling. I really love getting into a character and really analyzing what they are. I guess I really don’t know how to put it into words, but I really love just all the characters, working with different people and meeting new people.
How did you get into Dennis’ character?
My parents and my sister and I all read the script together. We played around with things, played around with how Dennis would feel if he got left by all these foster parents. We just came to the decision that he’d just totally close up and hide and be afraid that he was going to get hurt by someone, so he just hid in a box.
Did you think he was really from Mars?
In the first script you really weren’t sure if he was from Mars or not. The message of the movie is loving people and learning to love people even how weird they are, how challenging they are to love. Just being loved by who you are. It really doesn’t if he’s from Mars, because he decides to stay with his real dad who he wants to be with.
Did you get to make up any things you did during the movie?
Actually John Cusack taught me to do that, because John Cusack, every scene is totally different. He improvised every take and every scene was different, actually. He changes it around, he plays with things. He just tries to find the most real thing you would say in that scene. He taught me to loosen up.
How would you get yourself in character when you had a sad scene?
My sister taught me how to cry. [His sister is actress Holli Holliman] I just get into a mode for like 30 minutes, I sit there alone. I think about what happened before the scene, what caused the crying, and I think about how he would feel for the crying scene. Then I think of something that sometimes is true and sometimes isn’t true, but it’s sad. I think of that, and when it’s ready it comes, and I go off into the scene.
What was the hardest part to film?
The hardest part was crying, but that’s the hardest part of acting.
Do you like science fiction?
I do. I love Harry Potter, and I love Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite movies actually.
What do your friends think about you being in movies with John Cusack?
I don’t think my friends really know who John Cusack is. They do think it’s cool that I get to act, but they’re sad when I have to leave to act.
You shot a TV pilot with William H. Macy. How was he?
He’s really nice. I just filmed the pilot, and we’re hoping that it will get picked up. It’s on TNT. Bill Macy is a really nice guy. In some ways he’s like John Cusack, because he also thinks about the scene and he thinks ‘What would we do in this scene,’ and he improvises a lot. I guess all the great actors improvise. It’s fun working with him.
Do you like having the freedom to improvise?
I love having the freedom to improvise. You get to play around with things, and you get to put your input on it. It’s more loose.