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Acting since she was just 10 years old, Britt Robertson has spent most of her career on television, starring on shows like Life Unexpected, The Secret Circle and, most recently, Under The Dome, but she continues to pick up big screen roles as well. In addition to being in the middle of production on Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, this weekend she can be seen starring alongside Vince Vaughn in the new dramedy Delivery Man.
In the new movie Robertson stars as Kristen, one of the 533 children that Vaughn’s character, David, unknowingly fathered through multiple anonymous donations to a local fertility clinic. Kristen, unfortunately, has had a hard life and has turned to drugs as a result, but when David meets her he feels compelled to try and be her guardian angel.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to sit down with the young actress one on one to talk not only about her latest film, but also the work she’s been doing on Tomorrowland and what we can hope to see from her in the season of Under The Dome. Read on to find out what she had to say!
When you first start looking at a character what do you really hone in on?
Like in general? What do I hone in on? I mean, like lately, well, not necessarily lately, but for a long time it’s been like age, because I’m 23, but I really do look very young and so for a long time I would be sent these roles would be like "mid-twenties, sexy" and I’m like, okay, I cannot play mid-twenties sexy. So, a lot of times I just want to feel comfortable in my skin, to bring something to a character that maybe somebody else hasn’t and also just find some depth and truth and realness into a person so that an audience can relate and have some, you know, I don’t know, emotional...
Exactly. So, those are the kinds of things I look for.
From there, when you were approaching the character of Kristen in Delivery Man, what would you kind of dig your teeth into?
I actually really loved the character because she was kind of this young girl, who’s super feisty, trying to make a way on her own and you know, get an apartment in New York. She has nobody in life, but is really kind of falling apart and she can’t hold on to anything and for me, like, in life, I’ve always kind of been the person to take on huge tasks that I probably can’t handle, and I sort of lose my mind in the midst of it, and I thought it would be... There’s a sweetness and a vulnerability and also a toughness to someone like that who can take on the world, but like really not know how to handle it.
It’s a competence and independence.
Exactly, but it’s so sweet to see them try and give up and fail and then have these people like Vince who come into their lives and help them out, and that’s kind of what I was drawn to.
And what kind of conversations did you have with Ken Scott when you first got to the set?
A lot of the conversations for me and my character were about levels because like with my character, she can be like, at a 105 all the time or there can be these moments of anger and sadness, resentment and hurt. So, he wanted to make sure that, especially the first scene, where you meet my character, that there was, I mean, it’s a very short time, but he wanted to make sure that you could see something was happening, and it wasn’t just to be skated right over.
And it is very subtle...
Exactly, but that's kind of what he wanted. He wanted it to have an impact but still be subtle and not be a slap in the face. She’s a young girl and she’s sort of been thrown into this situation and has these issues. So, those are the kind of conversations we talked about, just the different levels and where she would be and how we wanted to play with those.
This is a strange project just in the fact that it’s a remake from the same writer-director as the original, so could you sense a kind of comfortableness with the material?
Confidence, yeah. I mean, I think Dreamworks and Disney, they really gave him a lot of freedom to make the movie that he wanted to make and I think they had such a, they loved Starbuck so much, that they just wanted to give him a chance to have that American format and platform. So, you know, working with him, there was a lot of ease and confidence. He knew what he wanted from day 1. He was like this is the movie I want to make and I’m going to make it. So we just did the best we could for him just so he could have this opportunity.
And one of the most dynamic scenes in the film is when you’re in the hospital and Vince Vaughn is going back and forth between the doctor and you trying to figure out what his responsibility is towards your character’s health and wishes. When you watch the scene it’s played for comedy because you’re just watching this guy who’s like, "Oh God, what the hell am I getting into?"
But when you were on the set on the day, did you treat it as comedy or were you actually treating it more like drama?
You cannot treat those things, for me, I can’t go too far into the comedy world, because then the reality is stripped out of it, and it’s not as like, you don’t feel it as much. My character was taking it 110% seriously. It’s way more funny than if I’m trying to throw some jokes in there. So, yeah, I had to just, and it’s, on the day actually, when we shot that, it was right after Hurricane Sandy, so New York was very heavy and...
Not too hard to match the mood.
Yeah, exactly, the mood of just the entire city and our set was pretty down, so it wasn’t hard to just be in that kind of heavy emotional state.
What was it like to work with Vince Vaughn?
Yeah, I mean, on this project it was definitely, it was different than I guess what most people think Vince Vaughn is.
From what I get, people are like, "What’s Vince like? Is he like the funniest, always pranking, like ha ha?" He really is kind of like a down to earth, super passionate, opinionated guy, who has a lot to say all the time and he’s cracking jokes, but in a really serious way, which I think is hilarious. Like he’s not cracking jokes. He’s being serious, but his sincerity makes it so hilarious, you know. And I just, I really loved working with him. I felt like I got, my performance was way better than it ever could have been working with him.
It’s always great to meet someone who brings out the best in you.
You mentioned that approaching that scene in particular with comedy was not the proper thing for you, and most of you career you have spent doing drama – some with touches of comedy. But have you ever thought about making a more straight comedy?
Yeah, I’m not like super funny [laughs]. I’m not like good at, I mean I’m not good at being slapstick, like bam-bam joke, punch line here, but I just don’t know, for me, things are funny when they’re real and those are the kinds of things I laugh at, but the film that I’m doing now has a lot of comedy built into it and so I’ve had to like embrace a lot of more typical comedic beats than normally and that’s been really fun and challenging for sure, because I’m, like you say, I tend to go more the dramatic route, but it’s been fun to embrace the funny side.
You’ve also been on television for a few years now. Does that have a certain effect on the way you look at different projects? Do you try and do something completely different from what you’re doing regularly?
I do. I think it’s important to switch it up and for people to see you in different ways, especially when you’re young. It makes that transition into being an adult much easier when you’re not pinpointed as one character or the other. But, for me, I don’t know, I just try to do cool projects where I feel like I can be good. If it’s a scenario that I feel like I can be good in, I’m like ok, let’s give it a try.
What kind of stuff do you really try to challenge yourself with?
The types of stuff, I mean, I love stuff that sort of gets people thinking, like intellectual type of material, where it’s not just so in your face. There’s some layers underneath, because then I think you can, for me, when I’m working, the most fun thing is not being able to just have one idea of what a scene is or who a character is or one way of attacking something. So, if there’s a lot of underneaths and you know, just a different layer, different tone, then you can attack it from different ways. You can play, you can riff, you can figure out the exact tone of the scene in the scene, while doing it, as opposed to preplanning an idea.
And is the movie you’re working on now Tomorrowland still? I know there’s a bit of secrecy around it, but can you talk a little bit about your character?
Yeah, I play a young girl named Casey and she’s like a highly intellectual young girl and she’s just this average girl who has a really simple life and then kind of gets drug out of her simple life and gets thrown into a very crazy situation.
How fantastical does it really get?
It is what everyone is hoping it will be in that way, but there’s so many different aspects to the movie. I mean, it’s hard to say without saying anything, because we’re not allowed to say anything about anything, but it’s fantastical and it’s sweet and it’s funny and it’s scary and it’s all of those things that you hope it will be, hopefully.
Working with Brad Bird - he’s coming off of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol., and he has this great history in animation. What’s been your experience working with him on set?
It’s been a really awesome experience. I’ve learned so much and, you know, I’ve been able, working with him, I’ve had to sort of treat this as a different project in itself, because I kind of have a different process than I’ve ever had before, because he’s a guy that, all he needs you to do is show up to work prepared and he will manipulate you to be the person he wants you to be as long as you show up prepared, then he can tweak you and like, he’ll literally be like, "Move your arm up, up more, up more. Now do this weird face. Now, scrunch your nose," and you’re just, in this bizarre situation and you look really ridiculous, but it’s hilarious, then he’ll be like, "Ok, now start the scene," and you just go for it, so it’s a completely different process than I’ve had with any other project, but it’s like being, I’m such a big kid, for the last three months I’ve just been playing nonstop.
How much longer is the production?
We finish at the end of January.
I know. It’s long. It’s good. It’ll be fun.
It’ll be worth it?
To talk a bit about Under the Dome also, have you heard anything yet about where the second season is going?
No, hopefully I’m going to have dinner with a couple of my cast mates this week so I can get the scoop hopefully, because I haven’t heard anything. I’ve been sort of MIA, but hopefully it will be cool and I mean it’s some great people still attached to it and I think it will be the same but more and better.
What kind of things are you hoping to see happen?
I kind of want my character, I think it would be cool...
I mean, now that you’re out of the bunker…
[Laughs] Yeah, now that I have some freedom, thank God. I kind of want her to like go on a mission to fight back Big Jim and take him down, you know. I kind of want to like, I don’t know, like get a rebellion against him. I want him gone.
And your character in the book...
She dies early. So is there a freedom in that or is there a degree to which you wish you had a look into her future?
I mean there’s a part of me that kind of wishes I at least had, because coming to the pilot, I was like, I mean I don’t know anything about this girl. In the book, they sort of reference the fact that she was a little more salacious, kind of, she got around, but that was really the only thing I had to connect to and the show it’s a lot different. I mean, I have a brother in the show and so it’s different, but it’s better that I didn’t have a guideline to go off of and yeah, just kind of made it more interesting and fun and I can do whatever I want to do.