AnnaSophia and Liam Find The Way Way Back
By: Lynn Barker
AnnaSophia Robb has charmed us since she starred with The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson in Bridge to Terabithia. Then she was an inspiration as true life Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton and she’s fun and fashionable as young Carrie on TV’s “The Carrie Diaries”.
16 (almost 17) year-old Liam James has a ton of TV credits including roles in “The Killing”, “R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour” and “Psych”. In the comedy/drama The Way Way Back, Liam plays 14-year-old Duncan, doomed to spend a hellish summer with his mom and her over-the-top controlling new boyfriend (a serious Steve Carrell). Duncan escapes to the local beachside amusement park and seeks some solace with Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) the sympathetic and kissable girl next door.
Q: Who is your outfit by?
- AnnaSophia: Kate Spade and Miss Woo. Don’t know who my earrings are by. Thought I’d punk it up a little bit.
Q: You must be getting into a lot more fashion now since “The Carrie Diaries”.
- AnnaSophia: I’m starting to.
- Liam: Me too. My mom is really stepping up her game (laughter).
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
- Liam: When I was about 10 years old my mom had a friend who was a casting agent and I started doing a little bit of background work and from there did a little bit of body doubling and it just built and I started auditioning and never wanted to look back.
Q: What drives you to act?
- Liam: What I like the most about film is watching film. I’ve grown up watching movies and I just clicked somehow with auditioning. I just fell into it.
- AnnaSophia: We both started about the same age, nine or ten. I think it was one of those things that I wanted to do when I was younger but I really didn't know why I wanted to do it. My career slowly progressed and then working with really talented people made we want to continue telling stories.
- Liam: Yeah. I’ve never had one of those experiences on set where there are nasty people. The interesting people you meet just made me want to come back for more and more.
- AnnaSophia: We had so much fun on this movie!
Q: Liam, you got to play opposite Steve Carell in a role where he’s not funny. Was that a bit of a letdown for you?
- Liam: Yeah. I mean he’s no method actor and I’m very glad about that. He’s really sweet off set but in our scenes together there was definitely a lot of tension between the two characters and he really brought it. I think it felt really natural.
Q: Did you learn anything from Steve and the other actors by just being around them?
- Liam: I think one thing I learned from everyone is that it’s very important to be generous with your acting skills if you are an older actor trying to help a younger one. Sam (Rockwell) would have us do exercises where we’d push our hands together to get the blood flowing.
- In this one scene where I’m supposed to crack this amazing smile at the end of the film, who better to make you smile than the guy who has been a jerk to you the whole time? You see the back of Steve Carrell’s head but what he’s actually doing is the Steve Carell laugh that is contagious. So, I think one thing that I learned is just being generous and helping everyone do the best that they can.
Q: AnnaSophia, (The producers) said that you seem mature beyond your age so you were perfect for this character. Would you agree with that?
- AnnaSophia: I feel old. I do old things I guess. I like to sleep a lot and go out to dinner.
- Liam: (laughs) She’s also a lot of fun and very fun to hang out with.
- AnnaSophia: Thanks, Liam. I’d say the same about you. We had a great time together but I think I just was really drawn to this character. The film is so well-written. The first thing you see on a film is the script and it was so complete and I’ve never enjoyed reading something so much and being able to watch it be put together.
- I remember reading it and just being on fire and just adoring (the writer/directors) and how smart and witty and driven and what nice guys they are. Then, filming and watching all these amazing actors put their heart and soul in it and use their talent and have a blast. I think the fun we had on the film really transfers onto the screen.
Q: AnnaSophia, how did this film work with “The Carrie Diaries”? Did you shoot it during you break?
- AnnaSophia: It happened right before. I did The Way Way Back and then a couple of weekends I went to New York. It was really wonderful. Allison (Janey) was obviously in “West Wing” so she was telling me about TV and how intense it is and sharing her experiences. That really meant a lot to me because I’d never done TV before and a lot of the crew was from New York so I got a little bit of a warm up and then doing a project I was really excited about and something completely different was a huge blessing for me. So I went from there to “The Carrie Diaries”.
Q: Liam what was the audition process like for you?
- Liam: We did do the scene where Steve says that I’m a three (out of 10) and (my character) has to react to that. I put it on tape because I live in Vancouver and then they asked me to come out to Los Angeles and it was definitely the most fun I’d had in an audition because of (writer/directors) Nat and Jim always making jokes and I felt very comfortable to do whatever I needed to do. I wasn’t anxious or nervous.
- One of the scenes they wanted me to do when I got there was the scene where Duncan is showing Susanna (AnnaSophia’s character) around the park because it’s really important for Duncan to have that change from being sullen to who he’s supposed to be at the end of the film. I did that scene and I learned a lot of things from Sam (Rockwell) when he showed me around the park.
Q: AnnaSophia, are you going to college this year?
- AnnaSophia: I’m deferring another year but it’s okay. College isn’t going anywhere. I have an idea of what I’ll study; not science and not math. Everything else I’m interested in.
- Liam: I’ve got one week left of school and am taking the classes. I’ll be in 12th grade next year. I go to a public school in a town called Coquitlam (in Canada). It’s been great.
Q: It’s difficult to be a teen actor or a teen in general. Any advice for getting through your teens?
- Liam: I think one thing I learned especially on the movie, I think you have to be understanding that everyone’s situation is different and being kind to people is the most important thing to me. I think Duncan (needed a) mentor, with his parents spilt up and sometimes your friends are doing their own things so I think people like Sam’s character are very important whether it’s an uncle or anyone that gets that young person where they need to be.
- AnnaSophia: I think this story is very poignant for the awkward age Duncan is and I think the poster captures it quite well. We’ve all been there and felt isolated and not connected and wondering where they are in life. To have that unexpected mentor like Sam Rockwell’s character to just reach out and get involved (is great). I think Susanna is going through a transition too.
Q: Have you felt that kind of isolation in your life?
- AnnaSophia: Yeah. I think it happens to everyone at different points. I think, for me, after high school, working then coming home and being like “oh my gosh none of my friends are home yet” and feeling a sense of home without any of my friends with everything being different. What is this new place? Everything has changed so it’s getting through that but you can’t do it alone.
Q: How are you holding up with the TV show, the schedule and everything?
- AnnaSophia: It was rough and a learning process but I really loved everyone I worked with and the crew and I’m very excited for season two. I can’t wait to get back. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun. I like working hard. Otherwise I get bored. On this set I got lonely because I wasn’t in the whole thing. I would come early and hang out at the house to just be with everybody.
Q: Do you have hobbies that also take up your time?
- AnnaSophia: You know when you’re really busy it’s easy to put your hobbies aside and think you always have to be going work. So it’s really important to find those hobbies and make time for them. There are certainly things I love to do. When I’m home I love to go on hikes and hang out with my friends but in New York I love just walking around the city and going to plays and shows, concerts. Food is a hobby, museums. I love New York.
Q: Liam, this is the first time you’ve seen your face up on billboards everywhere. Do the kids at home tease you about it? How do you feel about the attention?
- Liam: It feels good. Whatever happens, happens and I’m excited that the movie has been getting such great reviews so far. I hope it does well and everything works out.
Q: Any phone calls from people asking you to be in new projects?
- Liam: Yeah, especially, now that I’m getting older, I’m more involved in the process as opposed to when I was about 11 or 12. I’m just working with my agent and manager to really understand the process.
Q: AnnaSophia, top it off by telling us a lesson you have learned about fashion.
- AnnaSophia: You have to have a seamstress or a tailor because nothing fits until they fit it to your body.
Q: Great advice!
The Way Way Back in is theaters July 5th!