EXCLUSIVE: Cameron Monaghan is Asher in The Giver
By: Lynn Barker
You might have seen cute, red-haired actor Cameron Monaghan in Disney’s Prom movie or in the Vampire Academy film. He also co-stars as Ian in the more racy TV series “Shameless”. This week, you can check out Cameron’s performance as Asher, lead character Jonas’s best bud in the movie adaptation of The Giver. Asher is funny, a bit of a rebel and a pilot by profession who will cause serious trouble for Jonas.
The society of The Giver is, on the surface, a utopia; no crime, peaceful, all that but this is caused by the population getting a daily shot that actually dampens their emotions. The citizens have no memory of their pasts or the pasts of their ancestors. Only The Giver (Jeff Bridges) holds these memories for the group. Young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is assigned the job of taking over from the old man. The knowledge he absorbs changes his life and that of friends, family and a civilization.
In our exclusive interview, Kidzworld asked Cameron about his own rebellious tendencies, what personal characteristic he would really hate to lose in a world with dampened emotions and hey, how would a musician and music lover like himself, get along without music?
Kidzworld: Asher has a cool job as a pilot but he’s told never to venture outside the protected border. Could you do that? Would you break the rule?
- Cameron: Asher is part of this community where they don’t have any idea that there is any other option (but to stay). I’m a bit of a rule breaker. I’d be curious. I don’t think I’d be able to resist taking a sneak peek out there.
Kidzworld: You are a musical guy (he was in TV version of “Music Man” at a young age). If you lived in a world without music, would you just have to invent it or smuggle it in?
- Cameron: (laughs) I’m always tapping a beat for myself on my leg or anywhere even when I don’t have an instrument. I can’t help it. Yeah, I’d have to improvise some way or I’d probably lose my mind.
Kidzworld: What music artist or band are you really into right now?
- Cameron: I listen to a lot. Lately I’ve been listening to “Blood on the Tracks” by Dylan. It’s been on replay lately for some reason. I’ve always been a Dylan guy but just recently going back and listening to it, you can gain so much by listening to a specific album by an artist. (They were) in a specific place and time (when they recorded it) and the music progresses and builds on itself within an album. I think now it’s an art that’s being lost.
Kidzworld: Had you read “The Giver” book in the past? What did you think?
- Cameron: I hadn’t read it before I auditioned for the role and, once I auditioned, once I read it, it made me want the role even more. They are younger in the book but I think the basic idea remains consistent, which is all these kids are innocent. They hadn’t experienced anything like pain or fear. They don’t have knowledge of rebellion. They aren’t living full lives. They don’t have full humanity. That was interesting to explore. That still exists regardless of age and, in some ways, it’s even spookier for them to be older and lack this basic understanding of life.
Kidzworld: Asher and Jonas start out as friends in the movie so did you and Brenton get to meet and get to know each other before filming? Like go to dinner or anything?
- Cameron: We had a couple of weeks before filming where everybody got together in South Africa (Capetown area where the movie shot). We all got to hang out and get to know each other during wardrobe fittings and discussing the script. We would jam and play music together. Definitely having that time, for me, getting to know Brenton and Odeya (Rush who plays Fiona) a little bit, since they are such close friends with Asher in the script, was great.
Kidzworld: Who was the jokester or prankster on the set and what did they do?
- Cameron: There’s always time to be silly. Can’t think of anything right now. But, just today (at the press day), Brenton just cracked me up. He put a piece of lime on director Phillip Noyce’s shoulder right before he walked out to the press conference. Phil had no idea and had it on there and picked up the microphone before it fell off. (we laugh).
Kidzworld: So silly and fun. Did you and any of the other cast members get to do anything fun off-set in Capetown? Like be a tourist?
- Cameron: I got to explore and travel around to a couple of townships in the area. I went four-wheeling through the woods. I went sand boarding. There are sand dunes there. Besides adventure stuff, just going to a ton of different restaurants and experiencing the culture and cuisine was great.
Kidzworld: What was the most challenging scene for you in The Giver?
- Cameron: I guess first and foremost is, in this world where there isn’t emotion, because these people are taking a shot to suppress their emotional capacity, how do you still be interesting and compelling and relatable and human in some way? I think that was a challenge (throughout). I talked to (director) Phil about it and the consensus was that they still have feelings. They can still be happy in the moment but they don’t have a deeper understanding of those feelings. They can’t really be content. They can be frustrated but not truly, deeply saddened. That was difficult (to portray). It was hard to find that balance.
Kidzworld: You have a couple of scenes with Meryl Streep. Was that intimidating or just fun?
- Cameron: She was as regular of a person as you would hope her to be. She’s very kind and warm and humble. Definitely not at all imposing like her character. It’s really fascinating to watch her switch into that mode. I will make a very controversial statement and say “Meryl Streep is a very talented actress”.
Kidzworld: Yep! Did you work with Jeff Bridges or Taylor Swift? How was that?
- Cameron: I didn’t have scenes with Taylor. She has a smaller part. I had a few scenes that were group scenes with Jeff but not one-on-one like with Meryl Streep. But still, even having a chance to be acting at all with Jeff was worth it.
Kidzworld: What is the characteristic about yourself that makes you unique? The one thing that you would most hate to lose if everyone were the same?
- Cameron: That’s a hard question. I think I’m naturally a pretty introspective person; always examining and trying to understand myself. I guess having that trait would be something I wouldn’t want to lose.
Kidzworld: What must a girl never do on a date or she’ll never get another one? Pet dating peeve?
- Cameron: For them to be on their phone. Pay attention to your surroundings, the actual world. Don’t be so stuck to your electronics. I think there is something to be said about being present. I, like anybody else, like my iPhone and social media and all that but when you are around other humans, you should act like a person.
Kidzworld: Totally agree. What’s next? Who do you play in Amityville and is it a remake or a total reimagining of the story?
- Cameron: It’s different. Basically, the movie is about a single mother who moves her three kids into the Amityville house. My character has been in a coma for a couple of years and has kind of withered away. I had a fake body and prosthetics on my face for that part but then the creepy part is I start becoming possessed..
Kidzworld: Ooooo, scary. What is up this season or coming up for Ian on “Shameless”?
- Cameron: We are further exploring the bi-polarity storyline. It’s challenging for multiple reasons. You want to be respectful of mental illness and not come off cold but, at the same time, it’s an extreme thing to go through these wild, emotional peaks. So, that’s been an interesting thing for the season and the ramifications with his family and his lover.
Kidzworld: Wrapping up, why do you think tweens and teens especially would enjoy seeing The Giver?
- Cameron: This is a story that appeals to all ages. It’s become such a beloved book. It has love and adventure and emotion and action and suspense; all these compelling story parts but, at the same time, it raises all these questions about humanity and human nature in society. There is so much to it.
The Giver is in theaters August 15th!