Tell us how you came across the script for All That I Am and what drew you to it.
"I've known the casting director forever and she asked me to come in and read for it. I really liked the character — sometimes it just comes down to whether I feel like I want to say the words. It's almost a guttural thing when I read the project. And, even if the project is great, if the character isn't getting under my skin immediately I know I shouldn't do it. I can't even tell you why it does or does not happen, but it just does."
Do you have to find something likable about the character?
"I don't know that you have to find something likable, but once you inhabit a character you always end up liking something about her. Even if she's awful, you develop an understanding and empathy. Sometimes, I just start being fascinated by them and it's hard not to start love them."
The theme of this movie — a dysfunctional family — is something that everyone can relate to. Did you bring any of your personal life to the character?
"I don't really approach working like that, but it's all there. I don't have a very methodical approach to acting since I never studied or trained...I actually think very little about it. But, then there is instinct and emotion, so all of my stuff is in there. But, I'm not deciding 'Oh, yes, I too have an estranged father and let me think about that and pluck something from that experience.' However, I can assure you that when it comes to the rage and the sadness, it's all a part of it."
Makeup by Adam Maclay.
Did you find yourself sympathizing with the father in the film?
"I did and I think that that's a testament not just to the writing, but to Chris McCann, who plays the father. Like I said earlier, we're all complicated human beings and even the worst of us can elicit sympathy if we're able to express our pain and explain ourselves. And, that character was giving the chance to do that. But, I was very moved by that performance. I felt sympathy for all of the characters in this film. All of the characters were assholes and I felt really badly for them. Which, actually, is how I feel about everybody in my family on a given night when we're all screaming at each other. We're all assholes and we're all suffering, but it's funny in the end — hopefully."
"I wasn't there the whole shoot, but we were all staying in this weird derelict hotel that used to be some sort of resort and is now just kind of crumbling at the seams. We were in the middle of nowhere and that's just my favorite way to make a movie — when you're all stuck somewhere together."
What was it like going straight into filming Crystal Fairy?
"Oh, the two movies were nothing alike. I might not have even been that much fun for All That I Am, if I remember correctly. I've recently started to theorize about myself that I might be a totally unconscious method actress where the character accidentally gets under my skin. I'll look back on filming and realize I was weirdly depressed during that time and it's probably because I was playing a suicidal depressive. But, Crystal Fairy was different. The character was literally letting it all loose."
Did you find yourself taking on some of her crazier qualities?
"I actually think I was just really myself. But, we were also just in a different zone because we never really stopped working. We were improv-ing and we were shooting sort of willy-nilly. We shot in Chile and were in the zone all the time, so they were pretty distinct experiences and it's funny that they were back-to-back."
"Yeah, it was mescaline. We filmed after taking it. We were gonna all take it the day before we had to shoot, but we lost that day. So, I shot my day first because my trip is by myself and I was sort of the guinea pig. I was pretty confident that the experience of working on it was going to be good and I didn't have much to do in the scene other than just roam around.
"I mostly remember relationships. I just think about the people and moments with the people and the strong reactions that I had to the people I worked with and friendships I made. None of my memories are on set. I mean, they're on set, but they're not in front of the camera. I didn't really care about acting...I loved doing it, but it wasn't super important to me."
Does it even feel like that was you?
"No, it doesn't feel like it was me at all.... I mean it was, of course. But, I was five when I started and really stopped when I was 17, so I hadn't really yet developed my personality as an adult. And, I didn't really care about acting. I wasn't particularly interested in it. I liked making movies because I liked the social element and I had fun doing it. But, I didn't really even think about it as a 'thing,' it was just sort of what I did. It took me a really long time to sort out all that stuff during my twenties, and now I feel like I'm a different person and acting feels like a brand new thing to me. What I was doing then has nothing to do with what I'm doing now."
"There are so many. Well, you could make a really decent living being an independent film actress in the '90s and now you cannot. Obviously, the evolution of the film industry in terms of digital media is massive and huge and really exciting. I'm really into it. Though Hollywood is in the saddest state it's ever been in in terms of the films it's producing and the demands that it's putting on itself, I think that's a bubble that's going to pop soon. Hollywood was making films when I was young, and now they just make cartoons and comic books. So, it's been really strange and sad to see that happen, but like I said I think we're sort of at the bottom."
"You know, I was just watching Terms of Endearment, and I was thinking that Debra Winger was the woman. She was the Hollywood female star. I won't name any names, but we know that that's not the case now. She was an actress and they made movies about people and relationships and life. And, that's what I would like to see more of. I would like to see money being put into that stuff. I feel really hopeful and excited."
How do you think you would have fared if you had been a child actress today instead of the '90s?
"I think the same, because I would have had the same mother. And, she is more powerful and her force is more widely felt than even that of Hollywood. So, I think the effects of being raised by my mother would have overwhelmed even the hideousness of what it means to be in the public eye today. And, I was never that famous — the two worlds didn't even compare. I will say that I am grateful, though, that it's not happening to me today. I feel really bad for all these kids."
What made you decide to quit acting and go to college?
"I always wanted to go to college and acting was a means to an end. I wanted to do normal things; I thought that I would be a teacher. But, then I just really started missing acting when I was in school...I was really in denial about that. It was post-9/11, Bush was President and I thought I was going to save the world. I thought I was going to become an environmental lawyer, but then I realized I could barely even take the SATs. I can't go to law school.
What does floundering mean to you?
"I just was lost and I let myself be lost. I didn't force myself to confront and answer the question about acting, but I wasn't present at all. It was very uncomfortable and I was not the happiest person. My boyfriend, literally, had to walk me to the edge of a cliff and force me to figure it out. And, he was right and that's when I decided to spend a year focusing on acting as seriously as I do on everything else in my life. Then it was two weeks later that I started making All That I Am."
"To me, more or less, there's no formula. But, the second I turned myself toward it, it just made sense. When I was at war with the idea of acting all those years, none of it was easy. Even if I wanted it, I couldn't have gotten a job. Now, I just feel supremely lucky that I get to do something that I like so much."
You're a born and raised New Yorker — what is your opinion of the city as it's changing?
"That's similar to the great decline of Hollywood. It's very sad to me what's happened to the city. Nobody that I grew up with can afford to live here any longer, none of the neighborhoods that I grew up in are recognizable, every time that I see a Starbucks it makes me want to cry. Manhattan and beyond is a playground for the rich and that's all it is, it seems.
"About Dasani? She lives around the corner from me. I mean, I'm one of those white people who lives in Fort Greene. And, I can't afford to live in the neighborhood that I grew up in...I can't even really afford to live in Fort Greene. I don't want to live in Manhattan, frankly. But, even if I did, I couldn't afford it. I didn't grow up with a lot of money. I don't have a lot of money now. And, I am made uncomfortable by the wealth that surrounds me here — and in Fort Greene — to a large extent.