Daily Actor talked with Maggie Grace and Mia Maestro from the Denali coven to talk about working with Bill Condon, auditioning and the contacts and more…
This movie is gonna be huge.
Maggie Grace: Do you think so? We hope so. What’s a really encouraging sign is that the presales on the midnight screening, the 10pm screening the night before. I thought it might not find its audience before then, but then I felt better. What a relief!
Mia Maestro: Yeah, it’s been really hard, we’re just trying to push this movie so people can come watch it…
Yeah, I know.
Maggie Grace: I feel like, yeah, since it’s print we’re like ‘sarcasm, sarcasm, sarcasm, said sarcastically.’
From my perspective, with all the hype and madness surrounding it, I think it’d be tons of fun to be in the middle of it, where you guys are. What’s it like for you?
Maggie Grace: It is fun. It’s got like a sort of comradery to it. We all go to Comic-con together and that sort of thing, it’s fun.
Mia Maestro: It’s exciting also because we got to watch it a couple of days ago, and the movie is really good. So it’s just, to me, it’s the best one so far and it has so much action and so many new elements that it just made me just excited to promote it.
Maggie Grace: Yes, it’s a much more grownup film, I think. It’s very… it stands out from the others in terms of theme. It’s more about community and the, you know, the community banding together. So… and also Bill Condon, man, he’s a fantastic actor’s director. We just adored him. Every single one of the people on that call sheet adores Bill. You will not find one person to say a word against him. He loves actors and he’s such a warm centered person that, yeah, he just… he was great on set and then created a really, really, you know, put his own personal thumbprint on this. It’s really lovely.
What’s it like working with him? Does he sit back and let you go? Or is he more hands on?
Maggie Grace: He… I think everybody, Mia was saying earlier, no one on the set felt that they were kind of lost in the mix of things even with that much, that many people. He’s really…
Mia Maestro: He makes sure that nobody’s left out, he’s extremely warm, and he’s very specific with the type of feedback that he gives you. And he’s just a wonderful energy to have on set.
Yeah, you guys have a huge cast.
Maggie Grace: Any director handling just the daily on set reality of that many people and set pieces and, you know, green screen and wolves and everything. And to make everyone there feel really…
Mia Maestro: At home. There’s a little surprise at the end of this film and the moment I saw it…
You can tell me all about it.
Mia Maestro: There’s 2 things we’re not allowed to talk about. But the moment I saw it, I’m like, “Oh, this is Bill’s making.” It had Bill written all over it. So it just made me smile and it’s really a moving gesture that he gave all the actors and all the fans and he gave to the saga.
With the contacts that you wear, what is your vision like? Can you see like normal vision?
Maggie Grace: No, in fact you can’t really see anything. It’s sort of, for me, I don’t know if this was everyone’s experience, but with my contacts they’re gorgeous and hand painted and certainly I was happy to have them. They’re really a neat addition for the heightened reality of vampire, you know, the vampire aesthetic. But, yeah, I couldn’t see anything. The person opposite me is like a dark smudge against bleary, white light. I couldn’t see anything.
Did you have to do action scenes with those too? How do you manage?
Maggie Grace: They’re tricky. It’s funny as an actor because you’re so used to the business of connection really having an exchange with someone. And then you can’t see the person you’re speaking to.
Mia Maestro: I think it was luck as well, a little bit of a lottery, because they’re hand painted. I could see quite a lot in mine, but I knew that some people who couldn’t so it all depended which ones you got, which ones they gave you. But also, I wear contact lenses in life so I think that helped a lot. It was just… it was really easy for me to have just contact lenses. What I did, which I think is a good trick, is I wore mine and then on top I wore the…
Maggie Grace: Oh really?
Mia Maestro: …ones. So my eye was always protected from those.
Maggie Grace: That’s great.
Mia Maestro: Yeah. So I think that kinda helped, because I never had trouble with my eyes being irritated. I mean, I had a little bit of trouble but it was just one day. But some people had a lot of…
Maggie Grace: Yeah, I’m normally not so sensitive to much.
With green screen, you guys are pretty much pros now I would guess. Even when you walk on set after having done it multiple days in a row, is it still something you have to get used to?
Maggie Grace: Yeah, there’s a certain point where you just commit even if you feel really silly. Sometimes it’s tough having a really emotional scene with… I’m trying to… I don’t think my character had any, but the funniest stand-in, there was these sort of balls covered with fur that would help the people doing CG exactly how the wolves would look in the light for the fur in the light. And so that was kind of funny, they’d have these big cutouts that looked more like cows than wolves and then these furry balls that we were reacting to as the wolves. So I was just glad I didn’t have any really high stakes, emotional scenes with the furry balls. The fur balls.
Mia Maestro: It’s also, I think, with green screen you have a question of trusting your direction and just letting the director guide you what you’re really supposed to be doing. I think the tendency for me would… if it’s an emotional moment and because there’s nothing to play against you do it smaller than what, you know, you just turn your whole emotions a little bit down. So it’s just good to have someone like Bill saying, “Right now we need to bring the energy up and whatever you’re doing, do it 3 times bigger.” So it’s not so much a question of intensity, but it’s a question of quantity. How much of that intensity is… could I show with this green backdrop? You know? Because I think when we were in the room then energy just gets absorbed…
Maggie Grace: Especially when you’ve been in a room for 6 weeks shooting the same scene. You know?
Mia Maestro: So it gets… energetically you get dizzy a bit in terms of where am I, what am I doing. Everything becomes the same. And also because it’s green your eyes sometimes get tired. Plus the contact lenses, it was… sometimes it was a little bit kinda like dreamy…
Maggie Grace: Yeah, it was strange. We had fun too. It’s so much fun, actually, because we would all get quite slap happy and it becomes, like, devolves to kindergarten.
I’m sure after 16 hour days your brain is just kind of melting.
Maggie Grace: Yeah, it’s kind of funny. I mean, I think a 12 hour day in a green screen is different than a 12 hour day anywhere else. But, yeah, I think trusting your director is the biggest thing.
You guys both worked with some great actors; Liam Neeson, Michael Sheen, in this movie. Do you just find yourselves sitting back just kind of trying to suck in some of their talent?
Maggie Grace: Yeah, it’s funny what you really absorb and internalize and what you don’t. With Taken, some of it just seems so kind of surreal, the size of the audience it found. But the one time I got really, really giddy when the sequel came out was when Liam went on The Actors Studio. I used to watch that when I was a little baby drama nerd, and just to see Liam, who’s a friend and somebody I really adore, on there and, you know, even to hear him say my name on that show, it was so funny. It really impacted me in a way I could not have expected. I became absolutely giddy, you know? When someone sent me the link, I was… that was really, really fun for me. It’s funny kind of what moments are sign posted and… you know?
But, yeah, I think that was one of the things I was most excited about in Twilight was working with Bill Condon, who’s such a fantastic director, and then having a scene with Michael Sheen. Even if I couldn’t see him through the contacts, still. This is a really great actor, I was like front and center when he opened on Broadway in Frost/Nixon. You know? I mean, he’s fantastic. So it’s fun to see him really play in this because he can kind of do whatever occurs to him. It’s a fun little playground for an actor like Michael Sheen.
And speaking of Broadway, you’re about to star in Picnic. When do you start rehearsals for that?
Maggie Grace: The morning after the Twilight premiere. So sadly I’m gonna… I feel like this is the story with my Twilight experience. Thank God I got great friendships out of it, like Mia, but I’m always missing the cool kids moments. I’ll get to come to part of the premiere, but I can’t stay out late because I have to be in rehearsals in New York the next morning. So… but I think it’s gonna be a really great night because there’s some honest to goodness really great energy with that cast and great friendships and it’ll be such a fun moment.
Have you guys had any nightmare auditions?
Maggie Grace: Sure. Yeah, it’s funny the ones though that you walk away from feeling really terrified and humiliated are often the offers.
Yeah… and auditions where you’re questioning yourself.
Maggie Grace: Yeah, I mean, you never know. Yeah, in one I remember they posted my Lost audition on the internet and I didn’t know it. My manager had approved it and I didn’t know, I was so embarrassed. I was like, “Oh my God, that’s not finished work. That’s so embarrassing.”
Mia Maestro: I think it’s a very unnatural circumstance for an actor. It’s not actually that good of an acting process. Because normally the best thing it is to do your homework and just be ready, but also arrive to a room or arrive to rehearsal or to a job and work on the scene with your director, have a wonderful director directing you and guiding you through it. And also have an actor or an actress or group of actors playing the scene at the same level that you’re going to be playing it. And not… most of the time some of the auditions that you do or 50% of the time are read by people that are not actors, and…
Maggie Grace: Or are not looking at you. Yeah, it’s an entirely different animal.
Mia Maestro: So, actually, I think the art of acting and the art of auditioning…
Maggie Grace: Two totally separate things.
Mia Maestro: Very different. There’s some wonderful actors that are just not good at auditioning.
Maggie Grace: Or great auditioners that get to set and are just…
Mia Maestro: And then they could have stage fright by having to perform in front of 400 people, crew. And so, or, you know, if you have…
Maggie Grace: Or they don’t have a sense of the art. Because I often feel that actors are more prone to show every single color in one scene that wouldn’t truly be there in the arc of the story because we want to show, whether it be a studio test or a network test, they kind of want to show them everything just in case they’re like, “Well…” But you wouldn’t necessarily play the scene that way. So it’s kind of an unnatural process.
Mia Maestro: It’s kind of tricky and I think good auditioning, it’s not only… you have to know how to audition, but also the casting director and the director, they have to know how to audition for, you know… it’s kind of unusual that everyone in the room are on the same page on all those things. And sometimes it happens and it’s wonderful, and when you do…
Maggie Grace: Sometimes it really feels like workshopping something. I’ve worked with directors that I have the utmost respect for creatively that I’m just thrilled to get to work through something with them in the room, it really feels more like a rehearsal than an audition. And then everybody’s got a different process.
Like Danny Boyle reads the scene with you, that was one of the wonderful things with Danny Boyle.
Mia Maestro: Also I once auditioned for Francis Ford Coppola and we did it at his house in Napa Valley and he invited 4, 5 actors and we all spent the night and we worked all day on the auditions and the reading and at night, Francis cooked…
Maggie Grace: It’s more like a play reading.
Mia Maestro: …cooked some spaghetti and we all had a lovely meal and the next morning we had a tour of the vineyard and we went home.
Maggie Grace: That’s great.
That’s like the best audition ever.
Maggie Grace: Stephen Spielberg feels like he’s going to freak actors out just by his presence, so he films them and then he’s in the next room. He never works with, to my knowledge in my experience; he’s not there in rooms because it could throw some people.
Mia Maestro: I think great directors have great way of auditioning. There’s some directors that don’t like to be in the room, but they trust the casting director so much that… and the casting director found the way that that director wants you to audition specifically.
For example, Terrence Malick ’s casting director, she’s wonderful. It’s basically like, you go in and improvise for her for like 25 minutes and you read something beautiful that he wrote and it’s just whatever inspires you, you just can create. So when you do an audition like that, no matter if you get cast or not cast, you’ve done… you’ve shown the best.
Maggie Grace: You feel like you’ve discovered something in his process.
Mia Maestro: So that’s kinda wonderful when auditioning, it’s a creative process. And when it’s not, you just…
Maggie Grace: Well, so often, especially now, I feel like it’s really changed even in the last 10 years because of the way that the movie business has changed and there’s more… on one hand, we have incredibly niche things and there are these huge tentpole franchises. But then there’s a lot of secrecy around them. So often you won’t have a script, you won’t have any information about the character, and they’re sending you placebo sides that don’t actually… those words don’t belong to that person anyway.
Mia Maestro: I kinda like that, don’t you?
Maggie Grace: No.
Mia Maestro: I do. I think it’s kind of more…
Maggie Grace: It’s essence casting is what it is. You either win the lottery or you don’t. But it’s kind of like I’m an actor, I want to be given the, you know, there’s a spectrum here. Certainly there’s roles that I’m probably not gonna be first in people’s minds for, but there’s a lot that is certainly not represented in the body of work that’s out there and I would much prefer to have some idea of what they’re looking for so that I can help as opposed to this lottery system where if you guess correctly you win. You know what I mean? They’re assuming actors only do one thing and by not giving them any information or character or any idea of what they want, then it’s harder to give that to them. So, you know, I’d prefer a more open dialogue I guess.