During my recent visit on the set of Nicholas Sparks’ latest movie; The Best Of Me (in theaters 10/17), I had the chance to sit down with a select group of bloggers, to interview two of the films costars; Liana Liberato (young Amanda) and Luke Bracey (young Dawson). Two very nice, up and coming actors, that were more than generous with their time and thoughts on the film.
Blogger: So, how old are you?
Ms. Liana Liberato: I’m 18. Graduated as quickly as I could because I did not like school. I’m a great role model.
Blogger: How did you get involved in acting?
Ms. Liana Liberato: I did theatre when I was three just because my mom didn’t want me to be shy. And I was also the Tasmanian Devil so she wanted to get rid of me for a couple of hours, and so she just put me in some theatre. And I just fell in love with it. It’s kind of the only thing that I ever really knew. I tried soccer and softball and everything like that, but I’d run the wrong way on the bases and I just wasn’t good. And so, then when I was nine, I had always said I wanted to do it professionally, and I don’t know how my parents took me seriously, but they took a little leap of faith and decided to try it out and I never really left LA after that.
Blogger: So, you were in the movie “Trust.”
Ms. Liana Liberato: I was!
Blogger: Did that change the way you see social media?
Ms. Liana Liberato: Yes, it did. When I was filming, I just kind of got off all social media altogether because it did freak me out a little and it affected me. But, it’s 2014. You kind of have to be involved in it now. I’m sure [Luke] Bracey said something completely opposite. He’s not a part of any of it. But, I actually enjoy it. I think it’s just about doing it responsibly, which Trust taught me a lot about that.
Blogger: How did you prepare for playing a time period that is probably before you were born?
Ms. Liana Liberato: ’92? Well, Michael Hoffman, the director, had us listen to music, and he would send us articles on stuff that was happening in this area at the time, and just stuff like that. It’s also pretty easy to get into it when you’re put in the clothes and–.
Ms. Liana Liberato: Her hair is done and everything like that, and you’re just kind of immersed in that while you’re filming. But, I mean, it’s not too different, I don’t think. Just because my character’s just like a normal teenage girl. Instead of listens to her iPad or her iPod, she’s listening to her Walkman.
Blogger: Do you relate to Amanda?
Ms. Liana Liberato: Yes, absolutely. I feel like everyone kind of can just because she’s in that phase of life where nothing’s really tainted her view of life.
And so, she’s very driven, and that’s something that I share with her. She doesn’t really stop until she gets what she wants, and I do that to a fault sometimes. But, I also like the fact that she’s not exactly like me because when I first read the script, it kind of scared me. The character scared me, which means I should do it because I don’t really ever like to be comfortable in my job. I like to be challenged. I don’t ever really want to be bored or too comfortable. So, I liked that we have a lot of differences and stuff.
Blogger: How did you work with Michelle [Monaghan] on creating the character?
Ms. Liana Liberato: We met before filming and sat down and kind of discussed what we wanted with the character; the similarities, the differences because there are some years in between, so there’s obviously going to be some differences. But, we picked out a couple of mannerisms that we thought would be interesting. A lot of them didn’t even make it into the film because they kind of manifested into something completely different. Originally, when we sat down and met, we wanted to do something with our ear, and I never did it, and it went to me doing it and playing with my necklace. Every time Amanda was in a strenuous situation, she’d always go to her necklace, and as soon as I realized that, I’d text Michelle instantly.
I was like, “Just so you know, when my character’s stressed, I play with my necklace,” and she was like, “You got it,”. And she was able to incorporate that into her character, which was so cool. And also, one of the things that we had discussed is we kind of want this big 180 in our character. You kind of meet this Amanda as she’s very vibrant and nothing can really get in her way, and then towards the end of my storyline, when Dawson goes, you kind of begin to meet the Amanda that Michelle is playing. And then Amanda, towards the end, will once again close that circle and become that young, driven girl that she’s really always been; that it was just masked over by all of these experiences in her life. So, we wanted that 180. I’m loving this rain.
Blogger: Favorite scene you filmed.
Ms. Liana Liberato: Okay. I think you girls will like this one. We have a rain scene where–which we have to do a pick-up later tonight, but everyone, you know, when you always ask like, “Where do you want to have your epic kiss?” and everyone’s like, “In the rain, obviously. And so, I will say that we’ve had to go and go back and do a pick-up. We did a scene on the roof where we’re supposed to kiss about three–two and a half weeks ago or something–and I’m secretly like “Yes. We get to do it again.” Luke’s probably over there like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I’m like, “Yes, it’s great,” because afterwards, Bracey and I were looking at each other going “We’re in the Nicholas Sparks movie.” That just solidifies it. Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t have a happy medium. I’m either the mumbler or I’m really loud. But, yes, no, so it just kind of solidifies the fact that you’re doing a Nicholas Sparks movie when you’re kissing a guy, a really attractive guy, in the rain.
Blogger: Do you prefer movies over television?
Ms. Liana Liberato: I actually built my resume on television and my guest star roles on TV, so I really have that to thank for all the opportunities that I got in film in the beginning. But, as of right now, I don’t really have any intentions on going over to TV just because I don’t really like the idea of being stuck to one character for, like, seven years of my life. I like a variety and I like trying different parts all the time. But, I will say that just me as a viewer, as an audience member, I think TV is in its prime right now and there’s such great television shows out. I mean, I’m obsessed with “Walking Dead.” Honestly, if I could just be a zombie on Walking Dead–I don’t even want a big role. I just want a cameo kill on Walking Dead, then my life would be made. But, I love television. I just don’t think I’d do it right now. Maybe later. Once I’m married and have a child, I want to stay in one place.
Mr. Luke Bracey: Are you guys enjoying your time out here?
Blogger: Yes, definitely.
Mr. Luke Bracey: It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
Mr. Luke Bracey: It really, really is. It looks like they put all the moss in the trees themselves, but it comes like that. It comes like that. You wouldn’t believe it.
Blogger: So, you’re playing the same role as James Marsden but 20 years apart, that’s obviously a different situation. So, how has that been?
Mr. Luke Bracey: I really enjoyed it. James and I sat down a couple of times before we started shooting and we just talked about the accent obviously. Mine is a little different to his. But, we didn’t want to bash anyone over the head with it. We wanted it to be nice and subtle.We wanted it to be in his own identity not only away from his family that he kind of struggles to get away from, but we also wanted him to have his own identity within the town and away from Amanda’s background, and something like that. We worked on small, physical things, but we also agreed that he comes a long way from when I play him to when James is. He goes through a lot, obviously a lot of stuff you don’t see, and I think we wanted to leave enough room for there to be a growth in him. So, we just wanted the subtleties to be there, which tied it together. It also gave us both range and both area to go certain ways. We’d go either way.
Blogger: Were you familiar with the story before committing to the project, and what was the most challenging part of playing young Dawson?
Mr. Luke Bracey: I wasn’t aware of the story before I was told about the film, but I was sitting at home in Australia in January and I got this e-mail through, and I read the script. And they said, “Oh, please give the script a read.” I was sitting home. My parents actually are set outside on the balcony and read the script, and I came in an hour and a half or two hours later. I walk in and mom and dad, you know, all, “How was the script?” When you read these stories you can get really involved and really attached to these characters and these events that occurred to them. I mean, once you read it, I did want to be a part of it, and something that challenged me was Dawson’s got such strength and such vulnerability at the same time.
He’s really unsure of himself. Especially when I play him in this younger stage. That’s the beauty of their relationship I think, is that it takes Amanda convincing him that he’s worth being loved and loving. And he comes from a tough upbringing and he’s really never been told that he’s worth anything really. And he’s worth a lot. He’s a very intelligent person and I think he’s one of the nicest people that I’ve ever come across. I think he’s so noble and so honorable and I just hope that I can take some of his qualities with me. With work, with myself, when I lay with him, because I think he’s a very noble and honorable person and I think, as I said, it takes Amanda to really bring out the best in him. You find there’s some beautiful moments where you do see he gets to laugh and really be free and you get the sense, I think, it’s for the first time in his life, and then that’s one of the really special things about their relationship. She gives him his freedom to be himself, to know that it’s all right to laugh, and make mistakes, and love, and I think, it’s a really special relationship.
Blogger: What’s the craziest or funniest thing that happened on the set so far?
Mr. Luke Bracey: We’ve had some run-ins. There was an alligator here yesterday. No, the other side of the house. It was about seven foot long and it was just sunbathing I guess. But, that was pretty interesting. We had to do some stuff out of the cottage. We went swimming in the bayou when you didn’t really have a choice in the matter, so it was interesting. But, it was quite a warm day, so that was quite nice. But, the alligator, I didn’t expect to see the alligator there yesterday. But, the only thing is as well is trying to stay on that roof and not fall off it when they’ve got the rain machines up and everything like that. It’s been some moments like that. We were on the roof, and then the storm came in, and we had to quickly scramble into the windows. The lightening was cracking just over there and that was pretty exciting.
Blogger: Do you think you’d be friends with Dawson if you met him in real life? Would you get along?
Mr. Luke Bracey: I think we would. I mean, I think I’d be a little louder than him maybe, but I would really respect him. I really respect the guy. He’s gone through so much, and there’s points during filming this when I was kind of, “Oh, he just gets it handed to him a lot.”But, I think I would be friends with him once I got to know him, once he started trusting me.
That’s a big thing to him, his trust. It’s hard for him to trust people. He’s been broken down and let down a lot in his life, but I think once he can let someone in–and not many people get in–but once they get in, I think he’s a very loyal and a very honorable person. As I said, I’d hope he’s my friend because I know he’d have my back. That’s for sure. He’s one of those friends that I think wouldn’t let you down ever, ever.
Blogger: what did you take away from the project or learn about yourself?
Mr. Luke Bracey: That’s a good question, and I think every time I do work and every time you explore a character, you hope that you can take something from it. I mean, be it personally or be it professionally, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been working with people like James. We haven’t had specific scenes together, but getting to know him and his process, and also working with people like Gerald McRaney, who played Tuck, and Sean Bridgers, who plays my father, you canlearn just so much about acting and about working on films from people that are professionals. And that’s how you’ve got to kind of take beat [sp] and attitude into these films, is you’ve got to be very professional and prepared. And then also, I’ve taken away, as I said, things from Dawson, you know? His honor, his strength of character, his, not only ambition, but his doggedness. When he wants something, he goes and gets it. As much as he’s held back from Amanda in all these circumstances, he still drives and wants to be with her. And after a while, once he lets her in, he realizes that his life’s nothing without this girl and his future lover.
So I really admire his passion and, as I said, his honor. He’s such a noble person. I think he’s a very, very special guy, and someone, as I said, I wish I’d knew him. I wish he was my friend. I’ve made friends with him now, though. I know him pretty well and that’s the really nice thing, when you can work and if you can really settle into a character. And I feel I settled into him very early in the process, and I kind of knew what he’d do in every situation. And that’s a good thing to be in early on, and so that’s when little things come up during filming or whatever. I’m really glad that I got to learn about him, and portray him, and bring him to life, and hopefully I can take all his good qualities and maybe leave some of my bad qualities behind.
Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.
The Best of Me stars James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato.
Being on set was an honor, and I returned home with a new prospective on filming, and new passion for the state of Louisiana.
The Best of Me will be in theaters October 17th!
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I am working with Relativity Media on promotion of this film. Travel, food and lodging were provided in exchange for my coverage. All opinions expressed are still honest and my own.