Rita Volk – Almost Friends
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) What was the original breakdown for your character Heather in the film Almost Friends?
A) I don’t remember the original breakdown. I thin kit was somewhere along the lines of Charlie’s foil. Charlie is someone who needs to get out of his shell and, obviously, he’s sort of immobilized by the things that have happened to him. She’s the one to push him and remind him how great he is and give him that encouragement. That was different than when I was playing Amy on “Faking It,” who herself needed encouragement. So, that was different even though it’s not a fleshed out character. But the opportunity to work with that cast and be in Alabama and do something different. All those things added up and seemed like a really fun thing to do.
Q) How do you think the setting helped with the tone of the film?
A) Well, I think any time you get to shoot on location it helps. There is something about it that you can’t really fake, even if it is a set. Having that organic look and a real street with real restaurants – you can see that it is a real little town. It absolutely helps with the scenery. Scenery and imagery are a big thing for any movie. Just being on location really helped us get along and really get to know each other since we are seeing this new place together. Luckily, we all got along. The cast was awesome. How many other times would I get to be in Mobile, Alabama? It was a really cool experience and the cast got to take a weekend trip to New Orleans. I had never been and always wanted to go. It was a really great experience.
Q) Heather connects with Jack. What do you think makes her see through his wall?
A) As girls, we always want to fix things. They thin, “Oo, this is mysterious! Let me see what it’s all about.” It’s sort of like where the asshole gets the girl and we eat it up sometimes. But in this case, his character is not an asshole. He’s not a bad guy. He’s not rude in the sense that he has bad intentions. He’s more just weird. So, she wants to know more. She wants to see through that and for whatever reason she gives him a chance. He ends up being this sweet, weird guy. And Jake [Abel] was awesome! He’s such a great actor and couldn’t be more different from his role. He’s really respectful, funny and very well rounded. He’s really into music and knows so much about artists I can’t tell you about. He’s just a great guy so I had fun.
Q) Everyone seems to find this innate goodness in Charlie. Where do you think this stems from in him?
A) He, as a character, is obviously going through something. I think when people are depressed or in a bad place in their life that a lot of people see it as a weakness or this person is standoffish or cold. His friends really never see that. His friends were there for him before this happened and they knew what he was like. So, he is good. He’s a great guy. He cares. Just because someone is depressed does not mean they aren’t good. I think there is a stigma to that word and that state of mind. Luckily, everyone around him doesn’t feed into that stigma. They just know he is going through a hard time, like we all have. He’s a really great guy with a big heart, but sort of needs to get his life together and use all this goodness and wonderful qualities he has to pursue his dreams.
Q) What were some of the themes of the movie that you connected to?
A) For me (and I’m obviously biased) it was just very natural watching the scenes. We shot it a while ago and I went back to it and watched the stuff and was like, “Wow! This really feels so authentic.” The themes are just everything that everyone can relate to. It’s overcoming your past. It’s overcoming sort of your insecurities. It is being able to jump off the cliff and go for things. We can all be a little lethargic and passive in what we want in life. I think that stems from fear and insecurity, which we all have. Towards the end, he’s literally able to run. He just starts running. So, seeing that transition and going from that sort of passive place in our lives where we start running is something we call can relate to.
Q) What do you hope viewers of Almost Friends take away from the film?
A) I think it’s okay to take time out. I think young people live in a different culture where we have more options. It used to be a little bit more straight forward. I think however many years back it was more of a test. Now, we’re so bombarded with different things and options, which is not a bad thing. It’s a great thing, but then you sort of get lost in the shuffle and you feel like you have to contribute something and you have to set yourself a part somehow. But being yourself sets you a part. Figuring out what works for you is going to set you a part. And it’s okay to take the time to figure that out. I hope that’s the message in this – that we all go through those little ruts. It’s just how we get out of them and what are we going to do to better ourselves. It’s okay to take the time to figure that out.
Q) You have played fierce and flawed yet vulnerable and layered females. What is it about these characters that resonates with you and maybe you have taken with you from portraying them?
A) I’ve taken away the fact that especially for something like Faking it and Amy that I realize the importance of what I do. I realize it sounds a little self righteous in a way, but Faking It was just such an amazing experience because I never thought that an acting job could really have an impact on people. And how many people have related to that character is just amazing! Heather is something totally different. She’s obviously not as big of a character and not as fleshed out, but there is a confidence there. From the scenes she does have, she has an awareness to her and knows who she is. She has to be the one to kind of push Charlie (Freddie Highmore) and she kind of does what she wants. She just comes across as someone who knows who she is. Also, she has her own insecurities. They weren’t shown too much in the film. You kind of have to fill the rest of it in, but that’s how we are. We’re just like males who have been playing different parts as long as movies have been happening. And now we can show that. Hopefully, we get to the point where it is not a question anymore and we just play these people because we all have sides to us. The more sides that I can play…And for myself, too! I think there is a catharsis in there playing these different people because I feel like I have a lot of different sides to me. I feel like I’ve lived a lot of lives and have had my own experiences. So, every time I play someone I think what I take away from it is just sort of healing. I get to show that side of myself and I think there is a comfort in that. So, hopefully I get to keep doing it.
Q) There is kind of a Ferris Bueller feel to the movie, as if it were told from Cameron’s perspective.
A) I think it’s just the right amount of flow that you feel the south in it. You feel that small town energy where everything has an impact, but it is authentic and real, but takes it’s time. I think that was the goal of the film and hopefully that’s what people see.
Q) What’s coming up next for you?
A) Right now, I just wrapped a movie called Summertime that was directed by Ed Burns. It’s in post and I don’t know when it comes out. It’s an ensemble cast about these stories of a group of people living in 80’s long Island. I played a beach girl in the 80’s. It’s going to have this awesome 80’s soundtrack. I’m really excited about that. That’s the next thing to look out for.
ALMOST FRIENDS will be released in theaters and On Demand Friday, November 17th.