Sarah Hyland & Graham Phillips – XOXO
By: Becca Brown
Q) We got a sense of that EDM culture from the film. Were any of you guys familiar with that before?
Sarah: I’ve been a fan of EDM music for a while. I’ve never been to a rave, so to speak, but I have been to places like Coachella where there’s always the rave tense, so I’ve kind of experienced something like that before. But it was really cool to really, just like indulge myself in this culture…it was great! I learned a lot from it and it was a lot of fun.
Graham: I, too, have enjoyed EDM for a really long time. I’ve sort of been drawn to more of the sweeping symphonic vibe of EDM like Above and Beyond or Madeon–it feels a little bit more like whenever they can integrate some organic sounds as well into all the electric sounds…I just really like that. I came from a musical theatre background as did Sarah so maybe thats why. I actually started DJ-ing my Freshman year in college just to meet the social chairs of the eating clubs at Princeton, just cause as a freshman male you’re at the bottom of the social ladder, and you can’t really get access to any of these clubs until you’re in a fraternity or whatever. And so I learned to DJ–and they needed DJs. I like the music anyway and then I did start liking it more and more. I started throwing some parties in Orange County. Some of my friends who actually liked the music even more than I did–they were finding these new tunes as they were coming out. So, I loved hosting parties–I still do. That’s sort of what it grew from. I guess sophomore year it kind of petered out. But when I got this script at the end of my sophomore year I just said, “This is so funny. This is what I just kind of experienced on a much smaller level.” Actually Chris the director didn’t even know that I had any DJ-ing experience when he cast me, so that was kind of a fun surprise for him when he didn’t have to teach me everything.
Q) Was there any specific research you had to do in terms of like the equipment your character uses?
Graham: I actually used almost all of my own equipment for this–I just brought it to the set and said, “Can I please use this instead of something completely foreign?” They were like, “Yeah sure.” So this did not require a lot of research for me–which was really nice because a lot of the shots we grabbed at real festivals where we had a five minute slot on the stage in front of eighty thousand people. So when you have just a small amount of time to get the shot, the last thing you want to do is be fumbling around with the knobs and thinking, “Am I looking like I’m doing something?” So it was nice that I had some background in it.
Q) Regarding the script, what was it about your character that drew you to this particular role? Was there any other role that you were auditioning for or is Krystal the one that you really…
Sarah: I liked Krystal. Also Krystal is the only character that I looked the appropriate age of since I look like I’m twelve still. [laughs] She’s not twelve, but you know what I mean…I really liked Krystal from the get go. I liked, that she was the innocence of the movie. She was the innocent of the film. And that’s something that a lot of people haven’t seen me do. I mean Shannie (Hayley Kiyoko) is the type of girl that would wear a thong and pasties to this music festival and be like “balls off the wall.” But Krystal was very different. She very much stayed true to herself, and she goes in with really high expectations and kind of finds herself in a position to where she never thought she would be, and she kind of has to look within herself to find the answers and maybe put the phone down and look around her and really see the beauty in the world that she’s never really seen before. And the beauty within herself. So I think that that was really nice about her.
Q) What was it like filming in front of all those people at the different festivals?
Graham: Kind of annoying, cause most people thought we were filming an after-video for the festival.
Sarah: I mean it was really annoying a lot of the time.
Graham: So people, thinking it was the after-video we were shooting, would, rightfully so, get in front of the camera and say, “I love festival x, y, z” or whichever one we were at and I would be like trying to continue to be Ethan while there’s people literally like blocking the entire shot. So that was a little frustrating. But being at the festival was amazing for us because how else can you sort of simulate that energy if we somehow could have replicated that? It wouldn’t have had the same energy.
Sarah: I think it was really worth it. It was definitely worth it. These people also like, as soon as you would like say something to them they were always really respectable because they don’t know. They’re on like “whatever” you know? They’re like “zombo” or whatever and they were just trying to have a good time. And they were. But it was really, I mean, I am a huge fan of people watching, so I thought it was a lot of fun. It was annoying when we had to like really do something and we only had a certain amount of time to do it, but some of them were really respectful. Like once they were told “no”…
Graham: I think that was the funniest 180. When you would tell people, who were acting so drugged out like, “WHAT…YEAH!” right in the camera, really going all out and then we’d say like “you know we’re trying to film something.” They’d be like, “Oh, I’m so sorry…” and then they’d be so respectful and I think that’s kind of part of the thesis of this film that this rave culture isn’t just aggressive and sexual. There is a lot of…there’s a lot of unity about it… “we’ll have peace, a lot of respect…”
Q) There’s a particular character that’s on the bus with you that also interacts with your character later on in the film.
Sarah: Yes. “Drug guy.”
Graham: No, No…
Sarah: That was his character’s name.
Graham: But they changed it for press reasons…[laughs] I think his name’s now Beau. [laughs]
Sarah: Well, on the call sheet it was “Drug Guy.”
Sarah: Yeah, he was a great character. What an amazing actor! He was so good!
Graham: He was “in character” the whole time. I actually thought…it wasn’t until we rapped, you know the final day, he was like, “Man, hey dude, you know..” And he has this Go Pro that like–I think some of his footage actually made it into the film–and he’d be like running around the festival, like running up to me when I was like not being filmed at all and like hassling me. And I couldn’t really tell if he was for real. And then on the last day he just dropped it and was like, “Man, it was so great to work with you, but yeah, I heard you play golf, like we ought to hit the links sometime…” So we’re probably gonna play golf one of these days.
Q) And you and he had like an existential experience towards the end?
Sarah: Yeah he was just a phenomenal actor…he was so committed to his character, it was really great and we had this interaction when Krystal is kind of at the lowest of lows in this film that she ever experiences, and so it’s just this really really beautiful beautiful moment. And there’s a lot of little Easter eggs with “All I’ve Ever Wanted,” which is the song that Ethan creates and that’s her little song. And so there’s a lot of like hints throughout the film that I hope people pick up on, it’s really – I think that’s cool. Yeah he’s great, I love him!
Q) In what way do you think being a romantic strengthened or weakened your character?
Graham: I think Ethan’s romantic idea about what the potential of his music was actually held him back initially. You know, he really felt like there was going to be this world where his music was ready for someone to hear, but the truth of the matter was that it was never going to be ready until he accepted it for what it was, and so, in a way he might have actually transformed into a romantic by the end of the film.
Sarah: And I think it was the opposite for Krystal. At the beginning of the film she was too much of a romantic and she kind of – that was the only thing she really cared about, she just put all of her energy into this one guy to where she wasn’t able to experience anything else until she had him. And once that didn’t go as planned, she kind of had to like turn everything that she was putting out into the world into herself and become romantic with herself. Isn’t it always the case that as soon as you stop looking for a guy, the perfect one shows up right around the corner. I think that’s how it goes for Ethan and Krystal.
Q) So did you guys have a memorable moment throughout the filming process, do you have one that stands out?
Sarah: The end?
Graham: Yeah, it was the first time I’d kissed somebody live in front of tens of thousands of people.
Graham: 80,000, yeah. And they had no idea what was going on.
Sarah: No idea. They were very supportive. They just saw two people doing something and they were like, “Yeah!” And then as soon as we would yell “Cut!” we would stop and they were like “Awe, no! Come on Man!”
Graham: And around Take 8 they were like, “Get out of the way, we just want to see the DJ–we’re over it.”
Q) You’re (Sarah) an executive producer on this and you’ve (Graham) directed before. When you guys get scripts now do you sort of read through them with a different eye than you did as just having the one role?
Sarah: Yeah I mean its cool cause were able to have really like big open conversations with Chris [Louie] and Dillon [Meyer] about the story and I think that was really nice to have.
Graham: Yeah I think her being an Executive Producer is like weird, making out with my boss!
Sarah: Horrible bosses!
Graham: I definitely think that if you have like some producing directing or writing in your background as an actor, it gives you the confidence to bring up certain questions or concerns to the creative team that you might otherwise not feel comfortable about bringing up. So, it’s nice to get involved, as an actor, and not just feel like you’re giving your performance to the wind and see what gets popped out the other side.
Q) What’s next in your pipeline as far as projects are concerned? With “The Good Wife” over and “Modern Family” still going strong.
Sarah: Still chugging along. We just finished our third episode of Season Eight last week and I did Dirty Dancing, The Musical over the summer, which was amazing. I literally had the time of my life. Pun intended. I made some lifelong friends on that film. It’s so great. Like so much so that my friend Shane, who plays Robbie…like I just did his music video for him that just came out. And we’ve just become like such a really like tight knit group–we have like a group chat, like all these different types of group chats within the cast so that was really really fun. And now I’m just focusing on “Modern Family.” We never know when it’s going to be the end. And I like to be a bit of a pessimist sometimes. In two words. Like if this is our last season I want to enjoy it for what it’s worth so I’m really just trying to focus, and really enjoy and appreciate this season just in case it’s the last one. If I’m gonna dance it, I’ll dance it. And I’m the Creative Director for Candies right now at Kohls and that’s really fun! I’m having so much fun with it. We have productions and designing meetings, and I’m starting to design some specific items for them. And that’s really great. And so the fall collection’s out right now. Holiday is coming out soon. And, uh, I’m going to New York next week, and I’m going to seen some samples that come back from the factory of some of the designs that I’ve had. It’s fun. There’s little Easter eggs in the designs that are kind of very personal to me that I hope you can pick up on.
Graham: “The Good Wife’s” over. I’m going on a golf trip with my brother next week to Scotland.
Sarah to Graham: To Scotland!!! That’s fun!!
Graham: I started a Not for Profit Theatre in New York so I’m just in the early stages of that. Applying for grants and what not. So, that’s kind of fun. My brother and I just finished our full length screenplay. Well, our first full length screenplay that can be made for under 3 million dollars! And so we’re in the midst of getting financing for that and we’re hoping to film that in Montana in May–which will be fun. We’re both directing and I have a role in it as well. And then I still owe one semester to Princeton, so I just have two classes and a 150 page history paper to write, and then I’m out.
Q) Do you know you’re topic yet?
Graham: Yeah, it’s on, like, the legal framework surrounding the legal protection of Native American Women.
Q) What’s the name of the theatre company?
A) Graham: It’s called Grind Arts Company.