The classic Cinderella story gets a modern musical twist in A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song, available on DVD and digital download on September 6th. Katie (Lucy Hale) lives with her cruel stepmother (Missi Pyle), wicked stepsister (Megan Park) and trouble-making little stepbrother (Matthew Lintz), but dreams of a better life as a recording artist. When Katie falls for Luke (Freddie Stroma), she tries to get his attention with her singing, but her stepsister takes credit and Luke falls for the wrong girl, forcing Katie to stand up for herself and her dreams.
At the film’s press day, Lucy Hale spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about putting a twist on the classic fairy tale, how she had to forget she was playing Cinderella and focus on the real girl, how much fun it was to work with the hysterical Missi Pyle, the ease of developing the on screen relationship with her Prince Charming (Freddie Stroma), and the experience of getting to perform original songs for the film and accompanying soundtrack. She also talked about how much she loves playing Aria on the hit series Pretty Little Liars, learning about a character over the long-term, and having to give up trying to solve the mystery of who “A” is. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
LUCY HALE: It came about because I’m on an ABC Family show, and ABC Family is going to air this in January. The people at Warner Bros. had seen Pretty Little Liars and thought that I would make a good Katie for the movie because they knew that I sang as well. So, they approached me about it and I read the script, and I thought it was really cute and really funny. I was looking for something that I could showcase my singing ability in, and it just felt like a good fit and a good match.
How is this version both similar to and different from the typical Cinderella story that people know so well?
HALE: It’s similar because the main events of the classic fairy tale are still there. That’s what makes this story universal and timeless. But, we’ve given it a modern twist. It’s based in 2011. The characters are more like the teenagers today. And there’s a musical twist, which makes it different from the previous two Cinderella Story movies.
Did you intentionally just think of this character as a young woman and not Cinderella specifically?
HALE: Yeah. That’s huge shoes to fill. If I had been like, “Okay, I’m playing Cinderella,” that would have been a lot of pressure. I wanted to play her real. I wanted this girl to be really grounded and feel really authentic. I wanted you to feel for what this girl was going through. I just looked at her as this young girl. She’s probably about 16 in the movie. She’s a girl with big dreams, but who doesn’t think she can get to that place because of the obstacles in her life. Her dad has passed away, so she lives with her stepmother and stepsister. She’s a girl that lives in the shadows and has accepted that, but is still a positive person and passionate about what she does. She has learned to live with the cards she’s been dealt.
HALE: Half of the stuff you see Missi say in the movie, she just improvised. She’s so funny and so great. We’re both from Memphis, so we bonded beforehand over the fact that we’re both from Tennessee. She’s really funny. She’s great at what she does. She really brought the stepmother to life, so it was really easy to play against because she instantly would turn it on and be this evil human being. She just brought it, in every take. She always did something different. It was really hard not to laugh, though. She’s out of her mind. She is so funny.
How was it to work with Freddie Stroma and develop the relationship between your characters?
HALE: Freddie is great. He was very easy to open up to. He’s an available person, who is easy to talk to and a great listener. We bonded off set and got to know each other. Our personalities really clicked, and I think that helped with our chemistry on screen. We just had a good time. It all worked out, which is awesome ‘cause it doesn’t always happen like that. I’ve worked with people who I had just no chemistry with. It’s not that they weren’t a great person, but some personalities work and some don’t. We got lucky that ours worked together.
What did you think of the songs you got to perform? As a performer, is it more fun to do the more intimate acoustic performances, or the big stage performances?
HALE: For me, I like the more intimate and organic stuff. My favorite song in the film, “Extra Ordinary,” is just me and the guitar. That being said, I also had a lot of fun with the other songs because they were way out of my comfort zone. I challenged myself. I learned things about my voice and my abilities. It was just a different experience. It was almost like playing a different role, but just singing different types of songs.
HALE: Totally, yeah. I felt very accomplished at the end. I remember, before shooting those scenes, I was so nervous because I wanted it to look real. I didn’t want it to look like a girl that was trying to perform. I wanted it to feel authentic. All this girl wanted to do was be on the stage, perform and pour her heart out, so I was nervous from that standpoint. But, at the end of the day, I felt like it all went in the way that I wanted it to and I’m really happy with the end result.
As an actor, is it fun for you to get to develop a character over a period of time, throughout the seasons of a show, and then balance that with doing movies during your breaks?
HALE: Yeah, it’s great. I love playing Aria on Pretty Little Liars. I’ve gotten to create this character. We’ve done two seasons, and you learn new things about your character. It’s also good to go away from the show and do something completely different and change it up a bit, and then come back to Aria. You pick up things from different characters. It’s good, as an actress, to change it up, so that you don’t get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing, over and over again. So, this movie was definitely very fun for me.
HALE: I guess it works in our favor. In the show, we’re not really supposed to know what’s going on. We’re just as confused as the audience. I never know what the writers are going to write, or what the next script is going to be like. We just have to be on our toes and deal with what we’re being dealt. Luckily, it’s really fun. I love being on this show so much because we’re always doing something different. We’re never going to do the same thing twice, and it’s so fun, as an actress, to get to change it up all the time.
Was there a point where you had to just give up trying to figure out where the story was going and who “A” is?
HALE: Yeah, at about Episode 5 of the first season. I think we’ve shot 37 episodes now. I thought I had it figured out for awhile, and I’ve just given up. I don’t know when we’re going to figure out who’s behind all of it. It’s exhausting. I don’t know how the writers do it. They must be mentally exhausted.
When you look back at the last couple of years, with a hit show, this movie, a soundtrack, magazine covers and people looking at everything you wear, what’s that like for you and how do you deal with that?
HALE: It’s only in times like these, with you saying all of that out loud, that I wrap my head around it all. I just look at it as I go to work and do what I love. When I think about it, it seems like it would be very overwhelming, and it is a lot, and sometimes I feel a little bit of pressure, but it’s truly incredible. This is how I’d always imagined my life to play out, so to see it actually falling into the mold that I created for myself is really incredible. It’s amazing that I love what I do. It’s great. It’s pretty awesome.
Having wanted to do a musical, did this satisfy that desire or do you want to do more now?
HALE: I would love to do more. This was definitely a step in the right direction. This was fun and had great songs. I learned a lot, but I’d love to dabble more into singing and musicals, and maybe even Broadway. Who knows? We’ll see.
Do you have any idea what you’d like to do next? Are there types of roles that you’d really like to try?
HALE: For me, I feel like there’s really nothing off limits. Well, I can think of a few things that would be off limits. But, I want to do something unexpected that’s maybe a little darker. At the same time, I’d love to do a really good romantic movie, like The Notebook, where it’s a great love story. I don’t know. Right now, it’s pretty much Pretty Little Liars, 24/7 until December. And then, I have a couple months off and would love to do a film. There are a couple things that hopefully will work out.