Tyler James Williams and Quinn Shephard Interviewed – ‘Unaccompanied Minors’

     December 8, 2006

Opening today is Unaccompanied Minors, the new film from Paul Feig. If his name sounds familiar it’s because he was the one who created one of the best television shows of the last decade, Freaks and Geeks. Before we go any further, if you’ve never seen Freaks, I strongly recommend buying the amazing box set and spending a day with it. Once you see how good it was and watch how many amazing actors got their big break on it, you’ll understand why it has such a following.

But even if you’ve not seen the short lived series, all you need to know about Paul is that he has this amazing ability to make you feel for the characters on-screen. And rather than focusing on the popular ones, he always is looking for the outsiders or people on the fringe.

And that’s the cast of Unaccompanied Minors.

A bunch of random kids get thrown together on Christmas Eve due to a massive blizzard hitting the airport they’re all traveling through, and it forces all the flights to get cancelled. While it’s not exactly a remake of The Breakfast Club, it has some similarities. But while Breakfast Club was more senior year of High School, Minors is more 7th Grade, thus the humor and situations are more kid friendly.

And while I didn’t get into the film as much as the kids around me in the theater, it’s really hard to judge as I’m clearly not the demographic the film is aiming to get. But I can say is if you have some younger cousins or family members, it’s perfectly safe and you won’t be bored while watching. Also for all you adults, there are a number of cameos from people you’ll definitely recognize.

Now back to the interview at hand.

A few weeks ago they held the junket for this film and paired up a number of the kids. One of the groupings was Tyler James Williams and Quinn Shephard and their interview can be listened to here or read below. And while I didn’t transcribe the Gina Mantegna and Dyllan Christopher interview, you can listen to the audio of it here.

Also, I’m almost done transcribing the Paul Feig piece and that will go up tomorrow.

And just in case I don’t get to them, here is the audio of Wilmer Valderrama and here is the audio of Lauren Shuler Donner and Michael Aguilar. Tomorrow I’ll post selected answers but probably not entire transcripts.

Q: Have either of you ever traveled unaccompanied?

Quinn (pictured on right): Um, no.

Tyler (pictured on left): Um, no

You’ve never had an experience quite like the airport?

Quinn: No.

Tyler: I think that made it a good movie for all of us just to pull from somewhere that we’ve never been before.

This movie talks about forming a family with people who are strangers, did that happen for you on the set while filming?

Quinn: Um, yeah.

Tyler: Yeah, I’d have to say that we’d never met each other before, came from different parts of the country, New Jersey –

Quinn: New Jersey, California, Canada, we were all over the place.

Tyler: We were all separated, and we came together, we were all here for one thing, to make this a good movie and just to have fun with it and I think we were able to accomplish that.

Is it Tyler or Tyler James?

Tyler: Tyler.

Was the dancing your choreography?

Tyler: There was no real choreography in the original script. The one that I first got said a cross between Napoleon Dynamite and ants in your pants. I’m happy that wasn’t one of the first things we did. We started off and we kind of led into it, so I could kind of get more of a feel for the character as to what he would do, him coming from these older times, he would do older dance moves, and that’s basically what I had to pull from.

Are you a dancer normally? Is that something that you enjoy doing?

Tyler: Yeah, I do dance. I’ve been dancing forever, since I remember that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve never done that kind of dance before, I’ve never really kind of got into it, I was more hip-hop, break, all these other kind of dances, but I think that was kind of cool that I had to take some of those new dances that are out now and kind of mold it into an older form and a goofier form.

Quinn, you seem so sweet, your character was tougher than the others, what did you fall back on to do it?

Quinn: I’m really nothing like my character, and I think when I was playing the character I was sort of just thinking exactly about where she grew up and what she was like, and I was trying to put that in because it’s really hard for me to act that way, because I’m totally different than that in real life, and so it was really hard to get the nerve to act that way, but hopefully I got it.

How was driving that cart?

Quinn: Oh that was very fun.

Did they show you physically how to do it?

Quinn: The stunt coordinator gave me driving lessons around the – wherever we were, because we were never in an airport except for one scene.

So it was all in other locations?

Quinn: Yeah, in other locations they’d have me drive around special areas, so I could get used to it.

Have there been any birthdays? How old are you both now?

Quinn: I’m eleven, I’m turning twelve on February 28th.

Tyler: And I just turned fourteen.

You guys really did that sliding down the hill in the snow – that wasn’t green screen?

Quinn: We did some of it.

Tyler: We did most of it actually.

Was it cold, was it fun?

Tyler: It was freezing.

Quinn: It was so cold, it was six degrees one night.

Tyler: Yeah, one night we got down to six.

Quinn: And it was so wet, I remember I was freezing, and I had so many layers of clothing I was so freezing.

Tyler: A lot of it we did, there were only certain things that we just couldn’t do, like going off the snow drift that we just couldn’t do, there were certain takes where the canoe just flipped over, and so we just kind of played what was actually happening. It was moving fast, we were scared, it was cold, there was acting involved but there wasn’t much of it.

Quinn: Yeah, we were scared and we were screaming because it was just crazy.

What about sliding down the airport luggage thing – did you both do that?

Quinn: Yeah, I did some of it my stunt double did some of it too.

Tyler: I didn’t do most of it, it was just the plain suitcase with nothing in it when everything was going down, we mixed in everything else in ADR, but we shot most of the suitcase scenes away from the whole enclosure, the suitcase was like spliced in four different areas, they stuck me in it, tied me in, just turned it with a wheel, and I just read lines.

Your characters torment Lewis Black, did that happen during the filming as well?

Quinn: No, we were too scared of him (laughs), well, I was.

Did you interact with him at all between scenes?

Tyler: Yeah we had to because in order to get a chemistry with the character, and to become more of your character, we had to interact with him, make sure that we were pushing it in the right way, that it wasn’t too evil, we didn’t want to be evil children. We just wanted to have some fun.

Quinn, were you saying that he was terrifying off-screen too?

Quinn: Well when I first met him I had no idea who he was or what character he was playing, because he was there on set but I didn’t know who he was, and I remember just thinking that he seemed a little bit scary, just the whole way he talked and everything is like a little bit intimidating.

Quinn, you’re very young, is Tyler the first boy you’ve ever kissed?

Quinn: Yes (giggles)

Tyler: Wow, I didn’t know that.

Was it nerve-wracking that day?

Quinn: Yeah. I don’t really remember.

Tyler: I think it was one of those scenes, it was at the end of our shoot, we were almost done, we had like two more weeks to go, and we had progressed as the characters, we were at this time, most of the time, no longer really Tyler or Quinn.

Quinn: Yeah.

Tyler: Most of the time, even when we were outside, we were Donna and Charlie doing this thing. And I think that made it easier, it wasn’t one of those things where we had to really concentrate, okay, now when we do this make sure there’s nothing really going on there, it was just we were having fun with it, and that was our job to do there and we did it.

Quinn: Yeah, we were totally into our characters at that point, so we weren’t really concentrating on what we were doing so much as being our characters the most.

Tyler, how many scripts were you getting once the show took off.

Tyler: Wow, I’d gotten about three others besides this movie here. I read them all, the other ones were great, they were really great, another one I did the character’s name was Charlie, but there was just something about this, it seemed really fun to shoot, from everything that I read, some of the stuff wasn’t even in the actual movie, but it just seemed like a great read and a great shoot, and it was going to be a success no matter who played it, no matter who did any role, it was going to be great.

How long did you guys shoot in Utah?

Quinn: Two and a half months.

Tyler: Yeah, two and a half months.

When you guys were not shooting what did you do to have fun in Utah?

Quinn: We went to arcades and stuff and the mall.

Tyler: We went to some arcades it is still Utah (everyone laughs).

Quinn: Utah’s flat, except for the mountains.

Tyler: I think we had a lot of fun on the set just creating what we could do there, like playing – I think one of the greatest things a kid can do is play tag on a set. There are so many lights and things that you can just bump into, that you have to dodge a round them, and it’s really fun.

Quinn: And they gave us scooters.

Tyler: Yeah, we didn’t have to do anything outside of work to make it fun, it was like a big playground, and by the time we got home we were exhausted, not only were we shooting but we were playing most of the time.

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Did Wilmer hang out with you at all, because he was with you in a lot of scenes?

Quinn: Totally.

Tyler: Yeah, we hung out a lot, whenever it was a Saturday or whenever we were just off work, we’d all head to the –

Quinn: Oh, the Skybox.

Tyler: The Skybox, it was a place in the mall –

Quinn: There’s a giant TV screen, we used to watch when we were on TV.

Tyler: Yeah, it was a sport’s bar with an arcade in it, a great arcade, really big, we could go eat and then just hang out we had a good time.

Did you guys see the movie last night?

Tyler &amp Quinn: Yeah.

What did you think of it?

Quinn: I think it turned out great.

Tyler: I think the editing was good we did a really good job. It was good to see everything just come together, we worked hard, we were there for hours at night sometimes, and everything coming together I’m really happy with it.

Quinn: It was very rewarding to see all of our work put together after only seeing bits of it in the trailer and when we were doing ADR, so I think when we saw it all together we were all just like, wow, it turned out really good. I had been a little bit worried that it would look just too crazy, but I think it really did turn out great, and didn’t really come to -

How are you guys going to celebrate the holidays this year, do you have any travel plans?

Tyler: I’m going to head home for about three weeks, go back to New York, go back to the cold, the snow, get a little bit more of that, hang out with my family, and then come back to L.A. just to have a good time and probably work, I’ll do some other things, but right now I’m not focused on a career. I’m doing this because I love it. This isn’t just for – you know, okay, I’m doing this, I’m doing that, okay, we have to make sure I’m working here, it’s just because I love it, I’m just going with the flow of it.

Quinn: I live in New Jersey, so I’m going to stay in New Jersey, because I’m taking my vacation in California now, and pretty much go to visit my whole family and eat dinner.

What gifts would you like to get for the holidays?

Quinn: A lot of stuff. I’d like mostly stuff for design, because I like to design clothing.

Tyler: You know, I’m at a point now where I can truthfully say I don’t really want anything, there’s nothing that I really want, everything that I’ve ever really wanted has happened. And I’m content, I’m full, I just want to go back home and hang out with my family, watch them get stuff and be happy.

So you’re cool with all socks and underwear?

Tyler: Oh yeah, socks, underwear, bring it on.

What gift will you be excited to be giving this year?

Tyler: I haven’t really started buying gifts yet, but I know there are certain things that everybody has wanted, like an iPod or a videogame, and I just love the fact of seeing them open it, and seeing it there, the one thing that they’ve been wanting all year, it’s right there. I think that’s one of the best feelings you can have.

Quinn: Because then they’re so happy and they’re like, ‘Oh, thank you,’ and you feel so good because it’s like you gave them what they wanted and they’re so happy.

What projects do you have lined up for next year?

Tyler: Wow, what new projects – well, there’s nothing really etched in stone, we’re looking at some things, but just here for the fun of it, just going with the flow.

Quinn: Same here.

Any problem coordinating the TV show with this film?

Tyler: There was no problem coordinating it, we finished in January, on the 25th I believe, and this started in February. There was no problem coordinating it. I was reading this the same time we were shooting Chris, and I was looking forward to it so much that it was like, ‘Okay, when is the season going to be done? I love you guys, I really do, but this is going to be fun, I know it.’ It’s like going to sleep the night before something really big happens, when you can’t sleep. I was really looking forward to meeting everybody, because I had no idea, I’d gone in with Quinn for the screen test,

Quinn: In California.

Tyler: But there were five other girls, I didn’t know who they were going to pick. So it went well.

Do you guys have school on the set?

Quinn: Yeah.

How did that work out, you’re all in different grades, right?

Quinn: The tutor gave us our work, and if we had trouble she’d help us on it, but we were really only working on the stuff that our school gave us – well, I was, because I go to a public school.

Tyler: There was no problem with it, I think whenever you have kids together in a room doing school, you’re going to create your own little school without walls, it’s going to be classes, math, but I think the one thing about it is, everybody’s doing something different and you have one-on-one with that teacher of what you’re really doing, it’s not she has to move on quickly to the next thing. Or just to have a schedule, there’s no real schedule when you’re working on a movie with school, if you need some extra time on one thing you’ve got it.

What grades are you both in right now?

Quinn: I’m in sixth.

Tyler: I’m in ninth.

Has it gotten easier to play the young Chris Rock?

Tyler: You know it never was really hard. It was never hard to do that. And I think this character from whatever was hard made it easier. Everything that I do is pulling from me, there’s a goofy side of me, and then there’s a dork that I have, that’s just somewhere in there, and it’s easy just to pull from that, this made it easier, these two characters are similar, very similar, they’re both awkward, they don’t know what they’re really supposed to be doing here, and it did make it a lot easier to come back this season.

In the core group of actors, who was the jokester?

Quinn: I think everyone, I’m sorry, but everyone was always joking.

Tyler: We weren’t serious, we weren’t very professional actors – you can’t expect that from five kids together shooting this crazy movie, doing all these things. We were just having fun, messing up lines sometimes.

Quinn: So many times.

Tyler: Yeah, a lot of times, just having fun. It was free-flowing because it wasn’t a certain amount of time, like a series we have a week to get it done and it needs to be done now, we had two and a half months to shoot what, some 125 scenes, it wasn’t that hard.

Quinn: It’s not that many.

Tyler I know, it’s not that bad for two and a half months.

Did you all read for the roles that you’re playing in the movie?

Quinn: I read for my role originally.

Tyler: You know at first when I read the script there was a mix up of the names, so they told me I was reading for Spencer. But I was like, wait a minute, I kind of like the Charlie character, but they were like, no, no, no, wait, wait, wait, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, you’re supposed to be Charlie. I think there was something about him that just – he’s just glowing, he’s a warm person, he’s very optimistic, he can look at a disaster and say, ‘Well, at least I’m not dead.’

When you first get out of the room you all do what you really want to do – if you could just get away and do whatever you wanted to do, what would that be?

Quinn: Well, it’s a question, would I get in trouble?

It’s a fantasy, no.

Quinn: I’d go on a vacation with all my friends and spend a bunch of money, my parent’s money.

Where would you go?

Quinn: L.A. actually, I love L.A.

Tyler: If I was unaccompanied you’d all better watch out (everyone laughs) I would probably do the same thing, just hang out, just do stuff that I’ve always wanted to do, be sick half the time, hurt myself a couple of times doing some stupid stuff, but I’d hang out. A lot of the stuff that we did in the movie I would probably do, I’d eat everything possible, everything I couldn’t really eat, take a golf cart and just drive recklessly, try out everything in the store.

Coming from New York and New Jersey, how did you make it out to Hollywood?

Quinn: Well, my mom had done some TV and commercials before I was born, and so when I was born she knew I had a really big interest in acting because I was always acting in plays with my dolls, and they were sort of boring, because I’ve seen them on tape, they always involved a lot of singing and dragging them around by their hair. But she saw that and I guess she really wanted to get me started in acting, because she knew that I had the interest that she had, only she wanted to get me started young. So she took me to some agents and I got accepted when I was really young, I was only three, and that’s where I started.

Tyler: The question ties into the movie actually, I just came out to L.A. for the fact that I wanted to get started and really push my career somewhere where I’d never gone. I didn’t come out for the auditioning process in L.A. I auditioned for the show in New York, they brought me out to L.A., we shot and that’s where I figured out that this was something that could really be a career, I could really do something from this. And it was out there that I realized that this movie was here and it was there and it was on the table and if I didn’t take it somebody else would, because it’s one of the greatest scripts I think I’ve seen in awhile. And that brought me out to L.A. and then that brought me to Utah, and brought me here, this movie really carried us.

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