Amanda Bynes and Elijah Kelley Interview – HAIRSPRAY

     July 8, 2007

As I said a few days ago… I’ve got a ton of interviews to post from the “Hairspray” junket and here is another one, with more to come very soon.

Posted below is the roundtable interview with Amanda Bynes and Elijah Kelley. They talk about playing an interracial couple, working with John Travolta and all the other big actors in the movie, what they have coming up and a ton of other stuff.

But before getting to the interview… here is the synopsis of the film:

Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion – dancing. Her dream is to appear on “The Corny Collins Show,” Baltimore’s hippest dance party on TV. Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) seems a natural fit for the show except for one not-so-little problem – she doesn’t fit in. Her plus-sized figure has always set her apart from the cool crowd, which she is reminded of by her loving but overly protective plus-sized mother, Edna (John Travolta). That doesn’t stop Tracy because if there is one thing that this girl knows, it’s that she was born to dance. As her father Wilbur (Christopher Walken) tells her, “Go for it! You’ve got to think big to be big.”

After wowing Corny Collins (James Marsden) at her high school dance, Tracy wins a spot on his show and becomes an instant on-air sensation, much to the chagrin of the show’s reigning princess, Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow), and her scheming mother, Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), who runs television station WYZT. Even worse for Amber is the fact that it’s not just the audience who loves the new girl in town; Amber’s sweetheart, Link Larkin (Zac Efron), seems to be smitten with Tracy’s charms as well. This dance party gets personal as a bitter feud erupts between the girls as they compete for the coveted “Miss Teenage Hairspray” crown.

At school, however, a short stint in detention and raised-eyebrows caused by the budding relationship between her best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) and Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) opens Tracy’s eyes to a bigger issue than the latest dance craze or the coolest hairdo – racial inequality. Throwing caution to the wind, she leads a march with Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) to fight for integration and winds up with an arrest warrant instead. Tracy is on the lam now and goes underground – literally – to her best friend Penny’s basement.

Has Tracy’s luck finally run out? Will she miss the final dance-off against Amber and forfeit the title of “Miss Hairspray,” or will she sing and dance her way out of trouble again?

When big hair meets big dreams anything can happen – and does – in this high-energy comedy that proves you don’t have to fit in to win.

As always, you can download the audio of the roundtable interview by clicking here. It’s an MP3 and easily placed on a portable player.

“Hairspray” opens on July 20th.

Can each of you talk about getting involved with this movie?

Amanda Bynes: I feel like all of young Hollywood wanted to be in this movie so we were just blessed to be the ones who they felt were right for the role.

Elijah Kelley: My mortgage was due, that’s why I did this. I needed to pay my mortgage.

Amanda: I’ll speak for myself then.

Elijah: But, no, these are parts and opportunities that literally, when it hit the fan, everybody wanted a crack at this movie. They were really going for all the heavy hitters. With people like John Travolta and Michelle and Queen and all those guys, it was just a really amazing thing and to pass it up would be the most craziest thing you could do in your life.

Amanda, can you talk about creating that character? She’s just such a wonderful, innocent…

Elijah: Well, that’s what you say [laughter].

Talk about finding that rhythm of playing her.

Amanda: It was funny. I talked to Adam [Shankman] about the fact that it was the most pulled back I’ve ever been in a movie because I’ve been a man in one and I’ve done Nickelodeon where I’ve been many characters; very goofy. So, for this movie, I had to sort of pull back and be kind of quiet and sort of be the observer which was actually kind of fun for me and different. This was the type of movie I want to be in which is a movie with the heavy hitters and the veterans who I hope to, one day, be like. So, for me, I just wanted to do my best. I was game every day to just be the best Penny I could be. And, a lot of times, when I do a role, I think, ‘what if someone else was playing this role?’ and, if I was watching it, ‘how would I do it better?’ So I’d kind of go in there and just do the best I could do. And, as far as the transition goes, it was kind of like me, in that she’s growing into a woman. I felt kind of shy at the beginning. It’s like all these people I don’t know and, in the end, you get kind of comfortable and speak your mind.

I wondered if you are sick of lollipops yet?

Amanda: I am. Those were the cherry kind. Now I like watermelon. So, I’m sick of cherry but I like watermelon. No, I’m sick of those too.

Elijah, how did you get the role?

Elijah: I heard they were going at a lot of the R&B and pop stars that are out right now. It was a blessing. I was fortunate enough to slip into the cracks. I wasn’t known. I wasn’t this big, huge, gigantic star. I just work hard at it. I do the old grind work. Got in to do my thing. I feel like, if I wasn’t able to have done this movie, I don’t think my career would have started the way I wanted it to. How many times do you get to get on a platform where you’re able to exploit all your talents? That was so fortunate for me and it does not hurt the process of me finding girls [laughter].

Can you talk about the rehearsal process for this?

Elijah: We had about a month and a half of just straight dancing and singing. We did not see a camera for about two months. That was amazing but we said a lot of times that it was like summer camp because you have so many great dancers. I mean dancers who’ve danced for Beyonce and Britney and Justin Timberlake; all these people. They’re like the all-stars of what they do. To sit there and have a bunch of creative energy whether it’s acting, singing or dancing, that was just something. A lot of times, it didn’t feel like work. It was just so much fun.

On the credits it doesn’t say you did much dancing. It’s more singing and acting. If you aren’t a trained dancer, I’m shocked.

Elijah: I can move but I’ve never background danced for anybody. I’ve never been in stuff like that.

But that split thing….

Elijah: [laughs] I know. There’s a lady named Angela Radcliffe in my hometown in Georgia and she had this dance studio and I danced for one summer because of this girl I liked and I was like freakin’. I forget how old I was, probably eleven and I took this class just to meet this girl and I went on to do a whole summer and we won trophies and stuff like this but it was kiddie dance in sparkly suits. When I found out what sparkly really looks like, I burned ‘um all but that was the only time. In high school, we did chorus and stuff like that but I’ve never taken professional classes and stuff like that. It’s a God-given gift.

Everyone must have been exhausted making this film but did the young cast get to hang out off set?

Amanda: We did. It’s kind of like being stuck with a group of people in a hotel in a new place. It’s Toronto and none of us live there so we would get together and go eat or go to movies.

The movie portrays you two in an interracial relationship. Were you concerned about that?

Amanda: Not really. To us, that’s so not even an issue that’s real in our minds anymore. I know that some people may feel that way but, for me, I grew up on a show called “All That” which was a mix of Black and White people and we were just people. I had crush on and had a kiss with an African-American kid when I was eleven and, to me, I didn’t see it as anything other than the boy I liked. It wasn’t anything to me.

Elijah: Yeah and then we met back up later in life.

Amanda: Yeah, who knew that we’d work together again.

Elijah: She grew up in California and I grew up in Georgia which was kind of a different experience; Georgia being one of the last to jump on the bandwagon of the integration frontier. My grandparents and my mother and father, they caught some of that stuff and they were able to give me firsthand accounts and experiences that they had. I was in awe of some of the stuff they were telling me. A lot of things happened that I think our generation are particularly blind to and don’t get to see a lot of, especially here in L.A. It’s a little bit more liberated in dating and sexual preference and all that stuff. But it’s definitely an awakening to our generation to move forward and more further from what that was. Somebody said their twelve-year-old kid saw the movie and got really sad and said ‘are you serious? That’s really what happened? That’s not cool’.

Amanda: It’s kind of a history lesson in a way and it’s also nice that it has John Travolta and the big stars so that it’s like the people who know are dealing with an issue that people don’t really talk about. It’s kind of nice to have them do it in a funny way.

What is the most unusual thing you have in your trailer?

Elijah: The dress from Amanda’s last scene, the finale, I have that in my trailer and John Travolta’s fat suit was in my trailer. I like to lay with it. [laughter].

Amanda: I don’t know why. It’s very odd.

Did you grope him by any chance?

Eljiah: Actually, when they were making the suit, I felt strange groping him because I felt stupid. There was a man under there so I was hesitant to do that but when they were making it in the make-up trailer…

Amanda: The weird thing in my trailer. I don’t think it’s weird but I always have Dumb and Dumber playing on my TV because I just think it’s the funniest movie and, for some reason, I have that on constantly. I just think it’s very inspiring comedically and, besides that, I would say sometimes fan mail and snacks.

Elijah: Did you get my letter?

Amanda: No. And I don’t know why you have my dress. That freaks me out. [laughter].

Continued on the next page ———>


What are you guys working on next?

Elijah: I’m right now working on the album, full throttle going full at that. I’ve been writing a lot of music. I wrote for Mario and I wrote and produced that record and I’m also working on a film called Party Up which is at New Line which is a cross between Ferris Buehler’s Day Off and like the House Party series so it’s like a good teen movie to get that audience and then move from there.

Amanda: For me, I just did a movie called Sydney White which is, I guess, a retelling of Snow White in college and instead of dwarves they’re dorks and so, my Snow White character kind of cleans these boys up and sort of makes them less dorky.

When you use the hairspray in the movie, were you using the old school kind with the ozone stuff…

Amanda: No. We used modern products. When we used it to show stuff, I think they used deodorant, actually, because that sprays white which you can see on camera.

They gave it to us.

Amanda: Yeah. That’s what I mean. That’s actually the product that we used most so we were like ‘well, we might as well make a real thing out of it’.

What was it like working with John Travolta?

Elijah: That was great. John Travolta, I don’t think anybody would not jump at a chance to work with a guy like him because he’s gone from Grease to Face Off to, he’s gonna do Dallas. I mean he’s so great in his range and he’s truly a legend and a pro in our time. I think that’s like a testament for all of them, Queen, Michelle and all of them. We learned so much from all of them, just in their walk of professionalism and how to be as actors and people.

Amanda: For me it was the same thing. It’s really interesting to work with someone who has managed to have longevity which seemingly is the hardest thing to have in Hollywood. It seems like it’s difficult to figure out that mixing of changing your roles so people don’t get bored but not changing them so much that you lose your fanbase. I like to watch [John] to see how he works and he’s just a nice guy and I think that’s a lot of it too, you can’t turn into an evil person. You have to still remain who you were when you became famous, or before you became famous.

Are either of you Broadway fans or, since this movie, do you have a desire to do something on stage?

Amanda: I would love to, definitely.

Elijah: Me too. I’d love to do Broadway. It’s funny. I love it but I’ve never actually seen an actual Broadway show, not even “Hairspray”. I saw “Hairspray” at the Pantages in L.A. It came to the Pantages right before I did the movie and just being in New York sometimes and seeing the marquees and everything like that, I’m like ‘I really, really have to go experience a Broadway play’.

Elijah, is your album more R&B or more rap?

Elijah: No, it’s not rap at all. It’s like a fusion between Earth Wind and Fire, they’re funk soul and like the R&B pop of today. It’s untitled right now. That will probably happen….I’m procrastinating. I’ll probably name it like the week before it’s supposed to come out. The music is the most important thing right now.

Amanda, you’ve been working since you were very young. Do you set aside time every year to take a break or have you been driven to work since you were a kid?

Amanda: I’m definitely driven to work. I don’t know why. I guess it’s because you get a taste of this job and it’s sort of addictive and I get why people want to do it but, for me, it’s like I want to do movies that are cool like this. It’s very hard to find a Hairspray so I don’t take breaks so much as I don’t do them on purpose. I do it while I’m waiting for find a good project. Any time I’m not working, it’s not because I’m like ‘oh, I hate my job and I don’t want to do it’, it’s because I’m like I’m searching for the right movie.

Can both of you talk about staying grounded because we’ve seen other young people getting into problems. Is it certain people in your life or something that comes from within?

Elijah: I’m still afraid of my mother [laughter] so a lot of the things I’d consider doing if I saw her afterwards, it wouldn’t be….

Amanda: That’s exactly how I feel. It’s weird that you say that because I want to still do what I want to do. I don’t love listening to what people say I have to do but I don’t want my parents to be disappointed in me so, a lot of times, I really want them to be proud of me and I want to have their seal of approval. So, a lot of times, with things that I don’t do is because I have a family and also, I look at Will Smith. He did rap but he rapped about, like he didn’t drink and do drugs. What a good role model when that’s not as cool in the streets to do. I just think that’s very refreshing.

Elijah: I think we are both conscious that people are gonna look at us and look up to us for stuff. That’s something that comes along with the territory so we’re very conscious of it.

Amanda: And also, I think we’re very appreciative of our opportunities. For me, why would I ever throw that away by being a jerk? For us, we’re both focused and we want to have long, successful careers. Why would we want to throw that away by being jerks or going out too late?

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