It’s been three years since the world was first introduced to the Barden Bellas in the surprise hit Pitch Perfect, and since then they’ve gone on to become the first all-female group to win a national title. But after a scandal threatens to derail their last year at Barden, the three-time defending champs must redeem their legacy by winning the World Championships of A Cappella in Copenhagen, Denmark.
During a conference at the Pitch Perfect 2 press day, returning Bella Brittany Snow and the newest addition Hailee Steinfeld talked about being a part of this sisterhood, signing live, the spontaneous banter and improvisation on set, the freedom director Elizabeth Banks gave them to try things out, the most fun scene to shoot, learning that the Green Bay Packers were such huge fans, how difficult it was to keep a straight face while working with Rebel Wilson, and that they’d both love to come back for Pitch Perfect 3.
Question: Hailee, how many times had you seen the first film, and how excited were you to be a part of the second one?
HAILEE STEINFELD: Oh, my gosh, I don’t know how many times I saw that first movie. A lot! I actually just recently watched it again, last week, with a friend who had never seen it before, so that was fun. But being such a huge fan of the first movie, knowing that I was going to be a part of the second one was just so surreal and so exciting. It’s amazing to be a part of this.
What made you decide to show everyone that you can sing?
STEINFELD: I don’t really look at it as a matter of hiding it or keeping it. It’s something that I’ve loved doing, always. I was just looking for the right opportunity to explore it. As an actor, wanting to sing is viewed in a different way. So as an actor, I was looking for an opportunity to find a way that I could sing somehow. When this came along, it was a dream role for that sort of thing. I was able to find that in this.
What was it like to sing live in the film, for the first time?
STEINFELD: The first time I sang live in the movie was when I sang live for the Bellas, when I auditioned for them. So, the first time that you will hear me sing live is when I sang live, for the first time, for the Bellas.
BRITTANY SNOW: She was amazing! She has an amazing voice. I was completely shocked. I just had no idea that she could sing like that. And then, getting to hear her live was amazing. It’s very soulful. For being so young, she’s got a lot of heart in there.
This movie is about finding a sisterhood with your female friends, for life. How hard is it to maintain friendships like that, when you’re working in this industry?
SNOW: In any industry, I think it’s always difficult to find those people who you gravitate towards and are life-long friends with. I don’t really think it’s this business, necessarily. But I’ve been really lucky to make some of my best friends on films, and keep them throughout my life. One of my best friends and my roommate is Kelley Jakle, who I actually met on the first movie. That is the epitome of working on a movie and being sisters, and she is somebody who I will be friends with, forever. There are a lot of girls and guys in this business that have the right intentions, and you find them and hold onto them. I think that’s important.
STEINFELD: I agree.
Was there much improvisation on this?
STEINFELD: From more of an outsider’s standpoint, the girls had it down, the second time around. The banter is so real and genuine and spontaneous. For me, my character is really good about just going with the flow and agreeing with everything, so in terms of improv, it was fairly easy.
SNOW: On this one, Elizabeth Banks really gave us the freedom to try things out, even if it didn’t work. She knew that the more time that was given for improv, the more little things there would be that could get picked up, along the way. There was a lot more improv on this one. A lot of it doesn’t make it, but sometimes it does and you get the sense that we tried new things. We felt safe with each other because we knew each other better, so there was a collaborative atmosphere, this time around. There was on the first one too, but we knew each other’s comedy so well, we really had a chance to play.
In the way that Emily had to find her place among the Barden Bellas, was there any of that, behind the scenes, with Hailee trying to find her place among the ensemble that was already there from the first film, and was any hazing involved?
SNOW: We don’t like to talk about it, but we beat her and made her sing while doing push-ups. No. We were really excited to meet her, and when she walked in, we were really, really glad that she liked the first one so well. She really became a part of us, very quickly. There wasn’t any sort of feeling uncomfortable, which is because of how genuine she is. It was very seamless, how it all happened.
STEINFELD: I do think there may be some similarities between me and my character, in terms of being the deer in headlights, completely new, very eager and fans of everyone. Walking into a world that was already established was equally as intimidating, as it was exciting and thrilling. But I had a very warm welcome, and all of the girls were very helpful in getting me caught up.
Hailee, you’re the new girl on campus in this movie, and you’re a high school senior, in real life. Have you thought about whether you’ll go to college, yourself?
STEINFELD: For me, right now, I haven’t even graduated high school, but I’ve realized, in the last four years that I’ve been in high school, with all of the traveling that I’ve done and the movies that I’ve made, that the world is my classroom. I’ve experienced things that I don’t know if you can necessarily get from reading in a history book. But college has always been an interest of mine, and I would love to fully pursue that when I’m in a place where I can give myself and give everything to a four-year education at a university, where I can really take the time and focus on that. I do find that balancing school and work is like working two full-time jobs, and it’s not easy. At the right time, that will definitely happen.
What would you want to study?
STEINFELD: I have to honestly say that it changes, all the time. One minute, I want to study film. And then, I’m on a film set, talking to other actors about how they studied film, but wish they’d studied something else. Part of my thinking that it will happen at the right time is that I can’t decide, between now and six months from now, what I’d want to study. I’m not ready because I really don’t know.
SNOW: I know what I’d want to study now, but I’m a little old. I could go back. One of my biggest regrets is not going to college.
STEINFELD: The beauty is that you can go, at any time. When I was going through high school, there was a lot of pressure about where you’re going to go to college and what you’re going to study. With the parents in my community, it was all about, “What college is your kid going to?” My parents always supported my brother and I, 100%, with what we wanted. Luckily, we found something that we’re decently good at, that our parents have supported us in and that make us happy.
Brittany, which scene was the most fun for you to shoot?
SNOW: The slumber party scene was actually really fun to shoot because we genuinely all were in a big tent, sleeping in various positions, really close to each other. In between takes, we didn’t get out of the tent, so we just were all banded together. Rebel [Wilson] went on an improv for a really long time, and then I decided to sing Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn.” I went up to Liz [Banks] afterward and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t think you’re going to buy that song.” And she said, “Oh, no, we might.” And they did, and it was fun that they made it in there. We sang that song, in its entirety, probably about 20 times, and it’s always a good go-to song to bring the girls together. That was really fun.
Was the underground riff-off as much fun to shoot as it looked? And did you have any idea that the Packers were such fans?
STEINFELD: I wasn’t in the first movie, but I didn’t realize that a group of the manliest men in the world were such fans of Pitch Perfect. It was shocking. They would go into their trailers, in between set-ups, and come back and show us videos of them doing full-on numbers from the first movie.
SNOW: They each had their own parts and would do the dance.
STEINFELD: It was really impressive. The riff-off is one of my favorite scenes in the first movie, so to be a part of this one was really, really fun.
SNOW: Luckily, I wasn’t on camera when David Cross was talking to Hailee. He was genius. That whole scene, with him, the Packers, and having Adam Devine and Skyler [Astin] back. And when Ben is professing his love to Emily, that’s my favorite moment of the whole thing.
Were you ever not able to keep a straight face, working with Rebel Wilson?
SNOW: All of her improv comes with a plan. She knows what she’s doing, beforehand, and she has a list of various things that she could say. And then, she waits until the last minute to say the one that is the craziest one, so you never know what’s gonna come. She’s extremely smart, so she knows how to improv and how to make sure that it’s what she thought about, to make it work with the scene. She always wants to surprise us. She likes that shock factor.
Hailee, would you ever want to go out on tour, as a singer?
STEINFELD: I’ve visited friends who are on tour, and going to concerts is one of my favorite things, in the entire world. To be able to have that live reaction is something that you don’t get, as an actor. We got a taste of that, shooting our finale, over the course of a week. It’s not like we went on tour for a year, but for a week, we got to perform in front of a live audience, and there’s something that you get that, as an actor, you don’t necessarily get until months later. And it’s not even a live reaction, it’s just feedback. If I ever decided to go on tour, I’d have a lot of work to do, up until that point, but it would be something that would be cool to experience.
You had a large female cast and a woman in the director’s chair. Did that make this feel different than other projects, for you?
SNOW: I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of female directors. One of my first movies was a female director, too, so I’ve been used to that vibe. I never saw this movie as a female empowering movie. I’m so glad that it is, but I don’t think any of us set out to do that. We just wanted to showcase all of these different girls from different backgrounds with different ways of thinking, and have them be unique and have people relate to them. On set, having a woman director definitely led itself to girl power and bringing us all together. But the cool thing about this movie is that it’s fun, no matter whether you’re a girl or a guy. Guys like it and girls like it. It’s not specific to a gender. I think that’s why it’s empowering for women. There’s no separation.
You both started in this industry very young, and even though you’d enjoyed your careers, did you ever feel like you were missing something?
STEINFELD: Other than seeing prom pictures on Twitter and Facebook, of your friends who just went to prom last night, no. It’s one of those things where, when I’m getting ready for an event, my friends see those pictures, the next day, on my Twitter. There are some obviously crucial moments, throughout high school and young adulthood, that stand out, but I really do feel like I have been places in this world and have attended certain events that I don’t know if I would have been able to, if I had been anywhere else.
Would you want to come back for Pitch Perfect 3?
SNOW: I’m the last person to ever know. I think I found out through Twitter that there was a rumor that Pitch Perfect 2 was happening. I’m just grateful that I got asked to come back, and I would love to do Pitch Perfect 3. I was joking that Chloe might be 40 years old when she comes back, but she’s still gonna be a Bella. I would do Pitch Perfect 8.
STEINFELD: We really are the last to know about anything, but if I were to have the opportunity to come back and have a second experience with this, I would love that.
Hailee, do you know what you are doing next?
STEINFELD: I don’t really know what I’m doing next. This has been a big thing on the calendar. I’m really, really excited for this to finally come out. It’s been a year now, since we made the movie, which is crazy ‘cause it feels like it was just yesterday, really.
Pitch Perfect 2 opens in theaters on May 15th.