Kiernan Shipka and Timothée Chalamet One & Two Interview
It has always been difficult to make it as a child star growing up in Hollywood. Recently TV series have offered new opportunities to bright young talents: Kiernan Shipka (15) grew up on the set of “Mad Men” as Sally Draper, daughter of advertisement mogul Don Draper. Timothée Chalamet starred as the president’s son on “Homeland” for a while and has now managed to make the jump to the big screen at the age of 19, alongside Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar. Together they star as brother and sister in the coming of age film One & Two, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February. Flicks And The City caught up with the two to chat about being on-screen siblings, franchise films and future projects.
Q: Kiernan, was it hard for you as an only child to relate to the bond Eva has with her brother in One & Two?
Kiernan Shipka (KS): I don’t have any siblings, I’m an only child, but I am close to my family and so it’s kind of just about that familial bond, really being strengthened and close with someone, I can relate to that just not necessarily having a brother. I like being an only child, but I think it would be fun having siblings.
Timothée Chalamet (TC): Now you have one!
KS: Yeah, now I have one. I have a fake one, so it’s all good. I’m lucky, I’m working alongside a really good actor. (both laugh)
Q: Was it hard to play characters that live in the now, but have actually never gotten in touch with the world we know?
KS: I just had to constantly remind myself that really all that I was seeing was all that I knew. Which is interesting, because really Eva got the smallest glimpses of the outside world. There’s a shot where she sees an airplane and it’s kind of fascinating. She knows there’s something more, but she doesn’t quite know what it is, so there’s a curiosity that’s building.
Q: With its themes this film can especially be seen to suit an audience of teenagers or young adults. A lot of films for teenagers out there are franchise films, big budget productions with a lot of action and many parts. One & Two is very different, in its imagery and storytelling. Do you prefer that or would you like to be part of a franchise film as well?
TC: I think if anybody sees One & Two or for me reading it for the first time, you see that it’s genre-less. That’s what really attracted me to this project. You have horror elements in there, you have action elements, you have superhero elements with the supernatural abilities. I’d love to do one of those franchise films, I would love to be jumping around. But it’s exciting to do something that has elements of that, but isn’t that. And it’s really all a credit to Andrew [the director], he had this vision and was lucky enough that someone said, “OK, we like your vision, we’re going to give you X-amount of money to do it.” It’s so refreshing and nice to be a part of a thing that is one guy’s vision and genre-less, it’s so unique.
Q: When it comes to supernatural abilities – which ones would you choose, if you had the choice?
KS: I always go with flying, just because I think it would be the most fun.
TC: Flying is fun! Mmmh, maybe super actor? Morph into different roles. Change face.
Q: What do you think of the Sci-fi genre in general?
TC: It depends, some science fiction is like “um, no”. But I’ve just been in Interstellar, that’s science fiction, and I genuinely loved that movie. I love Inception and films like that, when science fiction challenges you, it’s really great. Not just like “accept what is happening”, I don’t like that.
Q: After you’ve played Sally Draper on “Mad Men“ for a long time, how is it to take on new roles now, like Eva in One & Two?
KS: She’s totally different, until now I’ve been lucky to play a couple of characters that are really awesome. Including Sally, I mean she’s the best, I just love her so much. She was a fun character to play. It’s also cool to get the opportunity to play new characters like these that are totally different and awesome at their own rate.
TC: She had the offer before I did and I’d seen some of Mad Men, because my mom watches it. When I read One & Two I thought “This is gonna be so cool, with this girl who played Sally.” Eva is the polar opposite, not only her hair is different.
Q: Many would call Kiernan a child star, as she grew up in front of a camera. Did you have any ideas of how she would be before you met and how was she different?
TC: There’s a lot of disillusionment that comes with the child-star complex. But having worked with Kiernan – it is so shocking, how poised and mature and smart she is. I was so scared, what was that game..?
KS: “Heads Up”?
TC: “Heads Up”! That’s an app on our phone we used to play on set between takes to keep it light. And Kiernan was so much better than everyone. But I totally get that acting as a child can mess you up. When your kid is five and says “I want to be an astronaut“, you don’t just send them on a rocket ship into space. So also in terms of acting, I would be wary of it. My sister booked a soap opera when she was four and my dad did not want her to do it, because it can mess you up. But you have two good examples here!
Q: Do you think the risk of letting your child grow up on camera are too high though? What do children get out of it?
TC: If something goes wrong, I don’t think it’s necessarily a product of being in front of a camera. For me, it was always the prospect of acting, why I did it. It’s self-expression, it’s so much fun. And I don’t think it has to be acting, some kids love to sing, some kids love to draw. I think you’re playing yourself if you’re like “oh, people need to see me doing this“. No, if you have a form of self-expression in your life that’s self-empowering, by all means, you should really tackle it. I know Kiernan’s been lucky to have this, I’ve been lucky to have this, we both have parents who are so behind us and are so happy that we’ve found something we love to do.
Q: In your careers, was there ever a moment you felt like you knew that acting is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
KS: I don’t think there ever was a moment when I really knew. I felt like I always knew, I moved to LA when I was six and started on Mad Men a little bit after that, so that was when I started doing more work, but I had always loved it. What I like about acting is that characters are always very different, and getting to switch things up. Totally crazy and then super funny and then sad, I mean I like the range, I think that’s a really cool aspect of it.
Q: You two were part of TV series like Mad Men or Homeland, which really took off and stand for a certain quality in production. How was your experience with that?
TC: I’ll speak for myself, but with Homeland I was only supposed to do one episode, that turned into two episodes, that turned into four episodes, turned into eight. I never really had any idea where it was going. In fact, at one point the character really takes a turn for the worse. I didn’t know that was going to happen, I just read the script and was like “OK”. I did know that they were going to kill me at the end and there was a plan to bring me back for a while, but then they got rid of that plan. Whereas with a film like One & Two you know what’s going to happen from start to finish.
Being on Homeland was weird though, because I went to a drama high school and I’d done other TV shows and I also put forward the same effort in my roles. And the experience for me is not “Oh, I was part of a great TV show”, I just love to act. I mean you could throw me in front of 50 people and it’s just fun for me. So it’s a little weird that randomly this thing I was part of happened to be very good and afforded me the opportunities to do things like this. The TV format nowadays happens to be a lot better than it used to be, but I have no perspective or no conception of that.
Q: With Mad Men all done, how was it for you to say goodbye to your role of Sally Draper?
KS: I was on it for more than half of my life. I played the character for like eight years, which is crazy. The experiences of that and a normal shoot like One & Two are totally not comparable, because it’s saying goodbye to basically a lot of your life compared to saying goodbye to another great character. It’s definitely a very different situation, because we filmed this in only a month. I knew it had to end at one point and all good things come to an end, I’m totally willing to accept that. But it is sad not to be able to play her anymore, because I loved her so much. It’s one of those things, where she was so great that I’m just happy that she existed and that I got to play her.
Q: What was the most fascinating working on those TV shows? How about the actual and historical context the shows are set in?
TC: Objectively, it’s fascinating watching the show, knowing the historical context. Maybe historical is not the right word, in Homeland all of it seems to be happening now, especially now with ISIS and things like that. But doing it, as I said earlier, acting in it, that stuff doesn’t affect it at all. Like I said, I’m just having fun, I’m the vice president’s son.
KS: For me it’s really neat, because when I was on Mad Men I felt like I was learning a lot about history, but it also feels like you’re immersed, which is another aspect, because it’s all vintage and real. So you do really feel like you are in that time period. Everything is very specific, and there’s great actors, great directors and set designers who really make it feel as authentic as possible, so you really do feel like you’re in the moment experiencing these things, which is very powerful.
Q: It seems like you’ve already done such a huge amount of work at such a young age. Do you sometimes feel like taking time off as well?
KS: This doesn’t really feel like work to me, so I don’t want to take time off, because this is what I love. And it’s super fun, it is hard work and it is a challenge, but at the same time it’s all I really want to do, so it’s just very cool to be here and I don’t really want to stop doing that any time soon.
TC: It’s been interesting for me, even this Berlin experience. I mean Kiernan, especially with Mad Men, which is such a great show, has been doing a lot of press and these award shows. Even with Homeland I wasn’t doing any press, so this stuff is really a learning experience for me. It was hard for me while being in school, because I love doing this so much. I’m shooting a couple of films right now. And I’m thankful, now that I’m going back to Pittsburgh to shoot another film, I will take a step back and I’ll go “Okay, how about this weekend in Berlin, what did I learn? The press stuff, the carpet stuff, the Q&As, seeing your face with a 1000 people in the audience.”
Q: Do you feel like you’re required to be active on social media as young actors these days? How much does it influence how your career shapes out to be?
KS: I mean I have a Twitter, I don’t really tweet that much – not really a Tweeter, but I have a Twitter. I like Instagram, I think it’s really fun. Just personally I like posting photos of food a lot, I don’t really think about the followers. I mean I love the followers, it’s a really cool way to connect with the fans. But as far as being asked for it, I’ve never been required to have it.
TC: I think for things like One & Two, Interstellar, Mad Men or Homeland, we’ve been lucky enough where those casting directors and the producers were going “Who’s the best actor? Who’s going to nail this role?” But I have heard that sometimes it’s like “Okay, we like this woman a lot and we like this other woman a lot. Who are we going to go with? Well, this one has a million followers on Instagram and this one doesn’t, so we’ll go with this one.” That I think is a little scary as someone with not a huge social media presence. It’s a little daunting, but so it goes. That’s how the industry involves I guess.
Q: Can you tell us anything about your future projects coming up?
TC: I did a film called The Adderall Diaries, one of these major festivals coming up it’ll hopefully be at. With Ed Harris, Amber Heard and James Franco. I’m a young James Franco in it. I’m doing a film now called Let It Snow for CBS films, where I’m Ed Helms’ son. It’s a comedy, which is fun, because after something like this, every day was very challenging and emotionally draining – fulfilling, but very draining. It’s fun, they throw a bunch of acne on my face, I’m supposed to be very awkward, that’s been a lot of fun.
KS: After we filmed One & Two I went straight to another project called Fangirl, which is a total 180, like high school, teenagers, really funny. That’s going to be coming out some time this year hopefully, not sure where and when yet. For me, it was also so much fun to do a comedy. I’m also in a improv troupe, that I perform in every week, so I’m big into comedy.
One & Two premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on 9 February 2015.
One & Two film still © Autumn Cheyenne Durald.