Q&A Session with Emily Osment of the ABC Family film “Cyberbully” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
July 16, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Q&A Session with Emily Osment of ABC Family’s “Cyberbully” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
Many have watched actress Emily Osment grow up from “Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams” to her most recognizable character Lilly Truscott in Disney’s “Hannah Montana” and now Osment takes on the role of protagonist Taylor Hilldridge in a serious film for ABC Family titled “Cyberbully”.
In the film, Taylor is a teenager who becomes a victim of online bullying and viewers will witness at what cost it will take a toll on her, as well as for her friends and family.
In “Cyberbully”, 17-year-old Taylor is dealing with her parents divorce and knows that her social status in high school is low, so when she receives a laptop from her mother (played by Kelly Rowan) for her birthday, she begins to make new online friends. But quickly, Taylor becomes a victim of bullying while visiting a popular social website. And as the hurtful posts starts to hurt her, she begins to withdraw from her family and friends, including her best friend Samantha (played by Kay Panabaker).
Taylor is pushed to the breaking point as she is continually tormented and afraid to face her peers at school. But Taylor will quickly learn that she is not alone and that other classmates have had similar experiences. Her mother Kris decides to take on the school system and state legislation to help prevent others from going through the same ordeal as her daughter.
“Cyberbully” premieres on July 17th at 8/7c.
As part of the promotion for “Cyberbully”, a media Q&A session was recently held with actress Emily Osment.
Here is a transcript from the Q&A session.
Moderator: Cyber bullying is such a huge topic these days. Did you have to do any research to be in the role, and have you been bullied? As a celebrity, I’m sure you’ve been raked through the mud a little bit though.
E. Osment: That’s a good question. This movie I knew was going to be a journey in all sense of the word. I definitely spoke with my mom before I began this project. She is an elementary school teacher in sixth grade and as sad as it may seem elementary school sometimes, that’s where we get the bulk of the bullies, especially before they turn into bigger bullies.
So, I spoke with her for a long time about what she sees in her school and some of the cases that she’s seen, and it’s frightening. It’s very sad. And besides that, I spoke with Joe Rice, who’s our producer, I spoke with him for a very long time when I read the script, and I loved it for many reasons. One, was because I knew this was a character that definitely, she has an arc. She starts at one place and she’s, as you said, actually, she drags through this mud a little bit and then she comes out somewhere else. And to play a role like that is an opportunity I haven’t had before and I was very happy with it and I was jumping at the opportunity.
And plus, this is a campaign that needs to have more publicity surrounding it. I mean, cyber bullying is a topic that is very hot right now. It’s a very timely matter. I know that Michelle Obama has a campaign that she is doing on it. Seventeen magazine obviously is doing a huge campaign right now with Delete Digital Drama. We have a rally next week on Thursday. With this StompOutBullying.org that I’m an ambassador for, I mean, there is just so much we’re doing, and knowing that going into this movie, knowing that it would be for a good cause, and then also participating and playing a role that I’ve never done before and in drama, which is a big step for ABC Family, there was no reason for me not to do it.
Moderator: What do you hope people take away from the film?
E. Osment: This is really a film for everyone. This is a film for parents as well as for kids definitely, but I really encourage parents to sit down and watch this with their kids because this is a very impactful movie. If you’re having trouble at home with a kid who’s being bullied and you don’t know how to help them, Kelly Rowan, who plays my mother in this, does an excellent job of playing this mother who is caught between a divorce and her job and two kids and she’s so stressed—which a lot of mothers in America sadly are, but, I mean, she does a great job of showing how she doesn’t really know how to help in the beginning and then she becomes supermom. So, it truly is a really good story and it’s good for everyone.
Moderator: Has your big brother ever protected you from bullies or given you advice on dealing with bullies?
E. Osment: We were typical kids growing up, got into scuffles sometimes. I mean, there was never really a time where he had to protect me from a bully. We were four years apart, so even in high school, there was never really a time where he would have—we were only in school at the same period of time for a year. I was a freshman and he was a junior, oh no, so it was two years. It’s so long ago. It’s weird. My seventh and eighth grade year, he was also in my high school as a junior and a senior. So, we had completely different circles of friends obviously, and we kind of stayed in the opposite sides of the school. So, I never really saw him.
But, if I did have a problem, it was nice knowing that he was there and I know that that was a comfort for my parents as well. I know definitely there were kids in my class who had siblings, which was great, and it was nice to know if they had a problem that they had an older sibling that could take care of them. And at fire drills and that kind of thing, they would always have the older siblings come and comfort the younger siblings. It was great. It was even built into the school. But there was never a real time where he had to protect me. I know he would though. He definitely would.
Moderator: How is Taylor different from Lilly Truscott from Hannah Montana and how are they similar to play as characters?
E. Osment: Oh, the only similarity really is that they are both teenagers and they are both in school. Truly, there is really no similarity other than that. Lilly Truscott, I played that character for five or six years, so she became more and more like me and I think that was okay that she took that evolution because it was so long and to be playing a character that long, it was okay that she changed a little bit over the process, which she definitely did.
Lilly was a very cheeky, a very kind of not the brightest, bold, very funny, very hyper and Taylor is completely opposite of that. She is a very almost solemn and melancholy-type of character. She already is very insecure. She truly just wants to be normal and she wants to be liked. And Lilly had that going for her the whole time. Everybody wanted to be friends with Lilly even though they were kind of the dorks at school, she’s really fun and everybody wanted to be around her. And Taylor is just completely the opposite and you can see what she goes through and she changes even more within the movie. So, it was definitely fun to play both. I mean, this is the first time I played such an incredibly dramatic role. I was crying every single day on set. So, it was a journey for me as well.
Moderator: Can you tell me about the relationship between Taylor and Samantha in the film?
E. Osment: Sure. I’ll do my best to explain it. I can’t give away too much because that relationship in the film is actually a very important one that relies heavily on the story line. But, with Samantha and Taylor, I mean in the script and in the breakdown, when I first read it the description said that Taylor and Samantha are very good friends, they’ve known each other for a very long time, they are very close. So, they’re almost like sisters, and that was great for me to play because Kay Panabaker who plays Samantha, I have actually known for quite a long time before we started working so it was easy to get into that mode.
But, the relationship changes quite a bit in the story and it takes a turn. There’s a little bit of a surprise embedded into the story with the Samantha and Taylor characters, I mean, you never see it coming, which is very cool and very well written. But, it’s very interesting and you see this relationship a lot growing up with friends who may be your friends for a really long time and then something happens and then maybe you’re not friends for a reason or another, and I know I’ve experienced that in my own life. You know, I’ve taken a different turn with certain friends but I believe that Kay and I really did good job of trying to make this as realistic as possible. And Samantha does her best to comfort Taylor with what she’s going through and she kind of gets fed up with her because she doesn’t feel like there’s anything she can do to help her. And that’s what’s sometimes so scary about bullies and being cyberbullied is that you feel like you’re helpless. So, it’s very interesting and that’s one of my favorite parts of the film is that relationship because, it’s so interesting.
Moderator: How important was it for you to be the person being bullied in the film as opposed to a different role. Or, if they asked you to be the bully, would you have felt the same way?
E. Osment: Wow! That’s a good question. I never would have thought of that. I probably wouldn’t have jumped up and down as much. The Taylor character— one of the reasons, as I said earlier, she was very attractive for a character is because she takes the journey. She has this huge character arc and she starts at one place and she ends up at another and that’s not as common as you may think in movies these days where characters take that much of a leap from where she started. And with the bully, in this movie, she truly is just the typical bully. She is a mean bully and I think that it was much more attractive to play a character that you just felt so much empathy for this whole time and you want the audience to fall in love with this character and you know, I’ve played a bully before and I wanted to play a new character featured more obviously, in this film.
Moderator: People seem to feel entitled to say negative things about celebrities, especially online, so I was wondering how do you personally handle the negativity?
E. Osment: People do feel very entitled to say something negative as if that is their job, or if they have any reason, or as if they know that much. They usually don’t. So, I find it kind of funny, honestly. And, that’s how I deal with a lot of things, and that’s how I would deal with a bullying situation, is that I would try and find humor in it. But, everyone has their own way of dealing with things and I’ll be talking about that at our Delete Digital Drama rally on Thursday at the American, is you have to have three ways to deal with a bully. And it’s different for everyone. Whether it be my ways, is just finding good humor in it, or whether it be option ‘B’ which is to say something, or option ‘C’ is just walk away, or get some help. You just have to have a way in your head of getting out of this situation before you’re even in it.
And that’s the same for online and if I see something negative online, I truly will push “Delete.” I truly will block the person whoever is sending it. I have a private Facebook account and it’s just truly my friends. I never see it online ever. I’m very careful about where I go. But, you know the internet is the internet. It’s boundless and it’s scary and it can be very frightening and sometimes the best thing is to take yourself off of it.
Moderator: On ABCFamily.com, on a poll they had, there was 48% of respondents said that they haven’t dealt with online bullying, but do you think that most would change their response after watching the movie and better seeing what online bullying really looks like?
E. Osment: Yes, that’s a good point. You may not even know you’re being bullied. I mean, I had a friend for a while who I thought was a really good friend of mine and then someone sort of clued me into the fact that she’s not very nice to you. Do you know what she’s saying even when you’re with her, like she’s not very kind. And sometimes you don’t even realize what form of bullying it may be. It may not be in words. It may be in a different sort of mocking way. I’m not entirely sure. But every case is different and every case calls for something different for it to be handled and you know, that’s a good point. I think that I didn’t even truly know in making this film how serious cyber bullying is. I was just thinking, “Oh well.” You know, sure I see negative things online sometimes. I just get it over it—you know, “Don’t worry about it. Just skip over it. It doesn’t matter.” But, clearly in this movie and with this character, it’s her whole life. It follows her into her house. It’s on the internet. It doesn’t go away. It leaves a cyber footprint. You truly cannot get away from it, and that’s what’s so suffocating and leads her to such a suicidal state of mind.
Moderator: Your song is going to be in Cyberbully. Can you tell us a little more about your music?
E. Osment: Absolutely. Yes, I’m very excited about this opportunity that I was sort of handed while we were shooting. I was very excited about this opportunity for a few reasons. Charles Biname who is our director, sat down with me one day. Basically, he said, “So, music.” That’s pretty much all he said. I was like, “Yes.” And he says, “I want to hear the real stuff. I don’t want to hear this pop crap. I want to hear you. I want to hear the real stuff.” And, I said, “Sure, sure. I can play you that because I know exactly what you’re talking about.” And I played him some stuff I’ve been working on that was very acoustic. It was more in the direction that I wanted to go. It was definitely inspired by artists that I truly love—kind of folky, and he really liked it. And there wasn’t really anything I played that he wanted to use for the film, but he said “Please write something for this movie. I can show you this scene where we need the song.” Because, he had a really good sound track already and he kind of showed me in a piece where he wanted it and it was very great, because it was the climax of the movie and that’s where the song is now.
And I wrote two songs for him. The first one, he thought was a little too artsy, which is kind of cool, and the second one was ‘Drift.’ And, I wrote and produced both of them. And I sat there with him and he chose which one he wanted and it took me about three days. I’m not a producer and I sort of know my way around logic, but I was able to sort of produce this on my own, which is really cool for me and a great thing to be able to say. And it’s definitely in this direction of which I want to go with my music, which is more wholesome and more jazzy and almost a little bit more sexy, like it’s a very wholesome type of music. It’s just great and you can almost feel it in your hand. You know? It has some weight to it. So, I’m excited and this is going to be good and it’s actually available online today, July 12th, so yes, more music definitely in that direction.
Moderator: Do you have any advice for how teens can delete digital drama in their own life?
E. Osment: Yes, absolutely. If you’re being bullied, the best thing to do is to … hit ‘delete.’ I mean that’s truly as simple as it is. If you’re seeing negative things online, you know try and get yourself away from it. And if you can’t get away from it, then you take yourself off line. It’s truly as easy as it is. We’re very lucky we live in a generation where we have the opportunities that we do with electronics and technology and we can use it anywhere we want pretty much, but I think Banksy said something recently which was really cool. He said, “We are the only generation that was given so much and we’re doing so little with it.” So, this is our chance to sort of change the direction in which we’re going with the internet and make it turn right a little bit and we’ll be a little bit happier.
Moderator: What was the atmosphere like on set? How do you mix the somber mood aspects of the movie? What’s the chemistry and family formed on set?
E. Osment: We shot the movie in Montreal, Canada, which is beautiful and I played a few shows. I was on tour in Canada last year especially, Toronto. So, I’m quite familiar with Canada and I love it very, very much. But, Montreal is beautiful and I had some friends over for it, which was great and I was able to fit in, and the community in Montreal was very much like the community on set. It feels very small.
The director—Charles Biname who is a fabulous director—and his crew have worked together forever and they know each other very well. Nobody’s loud and I know—most people don’t know, but when you’re on a set, it’s very loud. It’s like a cacophony of sounds, basically. There’s just so much going on. And this set was very quiet. It was very calm and you were able to get into that state of mind, and there was so much crying going on all of the time, and so much depression and it was very melancholy most of the time where I was. There was so much preparation I had to do before I went into a scene that you need to be comfortable with your crew. And I am now, I mean, it was a very young crew on set. I really hope that I can have that experience again because I was just blown away about how professional they were.
Moderator: You’re crying pretty much every day on set. How do you prepare yourself for filming that sort of emotion?
E. Osment: I knew it was going to be a challenge, but this was a very exciting opportunity for me, because of just that. You know, everybody prepares themselves. Every actor has a different warm up attitude when it comes to getting into a scene. This is the first time I did probably more homework away from set than I did work on set. I mean, every day, it was just mentally preparing yourself for this getting into this next scene which required this type of set and this type of set. Because there were different levels of what she was experiencing. Like, okay, where is she in this scene? Is she way down in her hole, or is she kind of looking over the edge, or is she jumping off the cliff? Is she in free fall yet? Like, where is she in her little jump of sadness? You know, at the flip of a coin, she cries, because she’s so insecure and anything that happens to her, you know, life is over, which is very emotional. She’s seventeen at the time, so obviously, it’s a very emotional time in any girl’s life, so it was cool to play that.
For me, my warm up is hard to describe. I listen to music most of the time, and honestly, there’s a lot of times where it was very, very cool. I wish someone had this on camera, but Charles would set up the scene, he was lighted and then we would step into the room with half the crew. Half the crew we put outside and half the crew would be in the room. But, he would get me into that state and I would be in the state of where I was emotionally and then, we would just start the scene and sometimes we wouldn’t follow any of the lines. Sometimes, there would be no lines at all. Sometimes some of the scenes with Kay, I don’t even remember, because we were so into it. You know, we’d come out of a scene and the next day she’s like, “Do you remember me stepping on your foot really hard during that scene?” I’m like, “No, honestly, I’m sorry I don’t!” But, it’s very cool and that’s why I love this scene on my job so much. Because, what I do is so creative and it takes me to this other space of your mind that you didn’t know you had until you’re there. And, to create a different character is like I don’t know, it’s like having some sort of … you had where you can only be one thing for however many minutes the scene is and then you switch and you’re something else. But, it’s very, very cool.
Moderator: Is there anything you’ve learned specifically from personally getting into the role and playing a victim of bullying?
E. Osment: Yes, that’s it’s very easy for me to get depressed. When we were in Montreal for like six weeks, something like that, it was a short shoot honestly. We were there for a while, but we did a lot of rehearsal before, but I was shocked as to how much this impacted me, the role and the attitude of the whole thing. I would just come home and I would cry. I feel like I have to continue. But, it was a very interesting process, especially being in a foreign country which felt so much like a foreign country because Montreal is just very, very European, very French. I had a few friends, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to go out. You’re going to sit home and prepare for the next day. So, I was just surprised how much this role truly impacted me and I went home and I was just sad for six weeks while we were shooting this.
You know, we had a good time. We had truly an amazing time with making this movie, but I never thought of myself as a method actor until now. So, I would talk to my friends, especially, my actor friends and they’d call and I’d be like, “I just can’t talk to you right now. I’m so sad.” And, they’re like, “Are you okay? This is not what you said you were going to be doing to this movie.” It’s a very fine experience.
Moderator: Have you had any interactions with fans who have been victims of bullying?
E. Osment: Oh, sure, especially now that this movie is coming out. I get messages online. I get messages on Twitter about how thank—these kids are all thanking me like I had any—like I made the movie and so to speak. But, they’re saying, “Thank you so much for doing this film. Finally, people will believe when I say I’m being cyber bullied and how much that affects me and no one thinks it’s a big deal and I don’t know what to do, and this movie is going to be so great for my parents to see, and maybe it’ll teach those bullies! It’s incredible. It’s amazing how much one movie can do. And, that’s why we did it. We did it for the goodness of our hearts, but also because we loved—I loved the role and the movie is a great opportunity. But this film has an opportunity to say so much in 96 minutes or however long. So, yes, I definitely think that this is sort of up the ante a little bit of how much these kids are truly trying to get in touch and say like, “ Thank you. Thank you for making this movie.” So that’s good.
For more information on “Cyberbully”, please visit the official website here.
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