How did you get into the mode of playing a princess and being regal?
I did a lot of yoga and strengthening actually to get that posture. The posture was a big part of it as well as learning the English accent. There was something about speaking in an English accent, even though it’s stereotypical, that made me feel more regal. She was pretty covered up, which I loved. It was more like to kind of get that poise that a princess has, and I can imagine Lissa grew up with her mom and dad always being around, (and was told to) sit up straight, have good manners, keep your ankles crossed, la, la, la, getting into that physicality.
Was it good being princess or were you frustrated sometimes that you couldn’t participate in those fight scenes?
I really wanted to beat up Strigoi. (Laughs) The best thing about it was having supernatural powers, the powers that the Dampirs don’t get to have, so that was really fun.
What’s the power you’d most like to have in real life?
I’d love to have the power to heal, the power of spirit. That would be the best. It’s so unfortunate that it causes all of these problems for Lissa, using that power takes a part of Lissa’s (strength) so it’s a very toxic thing, but I hope she finds the place where she can use her powers without hurting herself.
There are a lot of comic elements in the film that perhaps aren’t in the book. Did that appeal to you?
Dan added a lot of punchy dialogue and a lot of great humor. The book has a lot of humor and playfulness to it but Dan really emphasized it and gave it the kind of “Heathers” twist that made it really, really bright and really dynamic. I think he did a great job of that and kept it true of the intention of the book and the plot.
How did you get cast for the film?
I had a bit of a Cinderella story for this. I first read the script when I was backpacking in England with one of my best friends and I loved it. I loved the focus on friendship and I instantly connected to Lissa. I was like, ‘Wow, she feels everything and has so much empathy and is so sensitive like me.’ And when I came to L.A. I was also just staying on my friend’s couch, kind of still in my backpacking zone, and I did the audition and it wasn’t filmed, it was just in the room with a casting director just doing the scene with her. I got great feedback and then I left and didn’t hear anything. Then I called my manager and he told me the production company was accepting self-tapes from people around the world, so I decided to put down a self tape and I did it with my friend in the lounge room. I sent it in and then the next day I got a call saying, you have a test due tomorrow for ‘Vampire Academy,’ and that meant I was in the final three, so I went in. I work shopped scenes with Mark in the morning. And I was really excited because I love “Mean Girls” so much. I was like, ‘This is great, I get to work with the director of “Mean Girls.”‘ So I was just going in there and having fun. I met Zoey that day, and we had so much fun working the scene together. That afternoon the producer saw it, and we performed the scenes. The next day we went to this lunch, and I thought it would be a personality test to see if I was a sane person and could do the role without going crazy, but I got there and they were like, ‘It’s a celebration lunch. You got the part.’ I was just in shock because it happened so fast.
Did you get any acting tips from Gabriel Byrne?
What I love about the way he acts is that he’s so natural. He’s so relaxed. He kind of walks on set just as himself and you don’t see him change or shift between him and his acting. It’s just seamless, so that was a really great thing to learn.
You and Zoey and the rest of the cast are close to the age of the characters you play. Is that an advantage?
It’s good to be able to relate as well. All of the things they’re going through is just what we went through in high school. There’s so many power-playing things and the value of friendship is the most important thing in a girl’s life in high school. You want your friends to be there with you, and those friendships are very important to you.
What was the most challenging part of playing Lissa?
Probably one of the hardest things was getting used to the contacts, because they made my world blurry and green and moldy, so it was a bit hard to focus. In some ways it helped me get into character because Lissa, her powers kind of have this dizzying effect on her, and she sees the world through a bit of a warped perspective as she gets high and gets poisoned by the powers she uses. So rather than fighting against the moldy thing, Mark told me, ‘Just work with blurry.’