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Emily Perkins

Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

March 13, 2006

A modern-day, teen comedy incarnation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, She's the Man stars Amanda Bynes as a girl who masquerades as her twin brother in order to get onto the boys' soccer team after the girls' program has been cut. The innocent deception quickly unleashes a tangled and comical web of relationships as each character seems to get struck down by crises of love and identity, one by one.

In this interview, director Andy Fickman talks about assembling a solid ensemble of actors to bring this story to the screen.

The Interview

ANDY: Hello, hello, hello!

MEDIA: So what's up with all the armbands you're wearing?

[laughs] My arm has become the Rainbow Coalition. Three of them were from crew members who had really specific causes. And the fourth one is for the AYSO, the youth soccer organization, which has been really instrumental in our film. And this was theirs. So giving a little love and support throughout the process...

Were you a fan of soccer before you took on this movie?

You know, I became a fan. Well, I was a fan before the movie as I was coaching my son's soccer team. I grew up in Texas where we played football, but coaching my son's soccer team gave me a real love for the sport. And then once I started doing research and really got into it, and having someone like Vinnie Jones, who is such a pro, and a lot of our behind the scenes soccer players and coaches...Now I'm sort of slightly addicted to it.

How did you get Vinnie aboard for the role of the no-nonsense soccer coach?

Vinnie was the very first person I ever had in mind when I read the script. That's who I saw. He was the only person I ever met with and the only offer we ever made...Everyone sort of warned me that this is not a Vinnie Jones type movie. [laughs] Like if you look at his resume, "teen comedy" isn't jutting out at you. And I didn't know how he would respond to our take on soccer and what we were doing. And we just got along right away. We just sort of connected. And having his involvement really was instrumental. The cast loved him, the crew loved him. And when we were doing soccer, Vinnie was always by my side...I would say to him, "I want it to look like what you did. I want it to look and feel right." And there was days we'd finished shooting and he'd say that whole day reminded him of back when he was in camp, like when he was getting ready for a game. The writers had written all kinds of stuff for Vinnie to say, and I was like, "Look, be your coach." So we had a slew--not all of it good for a PG movie--where I'm like, "Really? Your coach said that? Wow!" But everything...That's all just Vinnie really sort of channeling his career. And it was nice at the premiere the other night just to see the audience respond the minute that they saw Vinnie onscreen. And it's a fun. It's a different type of movie for him, and I think that there's a whole different audience that gets exposed to him. But when you're looking for someone to be the badass coach, you don't have to look very far beyond Vinnie, because you're like, "Uh...He scares me."

Did people find him intimidating at first?

He's just a big guy...[But] he's got the heart and soul of an angel. He would hate to hear it. But he was very protective of the cast and very appreciative. All the soccer teams were comprised of real soccer players...He'd be in the circle with these guys, in between takes, just passing the ball back and forth, and you could see how that elevated the extras and the sense of family that we have on the set.

How did you go about transforming Amanda Bynes through wardrobe?

I come out of theatre, so it's all about building the character from the feet on up. And it was designed to make sure she was a little bit out of her comfort zone. When a guy is playing a woman in drag, guys in high heels immediately give you the ability to have a laugh because "I don't know how to walk in the high heel..." Well, the reverse, for a girl going into guy, you don't actually have the high heels sort of bit, so it really was about trying to shape her body slightly differently, trying to give her more guy clothes, trying to figure out how she was going to sit. And if I noticed that she was becoming Amanda for a minute in the scene, [I reminded her], like, "Shift this way. Your posture shouldn't be that good."

People who have only seen her in She's the Man might not know it, but Emily Perkins, who plays Eunice, is cute as hell. How did you guys come up with the look and persona of her alter-ego?

Thank you for bringing that up. I am a huge Emily Perkins fan. Emily Perkins starred in a series of horror films out of Canada called Ginger Snaps, and I'm obsessed with them. And she also was a wonderful dramatic actress in a series called Da Vinci's Inquest, which is a very well-written series. She was one of the first people to come in. And I had wanted her to audition for Reefer Madness, which I also shot in Vancouver before, and it didn't work out timewise. But I just was obsessed with her as an actress. She's never done comedy, really. And in one of my first auditions, in comes Emily Perkins, who, honestly...She doesn't have the braces, she doesn't have the headgear. She is a stunningly beautiful woman. And in she comes dressed [in] the most nerdy outfit, cracking me up. And that character that you saw on the screen is what she brought into the audition. And she was, I think, after Amanda, the very next person that I cast, and without hesitation. She's a remarkably gifted actress. She has such an obsessive fan core up there, so when we were up there filming, all the cast became really obsessed with Emily, and she became a little bit of the mascot for the group. Everyone has a crush on Emily at any given point, yet she's the one [whose character is] the most nerdy. And as a director, I got very lucky with this cast, because they all sort of played the game I needed them to play. But she's a very studied, method type. It was important for her to wear the headgear and the braces. And you have to go get fitted, they have to build these to your mouth, they're not the most comfortable thing, and as quickly as you could get them off, you would. Emily would spend days in rehearsal with the braces. And it was good because it got all of our laughter out.

What role did you want her to play in Reefer Madness?

I had lots of sort of extra [roles], like the chorus and the dancers, and there were bits and pieces. Most of that, I had used my original cast, like Kristen Bell and everybody in Reefer. But there were bits and pieces of roles that we were looking at. We were looking at a lot of Vancouver actors. And it just didn't work out. So when she came in--and sometimes it was just the director in me wanting to just see for a second what this actress was like--[I was] absolutely smitten beyond belief with her. And the cast was. And what was great was the audience, hearing their reaction. The minute they see her onscreen till the end, she's like this little favorite character. And she just gave herself so freely to us.

Was there a deliberate decision to make Jonathan Sadowski's gay character (Paul, the hair stylist) not so over-the-top, which is often a stereotype in these types of comedies?

For as much musical theatre as I do, I think that there's "queeny gay," and then there's a lot of gay people I know who somehow aren't flying out of their shoes. [laughs] When we were casting, everyone that came in and auditioned couldn't have played more like it was the Rip Taylor of gay characters. Literally, like why not throw confetti in the air and be like, [Rip Taylor impression] "I'm a hairdresser!" And so I think it was more like, we can be gay, but not necessarily have to be so flamboyant...All my gay friends have called me, like, "Thank you for not making us the queeniest character." And I'm like, "Next movie, you people are literally wearing boas. I will destroy everyone!"

Thanks for your time.

Thank you, guys, so much!

Related Material

She's the Man interview with Emily Perkins
She's the Man interview with Vinnie Jones
Movie Coverage: She's the Man


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