Q&A: Nina Dobrev on The American Mall
Posted: 08/06/08 4:05PM
Filed Under: Television
By CHRIS JANCELEWICZ
Nina Dobrev is only 19 years old, but she's experienced things that others can only dream of. She's been a star on the ever-popular Degrassi: The Next Generation for two seasons now, and is about to start her third. She's had roles in big-time movies like Fugitive Pieces and is rumoured to be in an upcoming Transformers sequel. Her latest project is a made-for-TV movie called The American Mall, a distant cousin of Disney's High School Musical. Produced by MTV, this movie could very well be the launching pad for Dobrev's international career. We sat down to talk to her about her impending stardom.
What was it like filming 'American Mall?'
It was amazing. It was obviously something I've never done before, professionally at least. It was very different from everything I've done, including Degrassi and other films. It was so much fun. It felt like we weren't working, just hanging out, and happened to be making a film at the same time. It was a great experience, I'm so happy I did it.
Was that you singing?
It was my first time going in the studio, and recording and doing that whole thing. So I had help, I definitely had help. The whole experience was surreal.
Was it difficult to lip synch?
You know what? That part was actually easier, to be honest. Less challenging than I thought.
Wow, I would be so embarrassed to do that.
It's kind of a norm now. There's so many musicals and music videos coming out nowadays, and I was one of those girls who would watch TV and try to lip synch, try to be Britney Spears. I went through that crazy phase. [In American Mall] it felt like I was shooting a music video the whole time. Especially for the song 'Survivor'.
Is that the song where you're wearing that killer black dress?
Yes. That was the big scene. I compare it to 'Cell Block Tango' from Chicago. It's like a very empowering angry girl dance. At least that's what we called it on set. It was just so much fun. It's one of my favourite parts in the movie. What's funny is when we were filming that scene, it was Valentine's Day. So it's supposed to be this angry-we-hate-boys dance, but it was on the love day of the year. And the dancers' boyfriends would come on set with flowers, and they'd be like, 'We love you, but don't do this, we're supposed to be angry!'
And we were in the mall, while it was still open. There were women walking by with their kids, shielding their eyes. It was really funny.
Where were the mall scenes filmed?
It was in Utah, Salt Lake City.
Shows what I know about malls. I thought it was Yorkdale [Toronto shopping mall].
No, no. (laughs) The malls they filmed them in are a chain in the U.S. called Westfield malls, and that was one of them in Utah.
Did you channel anyone in particular for this role?
Yes and no. For 'Survivor', as I said before, I was inspired by 'Cell Block Tango', that fantastical element. Whenever I make a character, I always take parts of my life. I have a lot of similarities to this one in particular, be it the singing or not really knowing what to do with life, school, or social life. Just having so much on your plate, and this is what Ally goes through. She's trying to figure out what school to go to, whether she should stand up to her mom, and if she should go for her dreams. I just took from my personal experience, and tried to relate in any way that I could.
Was it nice to play a role where you didn't have a baby?
It was different, that's for sure. Every role is a challenge. I want to keep doing everything...I want to try to do things that aren't similar to one another.
Do you think this will be your big break? Or do you not want to curse it?
(laughs) I don't want to curse it! I really hope people like it, though. The music is such a big part of it, and there's so many great songs, and they're well-produced. It goes from the pop song to the rock song to the love ballad - there's a wide range that a lot of people are going to like, whether it be little kids or teens or young adults. It's a film for a large demographic.
What was your favourite part of the movie?
'Survivor' was definitely a highlight. 'Dreaming Wide Awake', where Ally and Joey are on the roof, was a great part. What was interesting was that scene was filmed in front of a green screen. We were in a studio, so it didn't really feel very romantic, but we still had to sell it. It all worked out in the end.
So, there's obvious comparisons to 'High School Musical.' Were you a fan of that movie prior to filming this?
You know, I'm a fan of all musicals. Chicago, Rent, all musicals in general. This one really stands on its own, but there are obvious similarities, and inevitably they will be compared. It's definitely its own entity. The themes are a little older, they're skewed for an older audience, 18-25. Different issues are being dealt with.
Speaking of which, last time we spoke, you were going through a rough personal time, trying to balance working and school and personal life. How are you doing now?
Well, it's getting easier because I'm starting to accept it. But it's also getting harder because more is coming at me. Let's put it this way: I'm excited.
So there's rumours out there that you're going to star in the new 'Transformers' movie. What's the deal with that?
Yes. They're rumours. I would have had to audition for it to be in it, but they're filming right now, so no. Maybe Transformers 3.
Did anything funny happen on set? Like falling dancers, or bloopers?
Well, one thing's for sure, there were a lot of blisters with those heels in 'Survivor'. And yeah, we had accidents. There were a lot of breakdancers, a lot of really great performers. So there weren't any 'oooooh' accidents, but more fooling around.
What was up with the 'Be the Change' T-shirt you're wearing in the movie?
Degrassi is affiliated with Free the Children, and I am a strong supporter of the cause. There's three musical numbers at the end of the film where I'm wearing the top. I asked if I could wear it, and they incorporated it into the movie. I hope that subtle detail will be noticed. It's a great charity that I think everybody should know about.
How did you get along with your fellow cast members?
Everyone was great. We all got along so well, and we all hung out off set. On our downtime, we'd all go to the movies, go to dinner. We did trips to Sundance, since we were filming during the film festival. No fights or rumours or anything. It was unbelievable how everyone connected.
So was it hard to act with Autumn Reeser [Madison]?
You know what? It's funny, because I was a fan of The O.C. If you didn't watch The O.C. on Thursday nights, you didn't have anything to talk about the next day. So I was very starstruck when I first met her. She's just so unlike her character - she's such a sweet person and a great actress. At times, she was so good at her role she actually scared me, she was intimidating. She's a strong woman.
What was it like at the Chicago premiere? Nice dress, by the way.
A friend of mine, who's an up-and-coming designer, made my dress for that event. Her name is Nada Yousif. It's stunning. Anyway, at the premiere, there were a lot of radio contest winners and teenagers. They weren't required to respond in any way, but literally, by the end of the movie, they were standing up with their cell phones in the air, waving them back and forth as if they were lighters at a concert. The response was unbelievable, and I didn't expect it. I was very, very overwhelmed and touched. And happy.
'The American Mall' airs Monday, August 11th on MuchMusic at 9 pm ET.
To read an earlier interview with Nina about Degrassi, click here.