You know that girl in school who is sooo adept at using people, especially guys? In the new offbeat comedy Rocket Science, her name is Ginny. She’s the star on the high school debate team and she is played by Anna Kendrick who has an impressive background as a Broadway Tony nominee for “High Society”. The love of Ginny’s life is Ben played by uber-cute Nick D’Agosto who has signed on this season to play Hayden Panettiere’s new, super-powered boyfriend on the popular “Heroes” series. The funny slacker in the movie is Heston played by Disturbia’s Shia LaBeouf sidekick Aaron Yoo.
We got to sit down with the three up-and-comers in Beverly Hills recently to chat about their roles in Rocket Science and future projects. This trio is a riot. They obviously had way too much fun working together. Picture pretty brunette Anna in slacks and nice black lace cami, Aaron in vest over a black tee and jeans and Nick in a strange blue tee with “Tuk Toyaktuk – Tuck U” on the front. Hey, it’s real. It’s up in the Northwest Territories. Let’s get to know these talented 20-somethings.
TeenHollywood: Nick, your character has a great ability for debate but he messes up and then sort of goes away and hides. Would you do that or try to continue on?
Nick: What comes to mind is the first play I ever did. I was in sixth grade. I was ten years old. I kind of came into acting through competitive speech and I played the villain; only time I ever played the villain. I forgot all my lines. I didn’t know how to memorize. I didn’t really know what was going to be required of me and I got so nervous, I bawled my eyes out. I’m not kidding you, on stage! My parents are in the audience watching. Someone literally fed me the lines. Everyone could hear her say the lines off stage. I remember bawling and walking out afterwards pounding my head on the wall! But, I became an actor so I think that I don’t like losing maybe. Who knows? I look back at that and think it’s a very curious way to begin this career.
TeenHollywood: Why do you think Ben [his character] just runs and re-locates somewhere else?
Nick: He had other things going on. He had family stuff going on that was very different. I think he did it for other reasons. It wasn’t like debate got too much for him. Life got too much for him.
TeenHollywood: Do you Aaron or Anna have anything in common with your characters in the film?
Aaron: Well, I grew up in New Jersey [where the film is set] so I didn’t have to deal with acclimating myself to that. I think that was one of the first things that tagged me onto the script was thinking, ‘oh my God, this guy is from New Jersey’. There’s a scene that is no longer in the film where Lewis [played by Josh Kay] and Hal [played by Reece Daniel Thompson] are sitting outside of Ginny’s place like stalking it and there’s this long scene where Hal has a line like “It’s Jersey. There’s nothing else to do but wait.” and I was like ‘oh yeah. This guy is from New Jersey’!
TeenHollywood: Anna are you anything like Ginny? She’s a top debater but she really uses people to get to the top.
Anna: No. I mean I went into it being immersed in Ginny and not really seeing the big picture and it wasn’t really until we saw the movie that I began to really feel bad about it with Hal [Reece] sitting next to me. In some ways I’m like Ginny. I certainly can be argumentative and overconfident sometimes. And, I remember we did these free-association writing things as our characters at the beginning of rehearsals and Jeff [Blitz, writer/director] suggested that I seek therapy because what I had written was so frighteningly in tune with the character. [we laugh] But, having seen the film, I feel maybe more timid than I have ever felt in my life because several people think I should be this really intimidating person. I don’t want people to think I’m that big of a bitch in real life but I get very sheepish because I want to differentiate myself.
TeenHollywood: Was it hard for you, Nick and Anna, to learn that really rapid way of delivering a debate argument? I think it’s called “spreading”. I could never do that.
Anna: Well, this is embarrassing. The first day that we ever tried ‘spreading’, a debate coach had come in and demonstrated it to us. Then it was like, ‘I have this thing written down. Why don’t you just get up and give it a go?’ And Nick got up and did very, very well. So I was like ‘I can do this. It’s great’ and I got up and it was a disaster.
Nick: I protest. It wasn’t. It wasn’t at all.
Anna: Well, it’s a skill set that I guess I just don’t have. I was nervous about it because I’m told that I talk fast so it wasn’t going to be a problem but I had no idea that it was so different from what we think of as a normal speech pattern. It was about just trying it again and again. When Ginny is supposed to do an example of a debate in ten seconds, I timed myself. Nick informs me that he sat there and timed it and it was ten seconds.
Nick: I just wanted to see and it’s exactly ten seconds.
TeenHollywood: But, Aaron, you didn’t have to do that rapid speech stuff?
Aaron: No, when they were doing that, they’re like ‘do you want to come up here and try it?’ [Reece and I] We’re like ‘No. We’re gonna have lunch because we get to suck at this’. I think, when we were watching the [real] high school debaters, we thought ‘this is nothin’. But when they popped in the tape of the collegiate nationals.. ‘no’.
TeenHollywood: Did Jeff give you a lot of research material on these high school debaters?
Nick: Yeah. And we did go to some actual high school debates. But he gave us tapes of collegiate national championship debate and these guys are rapid fire, so much faster than we pulled off in the film. That’s what I tried to model Ben after. We tried to live up to those standards. If those guys were actually debating in Rocket Science, it would have been a short film.
Anna: But we’re aware that we came nowhere close to that. Everybody’s been very kind.
Nick: Those guys, you literally would not be able to understand them. There had to be clarity.
Anna: We had to take it down a little but because, otherwise, it is so alien, you would have been lost.
TeenHollywood: What did you guys do when shooting in Baltimore?
Nick: It was like camp in Baltimore. We were told at one time, ‘did you know that Baltimore is the murder capital of the United States?’ We’re like ‘no joke? I should not have gone jogging this morning’. We came up with this thing; every once in a while, someone in our group will tell a joke when you’re hanging out with your friends. Someone gets that ‘sitter’ that’s supposed to be funny.
Anna: The rule was, if you told that joke of the evening then you had to walk home.
Aaron: In the murder capital of the world.
Anna: But the food was great.
Nick: And I had a great day at Fort McHenry.
TeenHollywood: Well, if you were of age and could go clubbing, where would you go?
Anna: I remember trying to smuggle me into a place before we resigned ourselves to sitting in an outdoor cafe. We tried to go in and be like ‘come-on. How bad could it be?’.
Aaron: I look like I’m at least eleven.
TeenHollywood: Nick, we know that you landed a part on “Heroes”. Who are you playing?
Nick: I’m playing West who is Hayden’s, Claire’s boyfriend on the show and I have a super power but I can’t tell you what it is and we’re shooting our third episode.
TeenHollywood: So was the cast welcoming to the “newbie”?
Nick: They’ve been extremely wonderful. Instantly, very welcoming. They felt like a real nice family. Everybody’s very nice on the show and Hayden’s been wonderful to work with. It’s been a really pleasant time.
Aaron: She’s really hot too! [Nick laughs]. Hey, it doesn’t mean anything. He’s got a girlfriend.
TeenHollywood: Aaron, what about your movie 21, about MIT students that take Vegas by storm? Any scenes with Kevin Spacey or Laurence Fishburne?
Aaron: I actually got to hang out with Laurence a lot but only have one scene where he’s chasing us. It was very complex. But, he’s, no bulls**t; one of the coolest people I’ve ever met on or off set. A very chill guy. After I shot with him, I was in the shower and I was like ‘oh my God, I hung out with Morpheus [from The Matrix] all day!’ But he can be a really big goofball. And my experience with Kevin was, after twenty takes you want to make somebody crack. The worst person for doing that was Kevin. One night, we decided that everybody [feeding us lines] off camera was going to do it like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
TeenHollywood: And what’s next for you, Anna?
Anna: The last movie I just shot was The Marc Pease Experience and I’m the romantic interest for Jason Schwartzman and sort of Ben Stiller. That was fun.
Aaron: Who is the better kisser?
Anna: That’s awful! One has a serious girlfriend and one has a wife! I can’t. But I was pretty nervous going into it. Jason was great. I got off the plane and it was the night of the Academy Awards and they were having a party and I walked up to meet him and the first thing he said was ‘are you nervous or excited?’. So, I was like ‘okay, at least he’s this considerate guy’ and he was so great and helped me feel at ease.
TeenHollywood: Any stories about Ben Stiller?
Anna: The very first thing that I shot was doing vocal warm-ups with Ben’s character. He’s my music teacher and I thought I was going to throw up all day. We had to do a-capella vocal warm-ups, just scales on whatever syllable he felt like saying. He just kept going and improving. It was like poobah, and peebo and moopie. Whatever he’d say, I’d have to sing that. Everybody thought it was so funny but I’m like ‘I’m going to kill you’. But they were both really great in sensing that I was nervous and putting me at ease. We were shooting at a school and there were a couple of high schoolers who would find their way into the filming area and throw weird looks at Ben, like the ‘Blue Steel’ look [from Zoolander].
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.