Interview: Kirby Bliss Blanton and Alexis Knapp talk ‘Project X’
Project X is a hilarious found footage comedy about a couple of anonymous high school kids who throw one of the wildest parties ever in an attempt to get popular. They succeed in both efforts but getting there is a complete disaster.
I talked with two of the stars of the film, Kirby Bliss Blanton and Alexis Knapp.
Kirby had a small recurring role on the Nickelodeon series Zoey 101 and appeared on Unfabulous, the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana and HBO’s Entourage. She’ll soon be seen on MTV’s Inbetweeners.
Alexis will next be seen in in the comedy Pitch Perfect, starring opposite Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow as well as So Undercover, starring opposite Miley Cyrus.
They two talk about how they got their start, auditioning for the movie, some really bad auditions and Project X!
How did you guys get involved? What was the audition process like?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Alexis and I were kind of lucky. We just had our agents actually more involved.
Alexis Knapp: We came in the traditional way.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Yeah, there was a talent search for non-actors but we kind of did it the other way. We are actors.
The traditional way?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: The real way, if you will, the legitimate way. So, yeah, we both just kind of auditioned. I had gone in a bunch of times for this one character and then they decided they want me for another character. Alexis kind of came in on the end and swooped in and got a bunch of people pissed off with her because she had been through like one call back and everyone else had been through for like 12. We were really lucky though.
Alexis Knapp: We were. Especially me.
Alexis, what was the audition process like for you?
Alexis Knapp: I just signed with CAA and I was like, “Alright it’s time to get serious and start the acting thing” and they knew about Project X and they requested to get me in. At first they were like, “No, we really already have all our choices. We’ve had million of call backs.” And they just kept pushing and pushing so then they agreed for Seth Yanklewitz to put me on tape – and he is a great casting director – tape for the producers. So from there, they sent my tape to the producers and then they called me back to where I met Kirby it was like her 8th or 10th call back or something like that.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: That was literally almost two years ago. I think working on it for such a long time obviously had its benefits because now that we’ve seen the finished product, even though we were completely anxious over the last two years and worried that it wasn’t even going to come out… it took a lot of time to make it perfect.
The online auditions they had, obviously you guys got some great people but what did you guys think about the nationwide talent search?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: It’s a little strange but I also think it’s really unique. I’m glad that they were not only adamant about finding new people but were uninterested in the people that had done a lot which we are never running into that. Usually as actors, we find that the name or the established person gets the job and we don’t even get the chance anymore. So thank God they let some new kids, some new spaces…
Alexis Knapp: We were so fortunate, so fortunate. It’s also much more satisfying for us and it’s more flattering. It makes us feel more validated that we got this job and they were looking for everyone else in the world.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: They looked for everyone, yeah.
Alexis Knapp: Not just actors in L.A. and New York, like everybody.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Exactly. It just makes it even more rewarding. And we all are kind of new at this so I think that made it not only a bonding experience because we’re all kind of learning how this works 2but it also was just fun.
You rehearsed a lot?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: We did like two weeks of rehearsal beforehand. We would go to the house and we would just kind of run through the whole thing and during the process of that, some of the boys, the boys would do some improv back and forth. One of the scenes that I rehearsed with Thomas, we got to improv and then the next day, we came to work and it was written in our sides. I was like, “Yes, I’m a part of this film.”
You guys shot this in chronological order?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Technically, the school stuff wasn’t.
Alexis Knapp: Yeah, it was all in chronological order except for the beginning school stuff that we shot that at the very, very end.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Everything was sequential except for that.
Alexis Knapp: It helped us in embodying our characters and really like seeing this monster grow by doing it in the right order. It’s harder in a film when you go out of order.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: You’re like thinking, “Okay, what was the last scene that I did before this?”
Alexis Knapp: Yeah, you’re like, “Wait, where are we on the script? Has this happened yet?” We didn’t have to deal with any of that and for a first-time actor like myself I mean…
Kirby Bliss Blanton: It made our job easier.
Alexis Knapp: It was so helpful.
How did you keep your energy up? I mean, the film is one huge party. You’re shooting for 12, 15, 16 hours a day, did you drink a lot of 5-Hour Energy drinks?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: I did start drinking coffee on that set. I hadn’t been a coffee drinker before then. There was a DJ and he was playing music. There was a bunch of extras. They were all extremely excited to be there and be a part of it, so we kind of fed off of each other’s energy. And I personally just get a high off by being on set. Like “I just want to work. I just want to work.”
Don’t get me wrong, we got exhausted. But we did end up happening ironically, we would get so tired and I’d go home to go to sleep and I’m still hyped up on adrenaline that I have to like force myself to go to bed and turn the lights off. It got kind of weird.
The whole film is handheld footage and you’ve got two cameras following you around the whole time. So how does that affect your blocking?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Sometimes we didn’t know where the camera was but I think that made it more organic.
Alexis Knapp: Yeah, definitely. They captured real moments rather than you know, staying on our mark and having lighting on your face.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: It’s a lot easier to work when you don’t have a lens in your face. Some of the actors had handhelds too.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Yeah I know we used some of their footage during the fire stuff.
Alexis Knapp: Cell phone videos, yeah.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: The more gritty the footage is, it’s probably most likely a handy cam.
How did you guys get your first agents?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: When I was in Texas, I’m originally from Texas. I kind of started doing like commercials and modelling. There was this small agency in Houston. It’s actually very big now, Page Parkes, and they have this talent search. I remember asking my mom like what that was and if I old enough to do it and I was really excited. I had met an L.A. agent there that said, “You know what? I think you should come to L.A.” At first, my mom and I kind of would go back and forth, like we would go out there and stay for a month and I’d either book something or have a call back. At one point we just decided if I’m going to do it, I might as well commit so we moved.
Alexis, how did you get your agent? CAA, what is that a band?
Yeah, I haven’t heard of that agency. It’s probably pretty small, right?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: I’m pretty sure it’s just one guy in an office.
Alexis Knapp: CAA wasn’t my first. All my life I grew up in the arts; dancing, singing, played instruments.
Those were like my aspirations, always something on the stage, I knew it would be something. I got this opportunity to go to L.A. and perform all my talents, singing, dancing, acting, and modelling. I’d never done acting. I’d never done modelling before. Except in high school, I did musicals so I did do some stage acting. I came out, it was like a five-day thing. I got immediately picked up by some agents and went back home. They were like, “Come here immediately for Fashion Week.”
Where are you from?
Alexis Knapp: North Carolina. I moved back out to L.A. two weeks later, packed up all my stuff and I was over there.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: You were 18 or something, right?
Alexis Knapp: 18.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: $500 in her pocket.
Alexis Knapp: Yeah, $500 in my pocket. I didn’t know anybody. I started going out on a couple of acting things but I didn’t like it. It felt inappropriate to be trying to act when I hadn’t had any proper training because I come from a background of a lot of classical training like opera, musical theatre, ballet. Like every form of art I’ve always had the proper training for it so I didn’t want to try it so I just did modelling for a while.
Then I kind of found acting, kind of like it and dabbled and then when I really got an opportunity to be on camera, I realized, “oh, this is actually really cool. This is actually really fun and I can do this” and it became my love. A little while after, I had a friend of mine, I was kind of in a rut. I was kind of floating around, not really having a purpose. Still modelling, I hated it. I kind of wanted to get into acting and I didn’t really know how. I didn’t like my agents and my friend who has another friend who is a manager at Untitled. So he sends my pictures, my modelling photos and asks “would you like to meet her?” and he goes “Yeah, alright sure yeah, I’ll meet her.”
And then I had like a three-hour meeting with them and I just talked to them about my life, everything and they were like, “There’s so many things that I think you’re right for.” He was like, “I want to introduce you to someone at CAA.” So they introduced me at someone at CAA, said the same thing, and then introduced me to the two comedy Gods over there, Jason Heyman and Dave Bugliari and they were just like, “So many things are right for you. Let’s get going immediately” and that’s where Project X kind of came in.
So with all the auditions you’ve have had so far, what’s the worst one?
Alexis Knapp: There is one back when I was modelling. It was a commercial audition and this fucking asshole tried to get real emotion out of you, so they started poking at personal shit. My father passed away when I was 15 years old and this chick was like “Now imagine you see your father and he is looking at you and you’re looking at him”. I was just like so mad. I left there, I called up the agent at that time.
I told him what happened. We won’t say any names. I told him what happened and he was like, “that’s messed up” and that’s about it. I was like I hate you.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: I remember I was much younger which means even more difficult because, you know, more vulnerable. I was told that I was never going to act again and that I was just a pretty face.
Was it here?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Yeah, and it was funny because then I got a call back and I’m supposed to go back in to this casting director who literally just told me that I’m just a pretty face and I’m never going to act. How in the hell am I supposed to like carry myself?
So I told my agent at that time, “There’s no way I’m going back in.” They are like, “She’s begged you. She literally has apologized.” I was like, “She hasn’t apologized to me though.” Supposedly, she showed that tape to her director and he saw something in me or something and she had to go crawling back to my agent begging me to come back in. So I did. I didn’t get the part but she definitely apologized.
What would your advice to actors be?
Alexis Knapp: Don’t do it.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: That’s funny but that’s really good advice actually.
Alexis Knapp: To be honest, actors are a dime a million. It’s so difficult. It seems like a very glamorous lifestyle and there are aspects of that that are very true…
Kirby Bliss Blanton: There are great aspects, yeah.
Like this right now, how glamorous is this?
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Yeah, look at us. We’re having a blast.
Alexis Knapp: This is a blast. We’re having so much fun.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Yeah, this is great.
Alexis Knapp: I know plenty of people that will never give up, but they don’t have the talent and they waste their lives when they could be taking advantage of their youth and in doing something else that they can do, that they were born to do. I really think that actors are born to act, that you can either do it or you can’t. No amount of acting classes can help you if you weren’t born with that ability.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Some people it’s a hobby and they just keep doing it.
Alexis Knapp: Yeah but they really think they are going to make it and it’s very sad to see people waste their lives that way.