Interview: Odeya Rush on ‘Almost Friends’, How She Prepares for a Role and Her Worst Audition

Actress Odeya Rush

Odeya Rush stars as Amber, the love interest to Freddie Highmore‘s Charlie in the new film, Almost Friends. Charlie is an unemployed chef who works at a movie theater while still living at home with his mom (Marg Helgenberger). After visiting a local coffee house, he starts to fall for Amber, one of the baristas. But when he find’s out she’s got a boyfriend, his best friend is moving to New York and his good-for-nothing dad (Chris Meloni) re-enters his life, he decides he’s finally got to grow up and do something with his life.

Rush, who’s also starring in Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird, chat with us about how she prepares for a role, directing her first short and her worst audition.

Almost Friends is currently streaming on all platforms. 

The film really reminded me of that time when you’re young and you’re in life’s limbo. Before you kinda take off and go on your own path. It was really nice. What did you see in the script that made you want to do it?

Odeya Rush: I really love the love story, but I don’t think I ever … I hadn’t done a kind of romantic, lighter type of movie at that point and I really like indie films. I think a lot of the time they just feel more real. So that attracted me to it and I think the fact that Freddie Highmore was attached. I met with Jake, the director, who was awesome. It looked like a really great opportunity of something enjoyable and it was.

I read that you shot this film in 18 days.

Odeya Rush: Yeah.

That must have been exhausting?

Odeya Rush: It ended up being really fun. I think when you just … you have to go like that because you’re so caught up in the world and especially when you shoot on location, you don’t go home to your bed. So, you feel like you’re really really in the moment and really in that world. You end up making friends, people become your family so quickly when it’s on location like that. Actually, I really like it that way. I think it keeps your energy up. I feel like it has the opposite effect on you getting tired.

Shooting the film this quick, do you have to be even more prepared as opposed to like when you’re doing a bigger budgeted film?

Odeya Rush: I think I approach both the same way. I think it really depends on whether the director likes rehearsals, whether the other actors rehearse. I think my preparation is pretty much the same for every movie and the fact that we were shooting so fast, I just felt like … You have to nail it in a few takes and you learn to move really fast. I think it makes you even more on the ball because when you have time to do it all day, you kinda wanna experiment more, slow down, get into it. But when you have that one take, you just know you have to do it well.

Speaking of preparation, what is it like when you first get a script? What are the first things that you do?

Odeya Rush: I like to read it as a story, you know? Not just looking specifically at my character because a lot of the times even if your character isn’t big or if the dialogue isn’t exactly there as much as you want it, I feel like you can get a sense of whether or not it’s the kind of movie you want to be a part of. What’s the message behind it and who are the creative people behind it and who wrote the script, you know?

I feel like even if the character isn’t big or exactly what I want to play in that moment, I feel like when the story is so great and the script itself is great, I think that’s my number one thing that I look for. Because I know it’s gonna be a great film to be a part of even if critics don’t love it or whatever. I see this is a great script and these people making it realize that and that’s why they’re putting their money into it. It is a business and a lot of the time people look at ways to make money. When it’s just solely a great script, I know those are the people I wanna work with.

How is it working with Freddie Highmore?

Odeya Rush: He’s amazing. He’s really professional and he’s really really prepared. He takes it really seriously and he has a great sense of humor and great attitude and I feel like we really got along right off the bat. Yeah. Awesome, kind, really really awesome.

I saw that you wrote and directed a short? How’d you like that experience?

Odeya Rush: I loved it. That’s my passion, really, writing and directing. First one I did, I was trying to use all my resources and trying to do it about a world that I know really well. I think no matter what, directing is challenging and for my first film ever I needed to do something that was gonna be the easiest no matter what. It was gonna end up being challenging either way, just directing and writing and acting in it.

But it was awesome I had a lot my friends help me, we filmed it at my high school. I had a lot of my friends who weren’t actors act in it, my mom did the craft services and my friend was my first A.D. I feel like it was just summer camp for three days. All my friends were really helping me out and coming together. I had so much fun. I like that level of intensity.

Do you think directing and writing has made you a better actress?

Odeya Rush: Yeah, I think so. I think the best actors look at the whole story and not just their characters. I think now that I’ve been involved in the writing side, I can see sometimes if dialogue is there just so that you can explain where a character is going or when something is written that just needs to be there because… I think it’s important if you’re gonna give your director a suggestion to change something if you don’t like it … It’s important to have another suggestion, you know? I think things are in the script for a reason, so I feel like its helped me because now if I don’t love something, I can always come up with another option when I’m asking my director if we can change something in the writing or change something that I’m doing. The fact that I’m creative and I wanna be a part of things has helped me a lot.

What was your worst audition?

Odeya Rush: My worst? Let me think. This one comes to mind where … So, I grew up speaking Russian, but then I came to America and I stopped because I stayed here with my grandma. I came from Israel so my first language is Hebrew.

Anyway, I had an audition for something for the NBA, I think it was a commercial or something and I needed … They didn’t want anyone speaking Hebrew, they wanted like more common languages like Russian or Spanish. So, they saw that I spoke Russian and they gave … I remember in the audition room, they gave me this long thing that was, you know, all about playing the game and all these words that I had no idea how to say in Russian.

So outside, my mom translated it for me and I was trying to go over it and before I knew it they called us all in and these two Italian kids go and they’re, you know, perfect. This Spanish kid goes. Then I just remember being like “neh neh neh basketball neh neh neh” like I had no idea and I just didn’t even know how to fake it. So, I was just making different noises and it sounded like somewhat Russian. I just said “basketball” with an accent a lot. Yeah, that was pretty embarrassing. They definitely knew I didn’t know how to speak Russian.

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