After starring in Underworld: Awakening and now Kite, India Eisley is a long way from The Secret Life of the American Teenager. And as she told me recently, she likes it that way. “I’ve always preferred dark things and very heavy, emotional things. I think as soon as I was off the show it was kind of back to my roots of, you know, morbid and melancholy.”
Kite, based on the anime film of the same name, tells the story of Sawa (Eisley), a young woman living in a corrupt society where crime and gangs terrorize the streets. When her mother and policeman father are killed, she vows to find the person who murdered them. With the help of her father’s ex-partner, Karl Aker (Samuel L. Jackson), she becomes a merciless assassin, killing everyone who might be responsible.
The film is dark, gritty and stylized and definitely retains its anime roots. The action is fun and full of gore and Eisley is great as Sawa. I’m positive you’d never want to cross her path in a dark alley. I’d bet even in full daylight. She’s a killer with one thing on her mind – revenge. She and Jackson make a good on-screen team. Check out the film when you get a chance!
In the interview, she talks about auditioning for Kite and how it took 2 years to find out she got the role, working with Sam Jackson and the worst audition she’s ever had.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes.
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When you got this movie, did you watch the anime version that it was based on?
India Eisley: I did. It was really hard to find, for some reason. I don’t know if it was just me that had trouble finding it, but I finally got hold of a DVD and I really enjoyed it. I think it was fantastic and they did a fantastic job. Obviously I was wondering, “Oh, God, how are they gonna turn this into a live action?” It’s completely… because it’s so anime and so inhuman. That was tricky, I thought.
Do you use anything you saw in the film in your performance?
India Eisley: I didn’t actually, because I think it’s pretty apparent. Sawa pretty much has 2 sides to her, which is the one side which is she’s a young girl and she’s orphaned and she’s very confused and she’s far too young to be dealing with the things she is. So there’s that kind of aspect of just hopeless… it’s like a hopeless, empty, confused feeling. And then there’s the other side of her, which is just a killer. She just can turn off her emotions. And it’s just when those two sides start to collide that there’s problems.
I would say, yeah.
India Eisley: Just a bit.
Just a tiny bit. I wouldn’t wanna meet you anywhere in a dark alley. You have a lot of fight scenes. Do you like learning the choreography for that? It’s almost like rehearsing a dance scene, I would think.
India Eisley: Yeah, and everything was very rushed on set. I think that we were all working with a really timely filming schedule. I think we could’ve done with more time, especially for the action. So we tweaked things as we went along depending on the location we were in and stuff like that. But I always enjoy fight scenes and being grubby and bloody and not having to look good. I prefer that very much, as odd as that sounds. I just kind of prefer looking like crap, basically.
It’s gotta be easy in the makeup trailer too.
India Eisley: Yeah, it’s wonderful because they just slap blood on your face instead of being at 4 in the morning, it’s like, “Oh, you look a bit puffy,” or, “You need to… obviously you didn’t sleep well,” and instead you can just use it. As a female, it’s much easier.
Right, yeah. I’m an actor as well and I’d get to set early in the morning and you’d hear them saying stuff like, “Oh, your eyes are puffy.” Of course it is, it’s 5 am.
India Eisley: Yeah, it’s just the worst feeling and they always have the most horrendous, depressing, suicide inducing lights in the trailer. Horrible. You look in the mirror and it’s like the rude awakening. “Good morning, off to work. I look like crap.” Horrible. It’s really nice when you get to look horrible.
How did you get involved in this film?
India Eisley: Kite, the audition came up and I knew nothing about any of it. So I just went in and on the breakdown it just said [inaudible] and I was like, “Ok. Simple enough.” And then I didn’t hear anything for 2 years.
India Eisley: And then I was on another job and we got a call from my manager saying, “Oh, do you remember that film Kite?” And I didn’t remember. And I said, “No,” and he said, “Oh, well, it’s come back and they have an offer for you to go to South Africa in the beginning of next year.” And I was like, “Oh, alright.”
India Eisley: Yeah, that was pretty much how it came around.
How was it working with Sam Jackson?
India Eisley: He’s just… I can’t say enough good things about him. I completely just gush. He’s just a wonderful human being. It’s really a comfort having him around because he brings just all his years of experience and his professionalism and obviously talent, but he’s just knows what he’s doing. He just knows what he’s doing, which is a comfort in itself. And he’s just a very giving actor and really a lovely human being. He is Mr. Cool, I have to say.
He seems to be the kinda guy like when he’s on set he’s just a regular guy and when it’s action he turns it on. He’s not walking around in a character all day.
India Eisley: No, and he’s just… he wouldn’t have to. He’s just, again, he’s just one of the coolest people of all time, I think.
This film and the Underworld films, they’re far away from the TV show you did, The Secret Life. Was that thought out? Did you specifically try and do something that far away from that show and character?
India Eisley: Honestly, I was completely shocked when I got hired for the TV show because anyone who knows me would know that sticking me on a family TV show, let alone a teen TV show, is just so far from what I am. Yeah. So I think honestly that was just a fluke thing. It was just in the right place at the right time.
Just as an audience member, I’ve always preferred dark things and very heavy, emotional things. I think as soon as I was off the show it was kind of back to my roots of, you know, morbid and melancholy.
Did you working TV? Do you like TV over film or film over TV?
India Eisley: They’re completely different, as you know probably. I prefer film. I think it moves slower, it gives you a chance to kind of get a feel for things. Sometimes TV moves so fast that you don’t even remember what you’ve done.
India Eisley: So I didn’t really enjoy that at all.
I’m usually a day player, but for me I only get maybe 2, you know, 2 takes. It’s just like, “What? Huh? What? I can do it better, no. Let me do it.”
India Eisley: No, that’s what happened to me as well.
Did it, really?
India Eisley: Day player or regular, that’s what happens. They have a very kind of tight time frame and normally loads of dialogue. At that point they just don’t care and they just say, “Ok, it was slightly preventful. It was fine.” And then fortunately the actors are the ones who get blamed if it doesn’t look very good. The viewers never say, “Oh, do you know? Maybe it was the producers that were rushing them or something.” They just say, “No, they’re just bad actors.”
Do you have a hard time if they throw a ton of dialogue at you? Are you pretty good at memorizing really quick?
India Eisley: Obviously I’d prefer a bit of time, but there were a couple of times on the show where it was like, “Ok, we have 3 monologues. You have 45 minutes. Be on set.” I’m like, “Uh.” That was on a day that I thought I had one line that day. They’re like, “Yeah, we’ve made some adjustments.” But you just kind of do it. I allowed myself a tiny panic attack and then you just have to do what you’re being paid to do.
What’s the worst audition you’ve ever had?
India Eisley: Ooh. There’ve been loads. 99.9% of my auditions.
I’m sure that’s not the case.
India Eisley: Yeah. God. I mean, recently I went for one and it was quite horrible. I didn’t have enough time with the material and I knew nothing about what the project was about and, yeah, that was quite bad. Let me think. Hm. Oh, there was one when I was first started to go out and audition and I was… I think I was 11 or 12. And it was for a Hallmark thing and it was… ok. I’m just gonna say it. Because the character’s name was the title of the film. And I walked in the room and the casting director was quite old and she… before I could even say hello, she took my headshot and didn’t look up at me and she said, “This isn’t [her].” Except she was very old and dithery and I don’t think she even realized that she said it. It just kind of came out of her mouth and I just kind of stood there and I was like, “Oh, should I leave?” Yeah, I think that was one of the most memorable experiences in a casting office.