Kyle Gallner is busy!
Not only is he starring in the new film Cherry but he’s got 4 films already finished – one of them is the new version of A Nightmare On Elm Street.
You’ve probably seen him in Jennifer’s Body or as the young Flash in Smallville, CSI:NY or even Veronica Mars.
I interviewed Kyle at SXSW for, Cherry. Its is about a college student named Aaron, Kyle’s character. He gets involved with an older woman who’s gone back to school to straighten her life out. Things start to get complicated when Aaron meets the woman’s daughter, Beth (Britt Robertson) who starts to fall for him.
Kyle is great in the film and I can’t wait to see him in his upcoming films. We talk about how he got his start in Philadelphia, his first big job and working with some great actors.
Tell me about your character in Cherry.
My character in Cherry is loosely based off of our director, Jeff Fine. He’s a kid who’s basically had his mom control him his entire life. She kept him down. He’s a cool kid, but he never had a chance to grow into that. In college, when he starts experiencing all this stuff he’s never experienced before, like interactions with girls and parties and everything, he starts to come into his own. Then he’s thrown into some pretty extraordinary circumstances where he has to put up or shut up. You watch Aaron grow throughout the movie and become the kid he was supposed to be growing up but never had the opportunity to.
You’ve been in so many cool things. Where are you from and where did you get started?
Originally from right outside Philadelphia. I got started when my sister went to a performance arts camp because she was a dancer. This woman hooked us up with this lady in Pennsylvania and said, ‘You should just go audition.’ I just followed her there and she asked me if I’d like to audition and I read a Smuckers commercial. And she asked me if I wanted to act. And I said “Alright. Why not?”
Who knew Smuckers would be so good.
Yeah. I had no previous inclination, nothing that had made me want to do it before. I didn’t have an agent and I went on an audition at an agency. I had no idea what I was doing. They asked me if I wanted representation. It was kind of a snowball effect from there. I slowly started falling in love with it. By the time I was 17, I thought “Shit, I have to go to college … No I don’t! I know exactly what I want to do.” So I just moved out to LA and started really going for it.
Did you start booking right away or did it take a while?
I got really lucky. I booked my first job within two months of being out there. I’m pretty sure one of my first jobs out here was when I booked a Smallville, I booked The Flash. It went really smoothly from there until up to the strike. That kind of put a wrench in the gears for everybody.
Have you ever had any roles that you really wanted to get but you were passed up?
There’s a couple that I really would’ve like to have gotten. They always come and go. But you have to remember that stuff is being written everyday, and you can’t beat yourself up over it. There’s definitely been a few that I’ve been bummed out about. Like I really wanted There Will Be Blood. I wasn’t ready though.
That’s a good way to look at it.
Yeah, I know that now. At the time I was really pissed. I wasn’t ready, I was still figuring out my own stuff and growing as an actor, and it wasn’t time yet. Nothing else really comes to mind. (Laughter) Actually, Cherry was one of the first scripts I read where I was like, ‘C’mon please give me something, let me have one!’ And I ended up getting it, and it was really awesome. It’s really exciting to get something that you really, really want. It’s a cool feeling.
What do you like better, TV or film?
Film. I love film.
That was easy.
Yeah, film is such a different animal. You form a family and you have such a stronger character arc. Well, I guess, I’ve never done a series outside of Veronica Mars, so I can’t really say you form a bigger character arc on film than television. Cause you build an arc as well if you’re on a series. But, the thing is that I prefer film because I didn’t get into this to play the same person for five years. I like playing different people, having new challenges and creating different personalities. I like how film gives you the opportunity to vary. It’s a pop shot. You do it, you’re done. You can be somebody else on the next movie and somebody else on the next movie. You don’t have to be Kevin for seven years.
Do have any particular roles that you gravitate to?
I just like good material. Light/dark. Crazy/sane. It depends on if it’s good material. When I started, I did a lot of guest stars. The thing with guest stars is that if you’re a teenager man, you’re either a psycho or your crying or you’re both or you’re a victim. So I’ve done a lot of dark roles on TV, and they’re fun, but you don’t want to get pigeon-holed. Cherry is a totally different role for me; he’s a neurotic, young, nerdy kid coming into his own. I have this other movie that’s a comedy coming out. It’s weird. In the TV world it’s very dark, but in the film world I tend to be good guys. It’s a weird thing, a bizarre turn. I like playing bad guys, I like playing good guys, I like playing weirdos. Like in Jennifer’s Body, I was a big, gothic weirdo. It’s just fun.
You’ve worked with some really great actors. Is there anything you’ve taken from them?
Yeah. You take from everybody. Elias Koteas was really interesting. I really respected the stillness about him, he’s got an almost Zen, very cool thing about him.
He looks very intense on-screen.
He’s very intense on-screen, but he’s the nicest dude ever in person. I really appreciated his character work and I didn’t even realize it until the day he wrapped. Because I thought he was this quiet, cool, calm and collected guy—which he is—but then when he wrapped and we all went out all of a sudden he was like “YEEAAHHH!” And I was like “Jesus Christ man you’ve been in character for two months!” He didn’t drop it once. So there was something cool and respectable about that. Elias was a very cool guy to watch. I learned a lot of specificity through Elias. He does everything for a reason. He’s very cool to watch. And Virginia [Madsen] is amazing. Jackie [Earle Hailey] is the same way, he’s very specific. He comes in and he’s got himself locked in the same way that Elias does. I’ve learned a lot of good lessons from these seasoned veterans who’ve been around for a long time. I’ve got a lot to learn, and I’ll continue to learn. I’d be a damn fool to think you have it completely figured out in this industry.
How do you approach a role?
Differently, pretty much every time. I’m a big music guy. I tend to try to find an album or a song to set the tone of the movie. A song for the character, or a song for a specific scene. I have notebooks filled out. I have about fifty pages of character notes for Cherry. Just back-story about Aaron before he went to college, what it was like growing up for him, all that stuff. Just building his life before he got into it. It’s weird; there’s times I feel like I have to write fifty pages, there’s times I’ll just find a song, or there’s times I’ll just say “Fuck it, we’ll see what happen.” You kind of just approach things differently each time. I can prepare a character one way, and my next job that way won’t work at all. The fun part is finding out what I’ve got to do. “How do I figure this out? How do I create this guy?” And that’s the cool thing; you never know. It’s just fun.
Do you have any advice to young actors?
Yeah, just go for it. It’s an industry that is amazing, but it’s really hard and it can beat you up and kick you to the curb pretty quick. You gotta be okay with rejection, grow thick skin pretty quickly. And don’t get frustrated. Acting is an amazing thing where you can hit it at 20 or you can be around for thirty years and get your role at 40 and be one of the biggest people in Hollywood. It’s a timing thing. It’s all sorts of things. Don’t come out to LA looking to be famous. You gotta really love what you do. Come out because you wanna do it, otherwise it will just kill you. And stick to your guns. You can’t go to ten auditions and not book one and go, “Shit, I must be terrible.” No way, I’ve hear 10,000 “No’s.” You gotta want it and you gotta be in it for the long run.
What was the first big thing you booked?
The first big thing? When I moved out to LA, booking The Flash was kinda big at the time. I had three things on my resume when I came to LA; I didn’t really have anything.
Did you have an agent when you came out here?
Yeah, I had my agent Sara who I’ve been with for about 6 ½ years now. The Flash was the first big thing because it was TV. Smallville was in it’s blossoming seasons, and I was the first superhero brought to the show. I still get recognized more for Smallville and Veronica Mars than anything else. I get The Haunting every once in a while but Smallville was always a big thing. That was my first big TV gig. My first serious movie, The Haunting was my first lead role in a studio film. That was scary. (Laughter) I was like, “Oh man, I’m in so much trouble.”
Did you feel like you were over your head for The Haunting?
It was one of those things where you know what you’ve got to do. And you show up and Virginia Madsen is here and Elias Koteas, and I’m carrying this movie on my shoulders and I’ve never done that before.
Maybe I should just go back to my trailer and curl up into a ball …
(Laughter) What was nice was that Virginia cracked down and took me under her wing. She’s amazing. She’s one of my best friends, she’s such an amazing person. She made me extremely comfortable. The first day I was like, “Oh crap.” And then after that it was totally fine. She made things easy.