At the LA press day for the PG-13 drama, Agron talked about working opposite alien creatures that - of course - weren't there, working with Alex Pettyfer, and her hopes for a sequel to I Am Number Four. She also gave us the scoop on what audiences can expect from the Super Bowl episode of Glee which features the cast performing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
Dianna Agron I Am Number Four InterviewHad you ever acted opposite something that wasn’t there before? How difficult was that for you? Did they describe what was there for you very well?
Dianna Agron: "They did describe what was there for us and it would go to the tune of, 'Well, he’s about to the ceiling, coming through this window, really fast, and you need to get over there.' There was a certain challenge to it, but at the same time, you think, 'Okay, let me change this around. Let me think of a time that I’ve been really scared,' and you try to use that. And when you see the final product like I did a couple of days ago, it was just amazing - the effects and what they’ve accomplished, especially in such a short time. Normally post-production for a movie like this would take twice as long, but they knew they wanted it to come out sooner rather than later. I’m just really impressed, and hopefully my reactions seem appropriate."
Talk about working with Alex Pettyfer. What was that like?
Dianna Agron: "Well, I was really pleasantly surprised to find out that he was so excited and so dedicated to this film. He was in training for months to do the stunts, which turned out incredibly. And he just has an enthusiasm to him, which is nice because that’s what I experience with the cast of Glee is just everybody’s there and having a good time, but working really hard. And when you work really hard, and it’s organic and together, you can have more fun. That’s how the cast and crew were, just hard-working, really hard-working - especially our crew. There was crazy weather in Pittsburgh during the summer. There was extreme, torrential rain and then sunshine, and then raining again 10 minutes later. And then we're in a field and there's just mud and they had to bring Gators to get us to set and things like that. It was great that at the end of the process, you were sad to leave and just really had a good time."
How did you make sure that the chemistry between you and Alex worked?
Dianna Agron: "Well, you act. If that person and you are on the same page of showing up and doing the work, those scenes can be technical because oftentimes the camera is very close and the lighting has to be just so. Even our DP was like, 'No, blocking her face, come back, come back, come back.' But it’s different for every actor. Sometimes you can incorporate things that you’ve experienced in your life and use that. And other times you know what that feeling is of hurt, of love, of anger, of depression, and you do whatever it takes to get there in your mind and use it to your advantage, whichever way it works best."
Were you anything like your character when you were in high school?
Dianna Agron: "I was never a cheerleader. I was a dancer, so that was my out-of-school experiences. And then in school, I was a part of the yearbook staff and that's actually...I found a love for photography, like Sarah. It’s a very strong one that continues to this day. And there were certain qualities that I wanted to bring to her that I thought were so obvious, at least to me, when I read it. She has this wanderlust. She has aspirations to travel and to see the world. And she had a bit of an old soul quality to her, all these things that came to me right away and DJ [Caruso] liked so we kind of went with it. At the same time, you’re kind of on dangerous ground if too many the things are like yourself, especially if all of her tendencies are the same as you, her voice is the same as you, the clothes are the same as you. You’re like, 'Wait a second!'"
So you would wear some of the same clothes she wears?
Dianna Agron: "Of course. But I also joke around that my closet is too eclectic and it's like theme days. It's like, 'I'm a boy today. I'm a cowgirl. I'm this...' I love vintage clothes."
They didn’t have to teach you how to handle a camera then, because you were familiar with photography from high school?
Dianna Agron: "No. It was funny because there’s the scene in the camera shop where I’m holding this beautiful Hasselblad camera that was actually our prop master’s camera, and I said to DJ, 'I'm not buying this camera right? How much has she babysat to afford this camera?' He said, 'No, no, it’s like your goal camera. You just comes to visit it once a week.'"
The film has cell phones, text messaging, but Sarah hasn't gone digital with her choice of cameras. Do you prefer film or digital when you normally take photographs?
Dianna Agron: "I do both. I have equal parts film and digital cameras in my collection. I think that there are ways to Photoshop photos that they'll look like you shot them on film, but is that as rewarding? It just depends on the person. I personally love, if I’m traveling, I’ll take a film camera and a digital camera because sometimes there are moments where, if you’ve lost it, or if coming back and it accidentally goes through the X-ray machine and it does get overexposed or things like that, you might if it was a really important moment to you be really upset that you don't have a back-up. In high school how I learned was with film. I remember how excited I would be to turn it in. I would turn it in right away and then pick it up as soon as I could, and then sit there, 'Oh my gosh, this turned out like this.' Or, 'I didn't even see that over here. There's light flare.' There’s something really rewarding about that."
Do you have any desire to play a character like Number 6, someone who gets to kick ass?
Dianna Agron: "Of course, yeah. As you go throughout your career I've realized...and in the beginning people would say to me, 'You can’t read for the mean girl character because that’s just not how we see you.' And I would say, 'But, it’s acting. I’m an actor.' 'You're just nice.' 'Yeah, but, acting...' So it happened accidentally. I was going in for the nice girl character on Heroes and one of the producers said, 'No, that’s not so interesting. I want you to read this character.' And that’s what I was cast as and I think that helped open a lot of people’s eyes to me as an actor, because they would meet me and I'm a certain way and then that character's quite different. And then, even more so with Quinn. She started off a mean girl on Glee and then she became pregnant and humanized and moved away from that side to her. But, it can be hard for people. I liken it to this room is decorated a certain way, and if you told certain people, 'Oh, but with red walls and a purple thing over here and stripes...' It's like, 'No, that sounds awful.' Or, 'I don't really see it.' And then you have it happen and people might like it. So, the more characters you play, I find the more opportunity you’re given to expand that."
Have they talked to you about a sequel to I Am Number Four? Have they said anything about whether your character might come back?
Dianna Agron: "Well, the character is in the second book. But, and I know what happens kind of, but I probably shouldn’t say. But, there’s no way they could get it together for this summer. They just finished the first draft of the second book and I think they want to wait and see how it takes off and resonates with people. So, unless they were miracle workers, I don’t foresee doing that as a summer film."
But you do want to come back, if they do another film?
Dianna Agron: "Oh, I had so much fun in this one, of course. Yeah."
This movie is obviously very different from Glee. How was it to stretch those muscles and do a whole different type of thing?
Dianna Agron: "It was wonderful. I found out very late in the process that I was going to be doing this movie, so from the time I was cast to the time I was on set it was about three weeks. Which was so fun because it was like, 'Okay, let’s go!' I went straight from doing the [Glee tour] to which we finished in Radio City Music Hall, and then that night I just flew to Pittsburgh. It was a real chance to step into a different world. At that point, I'd been...it was about two years from the pilot to then on Glee and, at the same time, of course I missed all of them and my family. I was so happy to go back to being Quinn and seeing where she was going to go, because nobody knew what was going to happen in the second season. We kept trying to pick Ryan [Murphy’s] brain at the end of the first season, and he wouldn’t tell us things. So yeah, I think that if even if you are on a TV show like ours, and that’s most of your year, if you have opportunity to stretch a different muscle it can really invigorate that character again for you."
It seems like you and the rest of your cast are so busy, more so than probably any other cast on TV. How do you keep that energy level up to keep going, not only just making the show but doing the public appearances?
Dianna Agron: "Well, sometimes you have to say no and people are like, 'Why weren't you at this thing?' Sometimes some of the cast can't go to certain events and things and you have to say, 'Oh, because I was filming,' and you were. Sometimes you think, 'Okay, well if I do all these things this weekend, that means I have no weekend at all, and then I have to go back to work on Monday.' You have to protect the integrity of the show, your health, the character, all those things. So it’s just about finding the right moments for everything. And if you’re too stressed or tired, you to just back off for a little bit."
How are you hoping people will receive the “Thriller” version done by the Glee on the episode airing after the Super Bowl? Did you copy the choreography or do something different?
Dianna Agron: "We did something completely different, which I thought was really nice because there's been re-creations of that dance before, and it’s so iconic. Not that it would have been wrong, but our choreographer, Zach [Woodlee], he's so talented and Ryan said, 'We're not doing it.' He said, 'Okay,' and he came up with something so fun. We’re zombies and we're in blood and Victorian hair. I’m wearing this big, red, vintage, tulle prom dress. It was an amazing experience because we were outside. It's cold, but we were doing this dance so we're hot and for the first time we're at a really good temperature outside. Sometimes night shoots can be really cold. It was awesome. We could have done that forever. The dance was so fun. I’m a big costume lover so anytime I get to do something like Rocky Horror or this, those are my favorite moments. And the whole episode is big. It has really big dance numbers, and pyro and zombies and fog and a lot of Jane Lynch, which is always good."
Do you have any plans for your hiatus this year?
Dianna Agron: "I’m not sure. My back-up plan is always, 'Well, I'll take a trip.' That’s never a bad option. That’s always a good option. So, it’s definitely going to be something good, whether it’s working on a project or whether it’s just taking my camera and going. I’ve vowed that this summer it’ll be somewhere in Asia because I’ve done a lot of Europe and I've done Australia. I feel as if I go to Africa, I may never come back. I’m just going to live with the animals and I'm just going to adopt an elephant, and it’s going to be my friend."
Do you have pets?
Dianna Agron: "I have a dog. I'm a huge animal lover. But, yeah, I almost didn't have a summer movie last summer and Number Four came together at the last minute."
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I Am Number Four hits theaters on February 18, 2011.