Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a Red Carpet screening of the upcoming Young-Adult novel turned film, Divergent. The film is all about choice and factions that determine who you are and what defines you. However, there are Divergents, who don’t belong to a faction and embody every aspect of each of the factions. Stars Miles Teller and Jai Courtney stopped by Seattle during their Divergent tour and I had the great chance to interview them, as over 100 screaming little girls watched from the sideline. There were selfies and autographs galore, as these two spent over an hour with their adoring fans. Both were easy to talk to and it was an experience that I’m going to hold on to for a long time to come. While Courtney has found a home in bigger-budget films, Teller is a King of Indie Films and his work really highlights how great he is. Last year, his film The Spectacular Now created waves and touched the hearts of many. This year, his Indie Film Whiplash is taking home major prizes and is again, displaying the incredible talent that Teller possesses. He’s one of the best in the business and his career is one to admire. Below, you’ll see what the stars had to say about the film, their experience in the business, and you’ll get some advice for acting as well. Enjoy!
(This interview was originally published on nicktiffany.com on March 18, 2014.)
Nick: My name is Nick, nice to meet you.
Jai: Jai, nice to meet you too.
N: My first question relates to the tagline of this movie. “One choice can transform your life.” I just want to know a choice that transformed your life.
J: Umm… Deciding to become an actor.
N: When you made that choice, when did you know that’s what you wanted to do with your life?
J: I was about 19, I think. 18 or 19.
N: Okay, cool. That’s kinda when you knew?
J: Yeah! I was working in a job I didn’t want to be in any more and I decided to go to acting school to train and then, kinda, one thing led to another.
N: Okay, very cool! So, I know another theme of this film is conformity and that you’re fitted into a faction, so once you decide where you’re going, you have a set course and not much control over whatever else happens. Is important for you to stay independent, especially in the film industry where you have many paths that they want you to follow? Do you want to try to remain true to yourself?
J: Absolutely. It’s a must.
N: You’ve worked with some impressive actors. Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis recently, and now you’re going to be Kyle Reese [in the new Terminator film]. Is there someone you really want to work with or whom really inspired you to become an actor?
J: I mean, dude. The list is so long. I just finished a movie with Russell Crowe and that was really special to me, because he’s been a hero of mine professionally for some time. But you know, you’re right. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some really cool people and I just hope that’s a pattern that continues.
N: Sounds like an incredible journey! Last thing I want to ask. I’m one of the State Officers for Thespian Society in Washington and we’ve got our State Conference coming up and if there’s any advice that you have for the over 1000 young actors there ready to go out and try to become actors, what would it be?
J: Do your research and get into it for the right reasons because when it’s good, it’s great. When it’s not, it sucks. You know, you gotta want to be doing this for real. A lot of people are doing this for the wrong reasons and it’s a lot tougher than people think it really is.
N: Alright, so why are you in the business then?
J: I mean, passion, man. There’s nothing else that I could be doing.
N: Awesome. You’re in it for the right reason. It’s been a pleasure and congrats on the movie!
J: Thank you! Thanks for some different questions!
N: My name is Nick. Nice to meet you!
Miles: Miles. How you doing?
N: Doing well! First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on being cast in the Fantastic Four, Whiplash, and The Spectacular Now, especially with me being a senior. A lot of that is relatable. Going off to college…
M: Where you going?
N: I haven’t decided yet. I’m looking at the University of Houston, or the University of Washington.
M: Are you an actor?
N: Yes, I am. Just got here from our rehearsals today.
M: What show are you doing?
N: We’re doing How To Succeed.
M: In Business? Nice man!
N: It’s been a lot of fun.
M: Are you the lead in it?
N: Yes, yes I am.
N: Thanks (laughs). The tagline of this film is “One choice can transform your life.” I’m assuming that choice is acting, but when did you know that’s really what you wanted to do? I know that you were a drummer growing up.
M: It was kind of like a natural evolution. The first Musical I did, I got on stage and I got some laughs and I was like “this is really fun.” The I remember I was doing a lot of comedy stuff and people thought I was the clown and then I got to the point where I was like “Alright. I want to be taken seriously,” so I made a conscious decision to start doing Drama and it became one of those things where everything else in my life [music or sports] I had to try hard at and acting just came more naturally to me. I just love it. I love having people come up to me afterwards saying what I did really affected them and really moved them. I just think it’s such a generous job and you get out of it what you put into it kinda thing. So I just, you know, loved it. It’s like… I don’t remember a specific moment, but I just remember actually wanting to get deeper and deeper into it.
N: I know what you mean by that.
M: You can always go deeper into it. I would say preparation is the most important thing.
N: I did a lot of comedy too and then when I did 12 Angry Men, that was like “Wow. This is a whole ‘nother level and I like this dramatic side of acting. I like seeing you do this too, because you remind me a lot of Vince Vaughn, who’s just naturally funny. You’re on it, you can ad-lib, and I think that’s great. Back to questions, one of the focuses of this film is once you have committed to one faction, you have got a set plan. I know a lot of people fall victim to that notion in the entertainment business…
M: They’re very… They’re very quick to pigeonhole you. You know what I mean?
N: How important is it to you to remain independent and choose the projects that YOU want to do, rather than what they want you to do?
M: I mean, it’s a tough case. I went to a very good acting school. I went to NYU and there are a lot of kids that I graduated with that are phenomenal actors that are doing like, Teen Beach Movie. Nothing against that, but it’s like, they don’t want to have to do that. But at the end of the day, you’re picking this for a career. So if you want to live in a nice apartment or if you want to drive a car and pay the bills, and if you don’t want to be a waiter, you’re gonna have to work. Like, commercials pay really well. Commercials are great. So, for me, I’ve been lucky to where I’ve been in everything that I worked on. When I’ve kind of wanted to do something more dramatic, that’s something that’s come up. I would just say, like, stay true to yourself. But at the end of the day, you need to pay your bills on time. It’s tough.
N: *Notices Miles’ assistant getting impatient* Last question, I’m sorry! I won’t keep you long.
M: I don’t mind. She’s pissed off, but I don’t give a shit.
N: *Laughs* I’m a State Representative for our Washington Thespian Society …
M: Oh, wow!
N: We’ve got our State Conference coming up soon, where we’ve got over a thousand young actors…
M: I’ve been to the Florida State Thespian Festival. My monologue… I did my monologue and it got picked to represent the district.
N: That’s awesome, man!
M: Totally. That was like the first time I knew “Alright…. This is something.”
N: So there have been four of us representatives organizing it and we look for any quotes we can get and I was wondering if there was any advice or a quote you could give to these thousand-plus kids all with the same dream.
M: Yeah. Uh… I don’t know man. I came from… I don’t know how elegant this is all going to be, but I came from a small town in Florida where there’s like 7000 people. No actor had ever come from my town and I feel like acting comes from experience. I would say like, stay off the cellphones and computers and all that, because I feel like that really isolates your thinking on what’s going on, on that screen. I think that one of the best things that you can do is just really think. So I’d say think and go with your gut. Ya know? People don’t want a generic opinion of someone. They like watching actors, because it’s their take on the world and it’s their relationship with their mom’s, their sisters, their brothers, anyone really. So I’d say, whatever feels true to you, make it real to you.
N: I’ll make sure to do so. Thank you so much for your time and congrats on an outstanding career thus far, this film, and I wish you the best of luck down the road.
M: Thank you so much for those awesome questions, man. They were tough, but I liked it. Good luck with picking a school and acting!
Jai and Miles had some outstanding advice to give and it was a pleasure to talk to both of them for this Divergent Interview. Their responses were genuine and they’re a lot like who you’d expect them to be. Miles has got to be one of the most naturally funny guys I’ve ever met and he’s a guy that you could totally chill with and have a great time. He gave outstanding answers and he’s easily someone who I look up to, especially as a fellow actor. I’d highly suggest you check out their bodies of work and make it a point to go see them in Divergent (3/21/14)!