There are some young actors you just know are going to be huge stars. Blake Lively is one of those. Having blazed a trail through Gossip Girl, she’s now become the face of Chanel’s Mademoiselle handbag line, as well as putting in a seriously good performance in Ben Affleck’s The Town. Here’s an interview that will give you an insight into how she manages it all.
Was it challenging to play a fully developed character given that you only had a few scenes in the film?
Well, it was definitely a challenge but it was made easy by the fact that she was written so well in the script. And Ben and our other terrific screenwriters’ writing, it was incredible, because they can be talking about one thing but in the way that they’re speaking and in the way that the story is built around it, you understand all of the subtext. You understand so much history. You understand so much of what’s at stake of the future even though nobody’s speaking about that at all. And that’s also just being around such talented actors you’re able to play those moments. So already, we had a great form from the script. And then getting on set with Ben, he created an environment where we were all able to really play off of each other and establish that history and, really raise the stakes for each scene. So, it was challenging to be in so few scenes and have to tell someone’s story but it was also really exciting because every day, every was so full, and so rich, more than anything I’ve ever done.
What attracted you to this character?
The fact that she wasn’t an easy character to play. I love a challenge. And she was such a striking human to me because she grew up in an environment where she never had a chance. And for every reason, she should be very broken. And she’s very damaged, but she’s not broken. She’s still very strong, she’s very resilient. She has vulnerability and desperation. You know, but she also has heart and pain. And, she’s a very raw character. And, it was, something that you really have to let every guard down and to do that, and also had to disappear into somebody that’s entirely not me, to step into someone’s skin. From my nails, to my hair, to my face, to my shoes everything was entirely– I was unidentifiable. And, I loved that. I loved getting to explore that and see if I could do it.
How did Ben Affleck first describe this character to you?
Well, you know, she was written as a 37-year-old mother from Boston and so he didn’t want to read me. Nobody wanted– Everybody said, “No, you’re not right for this.” But I fought for an audition. So after I auditioned I had to fight again for the role and audition again. So it was never like he came to me and was like, “Here’s this character. What do you think?” It was me saying, “Please, please, please hire me!” But we didn’t have to do a lot of talking about her. Rather than talking about it, he just wanted me to live it. So, I was able to find through the production, through the producers, people in Charlestown, young women that I was able to spend time with and talk to and just hang out with them in their homes, walk around the projects with them, go to their local bars and restaurants and just understand the life by living it and not by looking through a book about Boston or listening on a headset about, you know, Boston dialect.
Do you think the way Boston is depicted in this film is accurate?
It is. You know, I feel like if I saw it in a movie theater, I may think, “Well, this is a really fun movie but this doesn’t actually happen, does it?” And after spending time there, so much more happens, even. And it’s a very common thing. And, it’s pretty wild that still goes on.
In preparing for this film, what did you learn about real Bostonians?
You learn a lot. You know, it wasn’t just about the character, it was like you said. It was very enlightening to be around these women who were in such a different environment than I’ve ever been in, have such different lives. They’re constantly losing people, whether the people are being murdered or going to prison, or committing suicide or going off to rehab because the drug trafficking is so big there. And yet, they still are so strong, and so positive. And, so happy, really. The loyalty that they have to one another, the love, the trust, the sense of community and friendship, and love, and pride and heritage is something that is so remarkable. And it feels like something of a different time when we’ve got the world that we have. When we have the internet, and the communication, and phones, it’s so easy to be connected to everybody but who you’re around. It seems so often that you pay more attention to people through your electronics or through movies than the people you’re actually with. Where these people are so tightly connected to the people that they live with. It’s their family. They’re all one unit. And that was a really incredible thing to see and discover among plenty of other things about their personalities.
While filming this movie, do you feel like you became a real Bostonian?
I would never say I became a Bostonian because I feel like I would get beat up by thousands of Bostonians. When I was the character I had somebody in the bar who was an ex-con who had just gotten out of prison after eighteen years. He’d been released two months before, and Ben had him as an extra in our bar. And he came up to me and he said, “How long have you been in the town? I don’t recognize you.” And the girls who I had been spending time with in Charlestown, who were from there were like, “You idiot, she’s the actress in the movie!” So, that was the greatest compliment he could have given me. So, in a moment, in a scene, maybe I seemed like a real Bostonian. I hope, I pray. That was, that was the goal. But I’m not going to say I’m a real Bostonian. No. But I would love to be from there. I did appreciate it so much. I thought, “I wish I lived here. This is a really wonderful place.” Very cold, though.
What kind of a director is Ben Affleck? How does he work?
You know, he’s very militant before we start. He had such high standards for us to get the characters right, to understand Boston, to understand these people. He wanted us to have every single detail so thoroughly, so that we could transform, so that none of ourselves bled through this character. So that once we got on to set, he didn’t have to do a lot of talking because he didn’t want us to be in our head, he wanted us to be in our hearts. And because he wanted a truthful, real, genuine performance. So the fact that he kept it in our heads so much beforehand gave us the ability to have all the knowledge there, so that when we went there we could just feel it and interact.
With this role being such a big departure for you, would you want to do more films like this, or return to what you had been doing?
Well, we’re in six-year contracts for Gossip Girl, so as long as people watch it, we’re here. And this is year four. And, I do appreciate getting to do different jobs while shooting Gossip Girl. But it also makes me appreciate that, too, you know? Getting to live in New York City. It’s a completely different craft when you’re on a television show. You have to work so quickly. You shoot 10 pages in one day. This you shoot one page, maybe. It’s sometimes less in one day. So, you know, just being in front of a camera so often, having that experience, it’s a craft within itself. And it helps me with doing my movies, and my movies help me with my show. So, it all kind of feeds into each other. So, yes, I would love to do more movies, but I do appreciate doing my show too.
THE TOWN IS AVAILABLE TO OWN ON BLU-RAY AND DVD ON JAN 31
Pre-order yourself a copy here