Finding talented, relatable young actresses who could bring a believability to the warring world of several subsets of vampires, as well as authentically playing close friends who would willingly put their lives in danger to protect each other from these supernatural dangers, can be difficult for filmmakers. But finding actresses who not only naturally fit their respective roles, but also instantly click with each other, can be even more challenging. Helmer Mark Waters, who garnered fame for his realistic and amusing portrayal of the hardships of adolescence in the hit teen comedy, ‘Mean Girls,’ brought that youth relatability to the new film, ‘Vampire Academy,’ with the help of lead actresses Lucy Fry and Zoey Deutch.
‘Vampire Academy,’ which is based on the book series of the same name by Richelle Mead, follows best friends Lissa Dragomir (Fry) and Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch). The two 17-year-old girls attend a hidden boarding school for Moroi (mortal, peaceful vampires) and Dhampirs (half-vampire/half-human guardians of Moroi). Rose is a rebellious Guardian-in-training Dhampir who’s determined to protect Lissa, a royal Moroi vampire. After being on the run for over a year since Lissa’s family was killed, the two friends are captured and returned to St. Vladamir’s Academy, the place where they believe their lives may be in most jeopardy.
As the two are thrust back into Moroi Society and high school, Lissa struggles to reclaim her status, while Rose trains with her mentor and love interest, Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky), to guarantee her place as her friend’s guardian. Rose will do anything to protect her best friend from those intent on exploiting her from within the Academy walls, as well as the Strigoi (immortal, evil vampires), who hunt her kind from outside the sanctuary.
Fry generously took the time recently to sit down during a roundtable interview at New York City’s Crosby Hotel to talk about filming ‘Vampire Academy.’ Among other things, the actress discussed how she instantly formed a true connection with Deutch during their auditioning process, and that bond carried over into their on-screen relationship; how she was surprised that after sending in a self-tape, she work shopped scenes with the director and was cast as Lissa within three days; and how filming the majority of the action-fantasy-comedy on the grounds of the school’s setting helped infuse the history of the vampire world with an authenticity.
Question (Q): There’s a lot of dialogue in the film.
Lucy Fry (LF): Yes, it’s a very detailed plot. But it explains the backgrounds of all three types of vampires.
Q: How did you get into the mode of playing a princess?
LF: I did a lot of yoga to help me get that posture, but I think I lost that-now I’m all hunched. (laughs) The yoga helped me get that pose, and I can imagine Lissa growing with her mom and dad always saying, “Sit up straight. Have good manners. Keep your angles crossed.” So the yoga did help me get into the physicality of the role.
But the posture was a big part of it for me, as well as learning the English accent. Even though it sounds stereotypical, speaking in an English accent helped me sound more regal.
Q: How was it to learn the English accent while you were filming in England?
LF: It was really great that there were English people all around us, so that I could just listen to it. When I would talk to my mom on the phone, she would say, “Lucy, you sound so English! Stop it, you’re an Australian! Don’t lose yourself!” (laughs)
Q: How was it to play a princess?
LF: I really wanted to beat up some Strigoi! (laughs) But the best thing about it was having the powers that the Dhampir don’t get to have. So that was really fun. I would love to have the power to heal, the power of Spirit. That’s the best. But it’s unfortunate that it takes a part of Lissa’s soul. It’s a very toxic thing, but I hope she can find the place where she can use her powers without hurting herself.
Q: What are your thoughts on Daniel Waters’ screenplay adaptation of Richelle Mead’s novel? Was there much of a difference between the script and the book?
LF: Dan added a lot of punchy dialogue and great humor. The book has a lot of humor and playfulness to it, but Dan really emphasized it and gave it a ‘Heathers’ twist that made it really bright and dynamic. I think he did a great job of doing that, while staying true to the intention of the book.
Q: ‘Vampire Academy’ marks your feature film acting debut. How were you cast in the role of Lissa?
LF: It was sort of a Cinderella story. I first read the script when I was backpacking in England with one of my best friends. I read the script and loved it, especially the sense of friendship. I instantly connected with Lissa. I thought, wow, she feels everything, and has so much empathy, and is sensitive, like me.
When I went to L.A., I was staying on my friend’s couch, and was still in my backpacking zone. I did the audition, but it wasn’t filmed. I was in a room with a casting director, just doing the scene with her. I get great feedback, and then I left, but didn’t hear anything.
I called my manager, and he told me the production company was accepting self-tapes for the audition from people all around the world. So I decided to put down a self-tape, and did it with my friend in a lounge room. I sent it in, and the next day I got a call saying, “You have a test deal tomorrow for ‘Vampire Academy.'” That meant I was in the final three, and I went in.
I work shopped scenes with Mark in the morning. I was really excited, because I loved ‘Mean Girls’ so much. I thought, wow, I get to work with the director of ‘Mean Girls.’ I just went in there and had fun. I met Zoey that day, and we had so much fun working the scene together. The producers saw the scene that afternoon.
The next day, we went to this lunch, and I thought it was going to be a personality test, like, are you a sane person? Can you do the role without going crazy? (laughs) But when I got there, they were like, “It’s a celebration lunch! You got the part!”
I was in such shock, because it happened so fast. Three days before, I knew absolutely nothing about what was going to happen, and then I got the role. It was really amazing.
Q: A lot depends on the chemistry between the characters, and you seemed to have it.
LF: Yeah, I’m a lot like Lissa, and Zoey’s a lot like Rose. It was natural, as soon as we read the scene together, and it came right to life.
Q: Zoey has said that on the day you auditioned together in L.A., before you knew you had been cast, she already felt protective. She added that she wouldn’t let you take the bus home from the audition, and drove you home.
LF: Yes, it was so sweet. At that point we didn’t even know we were going to be in the film together. But maybe subconsciously we did. (laughs) It’s really nice how our relationship is similar to our characters’ in the film. I’m always the calmer one who’s more about the spiritual, and Zoey’s the one who’s always more protective. It’s a wonderful friendship to have.
Q: Acting on television is very different than acting in movies, and you started your career on TV in such series as ‘Lightning Point.’ Television is paced much faster than films. Can you discuss your experiences on both?
LF: One of the things is between scenes in a movie, a lot of time is spent setting it up and getting the right atmosphere. So there’s a lot of waiting in between, but once you start doing a scene, it feels like it goes really fast. I’m sure everyone watching us film a scene, they think, come on, get a move on. (laughs) But for us actors, it feels like it moves quickly. Since they spend so long setting up, we have to make it worthwhile.
But since this is my first film, there was a lot of pressure at first to do the best job that I could. A big step for me was learning to stop judging myself in each scene. I would always think, fid I do okay? I had to get to a place of trusting Mark, because he put so much attention into the detail. He wouldn’t move on until everything was okay. Once I got to that place of acceptance, I had so much more fun.
Q: Did you receive any acting tips from Gabriel Byrne, who has so much acting experience in films and theater?
LF: What I love about the way that Gabriel acts is that he’s so natural and relaxed. He walks onto the set in character, and you don’t see him change between his personality and his acting. So that was a really great thing to learn.
Q: What was it like working with Joely Richardson, too, since she comes from an acting dynasty?
LF: She plays the queen in the film. She was really wonderful, and such an amazing person. She was really fun to work with. She was only on set for one day to film her two scenes. Getting bullied by her in her first scene, where she’s telling me off in front of the whole school, was really fun. Watching the way she spoke those great monologues was really great. She has a presence, and knows how to command a scene.
Q: As an actress, do you prefer to pick your roles based on the subject matter, instead of where they’re going to be filmed, per say?
LF: I know you have to travel a lot as an actress. So I’ll go wherever the movie’s being film, if it’s a project I’m passionate about. I’d love to work in Australia, but I’d also love to work in America. I guess it depends on what scripts I’m excited about.
Q: There are six books in the ‘Vampire Academy’ series. Is there any word of whether there will be a sequel to this film?
LF: If we get to make all six books into films, I would be so thrilled. It would be a dream to take it the whole way. Daniel is actually writing the second film at the moment. But we’re waiting to see how well this film does before we commit to a second one. But hopefully, if the first one goes well, we’ll know soon.
Q: Were you familiar with the books as you were filming?
LF: Yes. I hadn’t read them before I got the script. But as soon as I got the screenplay, I dove into them.
Q: It was good the cast was close in age to the characters, because often times high school films are cast with actors who are close to 30-years-old.
LF: Yes, it’s good to be able to relate. All of the things they’re going through are just what we went through in high school. There are so many power-playing things, and the power of friendship is the most important thing in a girl’s life at that time.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of shooting this movie?
LF: Getting used to the contacts was pretty difficult, because they made my world really blurry and green. So it was hard to focus. But it helped me focus in some ways, because Lissa’s powers had a dizzying effect on her. She sees the world through a warped prospective. She’s almost poisoned by the powers. So rather than fighting against the vision, Mark told me, “Lucy, just work with blurry.” (laugh)
Q: What was the process of shooting the majority of the film on the grounds of the school? Did that experience help you get into character?
LF: Yeah, I think that being in the environment that feels very much like a vampire world, and filming a lot at night, made us live like vampires. It made us get into that eerie zone of the darkness. The big, old school gave us that feeling of history, where they live in a world where all the roles are set into place when vampires first came into existence, thousands of years ago. It’s an ancient world and system, where the Dhampir, Moroi and Strigoi are all still separated. Being in a place that has this ancient presence helped us feel that.