Skylar Astin and Sarah Wright star in “21 and Over,” the hilarious comedy opening March 1st that’s penned and helmed by “The Hangover” writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore in their feature directorial debut. When Straight-A college student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) celebrates his 21st birthday with his two best friends, Casey (Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller), what starts out as one drink quickly turns into one too many and an insane night of drunken debauchery ensues where even a button-up guy like Casey loosens up enough to hit it off with Chang’s smoking hot coed friend, Nicole (Wright).
At the film’s recent press day, Astin and Wright talked about what inspired their characters, what it was like working with co-directors Lucas and Moore, how they celebrated their 21st birthdays, the closest they ever came to having their own Jeff Chang moment, and the funny, unexpected things that happened while shooting such as when Astin threw Teller under a golf cart by accident. Astin described his unusual costume fitting and how he got his mind around working in his birthday suit. Wright revealed tips for acting opposite co-stars who are wearing only a tube sock. They also discussed their upcoming projects.
Q: Sarah, this was quite an adventure. You had the tamest aspect of this film.
Sarah Wright: It’s true. I did. Thank goodness.
Q: And Skylar, you were the level-headed, grounded one.
Skylar Astin: I know. This should be a really fun interview.
Q: What impressed me most was you were the one who always thought about picking that idea up off the ground.
Astin: Listen, you’ve got to have a moral compass of the movie and you’ve got to steer the ship a little bit. It’s cool that we all got our opportunity to be funny though, especially this one, especially when this match-up was going on.
Q: People don’t realize how funny Sarah is.
Wright: Oh thanks!
Astin: I realized. I realized right away at the chemistry read.
Q: What was it like getting your mind around working in your birthday suit?
Wright: With a sock? You guys should have seen them. They were so proud of their socks. They’d walk around with their robes off.
Q: Did you have a costume test for the sock?
Astin: Well, funny enough, it was supposed to be approached very delicately. We were told it was going to be a closed set and it was going to be on the warmest day of the shoot. It turns out that it’s freezing. Everyone’s there. And, at our first costume fitting, they just had a sock and a little underneath sock moment to keep everything in place, and they were like, “Here’s your fitting.” At first, we had the moment where it was like fight or flight, and I was like, “Let’s just do it, man. We have to do it eventually.” I de-robed and said, “This is everything I’ve got.” I don’t think I was proud, but I had to play the role of being okay with it. I had the idea of making the whole crew wear just socks.
Wright: I feel like that’s fair.
Astin: But they didn’t oblige, especially the women. It worked out, thankfully.
Wright: I could not look down in the hospital scene where he comes in, in the sock. The whole time I was looking at his face and never once would I look down. (laughs)
Astin: That’s actually why you say that. Now I realize because during that one day, since she was averting her eyes so much, and since it was my fourth day shooting in the sock, I was more comfortable than I was Day 1. I was like, “Sarah, what’s wrong? C’mon, look at me when I’m talking to you.”
Astin: It was a riot.
Q: Was there anything you drew upon for your characters from your personal life?
Wright: I grew up in Kentucky and started traveling. I went to Japan and was modeling there, and then I went to Chicago and was modeling there and Greece and all over. When I read this character, I felt like she was this total free spirit and just someone who wants to have a good time and is very open. She’s traveling and she’s leaving the next day in the movie and meets these guys and is open to this new love, and I felt like that was me when I was out of high school and starting to travel and find my own way. It made me feel very connected to her.
Astin: Personally, for me, my younger brother is my best friend and my partner in crime, and I’ve definitely had several nights with the spirit of this movie. I’ve always been the one that has a good time, but at the end of the bender is like, “Both of our phones are dead. We have to call our parents and tell them we’re alive.” That’s always been my responsibility, so I can relate to that feeling of being a little irritable on those nights but also letting loose and having a good time. So there’s a little bit of Casey in me. I don’t think I’m as much of an over-thinker though, but I always try to draw from personal experiences and my own personality whenever I play a role. It’s not hard to play a role that’s close to my age, close to home, and in a movie that I would go see if I wasn’t in it.
Wright: You’re not really close to 21 anymore. I’m just sayin’…
Astin: I’m 37. That’s a tough one.
Wright: Sorry to burst your bubble.
Q: Have either of you ever had your own Jeff Chang moment?
Astin: Which Jeff Chang moment are we referring to?
Wright: Maybe, although I’ve never been strapped with a teddy bear around me running through the streets in my underwear. (laughing) I know exactly where you’re going.
Astin: I’ve definitely carried some people home. I’ve had so many Jeff Chang moments just on this set.
Wright: But *were* you Jeff Chang? That’s what she means.
Astin: Oh. *Was* I Jeff Chang?
Wright: Were you ever like that? I was like that. I’m not going to tell you how young I was, but when I was in Japan, I was maybe that person one night on my birthday, maybe falling downstairs into a place and being that person who’s being carted home. But it was a really fun night and you’re in Japan.
Astin: It’s character building. When I was younger, I had a particular night that I can recall, or can’t recall. I had all of my girlfriends at the time, the girls that would hang out with, kind of baby me. They took care of me, which was funny, because you would think your boys would totally boost you up. It was so funny. I remember flashes of being in the back seat of my friend Tiffany’s car and being like, “Is this what you guys do when you go out? You like blast Christina Aguilera and sing really loud? That’s weird. I’m going to throw up.” It was just an interesting night that I’ve had, but I’ve never been thrown off a roof or run around in my underwear.
Wright: Thank goodness, at least that we know of.
Astin: Yes, that we know of. Right. Cut to clip.
Q: Do you remember what you did to celebrate your 21st birthday?
Astin: Do you remember?
Wright: Yeah, I remember. I really felt like I had my 21st birthday when I was younger. My 21st birthday was sushi and sake with my friends. It was boring. But before that, yes, I had some crazy ones.
Astin: Sarah is one of the classiest people I’ve ever met. When I first got to Seattle, she was in the lobby with a glass of wine and a cheese plate. Her 21st birthday I’m sure was different than most. Mine was in New York City. I was living there are the time. I had a bunch of friends on the rooftop of my apartment building, which is interesting, because now thinking about it, that’s extremely dangerous. It was really fun, and I remember taking a field trip from the party and from the night, and we were just running around New York going in grocery stores. It was crazy. I remember sneaking my dog into a grocery store and being chased. I wish I could put the pieces together for you more and make a better story, but that’s what I remember.
Wright: Most of those nights ended with the sun coming up, pizza rolls from Walgreens and the Ranch dressing, cooking those and falling asleep at 7:00 am.
Astin: And, for me, it was a bagel with cream cheese and lox.
Wright: Okay, New York, Chicago, pizza rolls, bagels.
Q: How was it for the two of you working with co-directors?
Wright: Amazing. It’s such a smart idea, especially with two people that are as close as Jon and Scott. I feel like they both bring something similar but very different, too. I feel like Scott is very visual and he sees exactly what he wants, and Jon is so great with throwing out different jokes and having alts. They both bring that version, but as a team, I think they were able to lean on each other when they had maybe a little bit more experience here or there, which is great with directing.
Astin: What they have in common also is that they’re both the writers, so it comes directly from one vessel, and that’s always great as an actor to have that wealth of knowledge coming from two voices. For me, I loved the different kinds of conversations that I would have with each one. Since I had a love story on top of the funny moments with the guys, there were different kinds of conversations, like the leading man type of thing that I would have with Scott and to be more sincere in certain moments. And then, Jon was great because he would throw jokes my way every five minutes. So, I had this well-rounded voice coming from two different people. They worked together so well and they’re also best friends. I think like a lot of this script came directly from their own experiences. It’s weird. They almost know this age better than I do and I’m closer to it. It’s crazy.
Wright: But I also felt like it was better from my experience. Having those two was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life working.
Aston: For sure.
Wright: I felt like there was so much coming from both of them which was good.
Q: With so much going on in this film, how did you guys unwind when you got off the set?
Aston: It’s interesting because there were several night shoots, which is like the graveyard shift. It’s mind altering to begin with when the sun’s coming up and you’re going to bed. It seemed like every night was a party in a lot of ways. I loved it. I loved being on location and being in a completely different mindset.
Wright: There’s some restaurant we went to for late night food.
Aston: We found a lot of 24-hour places that catered to us, and we found a lot of places that got to know us after a while and would open their doors earlier or later or whenever we were coming in. Seattle was an amazing place to shoot.
Wright: It’s awesome. I ate a lot of donuts there.
Aston: You loved those donuts.
Q: Given the nature of this film, how much improv-ing did you have available to you or was it pretty straight on with the script?
Aston: It was essentially Shakespeare. We stayed locked in the whole time. We had a very strict script supervisor.
Wright: Lying. He’s lying.
Aston: It was really loose.
Wright: From Day 1, they were so awesome about it. From our chemistry read together, they were like, “Okay, let’s do one on the page and play with it.” And then after that, they said, “Now find your own. Do whatever comes to you and go here or go there with it.” And we did. I think that was maybe where we got the most comfortable and were able to bond together was when we were really throwing each other off in the scene, throwing something new and being snarky with each other. And then, that translates over obviously in the movie where I watched some of the stuff and I was like, “Oh, that was totally a Miles improv.”
Aston: Oh yeah, we could tell for sure.
Wright: It’s great because they were throwing us stuff. They were throwing us alts, the directors, and then we would have something we’d like. “What about this? Let’s try this.” It was a really good creative environment because of that.
Aston: Everything felt organic. A lot of these movies should live in a grounded conversation, so it’s great to be able to add your own experience and have that translate to film. It seems so real. Miles and I, Justin and Sarah, we all became very close friends because these characters were like us in so many ways. We found a way to do it during the audition process where we would stay on book-ish, and then Jon and Scott would give us alternative lines. And then, once they knew they had everything covered, they would let us just go for it with guns-a-blazing. With the fourth take, we would be able to do whatever we wanted, and it’s really shocking when we saw the movie how many of those fourth takes got in there.
Wright: I know! I was so excited.
Aston: What’s really special about this film is so many movies that have a lot of improv in it, you can kind of tell and it doesn’t have that sustenance underneath and that grounded element. But since the script was so good to begin with, and we didn’t really need to improve, it provided a really safe environment because we never felt like we were doing any heavy lifting. We just got to add more gravy onto it.
Wright: Little things here and there.
Aston: That’s why I think this movie is non-stop laughs, but there’s a real-ness underneath. A real real-ness.
Wright: Don’t quote him on that. I would ask you to erase that. Erase it!
Q: You guys have such a great rapport. Did you hang out off set?
Wright: Pretty much every time. We were always hanging out.
Aston: Miles and I had conjoining rooms and sometimes we kept the door open and then sometimes we kept the door closed.
Wright: We went to dinner a lot.
Aston: A lot of dinners.
Wright: We went to some art and street festivals and some concerts.
Aston: That was fun.
Wright: We saw Ray Lamontagne.
Aston: We did it together with wine.
Wright: We fell asleep.
Aston: We had a lot of oysters in Seattle. I think I tried every oyster place in Seattle.
Wright: So yes, we spent a lot of time together off set, and that was great because it helped us throughout the movie to know each other better.
Q: What was the most unexpected or funniest thing that happened while you were shooting?
Wright: I loved the moment when Miles said, “What’s going on here? This is all bananas and pajamas.” I laughed so hard. It was not my coverage and I was dying.
Aston: Did you see the gag reel by the way?
Aston: I gotta show it to you.
Aston: It’s on there.
Wright: It was so funny. That was the fun thing too when somebody wouldn’t prep you on what they were about to say and they would throw something that weird out that doesn’t even make sense. That was amazing.
Aston: I don’t think it was the funniest moment, but there was a stunt that went awry on set. I was supposed to speed off in a golf cart and Miles was supposed to jump on it while it was in motion, and due to extras being out of place and some props being strewn about, I had to quickly swerve as Miles was getting onto the golf cart. I thought he was on there. He thought he was on there, too. He went and I literally threw him under the bus or under the golf cart and ran over his foot.
Wright: He ran over his leg. He ended up in the hospital.
Aston: He soldiered on, finished the rest of the shoot in crutches, and put some dirt on it. Everything was okay. He was an absolute hero.
Wright: He messed his foot up big time.
Aston: It was so funny because…
Wright: …not funny!
Aston: But it’s funny that we did that sequence three times. We already had it and there was that one extra one. “Let’s just do one more for safety.” It’s funny that that’s the phraseology that they use. It ended up not being for safety.
Wright: That was bad.
Aston: But there’s a lot of that golf cart now in the movie, thankfully.
Q: Speaking of safety, there was a bison.
Wright: Yup, that was real.
Aston: That was a real buffalo they had.
Wright: He was trained though.
Aston: What was his name? Do you remember his name?
Wright: He was really smart.
Q: How do you prep to work with a buffalo?
Aston: I petted him. They let me pet him. His wrangler was like, “He’s real friendly. Don’t touch his horns though.” I was like, “Okay!” “No dude, seriously, if you touch his horns, he will kill you.” So I was like, “Alright” and I definitely tried to avoid the horns.
Wright: We had a stuffed buffy.
Aston: For a while.
Wright: What was his name?
Aston: The stuffalo?
Wright: Yeah. The stuffalo. We had a stuffalo. You practice with a stuffalo and it just becomes more natural. It was huge.
Aston: There’s nothing like having a real massive animal in front of you. They say that they’re trained and you want to believe that. You have to try to. But when there’s a huge bonfire and 7,000 extras screaming for the school colors, and you have a live animal that’s supposed to be in a cage running around, I don’t know. Thankfully, they protected us a lot. There were enough people on that set to help us out if God forbid anything went wrong, so I felt alright.
Q: You could’ve sung the buffalo to sleep.
Aston: I could’ve. I do know some good buffalo lullabies.
Q: Were you guys game for everything that they threw out to you?
Wright: I was game for everything. They never threw out something that was too crazy.
Aston: Sometimes I work with certain people that don’t have a real pulse on what’s funny, and with Jon and Scott, you never have that concern. Honestly, if they said to do something that I even maybe doubted, I’d probably give them the benefit of the doubt and say, “You guys might know this more than I do.”
Wright: You wanted them to give you notes after every take because you knew that it was going to be good, like they were going to give you something awesome. You were just like, “Come to me. What do you have for me?”
Aston: Yeah. Miles and I would literally start handing fake twenties to Jon and be like, “Got some alts for me, buddy? Got some alts? I want some alts.”
Wright: That poor guy. His script was just non-stop. He was writing constantly. I always saw him writing. He was always doing something.
Aston: Tons of blue ink all over the page.
Q: After a shoot like this, do you look for something that’s a little tamer?
Aston: Maybe. I mean, I’d do the sequel.
Wright: I don’t know. (laughs)
Aston: You don’t know if you could do this?
Wright: No, she said “tamer” meaning the opposite of this.
Aston: Oh no, I like to do things that are…
Wright: It’s okay. I’ll explain all of the questions to Skylar.
Aston: This Bloody Mary mix is just making me drunk by looking at it.
Wright: My next movie after this is “Walk of Shame” with Elizabeth Banks and it’s a full out, wild night comedy again. I play her best friend in it and I’m searching for her all night so it’s kind of similar. It’s great. I love doing this kind of comedy. I think you look for whatever is next that you enjoy, that you like, and I connected to that script, too.
Aston: A little known fact is I actually shot “Pitch Perfect” after this in the sequence of shooting, so it was really funny going from such a hard, R-rated comedy to a total comedy, but definitely a little bit more catered toward teenagers and girls, and I play this wholesome sweetheart after I’d been running around Washington in just a tube sock. So I had already had my calm after the storm and it was a whole different challenge and I loved it. I respond to anything, whether it’s funny, dramatic, I just like to play good characters. If there was something like this that came along and it made sense, I would do it.
Wright: And by the way, I don’t think either one of us are in a place in our career where we can be like, “No, we just want to do tame movies.”
Aston: Yes, please.
Wright: We’re like, “What is it?” “Sure, we’re in.” “Is it funny?”
Q: You’ve both worked with Elizabeth Banks. She executive produced “Pitch Perfect” and you just co-starred with her in “Walk of Shame.” What did you learn from her?
Wright: I think she’s a genius business woman. I mean, she wants to produce consistently. She doesn’t ever want to stop working and she’s an incredibly funny, talented actress. I watched her every move on this movie because I was so curious how she works and what is there. She’s non-stop. She’s producing and acting, and it’s a lot to have on your plate.
Aston: We’ve both had different experiences because she had only been suited up and ready to be on camera I think two days of our shoot. Generally, I saw her in sweat pants, no make-up, the headset and the whole producer look. She was so hands-on. She was totally a producer. I would forget all the time that she’s a movie star and I would have to remind myself. I had a really great rapport with Elizabeth because on “Pitch Perfect” we had a first-time director, Jason Moore, and he had between so many cast members and all the different musical elements, sometimes it was great to have someone else that you could go to, and Elizabeth and I developed an amazing relationship. I think I became her little pet project after a while. She was constantly fixing my hair and she was very like, “You’re just a little halo.” It was really cool. There was one time that Anna Kendrick couldn’t be there and had to go home early due to a scheduling thing, and Elizabeth stood in for her on the other side. I was doing one of the “Pitch Perfect” scenes with Elizabeth Banks which was the craziest thing. She was in a warming jacket outside lip syncing to Anna’s stuff, and I’m literally marveling at Anna’s performance, but it’s Elizabeth Banks, another movie star. It was like having my cake and eating it too there.
Q: What are each of you working on next? Sarah, you mentioned “Walk of Shame.”
Wright: That’s what I’ve been working on. We literally wrapped that yesterday. We started that in December and we just wrapped, and now I might do something TV. It’s an option out there so we’ll see.
Astin: As far as I’m concerned, just keep your ears peeled. It’s a bad day to be asking me because I have so many “almosts,” and “maybes,” and “working out logistics” that by the time these stories run, you might have an idea. I shot an independent movie a little bit ago called “Cavemen,” and other than that, I don’t know. I can’t even give you hints. I’m sorry, I wish I could.
Q: Can you just tell us your favorite one?
Astin: Yeah, “22 and Pregnant,” the sequel.
Wright: Starring us!
Q: Where do you think your characters would be ten years from now?
Wright: Pregnant? No!
Astin: I see Casey and Nicole hopefully shacked up.
Astin: Going on European adventures together.
Wright: Yeah, always traveling, even with babies.
Astin: Backpacking. I would be wearing one of those Bjorns and be feeding while Nicole plays the jambay in a drum circle.
Wright: There you go! I like that.
Astin: I don’t know. Do you think we’d make it?
Wright: I do.
Astin: We’d have to have a happily ever after.
Astin: I think so. Maybe we’ll see. Maybe we’ll have “21 and Over 7” and you guys will get to see the whole thing and it will be straight to DVD. You guys will all get to enjoy it in the comfort of your own homes.