Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes Interview, Sorority Row

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

We sat down with Briana Evigan and Leah Pipes recently to talk about their new movie, “Sorority Row.” Based on the original screenplay, Seven Sisters, this modern tale of revenge directed by Stewart Hendler echoes the original's mix of horror and humor while creating a fresh take on terror uniquely its own. The film also stars Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Margo Harshman, Audrina Patridge and Caroline D’Amore.

When five sorority sisters of Theta Pi cause the death of one of their own during a foolish prank gone wrong, they conspire to discard the evidence and never speak of the nightmare again. But when a mysterious killer targets the group a year later with a series of bizarre attacks, the women find themselves fighting for their own lives amidst the revelry of an out of control graduation party.

Briana Evigan, who plays Cassidy, enjoyed an international breakthrough in 2008 with her spirited starring performance as 'Andie' in the hip-hop dance film Step Up 2: The Streets, a role that allowed the actress to showcase her many years of intense training as a professional dancer. The film earned $143 million worldwide, launching her into a busy motion picture career that recently included roles in the features S. Darko (the sequel to Richard Kelly's cult classic, Donnie Darko), supernatural thriller Burning Bright and romantic drama Subject: I Love You (shot entirely in the Philippines).

Born in Los Angeles into an acting family that includes father Greg Evigan (star of the television series "BJ and the Bear" and "My Two Dads"), mom Pamela Serpe and sister Vanessa Evigan, she made her professional film acting debut in the 1996 thriller House of the Damned at the age of ten opposite her father. She began studying dance with hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks as a seven-year-old and continued with several other teachers en route to Step Up 2: The Streets.

The actress also appeared in the video for rock group Linkin Park's song "Numb" as well as starred in the straight-to-video film Bottoms Up and a segment of the CBS miniseries "Fear Itself". Also a talented singer and keyboardist, she is a member of the pop/alternative band Moorish Idol as well as the group's principal songwriter.

Leah Pipes, who plays Jessica, made her acting debut in 2001 in an episode of the television series "Angel". She won a regular role in 2002 in the ABC series "Lost at Home", leading to a versatile television career that most recently saw her star as 'Katie' in the CW series "Life is Wild" as well as guest in several episodes of the hit Fox series "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles".

The Los Angeles-area native and resident was a stand-out soccer player in high school, a skill that allowed her to win the starring role in the film Her Best Move, playing a fifteen-year-old soccer phenom vying to join the U.S. National Soccer Team. The athlete is also a standout dancer, swimmer and tennis player.

Among her other television credits are roles in the series "Parents in Charge", "Clubhouse", "Pixel Perfect", "Bones", "Crossing Jordan", "Brothers Garcia", "Drake and Josh", "Shark", "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Ghost Whisperer". She also recently starred in the horror feature Fingerprints, which was named "Best Feature" at the NYC Horror Film Festival.

Here’s what Briana Evigan and Leah Pipes had to tell us about “Sorority Row”:

Q: So, Leah, was there a bad girl inside waiting to get out? This must have been inside festering for years.

Leah: I have a lot of characters inside festering.  This one, yeah, it was a really interesting character to develop.  Obviously, as an actor, having a character that's so extreme is the most fun.  So, I just had fun.

Q: Briana, your character was the moral compass of the movie but, at the same time, you still keep the secrets so was that hard to play?

Briana: For me, Cassidy is a lot like me so she's the girl who wants to make the right decisions.  She's completely against this but, at the same time, what is she gonna do? She's got five people against her. This could turn around where it's her problem only.  So, I think, for her, she's a little bit concerned.  She is all about the trust, loyalty, secrecy and solidarity thing and I think she really means that when she says she wants to be so close with these sisters. Otherwise, she would never have been part of sorority as the girl she is, to begin with.  So, for me, it really wasn't too difficult.  I just had to figure out how to react to Jessica and make sure that I don't get too offended, make sure that I can come back even though she always kind of shuts me back down because that would run into Ellie's character who was less confident and all that. But, Cassidy has that confident ground.  She won't let people push her around even though Jessica does.

Q: Can you talk about music night at the hotel with you and Rumer singing? Or did you teach some dances?

Briana: (laughs) I definitely taught them some moves like this move upside down up against the wall where you put your feet up against it and your pelvis toward the wall which my Black friends in high school taught me, you know. But, other than that, that was the only dancing I taught them. Did you ever get that one?

Leah: No.

Briana: You might have gotten it in the trailers, no?

Leah: I’ve seen you do it but I didn't understand how it [was done].

Briana: Those were the late night sessions when the other girls figured it out too. But, other than that, there was a piano at the hotel and Rumer and I play piano so we'd go up there after some restaurants or some of the bars and rock out and have security staring at us ready to kick us out.

Q: How was working with Carrie Fisher having her play your sorority house mom?

Leah: Awesome.  She was an awesome woman and just to be around someone who is so educated on the industry.  She, I think more-so than almost anyone in this industry, she really understands it. She's very smart and witty.

Q: And good with a shotgun.

Leah: Oh yeah. You know what's so funny? She gets to point that. She's Carrie Fisher but you give her a shotgun and she holds it like this and she looks into the camera and you're like 'Oh my gosh! It's Princess Leia!' (laughter).

Briana: It is weird.

Leah: There's one picture of her in the make-up trailer with her just looking and she had this 'I'm gonna get you' kind of smirk and she's holding the shotgun and she was Princess Leia.

Q: Did you have any relatives or friends in a sorority and what did you research and discover?

Leah:  My mom was in a sorority and I did ask her a little bit about it.  Of course, sorority girls will never tell you what really goes down. She was like (big fake smile) 'Yes, we were all friends. There was no backstabbing.’ Sure.  So, to get the real deal, we all actually read a book called 'Pledged' which gives you the breakdown of what really happens and it's a horror movie.

Briana: Exactly. Makes perfect sense.

Q: Did either of you see the original horror movie The House on Sorority Row?

Leah: We were told not to watch it. I think they didn't want anybody getting really confused because I hear now that it really isn't very much like it.  But, I think they took a concept from it and made something more, made it more modernized and brought all the unbelievable effects that you can use today into it.

Briana: But I think we all plan on watching it, right?  We all wanted to watch it. 

Leah: Yeah, we're gonna have a slumber party and watch it with all of the girls.

Q: Briana, what is that tattoo?  I also saw it on Rumer? (note: three dots on side of wrist area in graduating sizes).

Briana: Oh yeah. We just got matching tattoos in London.  We just thought we're good friends from the film and we're out there promoting, we're having fun.  We both have other tattoos already and we all hope to be friends for life and this will be a memory from the film.

Q: You all have it?

Briana: Just two of us but some of the other girls, now that we're all together again are like 'I want it!' So, we're like we should just add the dots for every great friend from every movie (she indicates dots going up her arm). Honestly, we were like 'We need a better story.  We don't have a good enough story' but I think that's almost the story.

Q: What is the significance of the three dots though?

Briana: Well, for each one of us. (She points to the small dot).  This is another one of our friends, Samantha. So we just got them. She was out of the film but she was with us. She was a friend of ours visiting London.  We just made it dots because you can't screw it up and we didn't know where we were going in London so I was like 'I don't want any crazy designs.  You can't mess up dots.’ But actually Samantha's got messed up. She has a partial circle on one.

Q: Obviously needles don't scare you but what does scare both of you?

Briana: Insects.

Leah: For me, it's squirrels. (laughter).  I just don't like them.

Q: Jamie is afraid of birds.

Briana: Who is afraid of birds?

Q: Jamie, flocks of birds.

Leah:  Oh, that's understandable. If you've seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie, that makes me very nervous too.

Q: Your casting was very interesting, Leah. Did you come in for another role or did you gravitate to Jessica when you read the script?

Leah: Right off the bat I was like 'Jessica! Jessica!' And my personality is so far from hers they were like 'Okay, let's try Ellie.' I was like 'No, no, no. Jessica'.  'All right, Leah, but Ellie though.’ So I went in and did Ellie and they wanted to bring me back for Ellie and I was like 'No. I really want to do Jessica.’ So, I put extensions on and a lot of make-up on and wore this crazy, stylized skirt that I don't even know where I found and I booked it.  So, hair extensions is my suggestion for all young actresses.  It will get you in the room.

Briana:  Her audition was amazing, by the way. I think I told you I saw it, right?

Leah: No.

Briana:  I totally watched it (they laugh). I got a sneak peek.  I saw no one watching and went in there and hit 'play' and everybody was like 'I didn't play that for you' and I was like 'Of course not but she already got the part so it doesn't matter.'  Everybody was already cast.  Her audition was killer.  I was sitting there again with my hands over my mouth 'Oh my God! This is who I'm working with' and she was the Queen Bee.

Q: Since your characters don't really like each other, did you stay away from each other between shots to stay in character or were you just buddies?

Briana: We were buddies.

Q: So you didn't have to hold it in that "I don't like you" mode?

Leah: I think it depends on each film.  This film I think the character was developed enough for each of us that we didn't have to stay in them.

Briana: Yeah.

Leah: The complexity of the character isn't so severe that you have to stay in it throughout the day which makes it so much fun instead of a really grueling self-discovery experience.

Q: What was it like when Rumer got thrown into the mix? Was she just one of the girls?

Briana: Yep.

Leah:  Both Briana and Rumer have parents in the industry and it didn't even really phase me.  It's so weird now that so many people are even asking that question like 'Are they different?' 'No, what? Oh, because their parents are (actors), oh no, no.’ She's just one of the girls.

Q: Briana, were you disappointed at all that you didn't get a cool death scene?

Briana: No. I mean we all joked about what death sequence we would take if we would have one to put on the DVD or something. But, it's kind of fun to play the hero.  It's a really cool part. Hopefully, one day, I will get to do that though because I know it's really fun to do all the make-up stuff.  I definitely was bloody and muddy from, I don't know, fifteen minutes into the film, basically.  So, I definitely got a lot of the make-up on.  But, those casts that they do and everything, that would be interesting and then, obviously, to watch yourself get killed next would be the other interesting thing.

Leah: It was so much fun.  But I have to say, I really appreciate, to give this girl a shout out, that our female survivor in the film, you're a bad ass! And she kicks ass. It's not like she's this meek character and I really appreciate that in Sorority Row.  It's very cool.

Q: Briana, you had a lot of really physical stuff in the film. Was there anything extra challenging? Or something they didn't want you to do?

Briana: I learned my lesson about saying 'No, I'm just gonna let this one go' because I did have an injury on a set and unfortunately, didn't realize, it's not fun. But I did mainly all the stunts in this.  There were a couple of drops that I didn't do just because you've got someone there. Why take the fall that hard when you already have to do it for the next four hours straight. One of the things that was hard for me was the scene where I'm hanging in the fire.  They did have a whole rig underneath me but I was still on an angle the whole time hanging.  To make it look like I'm actually hanging you have to lift your legs up. Otherwise, I'm just standing on a weird, slanted wooden angle that was built for my feet perfectly so I couldn't move them.  It was kind of a scary feeling of where you could fall under there if anything were to break.  But, I love that stuff.  That's the fun for me. So, the more the merrier with that.

Q: What is it in each of your characters that you can identify with?

Leah: I think my character was so mean because she had to wear that frickin' bustier! (Briana dies laughing). And I could relate to that.

Briana: She can relate to that because she had to wear it every day.

Leah: I got mean too!

Briana: She definitely made them take five on bustier day.

Leah:  It was beyond that.  I was like 'You guys!’ It would zip in the back and I would unzip it and just sit there and they'd say 'We're rolling.' And I was like 'Okay, someone frickin' zip me up.  I hate this thing!'

Briana:  That thing was hell for you.

Leah: And everyone went down with me. It's not like I kept it to myself.

Briana: You can relate to the clothing for sure. Nothing good about that but you looked good.

Leah: They're like 'Oh, but you look good' when we're watching the film and I'm like 'That's not worth it. I wanted to be in gym pants.’

Q: What I got out of it is that she was the way she was because she was driven to be the wife of a successful man.

Leah:  Yes and that I can't relate to. I actually hope I don't marry a successful man.  That probably means he's a much more grounded human being. So, she's very opposite of me but it was fun to dive into the opposite mentality.

Briana: I'm very close to Cassidy.  Like I said, honestly, I've got good family.  They did a lot with all of us growing up. I've got siblings.  So, really I just like to be nice.  I would hate to hurt somebody's feelings.

Q: You would so go tell the cops.

Briana: Oh yeah.  I would never, ever do any of this. I grew up along the lines of what you could make up with Cassidy's life before this film.

Q: Do you have favorite horror movies?

Briana: The Shining, Psycho, Carrie. There's so many.

Leah: I'm really bad with horror films but I really like Rear Window which is kind of a thriller.

Briana: Psychological thrillers are really cool because they make you think.

Leah: Especially when Jimmy Stewart is acting because he is so brilliant.

Q: Have you seen this?

Leah: I have. Rumer will tell the story, I was sitting right behind her and it's not like I scream.  It's more like 'Oh, God. Oh, Gee!, Oh, no!' 'Ooooo, no, oh, no.' It's even more annoying.

Q: How did they shoot your dying scene? A dummy or make-up or...

Leah:  It's a mix of the two. We had a lot of different effects both into production and post production but, for me, they had a whole contraption where I put this fake tire iron in my mouth (she demonstrates) and down my throat.  It was just like (she holds her mouth open awkwardly) 'Ahhhh.’  And you notice, the entire scene I'm just standing there like 'Okay.’

Briana: There's all this crazy stuff going on and she's just standing there.

Leah: And there's like the longest dialogue too. They're having a heart to heart and I'm standing there just like (opens her mouth and looks dead) 'Uh huh' (laughter).

Briana: And do you know how many times she had to do that? This scene went like four or five minutes straight with dialogue.

Leah: And it was a long monologue for Julian (Morris) and a really pivotal part of the scene and I'm just hangin' out. You'll see me. Check me out if you ever watch it again.  It's really funny. There's a few takes where I'm like 'Oh my God. I have to get my eyes open' and I'm like (she indicates just barely opening one eye to look around). 

Q: What is coming up next for you guys?

Briana: I'm doing a film called Mothers' Day.  Maybe the last horror thing for a while. But, Darren Bousman is directing.  Jaime King is attached.  I'm excited.  It should be really fun.  My character is super, super bad ass, very tough as a wall. This girl is like a brick, super, super sexy. I get to change my appearance, my hair for it.  I have tattoos on my back so it'll be a whole other thing for me to a certain extent.

Q: Is that a re-make?

Briana: Yeah, another re-make.  Somebody was like 'Why are you the '80's re-make girl?’ Every single one of them is different and I'm really excited to do this one.  It's gonna be a blast.

Q: Have you worked with Darren?

Briana: Yeah, I did a "Fear Itself" (episode) with him actually so I really get along with him well then so can't imagine it being different. Even though he directed Saw II, III and IV he's like a sucker.  He cries in romantic comedies and he's covering his eyes in a horror film that he didn't direct. He can't get through it. He's good.

Leah: I have a series for ABC. It's a legal dramedy.  It's kind of 'Aly McBeal' meets 'Grey's Anatomy.’ It's very quirky, very adult and I play an adult which is interesting. We'll see how that goes. It's with Billy Zane and Clancy Brown, Matt Long is in the series, Tina Majorino, Ben Lawson who is an Australian actor so, it's a crew of creative people and David Hemingson is the creator so I'm really excited about it. It's midseason and it's for ABC.  It's called "The Deep End." 

Q: Nobody talks about the guys in this film.  How did you relate to the actors playing your boyfriends?

Leah: I know. We're selfish. They were great.

Q: You were in the same hotel.  Were the guys there too?

Briana: Yeah, they were.

Q: Did they ever join you for any of the after hours parties?

Leah: Usually it was just the girls.

Briana: Actually, Matt O'Leary, a couple of times, came out with us. He was such close friends with all of us that he was almost like one of the girls with all of us.

“Sorority Row” opens in theaters on September 11, 2009.

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