Interview arranged by Screen Relish – thank you again for the opportunity.
Last night we had the opportunity to speak to the lead actress and star of the film THE LAST SURVIVORS Haley Lu Richardson. The twenty year old actress and dancer, based in LA yesterday, generously gave up some of her time to answer our questions on her part in this 95 minute feature. Find the plot description below which I have lifted from my very own review:
“In a world full of greed and survival, seventeen-year-old Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) spends her days protecting her ill brother Dean (Booboo Stewart) and the others she cherishes around her like Alby (Max Charles), whilst harbouring the remainder of water on their land, collecting batteries for a burned out plane for their planned escape, and helping any innocent souls she crosses paths with.”
Haley was great to talk with and had an answer for everything that came her way. It was refreshing to talk to such a mature young actress, already with such a wide range of television and film roles behind her.
Screen Relish: What was it about THE LAST SURVIVORS which most appealed to you when you read the script?
Haley Lu Richardson: Wow, you know, when I get asked this question I don’t even know what to say, because what doesn’t appeal to me about the character and about the script? I think I took it a little bit for granted back then, because I don’t know if you know this, but we actually filmed this movie three years ago when I was 17. And now, at 20, I have worked on some other things and have a different view about it all. I think I took it for granted; the importance and the rareness (I don’t know if that is a word) of the role for a young woman.
SR: That’s interesting! We’ve said in our review how great it was to see such a mature and independent performance from a 17 year-old at the time, which brings me onto my next question:
Your character Kendal is a really tough, independent and dedicated 17 year-old who sometimes takes the viewer by surprise in the confidence she has in such a scary world. From working in such tough and, as far as I can imagine scary industries (film and dance) yourself, was it quite easy for you to relate to her?
HLR: That’s a really interesting thought. I don’t know if I ever directly related the toughness of being an actress in this industry and Kendal in a drought-stricken, baron fighting situation, but obviously as an actress you become a character and you portray this character using as much imagination and creativity as you want. The core of it is finding the emotions and the experiences within myself and translating them into what the character is experiencing. Obviously I drew from some struggles in my real life at the time and I also was able to imagine being faced with such a situation where 10 years from now, I could be living in an area (maybe even LA!) which is completely void of water as one of the last survivors. I just tried to picture how I would step up to the plate and rise to the occasion to be strong for the people I love and make it through it.
SR: How challenging did you find it, both physically and mentally, filming this role on such a deserted location?
HLR: Tom probably told you this, but the location we were filming at (a few hours north of LA) looked almost identical to what you see in the movie, which is scary and really physically tough when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. There were not any hot showers to use after I was covered in oil or blood or fake sunlight or moonlight; we had to do hours and hours of days fighting against the sun. So, it was tough, but all of us being there collectively got us in the world of the film. It was very challenging.
SR: I have to ask about the oil scene, which has to be one of the many “WOW did she really just do that?” scenes of the film. I guess Tom originally came to you with the idea, but how did you motivate yourself to do this particular scene where you were covered from head to toe in oil?
HLR: It’s really funny because I’m laughing about it now, but it’s literally been 3 years since we shot the movie and I’m still getting over how challenging it was and I vowed from the moment that scene finished that I would never do something like it again, unless you give me a billion dollars! I had obviously read the script and knew what I was getting myself into before the audition, but also I had never done a movie and a role like that before, so I think I assumed that it would all be fake, but it wasn’t! I was genuinely doing like 90% of everything you see in the movie. I just don’t know how they did it to me; I was just this teenage girl and they were like “yep, do it again we have to go for another take”. Between takes I would have to run off and sit in a hot car wrapped in a towel and saran wrap before going back out, so it was quite an experience! Now when we’re on set and I’m hearing people around me complaining about things being too tough, I’m always saying how I’ve done it all now, so I think it was worth it!
SR: I apologise that I hadn’t seen more of you before this film as I was blown away by your performance, but I have to ask what is next for Haley Lu Richardson?
HLR: I’ve been working on a couple of cool things. I just had a movie launch at Sundance called THE BRONZE, about a gymnastics team, which is very different from THE LAST SURVIVORS. I think that’s going to get released this summer, so that will be really fun and then I did another two films with the producers of THE LAST SURVIVORS, so they should be coming out soon – they’re called THE YOUNG KIESLOWSKI and FOLLOW. I’ve just been very lucky be able to portray characters which are not boxed into one category. I feel like every project I’ve worked on (whether it was film or TV), all have different characters. Some actors tend to get boxed into a stereotype, and I have just been really fortunate to get my hands on characters which are all unique and I can do something completely different with.
SR: Finally, one last question, which is a bit of a trivial question for you: If you were left in a deserted area (like the one in THE LAST SURVIVORS) with nothing but a TV and one film to keep you company, what would that one film be?
HLR: My favourite movie is unfortunately a sad movie; either TITANIC or I AM SAM but I don’t think I’d want a sad movie to watch over and over, but something uplifting! I’d probably have to go with (and this is kind of a dumb answer) but SHE’S THE MAN with Amanda Bynes, simply because it’s so (in an amazing way) stupid and fun and that would take my mind off all of the terrible things happening around me. Gosh I don’t know, that is a loaded question, but that’s my instinctual answer.
You can read my review of THE LAST SURVIVORS here and my interview with director Tom Hammock here. The film is now available to buy on DVD in both the UK and USA.
Many thanks to Haley Lu Richardson for taking the time during her busy schedule to speak to Screen Relish. Stay out of that oil!