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Wonder

Wingman Wednesday

Izabela Vidovic

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Photo By: Ramona Rosales

If time machines existed and you skipped ahead a half dozen years or so, you’d find a new generation of talent controlling both the creative side and the business side of Hollywood. One extremely talented individual on a path to having a say over both ends of the industry pool is Izabela Vidovic, the 16-year-old actress turned producer who is generating buzz for her performance as Via in the new Julia Roberts film “Wonder,” due in theaters this Friday.

We recently sat down with Vidovic to discuss what a breath of fresh air “Wonder” is, where she felt an immediate connection with her character, and why she’s looking to diversify her career as much as possible.

TrunkSpace: In a world that is mostly dominated by superheroes and remakes, “Wonder” seems like a real breath of fresh air. What drew you to it?
Vidovic: Well, reading the script for “Wonder” was very exciting for me as an actor, because it’s different, as you’re mentioning. It’s different than most scripts out there nowadays because of the through line and the message of the whole story, which is really just to choose kind and that it spreads positivity and love. It has such a great message, so it’s a great project to be a part of, especially now.

TrunkSpace: It feels like the kind of movie that would have been made 20 years ago, but would not necessarily see a green lit status today.
Vidovic: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s definitely refreshing, because sometimes you fall into the trap of seeing the same sorts of films being made, and sometimes they lack originality. It’s nice to see, as you’re saying, a film like this come out that has a message and is simply there to relay a good theme to others.

TrunkSpace: Did it feel like you were involved in something special when you were in the midst of shooting it?
Vidovic: Yes, it definitely did, and it doesn’t always feel that way. But even our director, he made a point to make the set so warm and pleasant and fun, so every day was just a blast to come in. And the kids, all of them were incredible. They had amazing chemistry. Jake and I, we clicked, and with Julia (Roberts) and Owen (Wilson). And everything just sort of fell into place and it felt right. I feel like that’s how you know that it’s gonna be something really good.

TrunkSpace: And for those who don’t know, can you walk us through where your characters falls into things and what her journey is?
Vidovic: My character is Via, who is Auggie’s older sister. Auggie is the 10-year-old boy with Treacher Collins syndrome, going to school for the first time. So, I play his older sister and we find her actually entering high school at the same time. It’s her journey, as well as his, discovering herself and her personal transformation and understanding that she can balance both her love and support for Auggie, but also allow herself to shine.

TrunkSpace: Was it easy for you to connect with Via right out of the gates?
Vidovic: You know, it was easy and it was natural for me in the sense that I have a younger sister, and I know that relationship – having a younger sibling and the feeling of protectiveness over them. But at the same time, I have not experienced the extremity and the severity of Via’s situation, which is passing on all of the undivided attention to the other sibling. And so, I had to do research and sort of get into that mindset and understand what it’s like to be that selfless because it’s a special thing.

TrunkSpace: For Via, is a part of her journey having to deal with sometimes feeling like she is always standing in the shadows?
Vidovic: Yes, that’s exactly what it is. She is in the shadows because of all of the attention that her brother requires, to no fault of his own, just because of the challenges that he faces. And she allows that, because she knows that he needs it more than she does. But throughout the story, she realizes that she can also give herself a time to also shine and to get her parents attention and still be a good sister.

TrunkSpace: The cast is pretty incredible. Getting to work with so many seasoned veterans, did you view your experience on the film just as much as an education as you did a job?
Vidovic: Most definitely. It was definitely a huge learning experience for me, because I was fortunate enough to be working on, as you said, a project that has so many veterans of the industry. Working with Julia and Owen, who are such icons, there’s really much to learn from them just watching their work and being with them on set. Not only are they kind to everybody, but they’re professional and they make it fun for everyone around them. And working with Stephen Chbosky, he’s really an incredible director, and he’s artistic. Not only does he want the best for the film, but he wants the best for everybody involved in it. It’s just been an honor working with these people.

TrunkSpace: Is there something about your performance in “Wonder” that you’re particularly excited for people to see? Were you able to do something with Via that you have yet to have the opportunity with other characters in the past?
Vidovic: Well, I think for me what was really cool was doing a role within a role. I got to do a monologue from “Our Town” as Via. And for Via, that moment is really pivotal for her, because it’s the first time that she’s putting her emotions on display and she has this connection with her mom, and it’s the first time that she’s really letting herself shine. And as an actor, I was playing both Via, but also Emily from “Our Town,” which was an interesting experience, I have to say.

TrunkSpace: Aside from “Wonder,” you’re also working behind the camera, so being able to learn from Stephen throughout this process must have been something that you could apply to other aspects of your career as well?
Vidovic: I would love to direct. So it’s so cool to work with a director who, like Stephen, incorporates both having a relationship with the actors and also having a relationship with the crew. Because oftentimes, you’ll find that when you work with a director, they’re better at one side or the other, and Stephen’s great at both – at balancing them. So, observing that was definitely a learning experience for me, because that’s what I strive to do in my career, in the future, behind the camera.

TrunkSpace: You spent nearly 20 episodes on the series “The Fosters.” Is the professional relationship with directors on a series different from the one you build with a director on a film?
Vidovic: Yes. On films, you definitely have a more personal relationship with your director, because on TV there’s a different director for every episode. And so, there’s only a certain amount of time that you have with that individual to cultivate something. But with film, you’ll be working with the same director every single day for two to three months. And so oftentimes, especially when the director is so hands on with the actors, you do build a very personal relationship, like I think most of us found we did with Stephen.

TrunkSpace: Have you been having fun exploring these other on-set experiences beyond acting? Has the producing side, that journey, been one you’re enjoying?
Vidovic: Yeah. It’s been very fun. I find that it actually strengthens you as an actor and as a writer and a producer – when you have knowledge in every area – because knowledge is power, so the more you know, the better. And so, as a producer, I have found that knowing what it’s like for actors and knowing what a writer’s job is just makes your job that much easier and it’s that much more beneficial. It’s like a clock – you need every part to make it work. And so, yeah, it’s been definitely a learning process and a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: So as you look forward, do you see yourself focusing on one area or will you continue to wear different hats and juggle all aspects of your career?
Vidovic: I’m looking to juggle it all and make it all work. I love acting and I love all of these different aspects of filmmaking, and I’m excited to just combine all of that knowledge and do it all.

Wonder” arrives in theaters on Friday.

Featured image by: Ramona Rosales

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Wingman Wednesday

Crystal Lowe

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© Crown Media United States, LLC

Even though digital correspondence is the preferred method of communication these days, we all still love to open the mailbox and find a handwritten letter waiting for us. There’s something nostalgic about peeling back the seal of a freshly delivered envelope and discovering what is waiting for us inside. That’s why the concept of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ongoing franchise, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is so ingenious, because it strikes a chord before you ever get past the opening credits.

A group of postal detectives work to solve the mysteries behind undeliverable letters and packages from the past, delivering them when they are needed most.”

As far as pitches go, it doesn’t get much better than that, and for the countless fans of the series who have followed along with it since it first began airing in 2014, the individual stories that make up each standalone movie back up the overall premise.

The latest installment, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again,” premieres Sunday, September 24 at 9 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. We recently sat down with series star Crystal Lowe to discuss how her character Rita was a welcome departure from previous roles, why she feels the franchise is resonating with audiences, and how she had to restrain herself from fangirling on Mandy Patinkin.

TrunkSpace: Early in your career you appeared in a number of horror films, including “Black Christmas” and “Final Destination 3.” Did you make a conscious effort to step away from that genre and focus on other things so as not to be pigeonholed?
Lowe: I actually did. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing the horror genre, but no painter wants to paint the same painting over and over again. That’s what appealed to me as well. I think I’ve always said it would be a dream of mine that when somebody sees my demo reel, for them to not recognize me from role to role. I did appreciate the fans and the love that I got from that community because they’re a very tight community, but it was an ongoing joke that I wanted to live in a movie. Just one. “I just need to not die in things, that would be amazing.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What is the key to successfully breaking out of a particular way of being viewed within this industry?
Lowe: I think for me it was that I hunkered down a lot and I studied and I studied and I studied. I was taking classes. I still take classes. I always will. I begged casting directors and people to just give me a shot. “Just give me a shot. Just see me in a different light. Just let me in the room and I’ll do something.” They were kind enough to do that. I did also have really good relationships with a lot of casting directors, so they gave me the opportunity to come in and just try new things.

TrunkSpace: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” must have been a welcome change when it came along in 2014?
Lowe: Huge change for me. When I auditioned for that, they sent me the sides and I called my agent and said, “You sent me the wrong sides.” He said, “No, no, they’re going to see you for this.” I was like, “No, they’re not. What? I’m not going to book this. This is not right for me.” (Laughter) And then they asked me to come back and I started laughing. I remember being in the room looking around at all of these girls, really nervous, and trying to get the part and I was like, “I don’t care. I’m not getting this.”

I had no idea who Martha (Williamson) was. I had no idea what kind of resume she had. I had no idea about any of it, so it was good because I went in there with no… I remember performing the character of Rita for my girlfriend, who was also auditioning for it as well, and she said to me, “Are you going to do it like that?” (Laughter) I was like, “I don’t know, but this is just how I see that character.” She was like, “Oh, okay. That’s not a choice that I would’ve made.” (Laughter) I had the offer that night.

TrunkSpace: We recently read how Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is one of the few networks that is actually growing its audience, which is really fascinating. As television continues to go down a gritty, dark path, the growth is evidence that many people want to feel good when the credits roll.
Lowe: Yes. I’m a strong believer in that light always overcomes the dark, but you need the dark in order to have light, right? Sometimes the pendulum swings and then we need a wake-up call and a reminder that in order to keep that light going we got to keep fighting for it. You can’t just be complacent and you can’t just hope somebody else is going to take care of it. I think our show offers that to people. I’ve never been on a show like this where the fans are genuinely thanking me for getting them through chemo treatments or losses of family members. There’s not a lot I can do, but if I can inspire, then that makes me so happy.

I always used to joke when we first started the show, because I was a huge “Dexter” fan. “You watch an episode of ‘Dexter’ and then you watch our show before you go to bed.” You’re like, “Oh my god!” and then you’re like, “Okay, everything’s going to be fine.” (Laughter)

You need to remind yourself that, yes, the world is chaotic at the moment, but there’s so much good. The average person, your next door neighbor and the people around you, the majority are good and want the best for people, so I like that our show is a reminder of that.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again Photo: Kristin Booth, Eric Mabius, Crystal Lowe, Geoff Gustafson Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what has the journey been like for you in terms of exploring the character, because the project started as a series and then transitioned into an ongoing film franchise? Does the journey change at all in that regard, seeing your character’s arc from the perspective of a series to a two hour film?
Lowe: Yeah, it does because when you’re doing a show like ours, because there’s an A storyline, which of course is the POstables, and there’s a B storyline, which is the letter, you don’t have a lot of time to tell an entire letter story and propel the POstables. You can push them forward, but you don’t have a lot of time to push them forward. At first I was like, “What? The two hour format? No, I love the series!” And then we did the two hour format and I was like, “Oh, actually Rita and Norman get to really grow. We actually get journeys through this.” That would’ve maybe taken five episodes, which I now get to do in one movie. As an actor I get to make bigger leaps and bounds, which is awesome for me. I love that.

TrunkSpace: Even though it’s a film, does the process still feel like you’re shooting individual episodes just because of the episodic nature of it?
Lowe: Yeah, it does – like a two hour episode. They’re movies and they’re standalone and you can tune in and pretty much understand what’s going on, but to me it’s almost like the British version of television. It’s like a miniseries. You just get more time with it, which I think works for our show and Martha’s writing because her writing is so full. It’s so nuanced. It’s hard for me now when I get auditions or scripts because I’ve been working with good writing for a really long time, so if it’s not good writing, I know. (Laughter) There are lots of layers in there all of the time and the two hour format gives her the opportunity to really put those layers in and allow people to watch them over and over again and find them, like reading a book.

TrunkSpace: You’re shooting these as movies, but you’re still working in television. Does that mean you’re still working with the breakneck television scheduling?
Lowe: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes eight to 10 pages a day.

TrunkSpace: Wow!
Lowe: It’s insane, but we do it. It’s dialogue heavy and we do it. Our crews are amazing, especially on these last two. Our crews were just an awesome bunch of people that are young and hungry in the industry and I love watching that too because people really love their jobs and care about them. We pound pavement. We make it happen. During it you’re always like, “This is never going to work,” and then after you’re like, “Of course it worked. Why wouldn’t it work?” (Laughter)

I worked on a movie this year called “Wonder,” which I’m really excited about. It’s coming out in November and it’s based on a book. It was so weird because when I shot that, the director was like, “What do you want to do? What do you want to try?” I was like, “I’m sorry, what? We have time to just try stuff?” (Laughter) In TV world, you’re like, “We got to go. We’re done.”

TrunkSpace: “Wonder” looks like very powerful storytelling, and again, is that feel-good story that it seems like we need as a society right now.
Lowe: That film is…

I got to work with Mandy Patinkin. For me that was a bucket list thing. It took every bone in my body not to be like, “Mandy, I love you! I’ve watched ‘The Princess Bride’ a thousand times and I love it!” I didn’t though because I was like, “Do not fangirl on him, he’s going to think you’re a weirdo!”

But the story was just so good. The writing was so good and it’s really, really necessary all over the world. I just recently moved to the United States and I think it’s really important in the United States, for many people, even in the highest positions, to learn about bullying. This is a good film and it’s necessary.

TrunkSpace: In our pre-interview quest for research we learned via your Instagram page that you were a big “Perfect Strangers” fan growing up, which got us to thinking… what makes Crystal want to do the dance of joy?
Lowe: (Laughter) This sounds ridiculous, but to those who know me, they’d be like, “Uh-huh!” Brandi Harkonen, who’s one of the producers for my show, she laughed and gave me a song, which is “The Lego Movie” song. She’s like, “That’s you! That song, ‘Everything Is Awesome’ encompasses you as a person!”

The happy dance comes really easily for me. I happy dance over the smallest of things and I happy dance over big things. I think what I would have to say is, seeing the people that I love smile makes me so happy. If I can do something that makes them laugh or if I can get them something that I know they really wanted or if I can take pressure off of them, it just makes me happy dance everywhere.

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