Interview: Three Young Actors Become ‘The Kings of Summer’

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CHICAGO – With Memorial Day behind us, thoughts return to the beginning of summer. Writer Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts have created a coming-of-age film about that particular seasonal ritual, featuring young actors Moises Arias, Nick Robinson and Gabriel Basso as “The Kings of Summer.”

The film harkens back to an innocence of escape, with a desire to develop a separate identity during the sometimes painful adolescence years. Arias, Robinson and Basso portray friends who literally hide in the woods, away from oppressive family situations and civilization itself. In the process, they discover what is really important within the energy of their own experience. Galletta and Vogt-Roberts have spun a loose, fun and quirky summer film, complete with issues of parental relationships and teenage angst.

Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Robinson
Gabriel Basso (left), Moises Arias and Nick Robinson are ‘The Kings of Summer’
Photo credit: CBS Films

Gabriel Basso may be the most familiar to film fans. Besides a regular role on “The Big C’ as Adam Jamison, he had appeared in J.J. Abrams “Super 8” in 2011. Nick Robinson is a regular as Ryder Scanlon on ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey,” and Moises Arias spent five years as Rico on the Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana.”

The three young actors came to Chicago recently on a promotional tour for the movie, and HollywoodChicago.com got a chance to talk about “The Kings of Summer” and their own status in the jungles of show business.

HollywoodChicago.com: How did director Jordan Vogt-Roberts get you prepped to live in the oddball universe of Chris Galletta’s screenplay?

Nick Robinson: He sent us to improvisation classes, not necessarily to prepare us for the script, but to prepare us for the other improv artists that were going to be in the film, and to develop chemistry. It’s a suspension of disbelief moment, we were living – as you said – in the world of Chris Galletta’s script, so it all made sense. There was no need to rationalize anything, because we were living in an irrational environment.

Gabriel Basso: No wilderness training or anything like that, it was all just off the cuff.

Moises Arias: I didn’t have to do anything but be weird, so it was my natural environment. [laughs]

HollywoodChicago.com: Since you guys are closer to it than I am, what do you believe the film got absolutely correct about being 15 years old in 2013?

Robinson: It was just the overall vibe of 15. The weird state of being that it is. You’re not an adult, so no one treats you like one, but you’re also not a child and no one treats you like that either. You’re in limbo. It’s a weird time within yourself, too, because you’re aware of the world, you know things, you’ve taken sex ed [laughs], but people tend to still dismiss you as a kid, and you are in many ways still a kid.

Basso: The chemistry of being that age was captured as well. We’re all friends now, and it was really fun being in the woods with these guys. It captured those moments well.

HollywoodChicago.com: What appealed to you most about escaping it all as the characters, and what would you think you couldn’t live without if you were to actually do it?

Arias: Biaggio [Arias’ character] didn’t want to escape, he was just there for the ride. In reading the script, I thought that it was genius. As far as what I couldn’t live without, I think most people would automatically say phones. For me, it’s the access to movies and shows. I don’t like video games, so it’s pretty easy for me.

Basso: I can sympathize with escaping, because at that age you think you know everything, and your parents are there to remind you that you don’t. You want to be the master of your own universe, and you try to create one. I’m going to get crap for this, but I would miss soccer.

Arias: You can play in the woods, you can bring a ball.

Basso: You mean dribble around the forest? I’d be an urban legend.

Arias: Basketball is harder in the woods, soccer would probably be the easiest sport to play.

Basso: I told you I’d get crap.

Nick Robinson
Nick Robinson Shows Off His ‘Beard’ in ‘The Kings of Summer’
Photo credit: CBS Films

HollywoodChicago.com: What were the key moments in all of your audition processes, where you felt you connected with the character all the way to when you received the news you were cast?

Robinson: I really enjoyed the script, Chris has such a great voice, funny and honest. I went in hoping I’d get it, but didn’t hear from them for awhile. Then I went in and read with Gabe and a few others for chemistry. Then the call came that I got it, have fun in Ohio. [laughs]

Arias: I got the script while I was on another film in New Orleans. I never did any chemistry reads or met Jordan, I did everything through video. I read the sides, and thought ‘wow,’ this guy is different. I had to read it three different ways – metaphorical, sad and scared. Really, I connected to the character when I got the part and in the process of shooting. Jordan and I worked hard to not make it a gimmick.

Basso: Again, I felt connected with my chemistry with Nick’s character. We both knew we were passionate about the characters and script, and just had a good vibe during the audition process.

HollywoodChicago.com: Since much of this film had to do with kids and their relationship with parents, what do you three personally least understand about your parent’s generation and the attitude in the way they approach life?

Robinson: How the hell did they ever live without mobile phones? [laughs]

Basso: We’re going out all the time, and we can’t communicate? We have to leave notes? [laughs]

Arias: You could get away with so much more? ‘I didn’t get your note, Moises.’ [laughs]

HollywoodChicago.com: So many of the pre-teen and teen actors get their start on Nickelodeon and Disney TV series. How did all your like your experiences on those shows, and what did you think was the downside to them, if any?

Arias: I grew up on the show. I was 10 years old when I started with ‘Hannah Montana,’ and when I finished I was 16. There are two sides to it. It was hard to find myself, after that experience, to find that character that will take you to the next step. On the other hand, I learned work ethic, improvisation and how to handle it all. It’s a great place to start, I evolved in those situations and in that job. Getting to the next phase depends on a good script like this one, or a character that separates me from what I’ve done in the past.

Robinson: It was the basics in what to do, but you can also form some bad habits as far as acting. It creates zany fun, [laughs] and I’m very appreciative of my time there.

HollywoodChicago.com: Moises, how much improvisation did the director Jordan allow you in your wackiest scenes in the movie, and how did you work it out with him?

Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Robinson
Kings in Chicago: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias, May 2nd, 2013
Photo credit: Patrick McDonad for HollywoodChicago.com

Arias: He encouraged improvisation. I always talk about the pipe scene, which was a 100% improvised. The three of us, Jordan and the Director of Photography went out to the woods on our day off, and started to mess around. We just started banging on that pipe, and I did the dance moves, tribal screams and it became part of the backbone of the story and part of the score. Chris the writer and Jordan kept encouraging me, Chris came up to me during the shoot and said, ‘why don’t you say, you met a dog that taught you how to die.’ And that made the film.

Robinson: Nick, how different was your relationship to the type of Dad that Nick Offerman was playing versus the relationship you have with your parents?

Robinson: Luckily, my relationship with my Dad and my own parents is much more functional than the relationship I had in the movie. But there are definitely similarities. Like every parent relationship, we have fights and don’t get along sometimes, but I can’t think of any specific moment of similarity. We do order Chinese take out sometimes. [laughs]

HollywoodChicago.com: Gabe, what kind of boot camp did you have to go through to portray a late 1970s kid in the film “Super 8”?

Basso: Nothing really, except a list of words not to say and substitutes for those words in that era. The clothes were horrible, though, I don’t know how people survived. [laughs] Other than that, if something happened on set, they’d just tell us.

HollywoodChicago.com: Finally Nick and Gabe, when you realized you had to grow facial hair in the film, what was your reaction when it finally grew out, and Nick will you ever grow back the rockin’ mustache?

Robinson: I have a confession. The hair was fake, it was all fake. If I could grow that ‘stache, I would grow that ‘stache.

Basso: Honestly, when they were putting on the hair, I didn’t think it would fool anybody. It just didn’t look real to me. But everywhere we go, people asked us how it was to grow out the beard. I’m just going to say from now on it was real.

“The Kings of Summer” continues its release in Chicago on June 7th. Featuring Moises Arias, Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Justin Vogt-Roberts, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and Alison Brie. Screenplay by Chris Galletta. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2013 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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