What drew you to the film?
Morgan Saylor: It felt like a uniquely honest story about young people. I usually play younger [characters] still—they like to cast me as like a 16-year-old—so most of the things that I read are high school comedies that are fun and sweet, but that don’t feel important or about people I know. I was also scared of the script. It was obviously a little out there, but it definitely felt like a challenge. It didn’t feel like I would be bored, it didn’t feel like it would be easy, so that was exciting to my actor brain.
Elizabeth Wood:When she first walked into the audition, it was a blizzard outside and she had on this huge puffy coat. Like, it was literally to the ground and duct-taped together. I was like, “This is weird.” She took off her coat and she had on the shortest shorts you've ever seen and, like, a bikini top. And she threw herself down on the ground in the corner and started doing the scene. I was like, “Oh, okay!” She just looked so young. I was like, "How old are you again? Like, are you old enough to take your top off?” [Laughs] She was 19—which still felt very, very, young—and so intelligent. So I was just like, “Wow, this just feels so real.” More than anything, she felt so real.
What was your relationship with each other like?
MS: It’s been two and a half years now that we have known each other. We started hanging out right away, which doesn’t always happen in film, but I happened to be doing a play in the city and she was, of course, prepping for the film. We started with just lunches and we slowly began to get to know one another, and then we started hanging out, and hanging out on the roof that the film takes place on, going to shows, and having family dinner with her baby, and it was fun.
EW: We were lucky enough to have a lot of time working together before we shot. We met weekly, for months. We did video exercises.
MS: She would give me assignments. She would say like, “Film a video of you dancing to this song,” or “Come over and let me show you how to twerk because I know you can’t,” and shit like that.
EW: We also had a lot of very personal conversations because I felt like we both really needed that trust. She needed to be able to trust that I was going to be able to handle the material appropriately and protect her. And I needed to trust that she was going to be confident enough to really go for it in the way that she required for the role.
Do you relate to Leah in any way?
MS: No, it feels like such a weird, different thing. I mean, there is the physical transformation that made it feel very different. Like, dyeing all that hair bleach blonde. When I got on the train later that day, it was like ten more catcalls… ugh. I mean, being comfortable in really short shorts and a tank top and the way you hold your body was all different feeling than me.
EW: I really think the transformation, the month leading up to [the filming], kind of allowed that exploration, and to figure out what felt right for her.
There are some dark scenes, most notably the one involving rape and Chris Noth, that get difficult to watch. How did you approach those takes?
EW: A lot of jokes helped with this really dark material. That being said, it was incredibly difficult, and I had this surreal moment where I asked Morgan, “Do you want to know the real story that this event came from? Or do you want to just do it from your character's point of view?” And she said, “No, I wanna know.” So I'm telling her these, like, crazy details I've never shared with anyone. And Chris Noth—who was like [Sex and the City’s] Mr. Big from my childhood—walks out, and he's like, “Hey, you told her the real story? Tell me.” And I'm like, Oh my god. So I sit down and I'm telling to Morgan and Mr. Big—he hates when I call him Mr. Big, but I can't help it—this dark, dark story and in the end, we all just started giggling. And we went upstairs and we did the scene and we had to film it a million different ways. And it was so hard to watch, but like they're both so incredibly professional and handled it so amazingly.
MS: Elizabeth was very open and super down to talk about any kind of relationship or sexual or drug or emotional thing, which was really, really helpful. But, to be honest, it feels like the scenes where I’m doing coke alone in the room were the most difficult because that’s really about getting into a weird mental mind space, and you don’t have anyone to play with and to break out afterward and be like, “Well, that was weird,” which even with the weirder sexual stuff, you do. The stuff alone is really hard because it is just you playing in your brain to create this little fucked-up kind of scene.