By Ashley Spencer
From 'One Fine Day' to 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' to 'Parenthood,' actress Mae Whitman is no stranger to the Hollywood spotlight. Now, she's starring in one of her most exciting roles yet as Mary Elizabeth in 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower,' in theaters September 21.
Mae took time to exclusively chat with J-14 about the flick, her painful boy drama, and what it's like to hang out with Emma Watson, Nina Dobrev, and Logan Lerman!
J-14: We're huge 'Perks' fans! Can you give us three reasons why our readers should check it out?
Mae: One, it takes place in the '90s, and the '90s are awesome. We had an incredible, incredible wardrobe designer who did the most amazing job with all of the costumes. Plus, all of the sets and the music are really '90s -- it's just a very cool era. Two, it is a perfect representation of those long summer nights in school and all those feelings of loving and having your own crushes and meeting your friends for the first time. Three, it's a beautiful love story with beautiful people that have huge hearts and that really love. There's some real magic in there, so I definitely would not let this film go by.
J-14: Your 'Perks' character, Mary Elizabeth, isn't afraid to stand out and do her own thing. Was that at all how you were in high school?
Mae Whitman: I definitely feel that I relate to Mary Elizabeth a lot about being a control freak, having strong opinions, being too bossy... These are all things I've been accused of before. I think it was beautiful to see ['Perks'] represent Mary Elizabeth in a way that you understand what a beautiful, incredible person she is. I love that so much, and I was so happy that someone could tell her story.
J-14: There's a devastating moment in the film where Mary Elizabeth faces intense heartbreak. Did you ever experience that sort of unrequited love?
Mae: I remember one boy in my class who was really popular, and everyone was like, 'He really likes you. He wants to date you.' And I was like, 'Great, today's the day! I'm going to get a big date!' And then he kind of took me aside and was like, 'Yeah, I don't really want to date you. I just think it'll be funny if we tell our friends we're dating.' It was terrible, but it was one of those things where -- like the moment with Mary Elizabeth and Charlie -- it's really about listening and being aware of what you want and need. In a big way, Mary Elizabeth is not a listener. She was not really aware of the fact that Charlie didn't even appreciate all of the wonderful things about her. That to me was, like, a big lesson there. It wasn't that Charlie was the biggest heartbreak of her life -- it was that, in a way, he just wasn't right for her. It was a lesson for her to start listening more.
J-14: Since Emma Watson is British, she had to really work on her American accent to play Sam. Did you and the other American actors help her at all?
Mae: There were certain things that were just hard [for her] to overcome and sometimes you get mental hang-ups and uncertain words right before shooting. She really had to work on the word 'go.' So we'd repeat [her lines] to her before takes like, 'Go there. Go there.' She might have been nervous about it, but she pretty much had it down from the beginning.
J-14: What's something fans would be surprised to learn about Nina Dobrev (who plays Candace) and Logan Lerman (Charlie)?
Mae: That's a great question. Nina is amazing. I didn't know her at all [before filming], and I barely had any scenes with her, but the time that we spent together was really great. I had some great girl time with Nina and Emma. We hung out, we traded clothes, we talked. Logan is an amazing musician, which I don't know if anyone knew. Same with Ezra [Miller]. We would all jam out and play piano. Logan is actually really great with writing music that's orchestral, like for a movie score. He writes these beautiful piano pieces. He sometimes just writes them for people that he meets and inspire him, so every once in a while he'll be like, 'Hey, I forgot. I wrote this when I first met you. Here!' And it's this beautiful little piano piece that is great to hold dear. He's a really sensitive and special individual.
Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate