It may surprise you to learn that 27-year-old Robbie Amell has been regularly working in both movies and TV for the past 10 years, but that only makes his success now all the more warranted. He made his feature debut in 2005's Cheaper by the Dozen 2, where he played one of Eugene Levy's eight children, one of whom was another then-unknown rising star named Taylor Lautner. He soon landed significant arcs in shows such as Life with Derek, True Jackson, VP, 1600 Penn and Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous before landing the lead role of Stephen Jameson in CW's The Tomorrow People and then as Ronnie Raymond, one half of Firestorm in CW's The Flash. Earlier this year, he returned to the big screen as Wes Rush in CBS Films' The DUFF, which fans can now pick up on Blu-ray and DVD starting today, June 9. Here's what the talented young actor had to say about taking on this character, working with Mae Whitman, his return to The Flash next season, and possibly the spinoff DC's Legends of Tomorrow, and much more.
I've always been curious about high school movies like this. I know when you're an actor at a certain age, you have to have a range from high school to like a young adult. For you, is it odd to be a 27-year-old and take on a high school role, or is it almost flattering in some way?
Robbie Amell: You know, it's funny. I was 26 when we filmed, and when I moved to L.A. when I was 19. A lot of the roles I was up for were for people my age, and they were being cast by 24, 25 or 26 year old guys. So, to be honest with you, I would be really pissed off if I didn't get to play a high school character when I was 26, because I lost out on all of those roles when I was actually in high school. But, I mean, the truth is, Mae Whitman said something that always stuck with me, during an interview. In the years after high school, she's really gained a different perspective on things she went through in high school. I think, in order to portray things that you felt in high school, you almost need to step away from it and experience some things after, because, while it's happening, if you knew why things were happening or you really understood them, they probably wouldn't mean as much to you.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Were you at all familiar with Kody Keplinger's book before this project came to you, and what really struck you about the story and your character?
Robbie Amell: I've never read the book (laughs). When I first went in for the movie, I met with Mark Ross at CBS Films, just on a general meeting, and after hanging out for a little bit, he said he had a script for me to read. I read it and, to be honest with you, based solely on my character, because when you're reading a script, normally you're reading it with a character in mind, I put the script down after 30 pages, and I almost didn't pick it back up, because Wesley is such a stereotypical douchebag at the beginning. Luckily, my fiancee is a huge fan of teen comedies and romantic comedies, and she told me to keep reading. You really get to know this guy, and you see that he's not quite as dumb as he seems. There's a good guy there, with a good heart, and that's where I realized that this is a character I could bring a lot of myself to in the second half. The nice thing was, when I spoke to Mark, some of the jokes were dated, and he said, 'I'm a middle-aged man, and some of those jokes are dated,' so they gave us a lot of freedom to improvise. Mae Whitman, who is so unbelievably quick and funny, I was just trying to keep up. We had a lot of fun.
You were saying how good it is to have some distance between your high school days. Did coming back into that mindset make you think back about your high school days, and if there were really girls who were considered "DUFFS" back then?
Robbie Amell: Well, not just girls, girls and guys. DUFF, I think it's less of something you would think of somebody else as. I think you'd have to be pretty messed up to think of somebody as a DUFF, but I think everybody goes through times where they feel like they are the DUFF. Everybody is their own worst critic, at least most people are. I had bad skin in high school, and I used to be self-conscious about that. There were days where I had pimples on my face, and they made me as uncomfortable as anything I've experienced in my life. Those problems seem small looking back, but at the time, they were huge. It's just something that everybody has experienced. At one time or another, they've felt like the DUFF.
I know some author's can be very hands-on with adaptations, so can you talk about how present Kody Keplinger was on the set when you were in production?
Robbie Amell: Kody was very sweet. I met her maybe a week into filming, well, I met her before, but she came up to the set about a week into filming. She had such sweet things to say to us. The thing about the book is it's a little more R-rated than the movie, so we had to do the PG version of it, but she was nothing but supportive. She really thought that the casting was spot on, and she trusted us with her words, and, at the same time, making it our own. Even though it is an adaptation, changing it from an R to a PG-13 is a really big switch. I can't imagine how tough that would be as an author, but she did an unbelievable job just trusting in us, the cast, and the producers, director and crew, to do a faithful adaptation well, while having to make those changes. She had nothing but amazing things to say then, and afterwards. She's so sweet. I can't say enough great things about Kody.
You talked a bit about how they allowed you to improvise on the set. Is there a particular scene or even just a line that wasn't scripted but made it into the movie, that always stands out for you?
Robbie Amell: Yeah, for sure. The Wreck-It Ralph line was an improvised line. We had a bunch of different ones, one had to do with The Hunger Games. The "pec dance" was improvised, monster voice was improvised, the whole thing on think rock, about half of that was improvised. The great thing was, we knew what we wanted to get done, and it's not like we changed the ideas in any scenes. All the scenes were there. (Screenwriter) Josh A. Cagan did a really great job with the script, but it's just for two people to be flirting and developing this chemistry, you have to let them find it themselves. They did a great job letting Mae and I become great friends, luckily enough, because if we didn't, I'm sure you would have seen it. We really just got to try and make each other laugh and have that freedom to bring a piece of ourselves to it.
Can you talk a bit about shooting in Atlanta, and the locations they found there?
Robbie Amell: We shot the whole movie in Atlanta, and it was awesome. It was really great. We went to a Braves game, we went to a place called the Clermont Lounge, which is described as a place where strippers go to die (Laughs).
I've been to the Clermont, yeah.
Robbie Amell: Yeah, we had a cast bonding session at the Clermont. We got lucky. We all got along really well, and we were all staying really close to one another. It was fun. It was like summer camp. We shot at a real high school, and it smells like a real high school. That brought back some memories and made me feel like I hadn't studied and I was late. I enjoyed high school for a lot of reasons, and I hated high school for a lot of reasons, and when I stepped back into that high school, it was all the sh---y reasons that came flooding back.
I have to ask a little bit about The Flash. There was this amazing little trailer that kind of took on a life of its own called Superhero Fight Club that you were a part of.
Robbie Amell: I was. It was awesome.
There were all those posters that came out of that too. Have you heard anything about trying to implement that into the actual show?
Robbie Amell: (Laughs) I don't know who's idea it was, creatively, but we were doing just a photo shoot, and they were like, 'By the way, there's a stage.' Glen Winter, who directed a bunch of episodes, directed it, and Bam Bam and all of the fight choreographers from Arrow and The Flash, all choreographed. They just banged it out in like a day and a half of photoshoots, grabbing people when they could, and it was unbelievably smart. I know nothing more than what you've seen. There's been no talk of implementing it, but it was one of the best marketing strategies I've seen in a long time. It was a blast to shoot, and I would absolutely love to do some more Superhero Fight Club stuff.
You weren't announced as part of the spinoff, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, but I saw an interview with Victor Garber that Ronnie will be around. Are there plans for you to hop in for the spinoff, possibly going back and forth between both shows?
I can't imagine you've gotten any scripts yet for The Flash, but is there anything that you personally want to see happen to Ronnie, or how you want to see Ronnie grow in this second season?
Robbie Amell: I haven't gotten any scripts yet, but it picks up immediately where the finale left off, because it was such a big cliffhanger, you have to. I don't know what I'd like to see. The nice thing about the finale was getting to actually play Ronnie. You saw Ronnie in my first episode, and then I was this schizophrenic, frightened man, and then I was trying to figure things out with my other half, and I finally got to kind of play Ronnie in the finale. I was enjoying that character. I'd like to play more with that, and the relationship with Danielle Panabaker's character Caitlin, but I always have so much fun shooting with Victor, so anything else Victor and I can shoot together would be great.
You also have another film coming up called Nine Lives, and the cast is just incredible for that.
Robbie Amell: I'm actually on set, right now, for Nine Lives. I'm shooting in Montreal, yeah. It doesn't actually come out until April 2016. I have a movie coming out in three weeks called Max. I play a Marine, and it's about a dog who has PTSD and comes back from the war. It's not based on a specific true story, but this does happen to these service animals that are overseas. That's a really special movie. I wrapped The DUFF at maybe 9 PM on a Wednesday, and I missed the latest flight, so they put me in a car and they drove me from Atlanta to North Carolina, shaved my head, threw me into my Army fatigues, and put me on set with some service men and women, which was really special. I'm really excited for that movie. I'm only in the beginning. If you watch the trailer, you'll see why, but that was a really special movie to shoot. And now I'm in Montreal and I'm shooting with Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, and I'm having a blast. The movie is very weird, but very fun, it's weird in the best way. Kevin Spacey turns into a cat (laughs). It's so hard to explain, but I like to think that it's a mix between Liar, Liar and Freaky Friday (Laughs). It's pretty wild. It's almost like an 80s movie or a 90s movie, but it's being done right. Barry Sonnenfeld is directing it, and he directed Get Shorty, which is one of my favorite movies, and of course the Men In Black trilogy. He's been unbelievable to work for, so I'm just excited to go to work every day.
Just to wrap up, what would you like to say to those who didn't get a chance to see The DUFF in theaters, about why they should give it a shot on Blu-ray and DVD this week?
Robbie Amell: Well, for a teen comedy to be considered fresh on Rotten Tomatoes is pretty impressive in and of itself. So, all the guys out there, you probably think it's a chick flick. It's not. I can guarantee you will laugh and you will enjoy it. I can't tell you how many guys I have coming up to me and saying, 'Yo, my girlfriend dragged me to this movie, and I laughed my ass off. I thought it was so funny.' Ken Jeong is so funny in it, Mae Whitman really carries the movie well, and I think it's a really relatable, very fun movie to watch. And if you didn't watch The Flash, I think the whole season is on CWTV.com or the CW app you can download, and they're replaying the entire first season, so there's lots of good stuff going on.
That's my time. Thanks so much, Robbie. I really appreciate it.
Robbie Amell: Thank you. Nice talking to you.