Sarah Hyland Talks Struck By Lightning, in theaters starting Friday, January 11th
You may know her best as Haley Dunphy, the oldest of the Dunphy clan's three children on Modern Family. This week, Sarah Hyland stars in the new teen comedy Struck by Lightning, where she plays high school cheerleader Claire Mathews opposite Glee star Chris Colfer. We recently caught up with the young actress to chat with her about this role, which finds her involved in a scandal that eventually leads to the death of one of her classmates.
How different are Claire Mathews and Haley Dunphy? Here is our conversation.
In talking with Chris Colfer about Struck by Lightning, he explained that he had a hand in the casting of this project. Was Chris someone you knew before coming aboard?
Sarah Hyland: I did know him. Just from events and such. It was more of a friendly passing-by relationship more than anything else. I auditioned for it, like regularly. They asked me for a callback, and after that, it was a mix and match chemistry test for all of the young people. Chris Colfer was not there for that. But [producer] Roberto [Aguire] was. It was a bunch of fun. We had the blackmailing scene. I looked around the room at one point, and realized that I knew about 90% of the people in there. I was already friends with everyone. I knew that if I booked this movie, I was going to have fun no matter what.
So, when we see some of those ensemble scenes, where everyone is together, you guys had already discovered your chemistry together. That's why we get such a strong sense that these people all really go to school together...
Sarah Hyland: Yeah.
What do you feel the main theme of the movie is? In watching it, I felt that there was a frustration coming from Chris in terms of this younger generation not being able to grasp their ability to have an imagination. That the fantasy aspect of daydreaming is kind of dead for our kids growing up today. Did you feel that as well when you read the screenplay?
Sarah Hyland: Yeah. There is definitely that. I also see that kids should be dreaming big. They shouldn't be pigeonholing themselves to the way they are told they should be, or where they are gong to go in life.
The last line of the movie, Chris talks about all the dreams this young man had that never came true. That hits kind of hard in an emotional sense. What did you take away from that line when you first read it?
Sarah Hyland: After reading the whole script, it was so much to process...You know?
It is a little bit heartbreaking. It also makes you think about your own choices in this world, and what you are doing with your time in the moment. It's about what dreams really mean to people...
Sarah Hyland: Yes. It's about looking at things in a different way, and being able to reevaluate your life. Especially now, in this day, with all of these tragedies going on. All of this technology. It almost seems like we are losing the younger generation to technology, and their creativity and imaginative brains are dying. There's not as much of that as there used to be.
That goes into the scene where you guys are discussing Prom. And these young kids don't know the classic romances, or fictional couples that have been so popular with past decades in pop culture. Instead, they want to dress up like the reality stars they see on TV. Even there, reality TV is impacting the imagination of our youth culture, stunting it in weird, strange ways. Do you think younger audiences have a harder time accepting the fantasy of entertainment? Do you think this decade is more drawn to realism as opposed to make believe?
Sarah Hyland: Um...I don't know. I can't really speak on behalf of America's young adults.
What is your viewpoint on that in terms of where you are coming from, and what your friends are gravitating towards in terms of movies and TV?
Sarah Hyland: I went to a performing arts high school. I went to school with a lot of creative people. I went to school in New York City. I grew up without that jaded side to me. I don't know. I think you can immerse yourself in that other universe, if you take everything with a grain of salt.
Coming from that background, you would obviously have a more open mind in terms of discovering the creativity within yourself...
Sarah Hyland: Yeah.
Your character isn't the typical cheerleader. How did you see the character as written on the page, and what do you feel you personally brought to the role of Claire Mathews?
Sarah Hyland: I think Claire put herself on the top of the food chain at high school. She knew she was a young, pretty girl. She was never going to go anywhere in life after high school. She might as well make the most of it. So, I think there is that. In order to have power and keep power in that food chain, you have to put other people down. I think there is more to her than just a senseless, bitchy cheerleader.
Coming from a performing arts high school, did you have a lot of interaction with cheerleaders? Or was this high school setting kind of foreign to you?
Sarah Hyland: I was never around cheerleaders. Never in my life. Not at all. This was my first time wearing a cheerleaders outfit. It was very different. That is what's so great about being an actress. You get to experience things you never would in life.
Did you guys shoot in a real high school?
Sarah Hyland: the school was closed down. We shot it over the summer. But there were kids still hanging out there, skateboarding. It wasn't...You can't really shoot at a school where kids are still going there, they will go crazy.
What did you take away from the writing aspect of the film, in terms of how important writers are to the world?
Sarah Hyland: I bow down to writers. I respect them so much. I used to write when I was younger. Over the years, I, myself, have lost the passion for writing. I was definitely more of a math and science girl when I was in high school. But I think it is important to keep that imagination and creativity going.
Did you work with Chris at all in fleshing out you character. Or was she always on the page?