Actress AnnaLynne McCord honed her bad girl TV persona on Nip/Tuck and 90210. She now takes it the big screen in Fired Up!, a comedy about two football players who, in lieu of going to football camp, sign up for cheerleading camp. In the film, McCord plays Gwyneth, head cheerleader of the elite Panthers squad. North by Northwestern caught up with the actress in a conference call interview where McCord dished on doing her own stunts, being a loner on set and how Fired Up! will cleverly avoid comparisons to Bring it On.
What made you want to play the character Gwyneth?
I really kind of got turned onto the role because it was a comedy, and I have done a lot of dramas. I wanted to get a chance to be funny, and I got that chance in Fired Up!.
How would you describe your sense of humor?
Well, pretty much in this film I am a straight-shooter. I’m super serious and that can only be funny when things are a light matter and someone takes it way too serious, so Gwyneth is very, very serious about her cheer leading. It’s pretty funny.
Did you have to audition for the role?
Yes, I did have to audition for the role. It’s quite a funny story. I went in and did the whole audition process, and there’s a part in the film where I did a little thing with my hands, and I make a claw and I say, “Panthers out,” and the whole team does it with me. And the director actually was like, “Can you do a claw thing?” when I was in the audition, and I was like “Ahh!” and I did my little… I put my feet together and put my claw out and he said, “Yeah that’s great.” Then in the rehearsal process, after I was offered the role, he was like, “What’s that thing you did in the audition?” And I showed him again what I did, and it became something throughout the film that my team, the Panthers, do every time we end a conversation.
You were home schooled, so prior to filming had you been exposed to cheerleading at all?
Obviously I did not get an opportunity to be a cheerleader, so [for the film] I did a lot of boot camp. Once I was offered the role, we had a couple weeks where we came in, exercised pretty much everyday and did rehearsals. It was a lot of work. I have to say, any of you guys out there who are cheerleaders — major props to you, it’s a dangerous sport. You guys work your butts off. It’s really incredible, the skill and focus that goes into being a cheerleader, and I had a lot of fun learning about it.
How was filming Fired Up! different from shooting a TV show?
A film project is a big production. There’s a difference between shooting days, for one. I’ll shoot seven and a half pages on a TV show on one day, while I’ll only shoot two pages on a movie in one day. [On a film] there’s a lot more repetition, longer hours and also there’s just a lot of focus on details. A film is about the setting and the place and making the audience feel like they’re really there, and a TV show is more about the dialogue and what’s going on. So there’s a big difference between the two productions
How do you approach the role of antagonist?
It’s an interesting process playing the bad girl. It’s actually a lot of fun because I get to really play around and do fun stuff and build layers onto my characters, but it’s also something you step into, and you make sure you step out of because you don’t want to be that person in real life. I listen to music, I have my iPod. Especially on the set of Fired Up! — I was pretty sure of who I wanted Gwyneth to be and [since] it was a funny film, so a lot of times the actors in between takes are making jokes and it’s important for me to stay serious during that time. I listen to music, I go off by myself and I keep clear on what I want to do. I really kind of separate myself from the rest of the cast. I kind of was a loner on that film. On 90201 and the other shows, there are obviously different things that go into who my characters are, you know, different levels of bad.
What do you think was the most fun part of playing Gwyneth?
The best part is you get to be a mean person! You get to take out your aggression; it’s allowed! No… [laughs]. I know there’s one scene where the writer-director [Will Gluck] — [and] I think it’s always a cool thing for an actor, to work with the writer-director — he had this part where Gwyneth does this miming thing where I take a napkin out of my pocket and proceed to wipe imaginary drool from the other team captain. Which was hysterical, but originally in acting like it was serious, it was so obnoxious — like, if someone did that in real life it would be the most messed up thing in the world. But it’s fun to get to do those little things, and then step off the set and be a nice person in real life. But it’s good to have a little fun with that, you know, maybe get back at someone who did that to you in your own life.
You’ve done some films in New York and L.A. — which city do you prefer in terms of acting?
I love New York. I definitely am biased. I lived there for four years. I am happy when I am in New York. But in L.A., the weather is perfect and we don’t really ever have to have rain days, so when you are shooting a film like Fired Up! and you’re outdoors a lot… It was very nice to know that we were going to shoot what we planned to shoot because it wasn’t going to rain. It’s difficult on the East Coast and obviously in New England, knowing a cloud is going to come over, and it’s going to start pouring rain for an hour or two. That can definitely put us behind schedule if we’re shooting a big project. So there’s good and bad sides to both, I guess.
Bring it On is a classic cheerleading movie. How is Fired Up! different?
It’s funny, because our writer in some way had in mind that people are going to compare Fired Up! to Bring it On, and Bring it On has become a cult film, so to speak. But in the actual movie, there’s a scene where all of the cheerleaders come and we sit down in the middle of the park at cheer camp and we actually watch Bring it On and all of the cheerleaders are lip-syncing the line and it’s kind of hysterical when you watch it. This film is itself a bit different because Bring it On was a bit more about the cheerleaders, and this film does try to focus on the two lead guys [Nicholas D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen] and their two characters and how they [as football players] kind of cheat their way into going to cheer camp. They’ve kind of been through the mill with the girls at high school and kind of want to go through all the cheerleaders at cheer camp. It’s all their story line more so than just the cheerleaders. We definitely knew they were going to compare it so we went ahead and said we’re going to compare it for you and put Bring it On in the film.
Did you do your own stunts in the film and if so, did you ever get injured?
Yes, I did do my own stunts. I was very proud of myself, actually! I didn’t have as many days training as the rest of the cast because I was actually doing a project in New York and I came in a couple days late and I walked in and they pretty much were like, “Alright, you ready to go? Let’s throw you up in the air.” And I was like, “Oh my God, here we go.” I actually learned three air stunts — two of which were cut out which I was very bummed about. But I definitely loved the fact they let me do my own stunts. Sometimes they don’t like the actors to do that because you can incur injuries. I had one incident where someone else fell and hit me and I saw stars for a few seconds, but other than that I was alright, and it was a good time.
In that Fired Up! is a cheerleading movie about guys, do you think it’s pioneering in that sense?
To a certain extent, history definitely repeats itself. This story is actually based on two of our producers who actually in high school got into cheer camp to go meet girls, which to me is kind of genius. It might be pioneering but there have definitely been a couple of guys who…thought “Hey, there are a bunch of girls who are out there, you know, in little tiny miniskirts. Let’s go be a part of it.”