People don’t often have the courage to finally express themselves until they meet someone who allows them to follow their dreams. Children can be suppressed by their parents’ well-meaning motivations to protect them from the world. As a result, they don’t realize their full potential until they meet someone their own age who challenges them. This can be seen with the title character in the new independent drama ‘Around June,’ which is now playing in select theaters.
‘Around June’ follows the title character (played by Samaire Armstrong), who leads a quiet life in the shadow of the San Francisco shipyards. June lives under the care of her much adored Uncle Henry (portrayed by Brad William Henke), and Murry, her controlling father (played by Jon Gries). Her life improves when she meets a penniless illegal immigrant, Juan Diego (portrayed by Oscar Guerrero), who encourages her to live her own life.
Armstrong took the time to speak with us over the phone about appearing in ‘Around June,’ and what convinced her to take on the title role. She also discussed, among other things, what it was like working with Gries and the film’s writer-director, James Savoca, and what drew her to her new recurring role on the hit CBS police procedural ‘The Mentalist.’
ShockYa (SY): In ‘Around June,’ you play the title character, June. What was it about the script and the character that convinced you to take on the role?
Samaire Armstrong (SA): We get a lot of scripts in our business. The first scene opening up were very descriptive in the colors they were using in the film. I also find that in scripts, that sort of thing is left out. So I was really excited, because it clearly gave an idea to me what sort of imagination the director was working with. So that initially drew me to it. It got me excited about going in on the project.
Then it was really sweet, the director and I talked a lot about art. When he told me I got the part, he handed me an envelope that said yes on it. That was something that Yoko Ono had written in a particular art exhibit where she met John Lennon. So James was such a cool, great character. I was just blown away by his creativity.
SY: Speaking of James, he also wrote the script for the film. Do you feel it’s easier working with a director who has written the script?
SA: It’s funny, I never actually thought about that. Usually you do have the writer around when you’re shooting, or at least accessible to communicate. In my experience on the film and television projects I’ve worked on, they’ve worked closely, hand-in-hand, the writers and the directors. But it’s their project, and even if the director and the writer are there, working with the producer and director of photography, they’re always giving their input.
SY: Jon Gries plays June’s father, Murry, who is domineering and controlling towards her, in the film. What was your working relationship with Jon like?
SA: He was so lovely, and couldn’t be a nicer human being. We got to work on specific scenes that we wanted to feel comfortable going in to set, having been prepared about what we were going to say, not necessarily how we were going to say it. But the father-daughter relationship was there, because in family situations, you have a certain way of speaking to one another, in a rhythm. So that’s something we got to work on together.
SY: June lives with her father and uncle until she meets Juan Diego, whose love gives her the courage to finally break free and live her own life. Do you think that June only getting the courage to leave her family after she met Juan is reflective of what many women go through, who are in similar situations to June’s?
SA: Maybe not so much in the sense of love, but maybe in life. As you grow older and independent, it is that first step of rebellion. You’re the child until you become an adult. Both people in that relationship, parent and child, face a difficult adjustment. For a child to finally stand up for what they want, which is different than the parents’ intention for them, as their own desires grow and change, they become their own individual.
SY: Since ‘Around June’ is an independent film, did that pose any restrictions on what you were able to film?
SA: Not so much in what we were able to film, but more in how we were able to market it. The push for a film to be released and for people to see it is easier done with obviously a bigger budget behind it. But it seemed as though filming in San Francisco and having locals in the production, they were pretty enthusiastic in helping us.
SY: ‘Around June’ was an Official Selection at such film festivals as the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Radar Film Festival in Hamburg Germany Columbus International Film + Video Festival. What is the feeling like, knowing that people around the world are positively reacting to the film?
SA: (laughs) You know, I’ve done a few interviews, and during the interviews, it was the first time that I became aware that other people are as excited about it as I am. This movie was filmed quite a few years ago. I have taken a departure from the process that James has taken on in pushing the film, and having it be released in other countries.
Sometimes on Facebook, I’ll get random messages about the movie, like “Wow, that was a a great film.” In the sense of critics, it’s really an awesome feeling to get that feedback. I think critics are pretty direct. Not a lot of them want to toot to your horn and make you feel good about a project. Their job is to either break it apart, or love it, depending on how they feel about it. They watch movies all the time, so they tend to have a pretty high opinion of their own opinion.
To get that positive feedback, it’s really rare. So it’s been an interesting thing to keep hearing that.
SY: Besides ‘Around June,’ you’ve starred in several film genres, including horror and comedy. Do you have a preference of one genre over the other?
SA: I like dark comedies, and I don’t personally care for slapstick. It is fun to film, but I like something that’s more realistic in the humor, and then have a hint of seriousness to it. There’s still human nature regards to what’s right and wrong, and that’s what makes it funny, versus someone falling, for example. But even that happens in real life, so I don’t know.
SY: One of your first major film roles was as Abigail in ‘Stay Alive.’ How was filming that movie different than shooting ‘Around June?’
SA: That’s a good question. Well, they were two entirely different locations. New Orleans (for ‘Stay Alive’) was very spooky. San Francisco is very eccentric. I always, whether I want to or not, definitely take on the character during the time of the filming. With ‘Around June,’ the reality of what I’m saying and what I’m doing, is very sincere.
So a more light-hearted project, I will feel light-hearted. But if I’m doing scenes that are more intense, I can’t help but carry that feeling. With June, she was very naive and sweet. It gets to this boiling point. With ‘Stay Alive,’ you’re always under this constant pressure.
SY: Besides appearing in ‘Around June,’ you can also be seen on the current season of ‘The Mentalist’ as Summer Edgecombe. What was it about the character and the show that convinced you to take on the role?
SA: It’s so cool. I think to be a successful actress, and I mean successful, if you’re working and able to get jobs, is that you get a character description, or the opportunity to audition for a role. If you’re lucky, you don’t get confined, and you don’t just get the roles that you think they want to see. You bring your qualities that can potentially lead to their character.
With Summer, what appealed to me specifically was this bitchy sweetness, where she was clearly a sweet person that had this way of putting you down while smiling. In a lot of my relationships, with my friends or otherwise, I think I have that playfulness as well. So that was really exciting to me, to be able to draw on that.
SY: Were you a fan of the show before you got the role of Summer?
SA: I have watched it a few times. I don’t get the opportunity to watch much TV. Tim (Kang, who plays Special Agent Kimball Cho) invited me out, once I got the character, so that they could explain to me about the show. He also explained to me about his character, and the fact that he hadn’t smiled twice in the four years. I sort of uncovered what the audience sees in the storyline, and that sort of thing.
SY: Would you be interested in expanding your role as Summer, and appear more frequently on the show, if you were asked?
SA: It wouldn’t even be a question in my mind. I love the crew and writers and producers and actors on that set. When I got to the set, I heard several times, you’re going to love everyone. This is about being fun and doing your job well. They don’t tolerate someone who doesn’t go with the jive. Without a doubt or a question in my mind, would I be happy to participate further.
SY: Besides ‘The Mentalist,’ you have also appeared on such shows as ‘Entourage’ and ‘The O.C.’ What is it about television that you find appealing? Would you be interested in doing other series in the future?
SA: Yes, absolutely. There is that question, do you want to be in films, or do you want to be on television? There used to be more of a prestige to say that you were a film actor than a TV actor. I think that’s a very passe way of thinking now. I think there’s such quality projects on television now.
I’ve also become attached to the people I work with. So if you’re lucky enough to have a show that’s withstanding several seasons, you don’t have to say goodbye within six weeks to three months.
But also, I come from years of theater performances. With television, I think that’s the closest you get to immediate audience reception and feedback. It’s an eight-day turn-around. Meaning the episode takes eight days to film, and another week-and-a-half to two weeks to edit. So we’re about two or three episodes ahead of the audience while filming. So we get to see right away how they’re responding, while we’re still working on it, which is fun.
Plus, television now reaches more viewers around the world than some films. That’s really a crapshoot of whether it will be in theaters, or straight-to-DVD? Will it be on Netflix? With television, if it works in the States, it’s going to go all over the world.
Written by: Karen Benardello