Sometimes the most meaningful relationships arise from the most unexpected circumstances. That’s certainly the case for the protagonists in the upcoming comedy, ‘Banana Split,’ which exists within an equally complicated and funny female world view.
‘Banana Split’ will be available On Digital and On Demand this Friday, March 27, courtesy of Vertical Entertainment. The movie was co-written by one of its actresses, Hannah Marks, and Joey Power. It also marks the feature film directorial debut of longtime Director of Photography, Benjamin Kasulke.
Actress Liana Liberato stars alongside Marks in ‘Banana Split,’ which follows April (Marks), who has spent the last two years of high school in a relationship with Nick (Dylan Sprouse), until their tear-stained breakup. In the aimless summer between graduation and college, the newly single April mends her heartbreak by striking up an unexpected friendship with an unlikely candidate: Nick’s new girlfriend, Clara (Liberato).
In the comedy, Marks and Power crafted an honest portrayal of a coming of age story, which is set within the intertwined love lives of teenagers in the twenty first century. The story explores the universal themes of not only a love triangle between the three adolescent main characters, but also the complicated and genuine female friendship between April and Clara. The honesty of the equal joys and complications in their friendship universalizes the high school experience of the current teen generation, which has had access to social media and the internet since infancy, which hasn’t always been easy to capture in movies.
‘Banana Split’ does a gripping job of showing how deep friendships can become equally more essential and complicated as teens grow up. Relationships in the modern internet age can be difficult, as instant virtual access to everyone’s life can make the terrain of overlapping love and friendship even more difficult to navigate. But the friendship between April and Clara helps make the audience empathize with what their path to friendship, and connections between young women in general, feels like.
Liberato generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘Banana Split’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the performer discussed that she was partially drawn to the script because she valued how the female friendship is uniquely presented in a rom-com that’s about diverse teen love. She also embraced working with both Kasulke and Marks, as they both also championed the way the relationship between April and Clara unfolded in the screenplay, but also encouraged the cast to infuse their own ideas into their characters.
The conversation with Liberato began with the actress explaining why she was drawn to play Clara in ‘Banana Split.’ She noted that she’s known “Hannah for about 15 years, and she and I have always dreamt of working together. I remember when she first wrote this script, and she shared the first draft with me. I loved it from the very beginning,” the actress revealed. “We would read different drafts together, so that she could hear it out loud.”
Liberato added that “It was always our plan to be in the movie together, but this industry can be pretty unpredictable. So we always took everything with a grain of salt. Then when it landed at (production company) American High, they let me be a part of the movie,” she recalled. “But I was always in love with the project, and wanted to be a part of it, one way or another. It was a dream to play Clara.”
With the story not just focusing on the romantic relationships that Nick has with both Clara and April throughout his adolescence, but also the new friendship between the two girls, the performer also embraced her on-screen relationship with Marks. She thinks it’s important to create meaningful female relationships on screen, especially amongst young women.
“I think that’s one of the things that drew me to the project in the first place,” Liberato admitted. “At the time when Hannah first wrote the script, there weren’t a lot of movies out there that focused on female friendships, especially in a rom-com. I love that the romance in the movie is actually with the two friends; I think that’s really important. There aren’t a lot of movies that are made with this type of subject. I think Hannah’s voice is so true to this generation, and a lot of people will relate to it.”
In addition to the new friendship that forms between April and Clara, the actress also appreciated to the fact that the comedy shows how social media and technology can make life more complicated and challenging. “I think that’s why this movie will connect so much with this young generation. When Hannah wrote this script, she was a teenager. The fact that the movie is now coming out, and it’s still relevant, says a lot. Her voice rings true to everything that’s happening right now with teenagers.”
In addition to working with Marks as one of the co-writers on the movie, Liberato also enjoyed the fact that they were also able to work together in front of the camera. Liberato described the process of working together as co-stars as “awesome. We obviously spent a lot of years reading these characters. So obviously, the chemistry between us was seamless. It was fun, because we know how one another works. So if we were in the middle of a scene, or in the middle of shooting, we’d say, ‘Let’s try it this way,’ and we felt really comfortable doing that.
“It was also very convenient for me, because I was working with the writer of the project! So anytime I had a question or a suggestion, I could look over, and she would be right there, and I could ask her anything I wanted, which was really fun,” the performer added with a laugh. She added that before starring in ‘Banana Split,’ she “hadn’t starred in a lot of comedies, but I still felt like I was in a safe environment to branch out, and try this genre.”
Like she mentioned, ‘Banana Split’ is one of the first true comedies that Liberato has starred in. She embraced the experience of bringing humor to her portrayal of Clara, and working in the comedy space as an actress. “It was so fun. There are things you can read on a page one way, and the way that it comes across on screen can be entirely different,” she explained. “Once you get what’s on the page, you can branch out a little, and try different things by improvising. That was something that I wasn’t quite used to at the time, so that was a really fun challenge for me.”
Collaborating with Kasulke as ‘Banana Split’s helmer was another experience that the performer embraced, and also described as being “awesome. He’s such a talented director, and has such a peaceful presence on set…he just eased all of the anxiety” that she contemplated with when she first arrived on set. “That’s exactly what an actor wants. He was such a wonderful collaborator and listener, and always had great ideas.”
Despite the fact that the story takes place in Los Angeles, the film was shot on location in Kasulke’s hometown of Syracuse, New York, which was another experience that Liberato enjoyed. “I always love going on location, because I feel like everyone in the cast can really bond. After work, you go to your hotel, and everyone has dinner together and hangs out. You only really have each other on location, so it forces the cast to bond in ways that you don’t really do when you’re in L.A.”
But the actress also admitted that the experience “was also challenging, because we were filming a movie that takes place in the summer, but we were filming in the winter in Upstate New York. But it’s cool to see the movie, because you would never know that the windows behind us were covered in snow!,” she added with a laugh.
After playing on the festival circuit for the past year-and-a-half, at such festivals as the L.A. Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, ‘Banana Split’ is set be released on On Demand and Digital. Liberato feels that the On Demand method is a great distribution model for an independent film like this one. “It is beneficial, especially during a time like this. Hopefully, most of us are spending a lot of time inside. I think this is a great movie to escape all the craziness that’s happening in the world right now. People can watch this uplifting, funny movie at home.”