By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Harley Quinn Smith reprises her role as a sassy Canadian convenience store clerk alongside real life friend Lily-Rose Depp in Kevin Smith’s whacked out horror comedy “Yoga Hosers,” the second in his True North Trilogy.
Cast as Colleen McKenzie in 2014’s “Tusk,” Smith, daughter of filmmaker Kevin Smith and journalist turned actress Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, had an epiphany while making that film.
“I realized that (acting) was fun,” says the tall blond 17-year-old.
Before that, Smith aspired to be a bass player in a rock ‘n’ roll band. She still enjoys being a musician, but acting has definitely moved to the forefront of Smith’s career aspirations.
Having just finished lunch, Smith is cordial and self-possessed as she talks about her first starring role. Though fighting a late summer cold, she forges ahead with the task of promoting her film like a pro.
“Yoga Hosers” centers on her character, Colleen McKenzie, a high school student who works alongside her best friend Colleen Collette (Depp, daughter of actor Johnny Depp and singer Vanessa Paradis, who have supporting roles in the film), at a Canadian convenience store called Eh-2-Zed, owned by Collette’s single dad (Tony Hale). The sophomores plan to go to a senior party but their plans are derailed when dad and his new girlfriend (Natasha Lyonne) decide to go out of town for the weekend, and they’re stuck running the store late one Friday night when lethal wiener-like creatures from the town’s Nazi past invade and begin to wreck havoc. With the help of a Montreal manhunter named Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp), the girls go on the defense, using their well-honed yoga skills (learned from their yogi Bayer, played by Justin Long) to fight them off. Much like “Tusk,” it’s a strange, creepy, comical trip for a certain kind of audience.
As teenagers, Smith and Depp served as advisers to her screenwriter-director dad on the lingo their characters would use. For example, they convinced Smith to incorporate the word “basic,” a derogatory term that the girls use liberally throughout to film to insult their detractors.
Smith is keenly aware that she was born with advantages over most young actresses trying to break into the business, but she is completely determined to prove that she has chops to stay on her own merits.
Q: Your characters were the breakout characters from “Tusk.” What is it like work with your dad, Kevin, as a director?
Smith: It doesn’t differ much from real life because he directs me in real life as a father. It’s not really that much different. People assume it’s going to be different but it isn’t. It’s really not that different from him giving me life advice. He treats me on set like everybody else. He’s so kind and he treats everybody with the utmost respect. He has a lot of patience so it’s not a scary situation. It was an easy and fun atmosphere.
Q: This is your first lead role. Were you intimidated at all?
Smith: Yeah. It’s a very weird, unique situation to be in—being in a film where you’re starring in with your family and your friends and actors you’ve looked up to your whole life while also being handed it. I had a seamless introduction into the entertainment world, which doesn’t usually happen with most people. I’m extremely thankful that my start into this world was a breeze so that really motivates me to work twice as hard as any other actor to compensate for how easy it was to get into this business. It was the most amazing time and I’m so thankful for it.
Q: You grew up on your dad’s movie sets. Were you always interested in the world of filmmaking and acting?
Smith: Not in any way. I didn’t even understand the extent of what my dad did because it was familiar to me to be surrounded by actors beyond the set. It didn’t seem out of the ordinary. It’s just something that happened with my family. I was never like, “Oh, this is what my dad does.” It was more like, “Oh, this is how we spend our time.” I was never interested in it because it seemed like it was already a part of my life.
Q: What did you want to do?
Smith: I wanted to play bass in a rock band for a long time. That’s what I had my mind set on. That’s what I thought was going to be my career. But when we filmed “Tusk” I realized that (acting) was fun. I never thought about that when I watched movies. That was one of the most fun experiences I had in my life. It just seemed like it felt right.
Q: The Colleens constantly are texting and judging those that cross their path. Did you give your dad advice on the dialogue of a 16-year-old?
Smith: Definitely. He’s pretty up to date and super active on social media and stuff but there’s no way you can know teen lingo and teen behavior unless you are one, even if you live with one. Obviously, I spend a lot of time with my dad but even I hear new words my friends are saying and wonder what it could possibly mean. So when he wrote the script and Lily and I started to read it, we would have meetings once or twice a week and we’d tell him that some of these words are simply things we’d never say and he could replace it with this. That’s where “basic” came from, and it became a big part of the movie. When we were filming, that was the word of the year.
So we definitely assisted with the language of it but the Instacam part of it was my dad’s idea.
Q: Was “basic” part of your lingo or did you make it up?
Smith: It’s a strong word that used a lot in the teen vocabulary. It’s an insult. I’d never want to be called “basic.” You’re following the norm to a gross extent; you’re a follower.
Q: Speaking of your music, you and Lily-Rose get to perform three times in this. How fun was that?
Smith: It was so fun. I’m singing in the movie but I wouldn’t call myself a singer. Lily-Rose can definitely sing. She has an amazing voice. It was fun to play bass when we filmed. My favorite scene in the whole movie is when we sing (the rap song) “I’m the Man.” Although that’s not really singing it was the most fun to shoot. It’s my favorite part to watch because I think we look pretty cool. I’d always wanted to be in a band and I never looked as cool as I do in the movie. I was super shy into myself but I got to fulfill my rock star dreams.
Q: You have another year of school ahead, right?
Smith: Yeah. I can’t wait to finish.
Q: Are you going to go to college or continue to act?
Smith: I go to an all-girls prep school. It’s really a fun time, clearly. I think they may or may not shun me if I don’t apply to college. But I don’t know whether I’m going to go because I have an extreme drive to work. All I want in the world is to work. There’s no other way I’d rather spend my time. I’d love to expand my knowledge and I appreciate any opportunity to expand my education but at the same time I feel like once you turn 18 it’s a prime time to start going into TV and stuff like that because you don’t have legal limitations of being a minor. I doubt I’ll go to college because I have a craving that will not be denied until I work. I was considering it for a while but I feel college is something you have to figure out what you want to do or practice your craft. I’d like to continue going to acting classes to strengthen my craft, I feel good about it now and I’m ready to show the world that I’m ready to work as hard as anyone else. Just because I got here very easily it’s not like I don’t deserve it. College is a maybe a no go. Or maybe later. James Franco went to college so much later. There are subjects that are fun to learn about even if you don’t want to pursue it. Like, I love science and I’d love to learn more about the fields of science that I’m interested in, like chemistry. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go to college and study chemistry. It’s my favorite subject.
Q: You’re doing “Moose Jaws” next, right?
Smith: Yeah. That’s my dad’s next movie. The final of the True North Trilogy. That’s what’s on his plate next. The Colleens are supposed to come back in it. But the star of it is Harley Morenstein, who plays Toilet Paper Man in “Yoga Hosers.” He’s the host of (You Tube’s) “Epic Meal Time.” He’s the nicest guy in the world. The Colleens will be in it about as much as they were in “Tusk.” It’s our time to step back and let the other Harley have the spotlight.
Q: You want to do other stuff outside of the Kevin Smith world, right?
Smith: Working with my dad is one of my favorite things to do in the world. To get to share your love for the same craft with each other, we both have a deep respect for any type of art. So to get to link our careers together is such an amazing thing. But it’s important to me to also build a career outside of that because I want to prove although I got here because of my dad, I’m staying because I can deserve to and I can work as hard as anyone else. I go on auditions all the time but I’m not the most hirable because I’m still in school. They don’t want to hire someone who has to be tutored on set but I’m almost out of that world, so then it will be better.
Q: You and Lily-Rose have known each other for how long?
Smith: We met in kindergarten.
Q: So that picture you two as youngsters in the film is real, not Photoshopped?
Smith: Yeah. I always wondered how they did that in movies. There are always pictures in movies of couples when they were younger, and I wondered, “How did they do that?” But, yeah, that’s our real picture.
Q: You two have a great chemistry onscreen, do you get to hang out a lot?
Smith: I’ve lived here (in Los Angeles) since I was two. She is a busy gal right now. She spends a lot of time in France. I don’t get to see her as much as I like, but we definitely get a chance to talk all the time. I’m so happy for her and everything she’s doing right now.
Q: How fun is it speaking Canadian?
Smith: (She laughs.) It’s so simple. It’s really just three words you have to change. But it’s so over the top. We’re clearly not Canadian but I really tried to fake an accent.
Q: You got to do a lot of action and CGI in this.
Smith: That was dope. I definitely got a nice workout for the first time in a long time learning those moves. I was so sore for a week.
Q: Was that you doing the body slams in the convenience store?
Smith: No, that wasn’t me. That was my stunt double.
Q: Was it weird doing the CGI with the Bratzis?
Smith: Definitely. We learned routines. There were some rubber dolls that we got to hit. Besides the “I’m the Man” scene, that scene was my favorite.
Q: Do you practice yoga in real life?
Smith: No. I did it once and hated it. I feel like it requires so much patience that I don’t have. I’m not very agile nor flexible so I was like that’s not for me.
Q: What’s your workout of choice?
Smith: It’s Pop Physique. It’s like a barre class. You’re doing some ballet moves. You’re not feeling like you’re going to die like in a spin class.
Q: Has your mom advised you on dealing with the press?
Smith: I forgot that she used to do that. No, but she’s one of the smartest people I know. She does give me advice but I never thought of it from that point of view. She’s given me tons of advice.