By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Zoey Deutch is part of Hollywood royalty. Her father is filmmaker Howard Deutch (“Pretty in Pink”) and her mother is actress/filmmaker Lea Thompson (the “Back to the Future” films).
Deutch has followed her illustrious parents into show biz, and is creating her own niche as a leading lady in films. Having made her debut seven years ago on the TV series “The Suite Life on Deck,” the petite and perky actress has appeared in subsequent TV shows and films, notably playing Rose in 2014’s “Vampire Academy” and Beverly in Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some.” In 2016, she starred opposite James Franco in the comedy “Why Him?”
The in-demand actress now stars in the independent dramedy “Flower,” in which she plays Erica, a sassy suburban Los Angeles high school student, whose side gig is blackmailing older men she and her pals catch on video doing things to her that they shouldn’t be doing with a minor. Erica’s motivations aren’t purely selfish. She hopes to raise enough cash to bail her long-absent dad out of jail.
In the meantime, she lives with her free-spirited mom (Kathryn Hahn), who’s new boyfriend has a teenage son just getting out of rehab and yet still has psychological issues. Surprisingly, pretty Erica and pudgy Luke (Joey Morgan) connect, especially when Luke tells her that one of the main reasons he has anti-social behavior is because he was molested by a teacher. Luke and Erica, along with a couple of her friends, concoct a scheme to catch the guy, whom they’ve seen before at a local bowling alley. It doesn’t take long for Erica to befriend Will (Adam Scott) and soon they are making out in his car. Erica, however, has mixed feelings about trapping him, because she kind of likes him. Still, she and her friends plot to get into Will’s house, drug him and take damaging photos that will end his career. When their plan goes horribly awry, Luke and Erica take off for Mexico, and soon Luke reveals that his earlier story was not completely accurate. The film is directed by Max Winkler, son of Henry Winkler (“Happy Days”) and his wife Stacey Furstman.
In an interview promoting her new movie, the effervescent Deutch spoke about her famous parents, her activism and why “Flower” is so timely.
Q: How would you describe Erica?
Deutch: She’s a teen vigilante taking revenge on an alleged child molester. She’s morally ambiguous. She is fragile, complicated and, quite frankly, frustrating at times, which I think speaks honestly to being a teenager. I know, for myself, I was very frustrated and frustrating so I could relate to that element of her character.
Q: Your director, Max Winkler, said he didn’t want any of the actors to seem like actors in this.
Deutch: As I’m sitting here in my Prada dress. I’m making fun of myself.
Q: You captured the teenager from the San Fernando Valley completely.
Deutch: Thanks. I’ve worked hard to eliminate my Valley accent. It’s not the most charming thing to listen to and I also talk very fast as a result of being from the Valley. We shot it on location there and a little bit at the Pickwick in Burbank, which is where I used to go as a kid because they had an ice skating rink. Now, when I go, they have a bar and it’s all very exciting.
Q: Some of the scenes take place in a local bowling alley that your character hangs out. How’s your game?
Deutch: Actually, I play a game called Reverse Bowl, where you put up bumpers, and whoever gets the worst score wins. It’s hard to lose-win when the bumpers are up because you play so well when the bumpers are up. You try it; it ain’t easy.
Q: Your character becomes an activist in taking up Luke’s cause against this alleged child molester. Is there something you’d become an activist about?
Deutch: Gloria Steinem said, “You can do anything but you can’t do everything.” It spoke volumes to me in this moment how I feel—overwhelmed—with a desire to make change and do something. I’ve talked to my friends, millennials, who feel similarly. When I heard that, it was so powerful to me because it became so clear what that one thing was that I’m so passionate about, which is reproductive health and women’s rights. It’s a very large category, of course. But that is the thing that I really focus on and am very passionate about. I work with Planned Parenthood and I recently went to Sacramento and spoke on Capitol Hill where I spoke on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. I talked with (California State) Assembly members and legislators.
Q: Was that scary?
Deutch: Yes. I would never claim to be particularly well-spoken, but it was super-informative and meaningful. It’s funny when you come to terms with the fact that you’ve chosen a career path where you’re constantly forced to make things about you or asked to make things about you, and then you realize, “I don’t know if I want to make everything about me.” I’ve found it neat to be able to shed a light on something that’s bigger than me. Max (Winkler, the director) has always been very helpful in helping me write speeches. He’s a much better writer than I am. I can’t write. I have panic attacks when I have to construct an email.
Q: How does your parents feel about you going into the family business?
Deutch: (quips) They don’t talk to me; didn’t I say that? I’m very proud to be surrounded by like-minded artists and people who understand where I’m coming from, and can give me advice when asked, that is actually sound and coming from a place of experience.
Q: You took that experience to another level when last year when you, your mom, your sister and your dad were in “Year of Spectacular Men.”
Deutch: Yeah, that’s a film my sister wrote, starred in and scored. You may not know this but less than one percent of films are scored by women. My sister is a brilliant, multi-talented human being. I co-produced the film with my father, and my mother directed it and did a spectacular job.
Q: This film’s subject matter is so timely in light of what’s been happening in Hollywood and elsewhere.
Deutch: What’s interesting to people watching it now is watching it through the lens of the current climate. This movie’s very timely although we made this movie before the Harvey Weinstein scandal and before the #Timesup movement and before the #Metoo movement. It’s important to note that the justice system has failed listening to women and men and they’ve had to take it into their own hands for so long. It’s just now even more timely.
I’d never claim that (Luke and Erica) handled situation the best way possible but they do their best. Bad decisions; good intentions.
I’m proud to be a woman; proud to be surrounded by women who are brave enough to come forward. That is no easy decision to make. I’m really in awe of the women who’ve chosen to come forward.
Q: How did you work with Adam Scott and Joey Morgan, with whom your character has these complicated relationships?
Deutch: Erica’s relationship to men is very complicated. She is somebody who suffers from a feeling of abandonment. She is not willing to feel pain and in turn not willing to feel love. Adam Scott’s character is confronting to her. She feels shame because she’s not sure whether she wants to take him down and she might have a crush on him. With Joey, she learns how to regain her innocence. So many coming-of-age films are about the loss of innocence, and this movie is about the regaining of innocence. It’s about learning how there is strength in vulnerability and that’s what the Joey character shows her. We shot this in 16 days for (little) money. It was fully a project of love and passion.