Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment
July 29, 2006
Actress Blake Lively garnered a good deal of attention from movie fans as one of the four lead girls in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, in which she plays Bridget, a young soccer superstar and troubled teen who puts on a brave front in the wake of her mother's death.
We first met Blake about a week earlier at Comic-Con, an annual comic book convention in San Diego, California that has expanded to include coverage of all manner of film and television. In this interview, she talks about her experience at the blockbuster media event, where she promoted Accepted, a comedy in which she plays the love interest of a street-smart high school graduate who creates a fictitious university. The film, while being wholly amusing and entertaining, also has some interesting commentary on the educational system, a topic on which Blake has strong opinions.
In keeping with Comic-Con's superhero vibe, we also segue into Blake's own "origin story," going as far back as the day she was born. Additionally, the remarkably friendly actress talks about working on Sisterhood, and her recollection of her early soccer days ranks as one of the funniest stories I've heard in an interview (perhaps because I am easily amused by the notion of kids comically knocking each other around).
RadioFree.com: How did Comic-Con compare to promotions you've done in the past? And was this your first time at Comic-Con?
BLAKE: Yes, it was. It was fantastic. I went on a press tour for Sisterhood, which I thought, "I get to see all these great cities!" And it's from like five in the morning till ten o'clock at night, you're just doing interviews and radio shows, and then you get in a plane and fly to the next city. So you were like barely awake in the car, waving to the Statue of Liberty. [With] Comic-Con, everybody's like, "It's going to be a really hard day." But it was so much fun!
Did you run into Sisterhood fans there?
Ummm...I don't think it was really like the target Sisterhood audience--it's not like a bunch of 13-year-old girls. [laughs] But yeah, definitely people came up. A lot of people were really excited about Accepted, which was really cool.
And the fact that the studio threw a keg party with free food and drinks didn't hurt...
[laughs] Yeah! I read this really exciting article on the main page of AOL. There was this crazy picture of Spider-Man 3, and it had this little paragraph about the whole cast of Spider-Man 3 being at Comic-Con, and Superman secrets, and "Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino show bone-chilling Grind House footage." And so you have to click more, because it's this great picture, this great little paragraph. And you click more, and all the pictures were of Accepted! And it said that Accepted made its presence felt more than any other film, which I thought was really neat. I mean, we did have people walking around in hot dog costumes and sperm costumes...
That usually catches people's attention...
Yeah. [We had] a big half-pipe. Other than that, we were really discreet. [laughs]
Were you only there for the one day they were promoting Accepted?
We were just working one day, and the next day, Justin [Long] and Maria [Thayer] and Justin's friend...We all went to Comic-Con and took a bunch of pictures. It was really, really neat.
Did you get a chance to see your Sisterhood co-star Amber Tamblyn, who was there promoting The Grudge 2?
No! I didn't know she was there! I was there like running around with startroopers on Sunday. [laughs] I didn't know she was there till after, so I was pretty sad.
Where did the giant Sisterhood tour take you?
They split us up. There were four of us, and they split us up in twos so that we could hit like 500,000 cities. [laughs] It was like probably 30 cities. And I went to Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Toronto, Denver...
Did you have any favorite destinations in particular on the tour?
Well, I love New York. We got to have this wonderful weekend in New York where I saw Rent and Wicked...And they said, "You have this much per diem per day." So I got massages and room service. I mean, it was an amazing break. The two-day weekend was the best weekend I've ever had in my life!
Right on. You've got to work the per diem any chance you get...
Yeah! [laughs] But all of these cities...I had such a desire to go. When I went to Philadelphia, I had the best Philadelphia cheesesteak at this tiny little hole in the wall, which was really exciting. Boston was great. Denver, Toronto...I don't know, I loved every city that I got to see from my car window. [laughs]
The last time I checked, I wasn't a 13-year-old girl, but I did like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants...
Oh, thank you!
Do you find that a lot of adults (and guys in particular) who see the film end up liking it more than they would have expected?
I think that people saw the title and they got really scared away. The Sisterhood, first of all, screams "chick flick." Of the Traveling Pants? "Like what does that mean? That there's magical pants dancing around at Hogwarts?" I think the title scared a lot of people away. But like 90% of men we talked to said that they cried during it. And they said, "I didn't think that it was going to be a movie that I would even like, but I loved it." Because it seemed like it would be feminine issues--you know, like "my prom dress" or "this boy that I have a crush on doesn't know I exist." But it was really universal issues, and serious issues. There was cancer, the loss of virginity, a broken family, falling in love for the first time--it was things that anybody could relate to. So you're not the only one! [laughs]
Considering that it's based on a series of books, should we expect a sequel?
Well, we signed on for a three-picture deal, and we haven't heard anything. It's hard because the other girls are on TV shows, so they only have like a two-month slot during summer in which they could do a film...We knew it wasn't going to be this summer for sure. So I don't know, maybe next summer will be the second summer of the sisterhood!
Your character was the star player at soccer camp. Were you into sports growing up?
I played soccer when I was little for about three years. And I wasn't very good at it, but I was always much taller than the rest of the kids, so they always had me on the little defensive line. They would never let me kick the ball around, because I guess I wasn't very good at that. [laughs] I was just like tall, lanky, and clumsy. But when you're little, everybody crowds around the ball. You don't stay in your positions. Everybody just goes for it. And so they would always say to me, "Make sure you stay in your position." And then when everybody would get clumped around the ball, they would say, "Blake!" And my job was just to go barreling through the crowd so that the kids ran away because this large beast is charging at them. And then the ball would be free for the good player to get the ball and kick it down the field.
So it was a situation in which people encouraged you to play because of your height, skills notwithstanding?
Yeah. Like, "Why don't you play basketball or volleyball?" And I tried. I'm happy to say that I tried every sport and activity in high school, or just growing up. So that was fun. I had a wonderful time. I think it makes your school experience and memories just so much better. I would always go over to talk to people and I would try to get them involved. [laughs] I sound ridiculous, but I would try to get them involved in activities. Because there's an activity for everyone, even if you don't think it's for you. Like I can't sing or dance to save my life, and I was in the #1 show choir in the nation--all you do is sing and dance. And I was always like front and center singing as loud as I could, because I loved it. I was so passionate about it. And the people that I met in this group were so fantastic. So I think that if you get involved, you have this wonderful group of people that you have a class with during the day, you spend extracurricular time with--they become your friends, they become like your family, and you share this love of an activity or a sport. I think it's really, really important for kids to get involved in school. I just think everybody would be a lot happier. I sound really silly, but it's true. [laughs]
Well, it's better coming from you than an after school special...
I've got to say, "Blake Lively" sounds almost too cool to not be a stage name...
People are always like, "Blake Lively! Okay, what's your real name?" It's kind of embarrassing to tell people, because it sounds like a really cheesy stage name.
Is there a story behind the first part?
Actually, my grandma's brother's name was Blake, and my sister wrote it down when she was reading a family tree. And they said, "If it's a boy, we'll name him Blake, and if it's a girl, we'll name her Blakely." And everybody thought I was going to be a boy, and then I came out and I was a girl. And they had already been calling me Blake for months because they were positive I was going to be a boy. And they had been calling me Blake for so long, they just [kept it].
A lot of your family members are involved in show business. Was interest in that field sort of passed on to you, and was it something you always wanted to pursue from an early age?
No. The day I was born, when I came home from the hospital, I literally didn't go to my house. I went to my sister's set. And so literally I've grown up on sets--my mom is a manager and always has kids come in for coaching, my family's always going over lines for an audition, I'm always stealing craft service. So it was so much a part of my life that I never felt a desire for it. And it seemed like such a nightmare. That [was] the last thing in the world I want to do. And I trained my whole life to go to Stanford. And my brother Eric (he's the best brother in the world, he's my closest sibling in age), in the middle of my sophomore year, decided that I needed to be more cultured and took me around Europe for two months, while I was taking world history. And we went everywhere--London, Cambridge, Florence, Venice, Rome, Cologne, Brussels, Paris. So he's been amazing. He's been like a third parent to me. And he sat me down when we were in Europe and said, "What are you going to do with your life?" I'm 15 at the time. And so he made like a chart of things I could possibly do, and nothing really interested me. And then like a year later, he said, "I think you're going to be an actress." He [told] his agents, "You have to start sending Blake out on auditions." And I didn't want to make him mad because he's such a good brother, so I just went on auditions to appease him. And then after a few months of auditioning, I got Sisterhood. And all I had to miss were finals, so I went away just for the summer, I did a movie, and I came back like three weeks before my senior year. And I knew that that's what I wanted to do, just because I had such a blast.
Is Stanford on hold at the moment?
Yes, it is. Everybody that was involved in my professional career said, "This is the time. You have to do a movie back to back to back." Whatever. And I said, "No, school is so important to me." So [I compromised] and I said, "I'll take a year off. What would be my first year of college, I'll just completely dedicate to acting." And I did two movies this past year, and it's been exciting. It's been great.
So how do you feel about Accepted's message that life experience can be as important as (if not more important than) a strict college regiment?
I think it's really important. So many times in school, you get so bogged down by things that you "have to do" to get into a good college. And you end up being so overwhelmed that you don't do a great job at any one thing. You're just like dying and half-doing a million different activities. And activities that you're involved in, the extracurriculars you have to take, have nothing to do with real life experience. Like why, in high school, don't they teach you how to do taxes? So I think it's really important to have real life experience. It's so important to travel and just get out in the world. I think it would be great if everybody just deferred college for one year and just traveled and just experienced life, and then went away to school. I think you would know what you want to do more...So, yes, I think it's a good message.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.
Of course. Thank you, it was nice talking to you again!