We managed to get on the phone two of the girls from M. Night Shyamalan’s first installment of the Avatar movies, The Last Airbender, which is now in theaters. They let us in on some secrets about the filming and other projects they’ve been working on!
Tell me about your role in The Last Airbender.
JA: I play Suki, who is the leader of the Kyoshi Warriors. I’m from the Earth kingdom, but I don’t have any bending powers.
SG: My character, Princes Yue, resides in the North Pole of this world, part of the Northern Water Tribe, which has a lot of important water benders. My character is the princess of this tribe, a 16-year-old ruler, so she has a lot on her shoulders since her father died. She has this beautiful white, long hair and purple eyes because she got her life from the moon. I sort of have a falling-in-love thing with the Avatar’s friend Sokka.
How did you find out you got the role?
SG: It was actually funny because my agent called me and said, “We think M. Night Shyamalan’s going to be calling you on your cell phone sometime tomorrow morning.” I was still in high school, so I was sitting in Spanish class twiddling my thumbs scared out of my mind that M. Night Shyamalan’s going to call my cell phone. When this number with a weird area code showed up, I bolted out and it was his assistant saying he’s on the line. I’m just jumping and silently screaming, and I go in the bathroom and he told me he wanted me to have the part. It was a pretty surreal moment that was all happening in the girl’s restroom at my high school.
Seychelle, there’s a big hype about an intimate scene with Jackson Rathbone. Anything behind that?
SG: Oh no! That’s totally all for the screen. I mean, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but Princess Yue enjoyed it more than I did.
Jessica, was it weird playing a younger person in the movie?
JA: No not at all, are you kidding me?! It’s kind of a fantasy character with these crazy costumes and makeup, so it’s not like my character is dealing with life as an everyday 16- or 17-year-old would.
What kind of training did you do for your role?
JA: I did Tessen Jetsu in the film, which is martial arts with a fan.
I also did silk training, like Cirque du Soleil, when you hang from the silks. It was like riding a roller coaster, like the one with the big drop 20 times in a row.
SG: I was one of the only characters that didn’t do much, but I did have one stunt where I had to learn how to fall. Everyone else had to go through months of fight training and martial arts training and I got one day of 15-minute fall training.
Did anyone get hurt while filming?
JA: They were hoisting us up in the trees, which are like 75ft. in the air, and I’m holding my fan, which is 5lb. of metal. My fan falls out of my corset as I’m being hoisted up near the top and Night was standing literally right below me. The stunt guy saw it and pointed it out, and the rest of the day everyone was joking that I tried to kill the director.
How long did you usually spend in makeup and wardrobe?
JA: They had significant problems with my makeup because in the cartoon, Suki has a white face. So they had me do a facemask, which is the weirdest sensation because it kind of feels like you’re being buried alive. They finally settled on something that was very simple, so I wasn’t in makeup for very long in the end.
SG: The wig took forever because we first had to pin up all my hair and then put a bald cap on that would be glued to my head. Then we put the wig on and then they would have to style the wig and add another piece on top of the wig that also had to
be styled. Makeup didn’t take as long, but in the beginning, it was hard because I’d never worn contacts before. My eyes would start tearing and my makeup would get ruined constantly.
Seychelle, was it any different to act with a wig on?
SG: It just feels like you have really thick hair and a little pressure on your head. I think it helped because I looked down and saw white hair and it was more confirmation of who I was.
Tell me about some of the special effects used in The Last Airbender.
JA: I’m not really going to chuck that 5lb. fan at anyone’s face, so I know they did that all through CGI special effects.
SG: Since I’m not a bender, I watched Nikki (Katara) and Noah (Aang) and I could tell it was very much a faith in what they were doing. It was so derived from your imagination, but I can’t really imagine how it would be for them because they had to really feel it coming from them and moving and touching the other people.
Tell us about your appearance on the hit show Gossip Girl.
JA: That was my first TV job in NY. We’d just had a huge flood in NYC. I woke up and all the trains were flooded, so I ended up sharing a car with Chase Crawford. It was funny because I just thought of him as this normal actor, just cool, relaxed, even a little nervous to be on the set for the first time. Now, he’s all uber famous.
Was there a particular actress who inspired/s you the most?
JA: I’ve always loved Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. She’s kind of a bitch, and you kind of hate her but you really want her to survive, to get to the end and to be in love.
What other things do you have coming up?
JA: There’s a horror film that’s possibly in the works. We’re going to film in Tennessee and do spelunking in caves. I also just did a little thing with Adam Sandler, which was great because he went to NYU also and we found out that we had the same teacher.
Your one piece of advice?
JA: Take advantage of your time in college. There were so many opportunities and advantages that I could’ve done in college, but instead, I decided to sleep in.
What has been the worst pronunciation of your name?
SG: I think the funniest one was when I was a bridesmaid in my uncle’s wedding. One of his friends called me “Saychonna.” People have asked me if they could call me “Seashell” and I totally agree because I think it’s funny. I remember I was getting an autograph from Jeremy Sumpter, whom I used to be obsessed with, and he wrote down “Seyca,” so some of my friends started calling me that.
Tell me about your role in Weeds, which seemed like a pretty controversial show.
SG: I played the daughter of the guy who ruled the whole drug cartel. She is from Paris, so she’s a tri-lingual, high-maintenance girl who has experienced a lot in this world because of his wealth but she has this dirty secret. Before this, I didn’t even know the signs of what heroin does to someone. I was texting my friends during auditions asking them what heroin does to you! It was a heavy thing to act.
You’re going to be appearing in the Steven Spielberg series Among Us. Tell us about that.
SG: It’s set in Boston, about six months after the aliens have come and they’re wreaking havoc and killing people and cleaning out cities. There’s a group of us, some of the last survivors, who have gathered into this camp just trying to survive. My character, a girl named Lourdes, is one who stays back in the kitchen and helps cook and take care of the kids. She’s not the type of girl who goes out with a loaded gun.
One guilty pleasure?
SG: I really love redheads and long hair! If any guy has long hair, even if he has an ugly face, I will turn and watch him. Just because he has a ponytail, I am attracted to him even if all my friends think I’m crazy!