The 7-year-old stars of "The Florida Project'' dish on friendship, scene-shooting drudgery and jelly sandwiches.
Brooklynn Prince (middle) and Valeria Cotto with co-star Christopher Rivera in "The Florida Project."
Photo by Marc Schmidt, courtesy of A24
There's an art, a trick to interviewing very young children and child actors. And after 30 years of doing it, as soon as I figure it out, I'll pass that wisdom on to you. Promise.
Because often the only strategy is to turn them loose as they free-associate their way to Great Truths about their “work” (which can seem like play) or their latest project.
Brooklynn Prince is a Winter Springs veteran of TV commercials and other local acting work. Valeria Cotto is from Davenport, was "discovered" by director Sean Baker in a local Target, and is Brooklyn's new pal off-screen and on-screen—in The Florida Project. Brooklynn was cast "as our Spanky McFarland," the leader of the pack of kids Baker envisioned for his "Little Rascals" film set in the welfare motels just outside of Disney World. She's talkative and outgoing, and picked out the tattooed discovery Bria Vinaite to play her mom "by just jumping into my lap when I came to audition," Vinaite laughs. Valeria, playing Jancey, the new kid to whom this new way of life is explained by Brookynn’s character, Moonee, is new to this business but smart and diplomatic about it.
The girls enjoyed one of their first "press days" of interviews recently at Winter Park's Alfond Inn, and when they weren't playing rock-paper-scissors" to decide who would answer a question first, or debating their favorite thing about Disney World—"Meeting PRINCESSES!" "Pirates of the Caribbean for me!" and singing "Yo ho ho, the pirate's life for me" in 7-year-old harmony—they talked about improvising for the movie, for instance.
Valeria: "When we were on the picnic table (in one play scene), Sean just said 'Do whatever you want.' So we started dancing."
Brooklynn: "That was OUR idea. My idea was that the floor we were dancing on was LAVA!"
On why kids their age are so good at making friends in an instant:
Brooklynn: "We DIDN'T like each other!" She giggles. "Just KIDDING!"
Valeria: "Kids make friends because they will not kidnap you. Because they're KIDS. They can't hurt you. Because they're KIDS."
Brooklynn: "I'm not shy. I've been a happy girl all my life. My first word was 'HI!' I knew we'd be like sisters."
Valeria: "Like my character, I'm shy. We were all shy. Well, not Brooklynn. But I am, just like Jancey. And my first word was 'LOVE.'"
On life in a welfare motel:
Valeria: "Living in a motel would be really rough. You can't go anywhere. You're stuck there, which is the worst thing ever."
Brooklynn: "Yeah, but WE were in charge. Girls RULE!"
On the "boring" nature of movie work—sitting around, waiting to film, trying to entertain yourself:
Brooklynn: "We'd have sleepovers! What's better than a sleepover? NOTHING."
Valeria: "We had card games like Uno, board games. We'd just...’’
On their least favorite thing about making movies:
Brooklynn: "I hate re-takes. One time in the movie we had to eat a jelly sandwich for a scene. Over and over and OVER again. Take after take! I couldn't eat lunch. I couldn't even eat dinner. I was full. I was DEAD!"
Valeria: "I could. I LOVE to eat. I love jelly sandwiches!"
Brooklynn: "I was DEAD, girl. I POOPED jelly."
On their future:
Brooklyn: "I want to keep acting. I love this. And someday, I want to DIRECT. Because directors get to YELL!"
Valeria: "I want to act, but only in movies with Sean Baker. And Elle Fanning.” (They both have a thing for the younger Fanning sister child star.)
Brooklynn: "Girl, you'll not go anywhere fun. You'll NEVER work. I mean, just with Sean? And only when Sean makes a movie with Elle Fanning? What about auditions?"
The Florida Project is playing at Enzian theater in Maitland through October 26. For ticket information, click here. Read Roger Moore's conversation with the filmmakers here; read Roger's review of the film at his Movie Nation website here.