QUESTION: When you play a comedic character, do you think, ‘How can I be funny?’ or do you just act and hope that the humor is there?
ALEXIS DZIENA: I'm a big believer in that if it's funny, it's funny. And the funniest thing to do is to play something naturally, because in real life, the funniest moments are when people are being themselves. I think it's really obvious when you try to force a joke as well. Donald Sutherland is one of the first to say that. And I think it's always something to keep in mind, to just play things naturally, because if it's not funny on the page, no matter what you do, it's not going to be funny on the screen.
QUESTION: Did you spend an enormous amount of time at the mall to research this role?
ALEXIS DZIENA: At the mall? I spent some time with US Weekly, I have to say. But, yeah, I didn't really take anything from any one specific celebrity. I tried to imagine what it would feel like growing up in the spotlight and not really having a choice about whether or not you're constantly performing, and that's what I think Gemma is doing. She is happiest when the camera is on her, and really just like lives to show off and be larger than life. So that's always a blast to play.
QUESTION: What kind of effort is it to get into your character?
ALEXIS DZIENA: What it is with Gemma that's so wonderful is that I don't think she really cares what's going on, as long as she's part of it. As long as she's in the middle of the action, she doesn't really need to quite understand it, as long as she can just be in it, you know? I think with the treasure hunt, she's not quite sure what's going on, but she's very excited that she's going to be on a treasure hunt with this beautiful guy and all these exciting things are happening in this gorgeous landscape and it's all very fabulous. The details don't matter to her.
QUESTION: How about working with Donald Sutherland? That seems like such a treat.
ALEXIS DZIENA: Oh, God, it is. Of course. I've been really lucky with that sort of thing. I've gotten to work with Bill Murray and Sharon Stone and Donald, and before you get on set, being a less experienced actress then all these people, you're like, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to function?’ And then you get there and they're just so lovely. I've been so fortunate with people really wanting to sort of take me under their wing and be really supportive of me and really helpful. There's nothing that you can learn more from than just working with these exceptional talents. That's what Donald is, and he couldn't be more sweet and paternal at the same time, so you really get to learn something and make a great friend at the same time. It's really lovely.
QUESTION: What's it like between takes? Do you tap into some of that experience that he's had?
ALEXIS DZIENA: Yeah. Especially with a comedy like this, I think it really lends itself to people being talkative and funny in between takes, and we made each other laugh. There were some good moments, and because we were in remote locations, we had to be each other's family. We were shooting some long nights. I remember some sort of silly games. Me and Kate and Matthew were playing one of those games where you flip your hands around and make someone else point at a finger, and you try to move that one, and for some reason it's almost impossible. It's a silly little childhood thing you do in elementary school. And it's something that I was like, ‘Wow, I'm sitting here on a boat in the middle of Australia playing that with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. Does it get any better?’ So, we really had a lot of fun and childhood moments and silly things in between takes. We kept it very light.
QUESTION: As an up-and-coming actress, how do you choose roles, and do you ever worry about being typecast?
ALEXIS DZIENA: I think the most important thing is it being a good script and a good role. But I think I've been pretty fortunate, whether or not I've chosen it that way, that my roles have been pretty different from each other. It's definitely a consideration. I try to stay away from anything too similar to any other role, not just because I'd be afraid of being typecast, but because it's more fun that way.
QUESTION: You're playing ditzy, obviously. How do keep a balance with a part like that? Do you draw from other actors' performances?
ALEXIS DZIENA: I think with Gemma, it was extremely important that, to me, she be warm and lovely and real, and that everything that she did came from a place of naïvete and sweetness, rather than stupidity and carelessness, especially because it could be a stock character on the page. There are a lot of times when it has been played as the ditz, the celebutante. So, I didn't really want to look at other actresses' takes on it because I felt like the important thing with Gemma is to know where she's coming from. And then the rest of the stuff, I didn’t have to play ditsy 'cause she is. I didn't have to play stupid because that's who she is.
QUESTION: What about the sword scene?
ALEXIS DZIENA: They actually had it rigged up. The thing dropped, and not very far. It was about 2 inches, but it was my first shot back from our holiday break, and I get up there, and I'm like, ‘Why is the camera there? You want me to sit? Okay. Great.” It was kind of like I was straddling this camera and I'm like, ‘Nice, welcome back, guys, thanks.’ And they had a sword rigged to just drop like two inches, and I thought, ‘Man, it's a good thing I'm a girl.’ But it was still pretty scary because there was a really definite spot that it had to drop so as not to hurt me, and I just had to keep my legs wide, and try to stay still. And it was fine, nobody got hurt. I think it was because I trusted Andy so much. We had already been working together with the whole crew for so long that it was pretty easy. I felt pretty comfortable.
QUESTION: What’s it like to be in your 20’s and still playing roles of teenagers?
ALEXIS DZIENA: Well, I think of it like this. I'm about five years behind, but I have had progress. I started at 14, and now I'm up to 18. So, right there, that's good enough for me for now. And then eventually when I'm in my 30’s, maybe I'll play 20 and it'll be great.
QUESTION: Nobody complains about looking younger.
ALEXIS DZIENA: Exactly. I can't complain about that.
QUESTION: Tell us the Reader's Digest version of your journey.
ALEXIS DZIENA: My brother and I are both really creative people. He's a musician, and my parents are both in real estate. I'm not sure where we came from. But, I went to school in New York. I grew up in New York City, and the school I went to is just really, really artistic and really developed at a young age kids’ artistic dreams. Everything that you wanted, you can elect to take from a very young age. So, I started acting, really, in fifth grade. They were doing a high school production of Twelfth Night at my school and they needed a young girl to play a maid. I had never acted before, and they asked me. And I'm like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And I go and all these cute older boys are fawning over me. And I'm like, ‘Acting's great. I want to do this.’ And then it turned out that I really liked it. So, I started going to acting school on Saturdays at American Academy of Dramatic Arts while I was in high school. And then I went to NYU for a little while, and studied acting and playwriting and directing and screenwriting and things like that. And then eventually, I started working.