In the critically-acclaimed, Oscar-nominated drama/comedy “Lady Bird,” actress Odeya Rush (“Goosebumps”) plays Jenna Walton, a pretty albeit slightly arrogant student who attends the same private Catholic high school as Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), but isn’t very interested in anything outside of her social circle. In an attempt to change her social status, Lady Bird decides to snub her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) to hang out with Jenna and her popular crew.
During an interview with Rush, who also starred in 2014’s “The Giver” with Meryl Streep and 2015’s “Goosebumps” with Jack Black, the 20-year-old actress talked about working with filmmaker Greta Gerwig on her first film as a director, what kind of student she was in high school and what she ultimately wants out of a career in Hollywood.
Greta Gerwig was already a really great actress and screenwriter, but now she’s added directing to her repertoire. What did you see from her on set in this new role?
Being a great creator and awesome person makes her a great director. I think she is an artist and such a talented writer. I’ve really loved all the movies she’s written and acted in. I think she’s very intelligent. You can tell by the acting choices she’s made. She directed [“Lady Bird”] at a perfect time. We had this incredible script and nothing really had to be changed.
What message do you think “Lady Bird” is trying to convey when it comes to fitting in as a teenager?
I think what is amazing about Lady Bird is that you don’t just see her in one place. You don’t see her in this one clique that defines who she is. I think in high school you go through different phases. Some people have the same friends their entire life and others like to try out different things. You hang out with different people or join different clubs. I think Lady Bird is so driven and has this badass mentality and doesn’t let any group define her. What’s cool is that you can’t put Lady Bird in a specific place in high school.
Were people able to put you in a specific place in high school? What kind of teenager were you?
My high school was in a small town in New Jersey, so our high school actually started in the seventh grade. We didn’t have a ton of kids, but I feel like I was pretty much friends with everyone. I hung out with a group of good girls. But I think we all got to a place where we didn’t have cliques, especially since the school was small. I think we all just got to a point and said, “You know, I think we should just all be friends.” The more the merrier!
What specifically attracted you to your character Jenna?
I think Greta’s writing is so great. When I read the first line in the script, I already knew how to say it. I felt this girl’s essence through the page. It was really smart dialogue. I could really understand her as a person just from reading it. She gave every character their own storyline and struggles and pain.
I know you said you hung out with everyone in high school, but would that have included Jenna?
I’m always nice to everyone. I have a lot of acquaintances, but I wouldn’t be close to her. Probably not, because I think that energy rubs off whether you want it to or not. It can really affect you. I think I would be friends with someone like Beanie’s [Feldstein] character (Julie). She is a really joyful spirit and not judgmental. I think those are the type of people I’m attracted to more.
Do you think independent films like “Lady Bird” are more attractive to you at this stage of your career, or are you hoping a huge $100-million franchise comes knocking at your door?
I just like movies that have good scripts and good people attached to it. I think that’s what ultimately makes your experience good. The movie “Goosebumps” had a big budget, but the director, Rob Letterman, was a really awesome person, too. That always trickles down to the rest of the crew when you have someone great directing the movie or if your co-stars are really great. For me, it goes back to the intention of the script and what kind of message it’s sending out and if I’d be working with someone I’ve been a fan of for years like Greta.
The relationship in “Lady Bird” that everyone loves, of course, is the complex one between Lady Bird and her mother. What do you hope audiences take away from the dynamic between Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf’s characters?
I think this movie shows that these relationships aren’t perfect. They don’t follow the same pattern all the time. A lot of times with family you can get into a huge fight and two seconds later you’re sharing a laugh or a hug. I think with family, you show each other more of those colors. A lot of times when you’re at that age when you want to battle and you get into fights with your family or your mom, it shouldn’t be viewed as super heavy. I think it’s really about that age where you want to feel free and your parents are really scared to let you go because all they want to do is protect you. I look back to that age and it’s not super heavy. It’s just all this tension bottled up. I think you have to go through that tension to see that sometimes you just need time away from each other.
You’re fairly new to Hollywood. What would you say you’ve learned about yourself in the short time you’ve been in this industry?
I think I’m just really grateful that I had a normal upbringing and that I always surrounded myself with genuine people. This industry is so up and down and you never really know what’s going to happen. When you have a movie that’s doing really well, everyone is really super nice to you. When nothing is going on and you’re a hungry actor auditioning, which is what I was a few months ago, it’s different. I think it’s about surrounding yourself with people who are constantly there for you. I think it’s about constantly loving yourself and knowing that you’re self-worth isn’t measured by how many people see your movie or how many movies you’ve done.