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Sara   /   Jan 29,2014   /   0 Comments

Original Source: We Got This Served!
Date: January 29, 2014

Maggie Kiley never aspired to be a director, but she says a fluke offer to direct a short film a few years ago opened up a new part of her brain. The recipient of a BFA from New York University, Kiley is already a seasoned actor on the stage and screen. She made such an impression on her professors – among them, actor Clark Gregg, best known as Agent Phil Coulson in The Avengers – that the Atlantic Theater Company asked her to join their ensemble before she even graduated.

As an actor, Kiley starred in We Own the Night for director James Gray and Andrew Jarecki’s thriller All Good Things, with Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. She was also one of eight women selected from hundreds of applicants to be a part of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women. The short film she made in that program, Some Boys Don’t Leave, starred Jesse Eisenberg, whom she had worked with at Atlantic on the play Scarcity. That short film won Kiley several awards at the Tribeca Film Festival and the strong response inspired her to write and direct Brightest Star (formerly Light Years), an expansion on the story and characters from her award-winning short.

Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Kiley for an exclusive interview. During our discussion she spoke about turning her short film into a feature, finding her passion to direct and working with Allison Janney.

Check it out below and enjoy!

WGTC: How did you decide on Rose McIver and Jessica Szohr? I recognized Rose from her role on Masters of Sex, which I really enjoy.

MK: She also had a great part in The Lovely Bones, and I knew her from that. I did meet a lot of great women for the role of Charlotte. Rose has a very vulnerable, present quality to her work and she’s a beautiful person inside and out. It was really instantaneous for me when I met with her, I felt like she was it. I actually had a reference photo for a costume choice for Charlotte that I had pulled and she looked exactly like the girl from the picture, which was kind of unexpected. And Jessica’s just so special in her style, her sensibility, her passion. It’s important for me as a female director to write and develop characters for women that are really three-dimensional and textured. Both Jessica and Rose are the kinds of actors I felt could bring their whole selves to each of those parts.

WGTC: My favourite scenes, naturally, featured Allison Janney, who elevates anything she appears in. Just having her presence automatically makes a scene better and she brings out the best in Chris [Lowell] as well, as those are some of his strongest scenes too. It’s a nice balance, as her character’s cynicism and his idealism brings a good dynamic to their scenes together.

MK: Working with Allison is fantastic. She is obviously an incredible actor. I will admit, I was a little intimidated. We shot her scenes at an observatory in Connecticut and I had to go in the car up there with her and I was very nervous. Immediately, she put me at ease and was such a real presence. What struck me most – she comes to do this role of probably two days of work, but she approached it like she was doing Shakespeare. She really came at it with such insightful observations and really specific questions. There was a wonderful astronomer at the observatory, I think he was 85, and she talked to him at length. She wanted to make sure that she completely understood all the pieces of the telescope she was working with. It was really wonderful to watch her work and it was a great experience for me to get to direct her.

WGTC: It’s really inspiring to watch an actor immerse themselves in a role, even if just for a few days work.

MK: She took it so seriously, as you would expect she would. But it was still quite impressive.

WGTC: You also assembled Clark Gregg, who was one of your acting teachers, for this film.

MK: Clark and I are both members of the Atlantic Theater Company, which is an off-Broadway company that William H. Macy and David Mamet formed. He was my acting teacher in college and we have remained friends and contemporaries. He’s someone I really look up to and he’s mentored me quite a bit. He’s a wonderful filmmaker on his own.

WGTC: As a director, did he give you any good advice for Brightest Star?

MK: He did. He was great on set because he was really paying attention to what lenses we were using and how we were framing things. That part of his brain is clearly at work as much as his actor brain. He’s been nothing but supportive to me, so if anything, he gives me a good kick in the ass to keep at it and work through the hard stuff. He also brought so much to that character. It was really fun watching him figure that out.

WGTC: Were you always interested in pursuing directing?

MK: No. I acted and I studied only acting in college. I came out to Los Angeles and I was still acting and someone asked me to direct a short film for them. I approached that with great hesitation and trepidation, and I loved every second of it. It was a wonderful discovery for me, of this other side of my brain I didn’t know I had access to. I mean, I absolutely love directing. Coming from acting and knowing actors and being on set, that part feels familiar. Understanding all the other elements – the visual side – has been really exciting for me, bringing all those worlds together.

WGTC: Are you working on anything currently?

MK: Yeah, I have a new movie we’re prepping and we’re shooting in March in Michigan. It’s called Dial-A-Prayer.

WGTC: To refer back to one of the running jokes in the film, are you a Mets fan or a Yankees fan?

MK: [laughs] I am a Yankee fan. My co-writer is too, but he gets all the credit for all the Mets jokes.

That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Maggie for her time. Be sure to check out Brightest Star when it arrives on iTunes and in theatres this Friday.

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