Interview: Devon Weigel

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You likely saw her in the ABC teen drama “Falcon Beach”, or in the popular web video “A Couple Hot Chicks… Maybe Three”. If you have kids, or you’re still in college, you may have seen her in the Fairly Odd Parents live-action television movie. But now Vancouver actress and comedienne Devon Weigel has made the jump from TV drama and kidvid to her first major feature film, David Frankel’s The Big Year, starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin.

We sat down with Weigel to discuss acting, comedy and her recent roles.

So. Tell me about The Big Year.

Basically it’s a heartfelt comedy with Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin. It’s not a hysterical, knee-slapping comedy, which is what you would expect with these actors in it, but it’s heart-warming.
 
You know, I haven’t seen it all yet. I’ve never seen myself on the big screen. I’m probably procrastinating for that reason.

Are you afraid of seeing what you look like?

Yeeeeah, I think so. It’s going to be quite magnified, and I guess maybe I’m just a little nervous about how it turned out.

Tell me about your role in the movie.

I play Karen. She’s a newlywed, and her husband is an avid birdwatcher, a birder, as they’re called. Basically, for their honeymoon, he takes her on this sketchy little plane to a tiny island in Alaska, and she thinks she’s in for some amazing Alaskan honeymoon, but in fact, she ends up in the middle of nowhere, in a shack! He’s basically going there for selfish reasons, to check out these rare species of birds.

So these newlyweds board the plane with Jack Black and Owen Wilson’s characters, and Steve Martin ends up there later. Mayhem ensues, basically. She’s peeved that she’s ended up there.

What was it like working with Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson?

That was really surreal for me. Yeah. Oddly, I didn’t feel nervous, because it was just so surreal; it didn’t feel like it was actually happening.
 
I mean, I remember sitting down, and I heard the First AD say to Owen Wilson, “Okay, so this is where you’ll be sitting, and this is who you’re talking to,” meaning me, and he was just like, [Deep voice] “Oh, so you’re who I’m talking to? Did you want to run it?” And I was like, “Is this happening?”

It was pretty cool. And they were all so nice. I mean, Steve Martin– he came right up, shook my hand, very soft hand, and he was just very genuine. And Jack Black–they were all really encouraging, and supportive too, which was nice.
 
Like, they would come up to me the next day and say, “Yeah, that was a really great scene that you did! I thought it was so funny!”, which for me, kind of blew my mind, because I totally admire their skills in the comedic genre. And Steve Martin, I’ve loved since I was a kid. I mean, I loved him from SNL. So yeah, it was super cool. 

So this is your first big role in a major feature film. How did that happen?

Honestly, I just got really lucky, Feature movies often come up to Vancouver but rarely are they comedies, which is what I’m mainly interested in. I hadn’t worked for quite a while, actually, and then I was surprised I even got an audition for this role. It was looking really bleak, so it was seemed like destiny, in a way.

I read the breakdown and I knew that they’d be hard-pressed to find somebody else in Vancouver that was willing to be as spastic as I was, as crazy and silly as this role called for, in this one particular scene, especially. So it worked out.

How is working on a major feature film different than working in television , or on a television movie?

Well, it definitely takes longer to shoot a certain amount of scenes. Working in TV, you do a lot of material in a day, and would shoot an hour in, like, six days or something. It’s a small section of the film I’m in, but it took eight days for the parts that I did, so they just take more time with things. That’s kind of the main thing I noticed.

As an actress, what did you learn during that time?

Well, the people that I was working with–I completely admire the director, David Frankel–he directed The Devil Wears Prada, which is one of my favourite movies– and he was so humble, and genuine, and just a really nice guy. He was really supportive, as well, and took an interest in asking about my career path, and encouraged me in that respect.

I think what I learned is that people who are of high esteem in the industry are just people, and working with them gave me the opportunity to realize that it’s a place that I’m capable of getting to.

You’ve been working in a lot of Nicklodeon productions recently. You’ve just wrapped up a musical?

Yes. That’s called Ragz. That one stars Keke Palmer. She was in Akeelah and the Bees as a child, and she is the most open, energetic, sweetest, kindest person. She’s super talented, and she has an amazing voice. All of the songs are original, and they’re quite catchy. I was working with her and also mainly Isaiah Mustafa, also known as the Old Spice Guy. He has a great sense of humour, and he was really fun to work with.

I play a high-strung, slightly crazed publicist/stylist, trying to transform Keke into a pop star. I wear the most ridiculous, amazing outfits that were designed by the costume designer. It was a lot of fun. It’s a really fun movie.

Had you performed in musicals before?

This would be the first movie musical. I’ve worked in theatre musicals before, for sure. I didn’t actually get the opportunity to display my vocal talents in this particular one, but I’m a big fan of musical theatre.

I heard you were cut entirely from the Fairly Odd Parents TV movie.

Yeah. The first airing of it, they aired it in its entirety, and then subsequent airings, they cut out the character Vicky, who I played, and also the two characters who played the main character–Timmy Turner’s best friends. They cut those two out.

They recently made available the full version again, and you can buy the full version on DVD. I guess it was just for running time purposes, airing it on television, they cut it down. Which is disappointing, but it happens.

Because you were in that movie, have you been getting attention from kids and that show’s fanbase?

Not really. I mean, I’ve seen… I remember, when I was on set, these people wanted to take pictures with me, some fans who were walking by, and then that picture ended up on a “Fairly Odd Parents” wikipedia-type thing, which was so funny, but I haven’t been mobbed by kids or anything. [Laughs] Not yet.

You seem to often play a lot of intense, high-strung characters. Is there something that attracts you to those kinds of characters?

Yeah, I don’t know why that is. It’s funny; I’m kind of quiet and shy and sort of a little bit reserved when I first meet people, but for some reason, if you give me a character, I’m completely out of control and silly and absolutely ridiculous. The more ridiculous, the easier it is for me to play it. I don’t know, I find it just really fun.

That’s really how I started performing. I watched a lot of SNL, so that kind of comedy and broad humour and physical slapstick really appeals to me, so yeah, that’s just what I gravitate to.

What can you tell me about A Coupla Hot Chicks… Maybe Three?

What can’t I tell you? [Laughs] Now that definitely started out as a joke. My two best friends, we were roommates for a few years, and we just kind of had some time on our hands, and sort of decided– Well, sometimes, when we spend too much time together, we start kind of dressing alike, so we joked that we should be in a girl band.

And then a neighbour of mine from back home in Calgary–she was starting to become more interested in the music industry and producing beats, so she provided the music to us, and then another friend of mine, who wanted to be a director, he got a camera, and he wanted to shoot a music video.

We decided we should make a music video and collaborate with all these people, and yeah, we just kind of did it in a week, and it was just supposed to be for fun, but it got a great response from people and lots of hits on Youtube, so now we’re writing two more songs, and we’ve shot the next video, which is entitled “Vagine Rhyme Time”, wherein we rhyme words with vagine.

The next one is going to be called “In Love With a Primate”, which we wrote as a potential Behind the Scenes feature on The Rise of The Planet of the Apes DVD, because the guy who shot our videos was involved with that, so we’ll see where that goes.

But, yeah, it’s just a fun little venture that we’re hoping to take somewhere. We shot a mockumentary which needs to be edited–It’s sort of in the style of The Lonely Island, which we’re big fans of. We’ll see where it goes.

Have there been other future projects that you’ve been writing?

Yeah, I mean, I’m hoping to start making some shorts and stuff like that, because it is difficult in this industry to just weed around and hope someone gives you an opportunity to shine and do what you do best. There’s so much competition and not enough roles.

I’m playing with different characters and storylines, and I know a lot of actors, so that helps, and I’m hoping to colloborate with some people, and make some stories.

Do you have any advice for Canadian actors trying to make it into the comedy scene?

You know, I don’t know, because I never–I did some improv in school, but I don’t really have formal comedy training. I feel like having a sense of humour and being able to play comedy well comes from a little bit of natural ability with mixed with watching a lot of comedy. And from that you get a sense of comedic timing and delivery and a variety of different types of characters and scenarios.

I would just say, definitely, learn whatever you can by watching the comedy greats and don’t hold back, basically. You have to really commit with comedy. You have to really go for it, or it does not work. It’s more fun that way.

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