Interview: Emily Osment and Kay Panabaker Talk About ABC Family’s CYBERBULLY

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ABC Family will premiere its original movie CYBERBULLY tonight, July 17th, at 8pm. Stars Emily Osment and Kay Panabaker recently took some time to talk about the movie.

What’s ‘Cyberbully’ and are you two the victims or the perpetrators?

Emily Osment: ‘Cyberbully’ focuses on a girl, my character Taylor Hillridge and her battle with bullying and cyberbullying. It follows her into the home because it’s online. It follows her to school, and her best friend, Kay [Panabaker], plays Samantha, tries to help her, but doesn’t really know how. It’s basically her story, her insecurity and the way that she handles it and the wrong way that she handles it.

So this is a cautionary tale?

Emily Osment: It is. It’s not based on a true story, but it very easily could be because it’s extremely relatable and with all the press that’s going on about cyberbullying right now and Michelle Obama’s campaign and the campaign we’re doing with Seventeen Magazine and everything. They’re making it a big deal which is great for us and it’s also good for the cause because it’s a huge problem, and the more that we bring attention to it the better it’ll hopefully get.

How did you get involved with this movie?

Kay Panabaker: I was going through a transition period and they’d asked me to audition, and I said, ‘I’m out of town,’ and I couldn’t do it. Then they cast someone else and then at the last minute she couldn’t travel because of an illness. They called me last minute and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ So at five thirty on a Tuesday they said that I was going to have to fly at 11AM the next morning. I got thrown into it, but I was thrilled to be a part of it because I knew that Emily [Osment] was doing it when I signed on, and I’ve known her for many years. I liked it because the role was supporting her. She has such a dramatic and drastic character growth in this.

I really wanted to help showcase that. I think the movie, it focuses on her journey, but there’s the journey of her best friends and the bullies and her mom and how they all cope. Also, how this whole subject matter affects all of them.

How tragic does it get?

Emily Osment: We play it very realistic. Everything in the movie, it’s extremely dramatic and it’s extremely…it’s hard to say. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s very realistic, and everything that happens in the movie you believe. You completely believe these characters, and that’s why she says that it’s such a character growth. It’s just an exponential difference where she starts and where she finishes, my character.

Kay Panabaker: It’s such an emotional journey.

Emily Osment: And what she goes through. The crew and the cast and everyone did such a good job, especially the director, of heightening visually what I even look like in the beginning of the movie and what I look like at the end of the movie and the way that my hair is styled and the things that I wear. We had the best DP in Canada. We had a wonderful crew that really wanted to be there.

abc summer 2011 press cyberbully

How do you relate to your characters in real life?

Kay Panabaker: I think as public figures we now ask for the public’s involvement in our lives through Twitter, through MySpace, through whatever and I think that people take that upon themselves that now that they have a direct line to you they can give you career advice, they can give you character advice. There’s no longer that sense of boundary with public figures, and just online in general you have such instant access to a person. They don’t really know you and I feel like my mother’s always taught me that you should conduct yourself privately as you would publicly. So, if you wouldn’t say these things to the person’s face don’t say them online. If you can’t not do that then take yourself off line and figure out a better outlet for whatever you’re dealing with.

Emily Osment: It’s a little hard to say that I can truly relate to my character just because her experience is so traumatic and I’ve never really dealt with anything that’s that emotionally strenuous, but my mom is a teacher and I hear stories about bullying all the time. I sat down and talked to her for a few hours before I flew to Montreal just so I could try to get a full grasp of what she hears bubbling and what she sees in the kids, the toll that it takes on the kids. I wanted to get a full opinion of what it’s like to be bullied.

Have you guys ever been tempted to tell someone online that they’re a jerk, maybe in more colorful language?

Emily Osment: No, because it kind of feeds…we don’t go looking for things, but you do find it and you think, ‘Wow, you really don’t know me if that’s what you’re going to assume about me. You don’t know me.’ Therefore that doesn’t warrant a response because then they’re just going to continue. That’s why a bully is a bully. They’re looking for a response out of you and if they don’t get it they’re going to stop.

How do you make typing cinematic, since there is a lot of that here?

Emily Osment: That’s a very good question. It was very cool the way this film was shot because we did everything handheld, and like I said, we had this amazing DP and the most fantastic director and a crew that’d worked together forever. So, they wanted to make it look beautiful and it was hard because we had a few outside scenes, but mostly it was inside in a bedroom looking at a computer. How do you make that pretty? The way that we shot it, we shot mostly reactions so that you’re not focused on a computer screen the whole time. It was hard personally for me, character wise, to go from everything is good to sobbing, like, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve read something,’ and there were so many scenes where it was an instant click with an emotional change which a lot of teenagers have. I think that was probably the most difficult. I cried every single day on this movie, as Kay will tell you. Every single day was so emotional.

Kay Panabaker: And sometimes it was like she’d have one or two scenes and then there were other ones where she was crying the entire day. Then at the end of the day, as opposed to being depressed she got herself happy again.

abc summer 2011 press cyberbully

What was it like working with Kelly Rowan?

Emily Osment: I love her. She got me on a healthy kick. I’m completely, a hundred percent raw vegan now which is very difficult. I have all my own snacks with me here today, that’s for sure, but she’s the sweetest person and she did a fantastic job of giving me excellent advice.

Kay Panabaker: The couple of scenes that I had with her she was like, ‘These were my experiences and this is what I’ve learned. Take it or leave it.’

Emily Osment: She’s very real and extremely down to earth and very funny, very sarcastic which is just like me. So we got along really well.