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Interview: 'Laggies' star Kaitlyn Dever hates when non-teens play teens in movies

After a couple heavy dramas, the actress tries her hand at something funny.

Kaitlyn Dever has had some heavy roles recently. Last summer she played a troubled teen with a history of self harm in the drama “Short Term 12.” Earlier this month saw the release of “Men, Women & Children,” in which her high schooler had to contend with a monstrously nosy mom (Jennifer Garner), who traces and polices her every online/cellular move. In the new “Laggies,” she’s Misty, a fun, wild teen who ropes an immature 28-year-old (Keira Knightley) into her circle of friends.

Not that she’s not used to all this tonal shifting. Her day job is the Tim Allen sitcom “Last Man Standing,” now in its fourth season. And even before “Short Term 12” she was jumping between “J. Edgar” and “Party Down,” “Justified” and “Modern Family.” She’s pretty humble about it. “I want to do comedy and drama and show people my diversity,” she says.

Dever says her “Laggies” character isn’t that much of a stretch for her. “Misty is me at a really hyper, insane level,” she explains. “We’re both sarcastic, with this dry, deadpan sense of humor. It’s how I am in real life, only I amplified that when I was playing her.”

“Laggies” also gave her the chance to work with director Lynn Shelton, known for improv-heavy, high concept indies like “Humpday” and “Your Sister’s Sister.” (This one has Knightley’s character hiding from her fiance by hanging with a bunch of teens, including Dever and Chloe Grace Moretz.) This one has no improv, but still had the same freewheeling feel onset.

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“Everyone was having a good time. I remember laughing a lot,” Dever recalls. “Everyone was a family. We all had this nice feeling coming to work every day.

When her friends in L.A. found out Dever was going to work with Shelton, they all freaked out. Apart from being talented, Shelton is giggly and friendly (and talkative). “It’s always nice to work with people who are genuinely good, and only in the business and doing films because they love it. That is Lynn,” Dever says.

Dever also loved that it was a film about teenagers actually starring teenagers, not 20-somethings (or even 30-somethings) pretending to be in high school. “When I see movies where the teenagers aren’t played by teenagers, it’s not real. They’re not teenagers,” she says. “That’s what was cool about ‘Laggies’ and ‘Men, Women & Children’: It had real teenagers.”

(Of course, they’re also spending time with someone who’s nearing 30. But Knightley blends in well. “When Keira was hanging out with us, she honestly felt like she was another teenager,” Dever says.)

Dever also takes umbrage with people who think she, Moretz and those like her are too business. “Sometimes people think we’re not teenagers because we’re in movies, that we’re strictly professional,” she says. “I’m a total teenager. I guess I am more mature, but I think that’s just how I grew up.”

Of course, Dever will soon have to contend with getting offered teenage roles in her 20s. “I hope I do 20-year-old roles when I’m 20,” she says.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter@mattprigge

 
 
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