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SXSW: Juliette Lewis and Jonny Weston talk 'Kelly & Cal'

Metro sxsw 2014

In director Jen McGowan's "Kelly & Cal," Juliette Lewis and Jonny Weston star as two distinct flavors of outsider — a former punk rocker turned new mom and a sardonic, wheelchair-bound high school senior — who form a connection based on their discomfort in their suburban surroundings.

So Juliette, Jen McGowan says this part was actually written specifically for you.

Lewis: This is always a surprise to me when I hear something like that. It's a nice compliment. I was really intrigued by this. There was a quiet kind of imploding quality to this character that's really challenging to unearth. I received this as a normal actor would, I read the script, I responded. I thought it was like a little diamond, a little gem, because you don't see movies like this very often. And we're seeing less and less in independent cinema, it's becoming smaller. But maybe when you come to a place like this, maybe it means that it's alive and well.

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It can be tough to deal with subject matter like this without veering into after-school special territory.

Lewis: And Jen is as cynical as that, she really is wary of those potholes. It's funny when you see things, there's always cliches, there's always finding the truth and navigating and making something fresh.

Jonny Weston: It's hard to find the truth and then have all those technical things in mind at once, too. And Jen was there for that.

Juliette Lewis and Jonny Weston in "Kelly & Cal." Photo Courtesy of Kelly & Cal. Juliette Lewis and Jonny Weston in "Kelly & Cal." Photo Courtesy of Kelly & Cal.

You have a lot of physical work to do to pull this off, as far as the wheelchair goes.

Weston: Well, Jen set up some time apart for rehearsal specifically for me to hang out and go to rehab centers and special gyms for people that just have mobility in their upper arms. I think I was already taking it seriously, but when you sit down with these people, how they have to roll the chair with the heel of their hands because they can't use their fingers, it's a balance between doing it because you're excited to represent them and then the responsibility of that.

Seeing as how you're also a musician in real life, Juliette, that part of the character must have come naturally.

Lewis: This is the first time I get to write songs for a film I'm in, which, of course, I want to do more of in the future. But this was fun because I was writing songs as a character, because it's in the vein of '90s quiet-loud, early PJ Harvey. Sleater-Kinney was a point of reference. That's not music I make at all, but that was really fun for me as a songwriter.

And it's a pretty intense commitment for you as an actress as well.

Lewis: Well, this is the first time, I think ever that I think I was in almost every single frame, and we're doing 16 hour days. So it really is a labor of love. What I like about this, too, is that it's not just a girl going through this time . Even when I read it, you expect it to go in these cliched ways they're all romping in the sack. But it's different, it's like an emotional love affair. And it's someone trying to figure themselves out and revisit what they think they lost within themselves and it's like a mirror reflection of another person. And it's totally wild and it's all these colors that I feel like I've been through in my life, even though not as a new mom, but in a new place you find yourself in midlife, sometimes.

Weston: It's not just one or the other person just trying to get one over on anybody; they're a couple of people that truly respect each other and don't quite feel like they deserve each other. And that's an element that had to be in there for the story to work.

 
 
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