Sarah Hyland in Struck By Lightning. Photo by Suzanne Houchin. © 2012 Tribeca Film.
Acting since the age of five, Sarah Hyland is no stranger to the world of small and silver screen comedy. Best known as Haley Dunphy on ABC’s Modern Family, Hyland has also worked with the likes of Howard Stern and Jennifer Aniston, and starred in a Disney Channel Original Movie, Geek Charming.
In her latest film role, Hyland tackles a different kind of comedy—that of the dark teen variety—in Brian Dannelly‘s (Saved!) Struck By Lightning.
Written by Chris Colfer (Glee), Struck By Lightning‘s wondrously talented ensemble cast also includes Colfer, Allison Janney, Rebel Wilson, Dermot Mulroney, Christina Hendricks, and Polly Bergen, with supporting performances by Allie Grant, Ashley Rickards, Carter Jenkins, Graham Rogers, Matt Prokop, Robbie Amell, Roberto Aguire, Angela Kinsey, and Brad William Henke.
Recently, I spoke with Sarah Hyland about her character Claire—Clover High School’s Regina-George-like head cheerleader—her on-set experience, and her take on the moral of Struck By Lightning‘s story.
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Screen Invasion: Are you a fan of dark comedies?
Sarah Hyland: Yes, I am.
SI: Do you have any favorites?
SH: Oh, my gosh. I’m trying to think of one right now. Shoot me some options. I can’t even think of any right now, but I love dark comedy.
SI: Drop Dead Gorgeous, Saved!…
SH: I love Saved! … I’m a huge Brian Dannelly fan.
SI: What did you think the first time you read the Struck by Lightning script?
SH: I was enamored by it. I knew that Chris [Colfer] had [written] it and it was so good. It was so good and seeing [and hearing] it aloud is just, it’s even better.
SI: Was high school you anything like your character Claire?
SH: No, not really. I went to a performing arts school so we didn’t have cheerleaders or anything like that. And I feel like anybody who sees this movie who is like Claire will say that they’re not like Claire.
SI: [laughs] If there was someone like her at high school with you, would you have wanted to be friends with her?
SH: No. [laughs]
SI: What was the most fun part about playing a character that’s such a stereotype?
SH: It’s fun because it’s so opposite of me and you get to make fun of those girls that you did see that are like that. It’s fun. I grew up watching Bring it On and I loved that movie. There’s always those stereotypical, bitchy cheerleader films. It was my first time playing a cheerleader, and my first time ever in a cheerleader uniform, so that was very interesting for me. [laughs]
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SI: If you didn’t play Claire, was there any other character that you would have been interested in playing?
SH: I don’t know. I’m not sure. Everybody is such an amazing character. I don’t know. It would be fun to play all the characters, just put your spin on everything…. There’s the Goth/emo chick, and then there is the brainiac yearbook editor, and then there’s the stoner, and then there is the rich kid, and the football guy who’s not so bright. There’s always something and they’re all such fun characters to play with.
SI: What do you think is the moral of Struck by Lightning‘s story?
SH: I really hope that people walk away from this film with the idea that they are not what their surroundings tell them they are. That they can dream, and go after their dream and reach it. You don’t have to be pigeonholed by what people say you are.
SI: Towards the end of the film, you and Chris Colfer have a heart-to-heart, and you are very honest about what you see for your character’s life. Was it difficult for you to get into the mindset of a teenager who was already so disillusioned?
SH: No, because you’d see it every day. I think it’s a great way to show kids that you don’t have to think this way. I took it as an opportunity to show people that you shouldn’t think like this. You shouldn’t have to put yourself in a position like that.
SI: There’s a lot of really intelligent humor in the movie. Do you think that the target audience is going to be able to get it all, or is there a risk that some of it might go over their heads?
SH: Even if it goes over anyone’s heads, they’re still going to enjoy the movie. I was watching an episode of Full House the other day and there was this line that was said that, I forgot, I can’t even remember it…. There were all these sexual jokes that I had no idea…[were] sexual reference[s] at all, but now you look back and it’s hilarious watching it. So, I think there’s adult humor, and no matter what, people of all ages will like it.
SI: Was there any other character in Struck by Lightning, adult or teen, that you really identified with?
SH: If I would identify with anybody, it would have been Carson, just because he’s the type of person that knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it, and how hard he has to work to get it, and won’t take no for an answer. He will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
SI: What was it like on set? Did you guys ever have trouble keeping it together with such a talented and funny cast all in the same room?
SH: It was amazing. It was really my first time working with people of my own age because on Modern Family it’s either 14 years old or 30, 40 years. It was a lot of fun and it was real hard to keep it together whenever Rebel Wilson [was around].
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Want more Struck By Lightning? Check out my interview with writer/star Chris Colfer!
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Jan. 11, 2013
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For a list of theaters showing Struck By Lightning, see the film’s Official Website.