Interview: Greer Grammer Talks AWKWARD., Life and LIFE PARTNERS
Greer Grammer may be on TV—as the Christ-centric cheer captain Lissa on MTV’s Awkward.—but as I learned during our recent chat, she’s also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. Er…strike those last two things.
Like many of us girls, however, this friendly, thoughtful, and uber-talented 22-year-old loves life’s simpler pleasures: Spending time with friends. Watching Scandal and Nashville—“My roommates and I just love Scandal,” Grammer told me, “we can’t get enough of it.” (See, stars really are just like us…because who can ever get enough of Scandal?). And cheering on her team, the 2014 Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings, with her boyfriend of a year-and-a-half. (Grammer’s been a Kings girl since attending her first game two years ago. “I grew up playing soccer,” she explained, “so [hockey] was one of the few sports that I understood. [I love] basketball and football, but I still have no idea what goes on in them.”)
In addition to competing on the soccer field, Grammer competed in beauty pageants in her mid-to-late teens. “I never went in very crazy, like I need[ed] to be Miss USA or…anything, [so] it was always fun for me,” she explained, “it was a different form of competition that I loved.” Crowned Miss Teen Malibu in 2008 and 2009, Grammer said she fondly recalled her pageant days while filming Awkward.’s recent “Mr. PHHS” competition. “I was sitting there making comments,” she said, “and being like, ‘No, no. This isn’t how it would be in a pageant…. Usually you say the fun facts about people while they’re walking, not before….’”
For college, Grammer attended USC where she enjoyed classes including ‘Directing’, ‘Theory and Practice of World Theater’, and ‘Love and its Representations in Film, Poetry and Literature’, and spending time with her sorority. Committed to earning her degree and graduating with her friends, Grammer accomplished both goals in May, earning a degree in theater. (“I know, [it] sounds like the cheesiest thing to say,” Grammer remarked of her desire to graduate with her friends. Regardless of how it may sound, however, it feels pretty natural and relatable to me.)
In the short-term, Grammer will be seen in the second half of Awkward.’s fourth season (air date TBA), and the upcoming holiday flick Christmas in Balsam Falls (expected December 2014)—which features, in Grammer’s words, “really, really good” musical stylings and compositions by fellow cast member Charleene Closshey.
Earlier this year, Grammer made her Tribeca Film Festival debut in Life Partners, starring Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs—about gay/straight best friends whose relationship is tested by their respective romantic entanglements—in which she plays Mia, one of Meester’s girlfriends, an early-20-something who just wants to have fun. Life Partners (@LifePartnersMov) was recently picked up by Magnolia Pictures (release date TBA).
As for long-term goals, “I’d like to work as much as I possibly can,” Grammer says, both acting and moving behind the camera to “writ[e], direct, creat[e], and produc[e].” Grammer’s ideal future includes doing musical theater on Broadway, and, of course, more movies and TV. “I really love TV,” she told me, “I love getting to go to the same work and the same crew every week—and I really love the character growth that can happen with TV. I think it’s a really cool thing.”
What did you think about Life Partners and your character, Mia, when you first read the script?
When I first read the script, I was very excited about it. I didn’t end up auditioning for the role. I just got a call from my agent with the straight offer. … I read the script and automatically was so excited for it, because it was like nothing I’d ever played before. … I’m used to playing the good, girl-next-door, Christian type, so it was really exciting to read the script and [be] like, “Oh, cool. She is a lesbian. Oh, she’s so hot. Like yes, yes.” It was just something that was so different for me. I was so excited to play Mia.
Director Susanna Fogel told me that your character is the one that men relate to the most, with the whole ‘dating down’ thing. Does that surprise you?
[I]t doesn’t surprise me at all. I actually just recently did an interview with a guy and he was like, “I saw the movie and I thought it was so funny, and your character, I totally related to. Like I understood that type of person.” And I was like, “Oh goodness.” But it’s true. I mean when I was younger, I briefly dated someone who was much older than me…and the age difference was definitely… There’s such a different mentality when you’re late-20s-going-on-30 [than] when you’re 20 years old. So it doesn’t surprise me that people, guys, understand about dating younger.
Did you enjoy the indie film atmosphere, or the ability to get away for a few weeks, make a whole movie, and then go back to whatever else you were doing? Is it something you’d do again?
Oh, absolutely. I love doing independent films—and I specifically loved working on [Life Partners] because it was so different than what I’ve done before…. On Awkward., I’m so used to having to say every single word correctly. There’s no improv, there’s no…kind of doing your thing. My first day on set, I did [a] whole huge monologue [scene]…and I kept messing up the lines and…getting mad at myself…. And I just remember Susanna coming in being like, “As long as the plan is there, that this is what you’re gonna do, you don’t have to say every word. You can go and do your thing.” And I was like, “Wait, what?” [I]t almost became even…hard[er] for me to do ‘cause I was like, “What do you mean?” I’m used to having to match every word. I’m not used to hav[ing] this kind of freedom, but I liked it. It was cool being able to…improv into these different things and say different lines…with Leighton. She was really fun to play off of.
Speaking of Awkward., when you first read the pilot/first few episodes, what did you think about the series and about Lissa?
When I first read the pilot, honestly, I didn’t really know where it was gonna go. But I loved the writing; it stuck out to me so much from any other pilot that I had read…. [I]t was so funny and it was so different from…anything on TV. So reading it was definitely like, “Oh, okay, this is great.” [And] filming it was amazing. [W]hen we started getting the episode two and three scripts, I started seeing where they were going with it, and just knew that it would be such a huge thing, ‘cause it’s so funny and relatable.
……In the script, [Lissa] was just kind of a bitchy sidekick—which she was kind of was first season—but there was no sort of thing regarding faith around her. And I remember showing up on set, and they had changed some of my lines and Lauren [Iungerich], our creator, was like, “We made her church-y. I hope that’s okay.” … I definitely love Lissa in the first season. I thought she was such a funny character, this girl who is Christian and President of the Abstinence Club, but wears miniskirts and crop tops, and just kind of knows what she’s doing. … I loved it—I love playing my character and I love how much she’s developed.
Do you have a favorite Lissa line?
Oh god, there’s so many. I’ll go back to first season, I think it was like episode three: the “no-no square.” I loved doing the no-no square.
I’m a fan of: “This year, I’m gonna let Jesus take the wheel…because I’m way too drunk to drive.”
That one is good. I forgot about that. That’s great. [A]nother one that I loved was…at church camp, when she said: “Forgiving others is easy, it’s learning how to forgive yourself that’s hard.” And I felt that was, I don’t know, very nice of her to do.
And very apt given where she was with other characters at that point.
“Hey! Stop! Don’t touch me there! That sir is my no-no square!”
– “The Way We Weren’t” (#1.3)
“Forgiving other people is the easy part of the process; it’s learning how to forgive ourselves that’s hard.”
– “Are You There God? It’s Me, Jenna” (#2.4)
Have you ever read one of the scripts and thought to yourself, “Can I actually say that without blushing?”
I remember hearing about the “behymen” line, and being like, “Oh, no…I don’t think I can do this. This isn’t gonna work, right?” But I did it, and it was fun and funny to be in that moment. I got recognized a couple of months ago, and some girl tagged me in a picture, and…it was like, “Hashtag Awkward, hashtag behymen.” [laughs] It’s staying with me forever, and I knew it would. [T]hat line is something that they will play 30 years from now, if I’m still working and…[g]oing where I hope my career is going. But yeah, that was definitely one that I read and I was like, “Oh god.”
Is Awkward.’s high school experience anything like yours?
Totally different. I went to a boarding arts high school for my freshman and sophomore year[s]…and then I was home-schooled for junior and senior year. [T]he high school I attended, didn’t have a football team. We didn’t have homecoming, or sports teams or anything—it was an arts school. I was a dancer. Dance major, freshman year; musical theater in sophomore year. So [Awkward. is] totally different; totally, totally different. It’s definitely fun to…play a cheerleader, and be the popular girl and all that stuff. It’s a blast.
What do you think about spending your early 20s playing a 16-/17-year-old?
I loved going back and getting to be in high school again and getting to play all these roles. It’s really fun and interesting…. Looking back at high school, it’s a really cool time because you’re there every single day, with the same people, with the same classes. And the drama that happens, it’s constant. It’s not like you can walk away from it, or it’s only in certain places. Like, then you get online and you go on AIM…or I guess no one has AIM anymore. God, that’s lame. That’s what I did.
I did too.
Or you text, or you’re on Facebook, or whatever, and you’re dealing with it. [T]here’s just something really cool about going back to being 17 and…to that kind of mindset.
If you could play any other character on Awkward., who would it be and why?
Oh my goodness. Oh, wow…. I would say, it’s a tie between Sadie [Molly Tarlov] and Tamara [Jillian Rose Reed]. Sadie because [she’]s so wickedly evil—but I don’t think anyone can play that part better than Molly. And Tamara is just fun cause she talks real fast.
And has her own online dictionary of all her Tamara-isms.
This season, Lissa really stepped out on her own and established herself as a leader and as an individual.
I was really excited about it. I think that Lissa’s always had the power to stand up to Sadie and to be a leader. I’m actually surprised it’s taken this long, because we’ve seen throughout season one, and even season two, kind of her…I don’t know if it’s a struggle, but her fighting back…. End of season one, she started fighting back to Sadie, and discovering who she was on her own…throughout season two. And then becoming friends with Sadie again, but still kind of being strong. … But I think it was really good to have Lissa step up, because I think that she’s been able to do it for a while. I don’t think it was shocking or not within her bounds. I think it was very within her bounds to be able to be cheer captain, and to be this leader and this person. Because Lissa’s a good person. She doesn’t have anything bad to say or do. She’s sweet, and funny, and nice, and I…think she’s a good cheer captain.
Lissa’s mom (Jenna Lamia) doesn’t seem entirely maternal in her dealings with your baby brother, Tyler (Kofi Siriboe). Are we going to see some more of this relationship dynamic?
Oh, yes. There is a ton of stuff coming up with Lissa, her mom, and Tyler. That’s one of the fun things about this season, we get to see a lot of Lissa’s family life—[and] there’s definitely a lot of drama between that whole little triangle of her mom and Tyler and Lissa.
I know Tyler is not what I had in mind to step out of the car when Lissa says her baby brother is “finishing his bottle.” You?
I thought it was great. Actually this was the first time I got to be a part of the whole casting process. I went in for a chemistry read…‘cause we have a lot of good brother and sister stuff coming up…[like] you saw in the pageant episode…. Kofi [and I] did a video Skype chat and…we just got along really well. We have such a fun relationship. We banter with each other off-set and it’s really fun. But, yeah…when I first was reading that first episode, I was like, “Oh, cool, we adopt a baby brother”…and then he gets out of the car and I just started laughing. I think he did a really great job with that part.
What do you think of Eva (Elizabeth Whitson) as a character?
I go back and forth with this one. As per TV, I love Eva’s character…. [T]he show needed something and somebody that come in stir the pot. In the reality of Palos Hills, I don’t trust her. And every time I read the script, I was always like, “God, this girl. Ugh!” But I think characters like that are necessary.
I think she is Matty’s Collin.
She’s definitely Matty’s Collin.
Is there anything else that you’re allowed to tell us about the last episode of this half season of Awkward.? Any little teasers?
We go to Big Bear and do a senior ski trip that’s very fun. There’s a lot of drama with Matty [Beau Mirchoff] and Eva, and Jenna [Ashley Rickards] and Luke [Evan Williams]. And there’s a lot of new hookups for different people while we’re all away and gone from Palos Hills.
A ski trip? New Eva drama? And lots of new hookups?! I sure know where I’ll be Tuesday night… #AwkwardSeniorYear
Featured Image: Courtesy of Integrated PR
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