A Girl Like Her has just been released and it is on our must-see list. There’s a deep kernel of truth behind the movie’s tagline ‘inspired by a million true stories’ because the film does seem to be a true story. Unlike most teen drama films, that end with the victim standing up for herself or learning to get past the harshness of others through friendship, this film tossed that out the window. Jessica Burns (Lexi Ainsworth) handles being bullied the way most teens unfortunately do. She internalizes her pain and tries to hide that she’s having a problem. In true fashion, the problem isn’t get better and her bully, Avery Keller (Hunter King), doesn’t see a reason why she should stop. She doesn’t see her actions as a problem
We were lucky enough to get a chance to speak with Hunter King about the film and her thoughts on the hard topic at the center of the film. While Avery may be one of the meanest people you’ve seen in a while, Hunter is the total opposite of that. We were glad to get a chance to go behind not just the film, but the character she plays.
Cliché: I just have to ask this right out the bat. What kind of filming style would you say this film is? It isn’t done in the standard format that we’ve seen in the past.
Hunter King: There’s a lot of the film that’s done in a documentary style. There’s a lot of handheld camera and GoPro action, but there’s a lot of chances where you get to really see the characters. It’s kind of like its own category. It’s filmed differently than most features. So, it’s really interesting.
It looked like it was just you and a camera sometimes. How was it recording those life-like clips of yourself pretending to be a normal girl on a laptop? Was it awkward in any way? It must have been weird.
It was at first. It was really strange. I mean my character in The Young and The Restless bullied like a kid on the show, but that was for a very short while. The role I play in A Girl Like Her is so different from that. She’s different from anything I’ve ever played. She’s a bully to the extreme. So, playing this character was very difficult and challenge to me. Aside from that, a lot of this film was improv. The director/writer, Amy Weber, gave us a basic outline of what the script was. But all the bully interactions and footage of my character was all improv. We would sit down together and go over what she wanted the scene to feel like and what she wanted to happen than we kind of just saw what happens from there. So, a lot of those moments where I was just sitting in front of the computer shooting myself was very hard. I couldn’t just transform into Avery and follow lines that I had already written for me. Instead, I really, truly had to embody this person and truly become her for all my scenes.
Wow, that sounds difficult.
Yeah, it’s something different from most films.
What’s Avery’s relationship with Jessica? Before all the hatred, weren’t they best friends? How did that all change?
Well, Jessica and Avery were friends before. They were friends growing up, but as a lot of girls see when they enter high school sometimes you drift apart and get new friends. In this case, something happened where someone cheated on a test between the two girls and Avery got really mad at Jessica. It was something so silly and petty that ended their friendship. It’s something that happens all the time in high school, but since then it became Avery’s mission to make Jessica’s life miserable.
And in some of the scenes you were really nasty. Did you ever had a moment where you just had to stop and rethink your life? Did it affect you personally when you left the set?
Oh, yeah. It was so hard. When I was working at Young and the Restless and I have my days off, it’s easy for me to transform back into reality, I’m back to myself and I go home. It’s nothing. But with this movie, everyday after work I would feel so exhausted and almost depressed to where I didn’t want to do anything. I just felt so bad about how my character was treating Jessica and how evil I was. It hurt to know that there are girls that are getting bullied this bad. I felt like an awful person. It was really hard for me. But as an actress its fun to be able to challenge myself. Still, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
In this film, you show Jessica’s relationship with other people, not just with her bully. Do you think this shows how the way our friends react in regards to the situation can make it better or worse? That they could also be a part of the problem?
Jessica’s friend, Brian, knew and tries his best to help with the problem in his own way. It really has to do with the fact that a lot of the time that the people being bullied tend to get embarrassed by it, though they shouldn’t feel that way. They have nothing to be embarrassed by because so many people go through this. They shouldn’t be afraid to seem weak. It’s okay to ask for help. So, we see Jessica’s friend try not to overstep any boundaries and help in anyway he can. Afterwards, what he does later on, is what truly helps the situation, but it’s a really hard line that some friends don’t want to cross because they don’t want to upset their friend. They want to help, but aren’t sure how. I think Brian is trying to balance that the best way he can. He wants to help her, but worries about upsetting her.
This kind of project is very different from what you have done in the past. It’s clearly not an easy role either. Was it the story itself that attracted you to this film and this character?
I was bullied when I was in high school. Even now, with being on television and social media, people feel it’s their place to give their opinions and tweet you directly that they hate you so much. It’s something that I can relate to. I was never bullied as badly as Jessica is, but I still wanted to get the message out there. It’s something that I believe in passionately. I never wanted to be typecast as a bully or seen as one, but I feel very strong about this message and really wanted to be apart of this amazing film. I wanted to speak out about and felt so excited to be apart of something so huge.
One of the taglines for the family is: “The movie every parent should see.” Do you agree that this is a film parents should be watching with their kids?
I totally do. Everyone can relate to this film whether you’re in middle school, high school, or an adult working. People experience bullying at all different ages. But with this film, one of the things we really wanted to happen was to spark a conversation. Because this film is shown from the bully’s side, not just the victim, you see why Avery is the way she is. It is something that parents take note of. There should be more talk about that, and when you see something like that, no matter if you see your child being bullied or if your child is the bully. There needs to be more of a dialogue and talk about why people are behaving the way they are and doing these things. This is something parents must see especially if their child is in middle or high school.
What do you have to say about those that think all a person has to do is turn off their phone or unplug their computer to stop the problem? Since most bullying attacks are online on, they think that if the person being bullied just stops going online the problem is dealt with. Do you think that is a wrong way to look at the problem?
I think that’s what we tell the victims, but let’s face the truth. That’s never going to stop the bullies out there. I know people say that you can’t change a person, you can only change your reaction and I get that. If anyone is being bullied that is something you should do. You should just ignore them and they’ll get bored. But that isn’t the point of this film. This movie is about stopping bullying at its core, which is the bully. It’s not about changing the victim and telling them to ignore it, though that’s what they should do. This film is to see why bullies are the way that they are, if it’s the home life, work, or friends. It’s about putting a stop at the true problem. So, this is a film that I hope doesn’t just tuck the issue under the rug. This is what I mean when I say we want to start a dialogue. We want to put an end to bullying, or at least put in motion a way to truly end it.
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A Girl Like Her: Hunter King Interview: Photographs courtesy of A Girl Like Her