The “Mirror Mirror” Interview
with Kam Williams
Thoroughly Modern Lily
Born in West Sussex, England on March 18, 1989 to Jill Tavelman and pop icon Phil Collins, Lily Collins has become one of the most sought-after young talents since making an impressive feature film debut in The Blind Side alongside Best Actress Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock. Last year, Lily was directed by John Singleton when she co-starred with Taylor Lautner in the action-thriller Abduction.
And she recently began production on Mortal Instruments, the first in a possible franchise series of films based on the popular book series of the same name. Meanwhile, on the small screen, she was a guest star for the final two episodes of the first season of CW’s new “90210.”
No stranger to the camera, the entertainment industry has been a big part of Lily’s life since she made her acting debut on the British version of the television series “Growing Pains” as a baby. After moving to the United States at 6, she took her love of acting and singing to the stage, performing musical theater and drama at the Youth Academy for Dramatic Arts.
Lily discovered a passion for journalism at 15, when she began working for the popular fashion magazine ElleGirl U.K. During her tenure there, she designed a page informing readers on current Hollywood trends and Los Angeles hot spots. Later, she covered both the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions for Seventeen Magazine and the presidential inauguration for Nickelodeon.
She was also a contributing writer for CosmoGIRL! Magazine and a host for Nickelodeon’s “Hollywood Hang” and “Countdown to Kids’ Choice!” as well as “Live from the Red Carpet at the Oscars” for the E! Network. In 2008, Lily was named the “Best International Model” Award at the Spanish Glamour Awards and was presented with the “One to Watch” award at the Young Hollywood Awards.
Away from the limelight, Collins attends classes at USC’s Annenberg School for Communications. As the first college representative to sit on the board of The Maple Counseling Center, she serves as an advocate for “Teens Helping Teens” programs through peer-support groups.
Here, she talks about her latest role in Mirror Mirror where she plays Snow White opposite Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer and Nathan Lane.
Kam Williams: Hi Lily, thanks for the time.
Lily Collins: Of course, Kam. How are you?
KW: I’m fine, thanks. Let me start by saying how impressed I was by your performance in Mirror Mirror?
LC: Oh, thanks so much.
KW: What interested you in Mirror Mirror?
LC: Well, the idea that we were taking such a classic fairytale and modernizing Snow White where she becomes a fighter, physically and emotionally, and blossoms into a young woman who really stands up for what she believes in. I also liked how the princess ends up saving the prince as much as he saves her. That was a neat twist, and it was a complete honor to get to play an iconic character that I grew up admiring and loving so much.
KW: Tell me a little about your approach to putting a fresh spin on a beloved classic?
LC: I didn’t want to make her a caricature of an animated princess. I really just wanted her to be a real girl that other girls could relate to, and as normal as possible in this abnormal world. So, I did my best to bring her down to earth, taking into consideration great movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor who were capable of saying so much without saying anything at all merely by carrying themselves in a classic fashion that’s timeless yet relatable.
KW: Were you at all influenced by your co-star, Julia Roberts, who played your evil stepmother?
LC: It’s very hard not to be. She’s such an amazing woman, and such a ray of light. All she has to do is enter a room and laugh to put a smile on your face and make you feel happier. The way she played Evil was really, really fun and amusing. Once I understood how she was approaching her character, I was able to manipulate how Snow White reacted to her ways. It was a spontaneous thing, a kind of improv that you had to be open to and just go with it.
KW: How about those spectacular costumes?
LC: The costumes were amazing! They were characters unto themselves. Complete artwork! Each one took me about 20 to 25 minutes to put on. Wearing a corset, a ball gown, heels and a swan hat with wings to fight in the forest gave me a whole new appreciation for everyday clothes, because you really become that alter ego while wearing those costumes in those environments on the set. They just influenced everything you tried to do.
KW: What message do you think people will take away from Mirror Mirror?
LC: That it truly is the power that you have deep within yourself that gives you the strength to pursue your dreams. It’s about loving life and love and opening yourself to spontaneity. Snow White never once looks in the mirror. It’s the power she finds within herself that propels her forward. I think it’s really important to remember that.
KW: How did you feel about director Tarsem Singh tacking a Bollywood ending on the production, one of those musical dance numbers featuring the entire cast?
LC: I loved it. It paid an homage to his culture, and the story’s already so vibrant and bright, and about loving life and believing in yourself, which is what I feel those Bollywood numbers are all about. So, that made for the perfect marriage, between the colors and positivity of the happy ending.
KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier was wondering whether you have anything in common with your character, Snow White.
LC: I like to think of myself as a very passionate person, and as very determined. So, if I set my mind on something, I definitely stop at no end to find within myself the power to keep going, whether that involves thinking of a new approach to a problem, or physically challenging myself.
KW: TitleTown Publishing’s Tracy Ertl says: I really enjoyed your performance in the film Abduction. I would like to know whether you worked with any missing-persons expert in preparation for the role.
LC: Oh, thank you. No, I didn’t, but that probably would be a good idea for the next time I do a film like that. Abduction was based on a very interesting and scary true story but, no, I didn’t do that.
KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being the child of a pop icon?
LC: People think that it helps me get roles. That preconceived idea is something that I’ve had to live with for a long time. That’s something that probably wouldn’t be considered positive, because people are quick to jump to conclusions. But he’s my dad, and I’m extremely proud of him and I love him. [Giggles]
KW: Here’s a question you might like as a former journalist. Is there any question no one ever asked you, that you wish someone would?
LC: [Pauses to think] Oh my gosh! You stumped me! But the next time we have an interview, I will let you know.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
LC: About 5 minutes ago.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
LC: Bittersweet dark chocolate.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
LC: I recently re-read “Pride and Prejudice.” http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0674049160/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What’s your favorite song?
LC: I don’t really have a favorite song. Music is such a big part of who I am, and speaks to so many different emotions inside me, that I don’t have an all-time favorite.
KW: Then, what was the last song you heard?
LC: “We Found Love” by Rihanna. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B005P395O4/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
LC: My mom and I make a really good chicken and grilled vegetable kind of English stew.
KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
LC: Oooh! All these opportunities that are coming up for me. And the idea that I get to travel and do what I love and call it a job is just a blessing.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
LC: I see someone that’s genuinely happy and very, very fortunate to be doing what she loves.
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
LC: I love clothes, but I don’t have a specific favorite, because I’m very much a fashionista. I love Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Chanel, and experimenting and mixing in Topshop and American Apparel.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
LC: That my family all stay healthy and safe.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
LC: Running around on the set of a TV show in England when I was 2, as well as just running around the house in the countryside at Christmastime with my mom and my dad, decorating the tree, and sledding outside.
KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
LC: Oh, wow! That’s difficult! I love dolphins.
KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
LC: It reminded me that, no matter what, I need to maintain my sense of self and always be true to who I am. And that while there are always going to be roadblocks along the way, you’re going to be just fine, as long as you learn from each setback.
KW: Three questions from Pastor Alex Kendrick: When do you feel the most content?
LC: When I’m happy and laughing.
KW: Second, what do you wish other people would note about you?
LC: That I’m really goofy and can totally make fun of myself. [Giggles]
KW: Third: What defines who you are?
LC: The people that I surround myself with.
KW: The Nancy Lovell Question: Why do you love doing what you do?
LC: Because it makes me happy.
KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
LC: By talking to my mom, friends and family.
KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who led you to become the person you are today?
LC: My mom.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?
LC: Right now I’m working with a number of different organizations that deal with female empowerment, like Aviva Family and Children’s Services which encourages girls from broken homes to enter the workforce.
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
LC: To never take a “no” as a “no” intended for you. Take it as a “no” meaning “not right now.”
KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
LC: As someone who loved what she did, but who loved her family above all.
KW: Thanks again for the interview, Lily. Best of luck with Mirrror Mirror, and I hope I can still get you back on the phone in a couple of years when you’re a superstar.
LC: Definitely, Kam! Thank you so much. That’s so sweet.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012