Hey friends! Barbarella here. Have you ever struggled to find the one person who gets you? Well, when a socially-awkward, yet clever, teenager attempts to acquire a "mail-order best friend," a sophisticated exchange student from France, what arrives is his personal nightmare. This is the premise of THE EXCHANGE which comes out on VOD and Digital Friday, July 30, 2021. The film stars Ed Oxenbould and Avan Jogia. Written by Tim Long (“The Simpsons,” “Late Show with David Letterman”), it’s a fun, light-hearted comedy that still slips in some relevant issues. I had the opportunity to speak with Ed Oxenbould about his experience on the film and why he wanted to be involved. Check it out.
Which character in THE EXCHANGE do you relate to the most?
“Ooh, that's tough. I think there's so many great characters, and each character represents a different part of almost everyone. You kind of got the extremeness of Stéphane and the kind of quiet goodness of Tim.
“I don't know. Maybe I'm a little bit biased, but I think Tim. Just getting to play him and getting to know him and seeing the kind of intricacies and complexities of the role written by the amazing Tim Long himself. There are parts of me that don't want to admit that I relate to him the most, but I think I definitely do.”
Were you not popular in school?
“No, I was popular enough, but there’s just something about Tim. That kind of quiet arrogance and kind of pompousness, I feel like I'm fortunate to have sometimes. I wasn't relentlessly mocked and bullied, thankfully.”
Well, that's good. What appealed to you the most about the screenplay?
“I think there were so many things that drew me to it. Having Dan Mazer at the helm was such an exciting prospect, but I think that the screenplay just ... It was so alive and energetic. Reading it, it just jumped off the page, which is such a corny expression, but it really did. It was so great. I could see every character. I could hear every line, every joke being delivered perfectly. Just reading it, I thought it was so sweet and funny, and all the heart came through, and the humor came through. Everything that you see onscreen was there in the screenplay from day one, and that's why I just thought, "I have to do this."”
That's cool. It's funny. When I first saw the trailer for this, I immediately thought of the film BETTER OFF DEAD, which stars John Cusack and Diane Franklin. It came out before you were born, back in the '80s. Both films are about a guy who's not super popular and a foreign exchange student from France, but BETTER OFF DEAD is very different from THE EXCHANGE. I was just wondering, have you seen BETTER OFF DEAD?
“No, I haven't, but now I feel like I have to.”
You need to. It's a ridiculously silly movie, but it's fantastic. What was your favorite scene to shoot and why?
“I think there's one scene, where we take Stéphane, my exchange partner, out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. As we're there, more members of the town come in and interrupt, and we just had so much fun filming that. We got to eat, which is always a bonus. Dan, the director, and all these cast members kept throwing ideas in, and it just kept building and building, and the scene got funnier and funnier with each suggestion. By the end, we were so slap-happy from sitting in this dark Chinese restaurant all day, that we suggested the most ludicrous stuff. It just got out-of-hand, but we were having so much fun.”
How much improv did you guys do?
“We did quite a lot, even though not a massive amount made it into the film. Quite a good chunk of it did. We’d almost always finish the scene, and then we'd always add a little bit on at the end, kind of giving you an option to chuck that in. Whenever we did that, it would just get so out-of-hand. Almost always we had to cut, because Paul Braunstein made everybody laugh on set. We would carry on for as long as we could, and then he'd just break everybody on set.”
Would you talk a little bit about how you and your costars spent your time on set between takes?
“We did a lot of crazy things. We formed such a tight bond. The core family is Stéphane [Avon Jogia], Sheila [Jennifer Irwin], and Paul Braunstein. We formed such an amazing bond. Then we started making little videos on our phones. We made these kinds of mockumentaries and all these bizarre videos that are all still on my phone. Occasionally, I go back and look at them. We made little silent films and then a slideshow. We made a fake crime documentary. We had this whole kind of story that we made up about each other, that just kept getting bigger and bigger and more ridiculous. Then by the end, it was just so out-of-hand.”
It sounds like you want to direct at some point, maybe.
“Oh, yeah. Definitely. Seeing how fun it is to work with a group of talented people who can just give so much and throw such creative stuff at you immediately, it's so great. The idea that you're orchestrating that and putting something together that turns out beautiful and really heartfelt, like THE EXCHANGE, is just so perfect.”
I'm really surprised how well you do an American accent at your age. How did you master the accent?
“Thank you. I've been lucky to work in the States a fair bit. And from my time over there, I just picked it up naturally, I think. I've watched the world and listened to a wide range of accents, from the South and the East and the West. I did some pretty hardcore coaching on the first film I did when I was twelve, and it got drilled into my brain. All this boring dialect coaching just got drilled into my brain, so I can't shake it, even if I wanted to.”
If you're in Australia, do you do American accents to impress people? And when you're in America, do you just speak Australian to impress people?
“No, I get so self-conscious [with the American accent] to do it [off camera]. I always buckle under the pressure. But when I'm in America, I flaunt my Aussie accent whenever I can, because people love it. It's a great kind of crowd-drawer, which makes me sound like an egotistical maniac, but to me, it's just fun being a little bit different.”
You’ve already worked with some big names: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, M. Night Shyamalan. How do you stay grounded?
“I don't know. I mean, I've been really lucky, because even though I've worked with those big names, they were all super grounded, so it doesn't feel like I'm off in Big Hollywood. It just feels like I'm dealing with actors and great people. I think having a home to come back to that isn't Hollywood and isn't the kind of bright lights and everything has kept me grounded.
“I've been lucky though, I went to school; I graduated normally. I had a part-time job at the cinema, which is very fitting. But I've found ways to just maintain that sense of normality, because filming is so ... It's so not normal. It's such a bizarre job. To be doing it from such a young age is so odd, but I think I've found ways to keep myself grounded, and I think the main people that helped me were my parents.”
Speaking of, you come from a family of actors. Did they push you into acting, or was that something that you wanted to do as soon as you were old enough to understand what it was?
“Yeah, it was odd. They never pushed me into acting. They never had any kind of expectation. I didn't even know if they wanted it. They probably didn't, but I think it's just the way that it worked. I started doing voiceovers, then I started auditioning for short films and just got more and more. I've been lucky that I've been met with nothing but support [from my family]. I love them.
“I owe everything to them. They've helped me with countless auditions and sacrificed their time to take me over to LA and different places we filmed. I definitely wouldn't be here without them, so I owe everything to them.”
What do you think is the most challenging part of acting for you?
“I don't know. It's a very odd job. It's very odd, especially at a young age, to have to pretend to be someone else in front of a crowd of sometimes sixty, sometimes a hundred people, sometimes way more. Just putting on an act and pretending to be someone that you're not is a very difficult thing. You have to put aside your anxieties and insecurities. You have to push past that to get to the stage where you can fully get immersed in it. It’s not easy to get there, especially when you don't really know what you're doing, especially when you're just figuring out who you are as a person. It's odd to then have to try and shake that and take on this whole new persona.
“So I think the main thing for me personally, was just trying to deal with finding a way to be someone I'm not, but also figuring out who I want to be and who I am at a young age.”
You rapped on "Ellen" back when you were about fourteen, I think. You're pretty good. When should we expect your rap career to take off?
(Laughing) “Thank you. That might happen down the line, if acting doesn't work out. But at the moment, I've got no real plans to release any sort of music.”
Do you consider yourself an extrovert, or an introvert?
“I'm not quite sure. I like to think I'm a healthy mix of both. I feel like I can be extroverted when I want to be and can be part of social situation, but I also love being introverted. I love having a bit of time to myself. I'm a bit shy in public situations. I think a mix of both is the best place to sit, at least for me.”
What genre of film do you watch the most?
“Ooh, I'm so scattered. It's kind of anything and everything. I love watching a real corny action film. That hits a very certain part of the brain. I love watching a rom-com, or a drama, or a horror. I think anything that has that kind of special movie magic to it, I'll watch it, and I love it.”
If you could star in any remake of any movie, what character in what movie would you want to play and why?
“Ooh, I think Donnie Darko. I think that role is just so brilliant. That film is so brilliant. There's so much to work with. Of course, Jake Gyllenhaal did such a fantastic job, I wouldn't even scratch his performance, but I think that opportunity would be so fantastic.”
What is your favorite thing about acting?
“I think the people. I think over the past few years, as I've gotten to have these great experiences, I've just come to love the people. You make such great connections. Occasionally, you get a few bad eggs, but the good ones, they teach you so much. They implant all this wisdom in you, that then I pass on to other people and also use to better myself.
“You just find people who are so creative and want the best for you. When you get to work with them again, it's even better. The people make the job. It's what drives you to get up and go to set each day, and it reassures that you're in a good business and that you're taken care of and that you're wanted and appreciated. The people are just the best part of it."
What's the best lesson you've learned, or what's the most important thing anyone's taught you?
“I don't know. I can't pick one with so many in my head. I've worked with such incredible people, and each one has taught me such a completely different thing. I've learned different things about even eating in front of the camera, little tips and tricks to minimize how much food you eat, so you're not making yourself sick. Little things like that seem obvious, but then you don't think about it until you hear a professional tell you and really teach you. That knowledge never leaves, and hopefully I can pass that on to someone else.”
I got suckered into trying Vegemite twice, and I think it's absolutely disgusting. Could you explain why Australians love it so much?
“I couldn't even tell you, because I'm in your boat. I think it's absolutely repulsive. There's nothing about it that is even remotely appealing. The color, the texture, the taste, the smell, it's all bad. It's all bad.”
Yeah. It boggles my mind how many people love it down there.
“Me, too. I've been waiting twenty years for an explanation why people like it.”
Do you have anything on the horizon that you're able to talk about?
“I've got a few things lined up, a few potential things. Just with the way that the world is in the moment, everything's up in the air, and things can change in a matter of hours.
“I'm hoping to do a film early next year in New Zealand, which would be great. I just wrapped a film over in WA, and I'm doing a few bits and pieces here and there, which can't be announced, but it's good. It's exciting that the world is coming out of this temporary slump, and hopefully, the work picks back up. Hopefully, I just get more opportunities, and hopefully, I don't have rely on my rap skills.”
(Lauging) Well, at least it’s something to fall back on, right?
“It is good to have a backup. Every actor needs a backup, whether that is rapping or whittling or candle-making. It's important.”
Yeah. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, you probably don't need a backup. You're going to be fine. You've done some great work already.
“Thank you. But I've got one, so I'm good, if I need it.”
He won’t need it. Check out Ed Oxenbould in THE EXCHANGE on VOD and Digital this Friday, July 30, 2021.