Affluenza (n) – a psychological malaise supposedly affecting wealthy young people, symptoms of which include a lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation. While that doesn’t sound like a the most pressing disease, filmmaker Kevin Asch uses the condition to highlight a time in America where the rich got richer, markets crashed, and the only ones saved were those lucky enough to receive a golden parachute. There’s a sad truth to Affluenza, and Asch doesn’t shy away from its dirtiest parts.
In New York City I was able to sit down with two of the movie’s young stars, Nicola Peltz and Gregg Sulkin, as we chatted about the social issues their film tackles. With their stock rising, Peltz starring in Transformers: Age Of Extinction and Sulkin finding fame through Faking It, we talked about what keeps them motivated as professionals, along with the challenges of balancing dark comedy with serious dramatics such a movie like Affluenza demands.
WGTC: “Affluenza” is displayed in many ways by filmmaker Kevin Asch, but I’m curious, where do you think the root of this problem exists?
Gregg Sulkin: Our generation? [Laughs] It’s awful! Everyone’s on their phones, no one ever looks up, it’s quite sad really. You jump on the subway and no one talks to one another. It’s kind of a problem.
Nicola Peltz: Talking about Affluenza the film, Kate is someone who should be happy, she has all the materialistic things that she wants, but she’s one of those unhappy people. She’s a broken person inside.
WGTC: Being young, successful actors, how do you keep yourself motivated?
Nicola Peltz: Acting is my passion – I love it. My Dad always says you can outwork someone. You should work really hard, stay humble, and if it’s what you love doing, you should just keep doing it.
Gregg Sulkin: Exactly. I have exactly the same mentality. I was very fortunate in the way I was raised, with two amazing parents that partly sacrificed their own lives to raise my brother and I in the best way possible. If you start acting like an idiot, you start letting people down – in this case, your parents – and no one likes to let someone down. You stay motivated to work hard and please other people.
WGTC: So what got you interested in Affluenza? What was the hook factor for this project?
Nicola Peltz: The Great Gatsby is my favorite book, so anything having to do with that storyline in the least made me really excited. Kate was a really interesting character to play. I had a lot of fun with it. I also love Kevin Asch, he’s such an amazing filmmaker.
Gregg Sulkin: I was in Vegas when I found the audition came through, I was walking through a hotel and thought, “Oh, The Great Gatsby, that sounds interesting!” I liked the role, I auditioned with Nicola, she was very sweet, I liked Kevin, I did a few more auditions with Kevin and Nicola, and yeah! I remember one of our audition scenes because my character has to propose to someone, and I’m not very experience in the marriage field at my age [Laughs] – and I put the ring on Nicola’s wrong hand…
Nicola Peltz: It was the wrong finger!
Gregg Sulkin: I still don’t know which the right one is! After that kind of audition, with people laughing and really clicking, you want to be involved with these people because you spend a lot of time with them.
WGTC: Now you’ve both acted on TV and in movies – which do you think presents more of a challenge?
Nicola Peltz: I don’t look at it as television or movies, I just look at the story. It’s exciting when you get to work with people you look up to and people you admire.
Gregg Sulkin: There are so many different components, like Nicola said about finding what you love, but sometimes, like my show Faking It, one of the reasons I did it is because I think it’s important to send a message out to young kids. When I was that age, I wanted a show like that, sending out a message about being accepting of everyone – no matter race, sexual orientation, or anything like that. It was important for me to be involved in it because I believed in it myself as a person.
WGTC: In Affluenza, there’s a heavy balance of dark comedy and serious drama – is it hard switching gears like that as performers?
Nicola Peltz: Not really, because that’s a person. A person isn’t always happy, they aren’t always depressed, they all have their moments as they go through life in different situations. I like doing both.
Gregg Sulkin: I think it’s important for a dark movie to have comedy, otherwise you’ll want to shoot yourself by the end of the movie. It can’t be 90 minutes of horrendous material, a movie has some levity. Kevin and the guys did a good job getting that out of people.
WGTC: Looking forward, what projects are you most excited for?
Nicola Peltz:I’m just excited to keep reading scripts, hopefully work with people I’ve watched growing up, and I’m going back on Bates [Motel], so I’m excited about that.
Gregg Sulkin: I’m just excited to get back to the show!
Thanks to both Nicola and Gregg for their time, and be sure to catch Affluenza in theaters starting today!