Appearing in a dramatic crime film based on true events can be taunting for any actor, but for a young actress in her first major role, the job can be even more daunting. Eighth grade student Sammy Boyarsky, whose only other film appearance was a minor role in the hit comedy Bruce Almighty, is successfully showing off her creative, artistic side in the new crime drama Rampart. As a result, Boyarsky has received positive feedback for her portrayal of Margaret Brown in the movie, which was released by independent film studio Millennium Entertainment.
Rampart chronicles the widespread corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) anti-gang unit of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Rampart Division in the late 1990s. During the fallout of the Rampart scandals, veteran police officer and former Vietnam soldier Dave Brown, played by Woody Harrelson, is forced to face the consequences of his corrupt career. He is filmed beating a suspect, and finds himself in a personal and emotional downward spiral. His fate is sealed as the consequences of his past sins start to arise, and he refuses to change his ways.
Boyarsky generously took the time to talk to us over the phone from Los Angeles to discuss what convinced her to appear in the film, and how she prepared for the role. The teen actress also spoke about what it was like working with Harrelson and Rampart‘s director and co-writer, Oren Moverman, and how Sandra Bullock has influenced her career.
We Got This Covered: You portray Margaret Brown, the daughter of corrupt police officer Dave Brown, in the new drama Rampart. What was it about the script and the character that convinced you to take on the role?
Sammy Boyarsky: The main thing I liked about Margaret was that she so loves her dad. She’s learning that he was corrupt, but (she) didn’t know. So it was a learning process for her, and that’s the thing I liked most about her. She so loves her dad.
WGTC: Speaking of Dave, Woody Harrelson portrays him in the film. What was your working relationship with Woody like?
SB: We were able to talk between scenes. He was really nice, he gave me a bunch of key pointers about doing improv in the scenes. He and Oren (Moverman) both said it was about knowing your character so well that you would be able to spit out the lines that they would be thinking in that moment.
WGTC: Besides Woody, your co-stars also include Anne Heche, Ice Cube, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright and Steve Buscemi. Did they offer you any acting advice, and what was it like working with them?
SB: Well, I think the only acting advice (I received) was what Woody had told me. But I was able to hang out with Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche between scenes. Cynthia played my aunt (Barbara) and Anne played my mom (Catherine). So we were able to play games in between scenes. Anne taught me how to play Fruit Ninja, and we played games on her iPad. So we were all basically family.
WGTC: How much knowledge did you have of police anti-gang units before you accepted the role, and what type of research did you do before you began shooting?
SB: Well, I knew what the Rampart scandal was. I looked more into that, just more general information on it. But I don’t think I had to know as much information as the people playing cops did about the scandal. My character wasn’t sure about it, because everyone in her family was trying to keep her away from it, and not let her see what it was about. So I didn’t even need to know about the Rampart scandal as much as I needed to know about the relationship with her dad.
WGTC: Oren both directed and co-wrote the script for Rampart. Did his work on the script help him in his directorial duties once you began shooting?
SB: Definitely. But the cool thing about Oren was that before scenes, he would give us a few points that we had to hit in the scene. Then he really just left it up to us. There was a lot of improv going on. He gave us, like I said, a few points to hit, and a conclusion. Our job as the actor was to get to those points and the conclusion.
But it didn’t have to be the exact lines he had written, because we were so immersed in our characters that we decided what they were thinking. But we definitely tried to stay true to Oren and (co-writer) James Ellroy and the characters.
WGTC: Rampart reunites Oren and Woody, as they previously worked together on the helmer’s directorial debut, 2009’s The Messenger. Did you initially feel any pressure to fit in with them when you started filming, or did they embrace the rest of the cast?
SB: They were definitely great. We were all able to meet-me, Brie Larson (who plays Helen), Woody and Oren-I think a week before we started shooting, and had a family meeting. It just gave us the time to become best friends, so it wouldn’t be awkward on set, and we would all have the same bond together while shooting Rampart.
WGTC: When Rampart when premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, it garnered positive buzz. What is the feeling like, knowing that people are positively responding to the film?
SB: Well, it’s weird that you said it’s already last year, because it seems like it was more like two months ago. (laughs) But it feels great getting positive feedback from it. It makes me feel like our work was worth our effort. It feels like what you put into it, you get out of it, and I’m really grateful for that.
WGTC: You made your acting debut in Bruce Almighty when you were four years old. What was your filming experience in that movie like, and why did you decide to return to acting in Rampart?
SB: Well, on Bruce Almighty, I was just a little pumpkin (laughs), so I don’t remember a lot of it. One of the main things I remember is throwing dodge-balls at Jim Carey‘s butt. (laughs) That was my most memorable moment.
With Rampart, I decided to return to acting because when I was nine, I was getting bullied at school. I knew that I had some experience in acting. I thought maybe if I went back to it, and took a few classes, and not take the bullying seriously, it might raise my self esteem. After a few acting classes, I knew that I loved it, and that I wanted to continue on with it seriously.
WGTC: Do you feel acting is good for young girls, to help raise their self esteem?
SB: It definitely helps people express themselves who aren’t expressing themselves, and help them feel more free. I don’t think it’s healthy to keep your feelings bottled up inside. Acting lets you live all those emotions, in a safe environment.
WGTC: You have also lent your voice to the upcoming Blizzard Entertainment video game, Diablo III. Why did you decide to take part in the game, and how does working on games differ than working in films?
SB: Well, they were looking for a young girl who could do an English accent. One of them was a really young girl, so (in high English accent) I had to make my voice really high when I did my English accent. (lowers English accent) Then the other one I could keep my regular tenor when I did my English accent.
But I was really intrigued to do English accents, because me and my family would go around and do different accents all the time. We rarely use our English accents, but we go around and use our different accents. That’s just a part of my family, so I thought it would be fun to do those accents at work.
WGTC: How was working on Diablo III different than working on Rampart?
SB: Well, in the video game, they take it line by line, instead of scene by scene. So it gives you more opportunities to try that line over and over again. But it’s the same as acting, because you’re using your body language and your facial expressions. It’s all about getting your voice to sound like the character’s. But the video game is different, because you get to wear your pajamas to work. (laughs) I love that.
WGTC: Who are some of your acting idols-who are some actresses you look up to?
SB: I definitely look up to Sandra Bullock, especially her work in The Blind Side. She’s a person I’d want to be able to set my work after. She’s done not only drama, but also comedy. I love both equally, and I don’t want to stay confined to one genre. I’d love to do both, and I think Sandra Bullock is great at both. That’s one of the reasons I’d like to lead my career in her footsteps.
WGTC: Do you feel you can serve as role model to other young girls, who may have experienced bullying as well?
SB: Yeah, I think they can relate to my experience, and maybe find their niche in acting, and that’s all that I can ask for.
WGTC: Are there any upcoming film or video game projects you’re involved in that you can discuss?
SB: Right now, I keep auditioning for films. I just keep having fun with it, and live in the moment.
That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Sammy Boyarsky for taking the time to talk to us. Be sure to check out Rampart, which is now playing in select theaters.