Cast of ‘Shut Up and Drive’ on Their Favorite Road Trip Stops
Shut Up and Drive co-stars Zoë Worth and Sarah Sutherland attended NYU at the same time as their film’s director Melanie Shaw; however, Zoë & Sarah’s relationship extends even further back than college. Friends since the age of 12, the two actresses forgo any seeming familiarity with one another in their roles of Laura and Jane. In Shut Up and Drive, Sutherland’s Jane becomes anxious when her boyfriend Austin (Morgan Krantz) suddenly moves to New Orleans shortly after his childhood friend (Worth’s Laura) starts to stay in their home. Unable to live together without Austin around, the two women embark on a road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans, forming a bond along the way.
In an interview with Way Too Indie, Zoë Worth, Sarah Sutherland and Morgan Krantz, as well as the film’s director Melanie Shaw, discuss “unknowing” each other, watching the film with an audience for the first time, and their deep love of Marfa, Texas.
How was your premiere day?
Zoë: I thought it was great, I thought it was so crazy, and when I got on stage for the Q&A I thought the room looked really big.
Sarah: Morgan and I had the unique experience of watching the film for the first time at the actual premiere, which is really exciting and made it [an] extra high octane experience.
What’s that experience like of seeing something you’re in for the first time with a live audience?
Sarah: I don’t typically watch myself so that was the first time I sat through an entire film I’ve been in, let alone one I haven’t seen.
Zoë: You were such a big, brave dog I thought.
Sarah: Zoë held my hand! [laughs]
Zoë: It was great. It was really impressive. I left twice during the movie. I was singing.
Couldn’t be in the room for the singing scene?
Zoë: Uh, no. Not in surround sound.
Zoë: No. Not the first time. Tonight I might watch it.
Morgan: I thought your singing was great.
Zoë: Thanks babe. Thanks.
So Zoë you were the co-creator of the story, how’d that first come about?
Zoë: Well, we have a friend named Kelsey McNamee. We were working in our theater company and after meeting one night we were like — wasn’t it really late at night or something?
Melanie: Yeah, or it became really late.
Zoë: It became late at night. The idea came because — it’s based on some real things, some not real things.
Melanie: We just stayed up talking all night. It came from some of the relationship and then it was sort of re-developed around Zoë and Sarah later.
Zoë: Yeah, but the “taking someone out of the picture” instigated a lot of the fiction parts.
Melanie: You and Kelsey were just getting to know each other which was kind of interesting, too.
Zoë: Yeah, and we were strangers and had this kind of loaded experience of being someone’s close, close friend. Being someone’s girlfriend.
How long did you two cultivate this idea until you started to assemble a cast?
Melanie: At least a year.
Zoë: Really? Is that true? I think you might be right. I think it might have been summer to summer. I talked to Sarah about it before that, probably six months. When we came to you, Sarah, did we have a script or did we have just ideas?
Sarah: No, there was basically a really detailed outline but Zoë was very stealthy about it where she came over to my apartment and talked to me about this story without saying she had me in mind for the part. Then she wanted me to meet Mel and sort of randomly called me and asked if I wanted to go to Disneyland the next day. So we go to Disneyland together and unbeknownst to me, I think Mel just wanted to get a sense of Zoë & I’s chemistry and if it made sense before she said anything.
At the same time I was going to [theater company] meetings. A lot of people write work and put up scenes. Zoë and I would do some work together. When I look back on it, it’s quite evident that the process was coming together but I was actually really surprised and profoundly flattered when they asked me to do it.
What was your initial reaction to what they brought to you?
Sarah: Oh, I loved it! I mean that’s the thing, I was so excited. Zoë and I talked for at least an hour and a half or two hours about this story.
Zoë: The first day.
Sarah: They were such cool characters and only the seeds in the beginning of what they came to be. Also I had heard such beautiful things about Mel. Zoe, Mel & I went to NYU and she was sort of this golden child of Tisch film that I had heard wind of [laughs]. I had also heard a lot because Zoë had worked with her prior, [I heard] about her process of working with actors and getting together, doing improvs. The emphasis on character and collaboration and improv. That kind of work is so exciting to me so it was definitely a really easy decision.
Morgan: When we started we just talked a lot in preparing for it about the relationships and the backstory and stuff like that. I was mostly trying to be conscious of the level of “douchery” with the character. Just because I thought it was a delicate thing. It was good seeing it, I feel like we did a great job. Mel was really helpful in guiding that. I think the process of [making] it really helped that character not be some sort of one-dimensional, “Oh yeah, he’s an asshole.”
Because we were a little looser with the dialog and stuff, I think that we achieved that he’s real. He’s self-centered but it’s not obvious. It was actually a really interesting thing thinking of what the real version of a self-centered person. Not like the movie version. We see it represented in movies and stuff all the time. “Oh yeah, he’s the douchey actor.” But the real version was interesting to reflect on as an actor, you know what I mean? When am I actually being self-centered?
I love the moment when she faints and then I’m like, “I’m going to go get you water,” but then I never come back. I just end up on the telephone. That’s stuff that I feel like I’m totally capable of. I think it was a fun line that I was trying to walk with them.
Sarah and Zoë, you mentioned at the premiere you’ve been friends since you were 12. What was it like adopting a different dynamic for this film?
Sarah: Well to begin with we’re really close in real life. I’ll just speak to Jane specifically, obviously when you’re playing a character you want to empathize with them. I have a lot of affection for Jane, but I think in general she’s more of a co-dependent, kind of needy character. [She’s] really grappling with her sense of self and ability to stand up, to say no. These things that I don’t necessarily identify with. So by way of playing a character that’s so different, immediately it changed our dynamic in the process of doing it.
Zoë: I’ll speak about being Sarah’s friend, Sarah is definitely not someone that defines herself through other people. Jane I feel her starting place in the film is definitely defining her life through her boyfriend. For me, unknowing each other is one big change. Then being strangers and getting to know each other that’s obviously something new.
My character Laura — Mel and I talked a lot about this idea of having no context. I feel like between Laura’s socioeconomic background, her creative passion and just her really youthful personality, I think that she’s someone who’s not bound by any rules. I think that that’s definitely different than me. I access my purest, most fun, passionate, creative self playing that role. She has no structure, is sort of how it is. That’s a really fun place to be to create from. Her influence was key in playing the part.
Sarah: I think also that our actual relationship in life helped us at points in the movie when the characters are starting to get to know each other better. The tenderness.
For the production you had to take the road trip your characters take, was there a favorite stop along the way?
Sarah: My favorite, I think this is what most people, was probably Marfa just because it’s such an unusual place to be privy to. I love New Mexico as well, I had never been there. It was incredibly beautiful, those sprawling landscapes.
Zoë: My favorite was Marfa, too.
Melanie: Marfa was the greatest.
Zoë: It was so fun and we were there for the longest time. I would say New Orleans was amazing, which it was, but we were there so quickly that I didn’t get to know it. I feel like I got to know Marfa, especially because it’s so small we did get to know Marfa. It’s only a few blocks.
Sarah: I had to say that the county fair actually was also a highlight just because it was the most unusual experience that we otherwise wouldn’t be privy to.
Zoë: That was crazy.
Sarah: Because Melissa is committed to authenticity and we were in the real locations.
Zoë: Then we stumbled into real longhorns. A real longhorn ranch. That was real.
Just a happy accident of the shoot?
Zoë: Yeah! Within an hour of shooting we had met them.