Sarah’s Backstage Pass was granted an interview with writer, actress and artist Charlyne Yi and actor Jake Johnson both starring in the film “Paper Heart.” We met at the James Hotel in Chicago in July a few weeks before the opening of the film.
Backstage Notes: Charlyne Yi: Petite, sweet, natural, confident, creative, lovely, smart and above all very cool! Dressed in comfy clothes; jeans, t-shirt, soft suede shoes. She has a beautiful smile with a contagious laugh.
Jake Johnson: Relaxed, fun, easy going, smart, hip, supportive, cool, great smile, instantly likable. Dressed in a long sleeve shirt and slacks. He’s a product of Midwest schooling attending one of the most prestigious High School’s in Illinois; New Trier. Jake also attended University of Iowa and finished his college education at New York School of Film.
This is going to appear out of the ordinary, but I must admit that I connected with Charlyne on-screen before I met her in person. When it became clear that this talented young woman was responsible for the bulk of the film, (script, acting, set designs). I was over-whelmed with joy; as I taught gifted students for over twenty years. Charlyne could have easily been a student in one of my classes. My goal was to teach students to express their creativity and talents. In “Paper Heart,” written by Charlyne, she sings, acts and creates. To see her display the qualities that I attempted to instill in my students all those years was a truly an emotional moment for me. I wanted to stand up and applaud as my heart was soaring.
Yes, America these are the young people we are nurturing and raising in this country; strong, independent, creative individuals who aren’t afraid to think critically and display their talents. Bravo to parents and educators as these young artists exemplify America’s imaginings and principles.
Sarah Adamson interviews Charlyne Yi & Jake Johnson:
SA: Whose idea was it to write about love; the concept of love and your notion that love doesn’t exist?
CY: I guess that was a part of my own personal idea. Originally, it was going to start off as a real documentary. And so it was kind of a bit of my questioning if love existed for myself and that’s how the idea was born.
Can you tell me about the puppets in the film?
In documentaries a lot of times you don’t have the footage that actually captures the story, so I thought it would be cool to have the puppets reenact and I asked Nick the (director) if he was into the idea and he said yes.
Did you draw all of them?
I painted most of the puppets. My father helped with some of the wooden constructions of them.
Did you have the idea for the different types of couples that you were going to film?
Nick and I composed a 3-page list of the types of people we’d like to interview. Our casting director searched for them and found some gems that we didn’t expect.
We have to talk about Michael Cera who seemed so natural in the film? Was he really just playing himself?
Charlyne: It’s funny because we said yeah he’s always playing himself, but I think he’s different than that. He’s more confident and he doesn’t stutter as much. He’s definitely different from that character.
You two had great chemistry together. It was hard to know when you were acting and not acting.
Everything with Jake who plays Nick and Michael is scripted and everything else is the real documentary.
Love is worth fighting for…
What would be a message that you might be able to take away from this film?
Jake: One of the things I’ve really learned from couples who have been together for a long time is that love is worth fighting for. I think sometimes, especially when you’re younger and starting out and it feels like an impossible quest but couples who have been together for 30-40 years would say it’s worth it. We heard that a lot so it’s really cool to hear.
Charlyne: Love is different for everyone. You can’t really know what love is unless you take a leap and try it out and see where it goes. The film also gave me hope.
What do you like doing best? Acting, writing, or art?
Charlyne: I like performing on stage. Whether it’s music or comedy or anything else, you get a reaction instantly and it feels nice to do something instantly, like spur of the moment “oh hey it’s an open mic.” But with writing, it’s such a long process.
Did you help write the song that you sing in the film? Yeah, I wrote that song (You Smell Like Christmas). The rest of the music was composed by me, Michael and others.
Is there anything you’d like your fans to know about you? “I don’t know, I’m a cool girl?” (giggling)
I’d say that you are VERY cool!
Next I asked Charlyne if she could draw a picture of anything she’d like as I wanted a memento to hang in my office. She started giggling and said “sure.”
Jake Johnson Interview:
Michael Cera & Jake Johnson
Jake, you are a Chicagoan. Can you tell us about that?
I grew up in Evanston, Winnetka, Lincoln Park and Rogers Park. I went to New Trier. I went to University of Iowa for 2 years and New York University for 2 years. I moved to LA in 2004 and have been there ever since. I love it.
What did you like best about working on this film?
Jake: I like the honesty of it. My kind of passion is being an actor for hire and
jumping onto different projects. This one just felt very honest and very real, especially the connection between Mike and Charlyne. In terms of scenes, if it didn’t play real, it wasn’t going to be in the movie. So as an actor, it was a really fun exercise because we did 300 hours of footage so you’d try takes every different way. It was a fun process.
Can you tell me about any of the funny moments? Do any stand out?
When Mike Cera first came on set we had been on the road already for four weeks and our crew had gotten pretty tight. So, we told everybody that Michael Cera needs raisins at all times or he throws a hissy fit. So, we had the sound guy and camera assistants saying “here you go Michael here are some raisins.” Michael would be like “what the he** is going on?” “Why is everybody giving me boxes of raisins?” And Mike’s actually a really nice guy and I didn’t think he’d want everyone to be like oh Michael Cera is freaking out…”
What’s your next project?
Jake: A new HBO pilot with Charlyne and Mike. It’s like a ‘Princess Bride’ type thing. Charlyne would be the protagonist throughout.
Charlyne: If we did a western, I’d be the Clint Eastwood type for no reason. And play it straight. And he’d (Jake) be the bad guy.
Jake: It’d all take place in a library and I’d be the janitor in the library. It’s like a Wizard of Oz, the characters she sees, take form in each genre. We did the play ET together on stage. She was ET, I was Elliot and what we loved about doing that was we played it as real as we could.
Charlyne: Here’s your drawing Sarah.
Sarah A.: Wow, is that me?
Charlyne had drawn a portrait of me with my hands raised to symbolize power and strength. I couldn’t help but make the comparison’s to my influence as an educator in this country as well as all teachers and mentors of our youth. It was my delight that day to meet the outstanding results of America’s education system.
Charlyne, Sarah & Jake (Photo by Sarah Adamson)
All photos courtesy of Overture Films unless stated otherwise
Sarah Adamson © 2009