Hey CelebSecrets4U readers,
ABC Family just premiered an original movie titled Cyberbully on Sunday night. Cyberbully follows Taylor Hillridge (Osment), a teenage girl who falls victim to online bullying, and the cost it takes on her as well as her friends and family. Taylor is a pretty 17-year-old student dealing with her parents’ recent divorce and painfully aware of her lower social status in high school. When her mom gives her a computer for her birthday, Taylor is excited by the prospect of going online to meet new friends without her mother always looking over her shoulder. However Taylor soon finds herself the victim of betrayal and bullying while visiting a popular social website. Obsessed with the damaging posts, she begins to withdraw from her family and friends, including her life-long best friend, Samantha Caldone (Panabaker). Tormented and afraid to face her peers at school, Taylor is pushed to a breaking point. It is only after this life-changing event that Taylor learns that she is not alone – meeting other teens, including a classmate, who have had similar experiences. Taylor’s mom, Kris (Rowan), reels from the incident and takes on the school system and state legislation to help prevent others from going through the same harrowing ordeal.
ABC Family has also been running a special campaign called Delete Digital Drama, which is a multi-tiered pro-social campaign to bring awareness to the youth issue of online bullying.
Check out the exclusive Q&A with Emily Osment and make sure to check out Cyberbully on ABC Family!
Q: Cyber bullying is such a huge topic these days. Did you have to do any research to be in the role, and have you been bullied? As a celebrity, I’m sure you’ve been raked through the mud a little bit though.
Emily Osment: “That’s a good question. This movie I knew was going to be a journey in all sense of the word. I definitely spoke with my mom before I began this project. She is an elementary school teacher in sixth grade and as sad as it may seem elementary school sometimes, that’s where we get the bulk of the bullies, especially before they turn into bigger bullies. So, I spoke with her for a long time about what she sees in her school and some of the cases that she’s seen, and it’s frightening. It’s very sad. And besides that, I spoke with Joe Rice, who’s our producer, I spoke with him for a very long time when I read the script, and I loved it for many reasons. One, was because I knew this was a character that definitely, she has an arc. She starts at one place and she’s, as you said, actually, she drags through this mud a little bit and then she comes out somewhere else. And to play a role like that is an opportunity I haven’t had before and I was very happy with it and I was jumping at the opportunity. And plus, this is a campaign that needs to have more publicity surrounding it. I mean, cyber bullying is a topic that is very hot right now. It’s a very timely matter. I know that Michelle Obama has a campaign that she is doing on it. Seventeen magazine obviously is doing a huge campaign right now with Delete Digital Drama. We have a rally next week on Thursday. With this StompOutBullying.org that I’m an ambassador for, I mean, there is just so much we’re doing, and knowing that going into this movie, knowing that it would be for a good cause, and then also participating and playing a role that I’ve never done before and in drama, which is a big step for ABC Family, there was no reason for me not to do it.”
Emily Osment: “This is really a film for everyone. This is a film for parents as well as for kids definitely, but I really encourage parents to sit down and watch this with their kids because this is a very impactful movie. If you’re having trouble at home with a kid who’s being bullied and you don’t know how to help them, Kelly Rowan, who plays my mother in this, does an excellent job of playing this mother who is caught between a divorce and her job and two kids and she’s so stressed—which a lot of mothers in America sadly are, but, I mean, she does a great job of showing how she doesn’t really know how to help in the beginning and then she becomes supermom. So, it truly is a really good story and it’s good for everyone.”
Q: Has your big brother ever protected you from bullies or given you advice on dealing with bullies?
Emily Osment: “We were typical kids growing up, got into scuffles sometimes. I mean, there was never really a time where he had to protect me from a bully. We were four years apart, so even in high school, there was never really a time where he would have—we were only in school at the same period of time for a year. I was a freshman and he was a junior, oh no, so it was two years. It’s so long ago. It’s weird. My seventh and eighth grade year, he was also in my high school as a junior and a senior. So, we had completely different circles of friends obviously, and we kind of stayed in the opposite sides of the school. So, I never really saw him. But, if I did have a problem, it was nice knowing that he was there and I know that that was a comfort for my parents as well. I know definitely there were kids in my class who had siblings, which was great, and it was nice to know if they had a problem that they had an older sibling that could take care of them. And at fire drills and that kind of thing, they would always have the older siblings come and comfort the younger siblings. It was great. It was even built into the school. But there was never a real time where he had to protect me. I know he would though. He definitely would.”
Emily Osment: “Oh, the only similarity really is that they are both teenagers and they are both in school. Truly, there is really no similarity other than that. Lilly Truscott, I played that character for five or six years, so she became more and more like me and I think that was okay that she took that evolution because it was so long and to be playing a character that long, it was okay that she changed a little bit over the process, which she definitely did. Lilly was a very cheeky, a very kind of not the brightest, bold, very funny, very hyper and Taylor is completely opposite of that. She is a very almost solemn and melancholy-type of character. She already is very insecure. She truly just wants to be normal and she wants to be liked. And Lilly had that going for her the whole time. Everybody wanted to be friends with Lilly even though they were kind of the dorks at school, she’s really fun and everybody wanted to be around her. And Taylor is just completely the opposite and you can see what she goes through and she changes even more within the movie. So, it was definitely fun to play both. I mean, this is the first time I played such an incredibly dramatic role. I was crying every single day on set. So, it was a journey for me as well.”
Q: Is there anything you’ve learned specifically from personally getting into the role and playing a victim of bullying?
Emily Osment: “Yes, that’s it’s very easy for me to get depressed. When we were in Montreal for like six weeks, something like that, it was a short shoot honestly. We were there for a while, but we did a lot of rehearsal before, but I was shocked as to how much this impacted me, the role and the attitude of the whole thing. I would just come home and I would cry. I feel like I have to continue. But, it was a very interesting process, especially being in a foreign country which felt so much like a foreign country because Montreal is just very, very European, very French. I had a few friends, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to go out. You’re going to sit home and prepare for the next day. So, I was just surprised how much this role truly impacted me and I went home and I was just sad for six weeks while we were shooting this. You know, we had a good time. We had truly an amazing time with making this movie, but I never thought of myself as a method actor until now. So, I would talk to my friends, especially, my actor friends and they’d call and I’d be like, “I just can’t talk to you right now. I’m so sad.” And, they’re like, “Are you okay? This is not what you said you were going to be doing to this movie.” It’s a very fine experience.”
Emily Osment: “Oh, sure, especially now that this movie is coming out. I get messages online. I get messages on Twitter about how thank—these kids are all thanking me like I had any—like I made the movie and so to speak. But, they’re saying, “Thank you so much for doing this film. Finally, people will believe when I say I’m being cyber bullied and how much that affects me and no one thinks it’s a big deal and I don’t know what to do, and this movie is going to be so great for my parents to see, and maybe it’ll teach those bullies! It’s incredible. It’s amazing how much one movie can do. And, that’s why we did it. We did it for the goodness of our hearts, but also because we loved—I loved the role and the movie is a great opportunity. But this film has an opportunity to say so much in 96 minutes or however long. So, yes, I definitely think that this is sort of up the ante a little bit of how much these kids are truly trying to get in touch and say like, “ Thank you. Thank you for making this movie.” So that’s good.“