Presented by filmmaker Kevin Smith, The Dirties is making huge waves on the festival circuit for its dark portrayal of school bullying. The movie centres on two teenage boys (Matt Johnson & Owen Williams) whose film about killing their high school bullies (AKA the dirties) takes a real deadly turn. Newcomer plays the love interest of one of the film leads.
The London, Ontario-born actress has modeled for the last 10 years for various print ads and has previously appeared in , playing the lead singer's wife.
Madison (25) studied acting at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and is finally getting her big break with . Shortly after the film's debut at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, TorontoVerve sat down with the rising star to get all the dirty details about her new film and more.
TORONTOVERVE: CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST FEATURE FILM! HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE PRODUCTION?
KRISTA MADISON: Thank you. Like any other actor, I was called in for an audition and I read for [director Matt Johnson and his team]. They're the easiest-going guys and they're really really funny, so I knew from the beginning that I could have fun with them. I did two improv scenes and they said, 'thanks -- see ya! We'll call you if we're interested.' A few days later, I got a call-back and we did a few more scenes. Now, I had no idea that these guys were obsessed with The OC television series when I said that [my character] really reads like Summer Roberts from The OC, and they had this big freak out. We kinda hit it off after that. I finally got the role after my second call-back.
TV: I WAS VERY IMPRESSED WITH THE FILM. I THINK IT'S GOING TO RESONATE WITH A LOT OF HIGH SCHOOL KIDS -- ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO DON'T FEEL A PART OF THE IN-CROWD. WHAT ARE SOME HIGH SCHOOL MOVIES THAT REALLY IMPACTED YOU?
KM: That's a good question. I don't know about movies, but I'm in love with the television series Glee. As for movies, I'm a 90's girl so I was obsessed with Clueless with Alicia Silverstone. I can't tell you how many times I watched it -- of course, it's girly-girl. I have a sister, so between the two of us, that movie was playing constantly every week.
TV: YOU SHOT SOME SCENES IN AN ACTUAL HIGH SCHOOL WHILE CLASSES WERE IN SESSION. WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE FOR YOU?
KM: A lot of kids just had no idea we were shooting. Cameras were always rolling. It's funny -- some of the scenes that made it into the movie weren't intended to be shot at all, but they were still used to advance the plot. It was cool. It was like being back in high school: kids everywhere, bells ringing and teachers shooing you out of the hallway. We'd literally have 5 or 10 minutes to shoot when they were doing the class turnovers, but most of our scenes were staged and shot on weekends.
TV: ACTOR AND DIRECTOR MATT JOHNSON GETS A LOT OF LAUGHS IN THE FILM AND JUDGING FROM THE Q&A I'VE SEEN, HE'S QUITE HILARIOUS IN PERSON. WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING DIRECTED BY HIM ON SET?
KM: Matt had an idea how the film would turn out. The last line in the film was the only line that was scripted. When I first auditioned, they had a script for me, but when we began production, Matt would just say, 'forget it...forget it -- try it this way.' He would throw us random scenarios and we'd go with it. The majority of the film is actually improv. Matt is absolutely brilliant. The way that man's brain works is unbelievable.
TV: SO HOW MUCH IMPROV DID YOU DO?
KM: Most of my lines that actually made it in the film -- I would say 90% -- was improv, which is crazy [laughs].
TV: IT'S GREAT THAT A DIRECTOR WOULD TRUST HIS CAST THAT MUCH TO DO IMPROV.
KM: He's quite a trusting guy. He just wanted it to seem real. He thought that if he threw us curveballs every now and then he could probably get genuine reactions, which happened often.
TV: I REMEMBER A SCENE WHEN YOU'RE DANCING WITH OWEN IN THE HIGH SCHOOL HALLWAY...
KM: That was one of the moments when we didn't think Matt was rolling. We were just killing time in-between shots. I look like a crazy person [laughs]. But it was probably what I really looked like in high school. I've been silly my whole life like that.
TV: WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE FOR YOU IN HIGH SCHOOL?
KM: Life was interesting. I didn't really have a lot of friends in my own high school. My friends went to different schools. I just showed up to class, stayed for class and left after class. I wasn't really social. I grew up riding horse as a hobby so I was doing that 7 days a week. And on the weekends I was competing and showing with my horse.
TV: THE FILM HAS MANY FUNNY MOMENTS, BUT IT ALSO HAS SOME DARK THEMES - SPECIFICALLY SCHOOL BULLYING AND GUN VIOLENCE.WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THOSE SUBJECTS WHEN READING THE SCRIPT?
KM: When I initially read the script they didn't include the ending, so I didn't really know how they were going to conclude the movie. The whole bullying thing is such a sensitive subject right now, but I think it's an important one to acknowledge. We were accepted to the Slamdance Film Festival just days before the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut and we weren't sure if they were going to let us screen because of the [school shooting] in our film. So we were really lucky to have been able to show our film. The great thing about the movie is that it shows a different side to a character who you might think is a monster. It's easy to fall in love with the lead character, Matt. He is funny and lovable. He has a great relationship with his mom and you can see the love that she has for him is real. And, by the way, that's his real mom in the film. She didn't know that they were filming her. So that's her genuine response to his question, 'Am I crazy?'
TV: DID YOU GUYS GET ANY CRITICISM ABOUT THE SENSITIVE SUBJECT MATTER WHILE ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT?
KM: None that I actually heard of myself. It's all been pretty much positive, which is nice. The frequent comments we hear are: 'I lived that', 'I felt that' and 'I've been there.' Bullying is a topic that everyone can relate to.
TV: WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU FIRST SAW THE FILM?
KM: I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked by the ending of the film. We shot the ending in so many different ways. Because of the way the story unfolds and because of the real personal and professional relationships developed between the lead actors, the characters and story [evolved]. The ultimate ending kinda leaves you at the edge of your seat thinking, 'What?!'
TV: BULLYING HAS BECOME A WIDESPREAD PROBLEM GLOBALLY. ONE THAT DOESN'T HAVE ANY EASY SOLUTIONS. WHAT ARE YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH BULLYING IN SCHOOL?
KM: Because I wasn't incredibly social in high school I wasn't bullied, but I was kinda seen as an outcast. Realistically, I probably had only 2 friends in high school. But I saw bullying happen a lot. It's funny -- I was thinking about this the other day. Somebody asked me a similar question at one of the Q&As and it kinda sat with me when I went home. I realized that I was like my character Chrissy in high school. I watched bullying happen. I didn't stand up for anybody. I was just the bystander that maybe a lot of kids are.
TV: I THINK THAT'S THE CASE IN EVERY HIGH SCHOOL.
KM: Exactly. Plus I wasn't really cool so I didn't have much of a voice in high school [laughs]. But in light of The Dirties, I think that people should stand up for each other. Even if you're not friends with the person who you see being bullied or if you are bullying -- you just have to remember at the end of the day it's not fun and it can lead to really dramatic things. It's so unfortunate and it's preventable. Bullying is not cool and it takes away from the whole fun experience of high school. It's supposed to be the best time of your life.
TV: THE FILM GOT THE ATTENTION OF DIRECTOR KEVIN SMITH AND IS PRESENTED THROUGH HIS KEVIN SMITH MOVIE CLUB BANNER. DID YOU GET A CHANCE TO MEET HIM?
KM: I didn't get a chance to meet him. He's involved in so many other projects right now, too. But I'm looking forward to meeting him one day.
TV: HOW EXCITED WERE YOU WHEN YOU HEARD THAT HE WAS SUPPORTING THE FILM?
KM: It was really exciting. Kevin Smith is an icon. He introduced us to his fans, who may not have found our movie otherwise. It's great that he can give us that extra exposure. He genuinely loves our film. He saw it in January and immediately wanted to be involved in the project however he could.
TV: YOU'VE BEEN BUSY DOING THE FILM FESTIVAL CIRCUIT WITH THE DIRTIES SINCE JANUARY. FIRST SUNDANCE, CHICAGO, DALLAS AND RECENTLY THE TORONTO AFTER DARK SPECIAL PRESENTATION. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE FOR YOU?
KM: Honestly, it's so cool. I've never experienced anything like it before. The people you meet at these film festivals are the most creative, endearing and enthusiastic people that you can imagine. They genuinely have a love for film and it's given me a new appreciation for it -- especially with Indie film. I think that it's really important to support young filmmakers. They're the next generation and they're so creative. Some of the films that we've seen on the festival circuit would really blow your mind.
TV: THE DIRTIES IS GETTING INTERNATIONAL ACCLAIM AND YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY GETTING A LOT ATTENTION ON YOUR AND -- WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE FAN INTERACTIONS ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR IN PERSON?
KM: The first experience that excited me the most was our screening at Slamdance in Utah. Two cute little boys approached me for an autograph and photos. First of all, I was so humbled that people even came to see our film, but to have people ask for my autograph and tell me that they liked my performance was really cool. Also, having the opportunity to meet different directors, producers, creative-directors and directors of photography gave me a greater appreciation for what goes on behind the camera too.
TV: DO YOU HAVE ASPIRATIONS OF BEING BEHIND THE CAMERA YOURSELF?
KM: I think eventually, yeah. I would like to. I don't know if it would be in producing or directing -- maybe creative directing. I've always kinda had an artistic eye. My mother's a painter. I grew up drawing and painting myself. I'm very interested in photography too. I need to figure out where I would be placed behind the camera.
TV: NOW THAT YOU HAVE HAD YOUR FIRST BIG TASTE OF SHOW BUSINESS, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU'VE LEARNED FROM IT SO FAR?
KM: Honestly, I think just staying humble is so important. Taking the time to talk to people who want to talk about your projects. Those are the people who are going to support you throughout your career so that's the best place to start.
TV: TORONTOVERVE IS A STREET STYLE BLOG SO I'M OBLIGATED TO ASK: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
KM: I'm such a sucker for classics. Audrey Hepburn is my fashion god. I also like the modern edge that's coming out: leather detailing and fun things like prints and bold colours. I try to stick to basic colours, but I also like a little punch of fun every now and then.
TV: WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO SHOP?
KM: I love in New York and the many vintage stores there. I also like the vintage stores in Paris where you'll find the cheapest things, but they're the gold pieces that will last you a lifetime. What I'm wearing today is from . They pick up a lot of the American lines that you'll find in California and New York. Their style is spot on.
TV: WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE DESIGNERS?
KM: Oh my God! Where to begin? Because my inspirations are very chic and classic, I love Diane von F rstenberg, and since I like that punch of fun, I adore Marc Jacobs. I also admire Alexander McQueen, Dior and Prada. And the Burburry collections that came out last Spring and Summer were incredible too. I love designers that give femininity back to women.
TV: CAN YOU TELL US THE SIGNIFICANCE OF YOUR TATTOOS? YOU HAVE A ROMAN NUMERAL 28 ON YOUR FOREARM AND AN ANCHOR ON YOUR UNDERARM.
KM: I was born on the 28th and it seems to be my lucky number. It's funny -- because the day I got the role for The Dirties was the 28th of the month. After that, something really special has happened to me personally or professionally on the 28th -- such as call-backs or booking modeling jobs.
TV: AND WHY THE ANCHOR ON YOUR UNDERARM?
KM: I can't see any of my tattoos unless I look for them and I prefer that, just in case I decide 5 years down the road that I'm not crazy about them.
TV: WHAT DOES THE ANCHOR REPRESENT?
KM: I used to work in marketing and I remember having a really bad week. I was working 15-hour days and I was just exhausted. Around Christmastime, I literally just walked out. My mother reminded me that I needed to stay grounded and that it was just a job. So the only thing that I could think of to symbolize 'staying grounded' was an anchor. I remember the first time I got [my tattoos], I had to hide them from my dad [laughs].
TV: SO WHAT'S NEXT FOR KRISTA MADISON?
KM: Well, a few projects are on the horizon. I'm going to shoot a short film at the end of the month. I'm going to play a fantasy dream girl to an 11-year old boy so that will be funny. And there's a feature film that I'm in the talks for that will be shooting sometime in the Spring.
The Dirties is currently playing in select theatres and is available on .
Krista Madison's wardrobe furnished by
Leather Jacket: Blank Denim Moto Jacket
Jeans: JBrand Nikola Jean
Top: Equipment Riley Tee