One of the biggest surprise hits of the new year so far has been teen found-footage comedy Project X,, from producer Todd Philips (The hangover, Old School). One of the film’s breakout stars has been Kirby Bliss Blanton. We caught up with the actress in a coffeeshop near her home in North Hollywood.
Paste: So, tell us about Project X.
Kirby Bliss Blanton: Basically it revolves around this kid’s birthday, and his two buddies decide to help him out by planning a party, but it ends up being a little bit more than just the small get-together that Thomas was expecting. It kind of spirals out of control, and pretty quickly too. And then it just keeps going and going and going, which is something that Todd Phillips usually does in his films. It’s something that we’ve seen before but in a completely different way, because it’s a comedy. It’s the first time that we’ve seen this perspective for a comedy rather than The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity or something.
Paste: And it has that kind of found-footage aspect of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity?
Blanton: Not to where you are going to feel sick. There’s no camera shakiness. It’s not blurry or anything. This is the director’s first feature film, and before he has only done music videos, so it’s very visually aesthetic. It’s stunning. It was fun to watch him work.
Paste: How did you become attached? When did you first see it? What was the process?
Blanton: They did this nationwide talent search, and I know a bunch of people did videos on YouTube, because Todd really wanted to find unknowns and fresh faces. At first he even tried non-actors. I heard about it through a friend of mine, and had called my agent to say “I want to get in a room with these guys.” And it was interesting because some of my friends that had been in this business a long time were getting turned away because they had too many credits. And that’s the first time that I benefitted from having all of these movies I did when I was like sixteen in the cutting room floor. It worked out, because this is going to be the first time people really get a chance to see me. I’m really proud of this, so it’ll be perfect.
Paste: Tell me about who you feel your character is.
Blanton: Kirby is kind of a girl-next-door in a way, but she’s also like one of the guys, which I can really do. We kind of have this idea that she grew up with J.B. and Thomas and then Costa at some point moved into the neighborhood. But he kind of took over us, like the leader of the group. And I think that there’s definitely a dynamic that she’s one of the guys.
Paste: Is that something you can relate to? Is that how you grew up?
Blanton: I have brothers, so yeah I was definitely playing basketball and stuff like that, and even now I mostly hang out with guys just because it’s easier. Girls are
girls are a trip. Um, especially in L.A.
Paste: Especially in this business.
Blanton: Yeah, ok. That can even narrow it down even further. This is all new for all of us. That’s something we all have in common as well. But yeah, I could relate to her in a lot of ways. And the guys in person, like, we all get along really well. We’re all kind of doing this for the first time together. We all can relate to each other; we have this kind of bond just because we’ve been a part of this and we’ve kind of watched it grow, and now it’s everywhere. It’s kind of weird and surreal.
Paste: So, was it kind of a loose set that favored that, or was more a tightly-run set?
Blanton: There was structure in the fact that we had chaos, which needed to be organized chaos as opposed to just plain chaos. Some days we had 300 extras. And they’re all hyped up on adrenaline and God knows what else. We had to keep it very organized but in a way that we also got to play. Sometimes I didn’t even know where the camera was in those wide shots where we’re all dancing and stuff. It’s like we just, we just got to just – be, and they caught it, you know what I mean? Which is exactly how it shows on camera, as if one of the people were just walking around. We stuck to the script, especially my character because I do have an actual storyline. But I definitely got to play as well. I got to do some improv. And the next day I remember coming into rehearsals, and what I had said was written in the sides and I said “Yes! I’m a writer!”
Paste: Did you get a credit?
Blanton: Nah. Nah, whatever. You know, the camera was a character as well, like one of the guys actually. You don’t get to see him that much but it’s supposed to be one of these guys that’s like an AV geek who’s filming. He’s the one following them around. You do get to see him a little bit, and that’s actually some of my favorite parts, when you do get to see him. But he can’t be seen by whoever he is watching. So there’s scenes where like he’s hiding behind a door and he zooms in on me and Thomas having an intimate moment in the office, and we couldn’t even see the camera. It’s not like it’s there. I mean, yeah, we, there was a “Cut!” and then a “Action!”of course, but, it just made it feel more organic as opposed to when the camera’s up in your face and there’s lighting and everything. Everything that we did, we had to do it as if a guy was just walking around hiding behind something and filming
Paste: Where’d you grow up?
Blanton: In Texas, just north of Houston, the Woodlands, a very small but pretty wealthy area.
Paste: And how many brothers?
Blanton: I have three brothers.
Paste: And where are you in the age range?
Blanton: I’m the baby.
Paste: Typical actress, right? Lots of youngest children that grow up to be actors.
_Paste:_Yeah, yeah. Well, you grew up with an audience. You have your parents and your brothers watching you and talking about how cute you are. When did you know you wanted to act?
Blanton: I got into it because I doing modeling and like commercials in Houston, which is really all that there is to do there. It’s all there. And they opened up a division at the agency that I was with in Houston for learning to act, and I went and I remember asking my mom one day driving down to Houston, “Wait, can I actually get paid for this?” And she said “Yeah. I mean, yeah, it’s a lot of work, and it’s really hard, and you’re going to have to be dedicated, but if you really want to do it you can.” And I said “Ok, I want to do that. Let’s do that.” And then, once I came to L.A. and it was a lot more difficult than, in Texas, my mother and I would come out for a month or so and then go back. And I’d always get a callback, or a little commercial or something. And at one point my mom and I decided, “You know what, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it.” And she and I moved out here.
Paste: That’s really cool.
Blanton: I know, she’s amazing. Very lucky, very lucky.
Paste: So, when you’re one day out there accepting your Oscar we know who the first person is who you’ll thank.
Blanton: She’ll be the first person, because she brought me here, and, yeah, supported me the whole way. Blood, sweat, and tears.
Paste: What was the first part that you got?
Blanton: A show called Unfabulous with Emma Roberts. It was on Nickelodeon. And I met a couple of people on that show that still to this day I’m good friends with. When I was younger, the Disney and Nickelodeon stuff, that was just what you did. So, that kind of opened some doors for me.
Paste: Before Project X, what was your favorite thing that you’ve ever done?
Blanton: I think I grew the most on the set of a horror movie that I did where I literally turned sixteen on the set. And I had to do two weeks of torture scenes, and I had to cry. It was the first time I got to see how the wounds were made and the makeup trailer, and I had prosthetics on my stomach. I came home from doing that and I was just like, I’m a real actor now. I’m a big girl.
Paste: What’s coming up next for you? Has Project X opened doors for you?
Blanton: Yeah. It’s definitely gotten me into rooms that I probably wouldn’t have gotten into before. I did a show called The Inbetweeners. I did a couple episodes of that, which is a show that’s big overseas. And we’re doing an MTV version, so that airs I think in June. And then I did a movie in Utah with the Polish brothers called Copbot. And that’s kind of a new take on weird science, where these nerdy kids stumble upon this robot sex toy. It’s a comedy and it’s really funny. I’m not the sex bot toy!
Paste: Is Bliss your actual middle name?
Blanton: Yeah, that’s my mom’s maiden name. I have it tattooed on my body. Yeah, I’m very proud of that.
Paste: That’s awesome.
Blanton: There’s a product called Bliss that’s like, face wash and soaps and stuff like that. And I always buy it. My friends always give me gifts with that name on it too. It’s fun, yeah.