In Pitch Perfect 2, the Barden Bellas are graduating, and most of them have to come to the realization that there is life beyond collegiate a cappella competitions. The film has such a strong female presence, that the male cast are the supporting players. It’s a nice change of pace. Skylar Astin plays Jesse, another a cappella singer and Beca’s (Anna Kendrick) boyfriend, while Ben Platt plays Jesse’s best friend and Emily’s (Hailee Steinfeld) love interest.
We were recently invited to the film’s press conference where we talked about what it was like to work with Elizabeth Banks (who makes her directorial debut), improving, the evolution of their characters, some hilarious outtakes, and more.
Read our full interview with the Astin and Platt below.
Geeks of Doom: Talk to us about what it was like to have Elizabeth Banks as a director.
Ben Platt: She’s wonderful. It is kind of a lovely progression because in the first film she was so much our champion, so involved in getting the film made in the first place. So having her step into that director role felt very natural to us, and to have someone who is a peer but also respects us made us feel comfortable to do our best work.
Skylar Astin: She has become a good friend to us, and that could be worrying because that informality could become a problem. But she commands so much respect, so you never worry with Elizabeth. She is just the perfect person in the perfect place, and I think she is just going to go on to direct many films.
Geeks of Doom: I was wondering if there was anything you discovered about your characters this time around.
Ben Platt: I think for me, because Benji is such a character in the first film, he is just sort of this heightened guy. He’s got his magic thing and his Star Wars thing, that this film was about him being a fleshed out person. He still has his quirks, but that is not the entirety of his character. So a guy who loves a girl and wants to impress her. I think Kay [Cannon] gave us such a platform to play beautiful people not just funny characters.
Skylar Astin: There was a storyline that was shot between Jesse and Beca that they did not end up going with, and that is very telling in the evolution of Jesse. I don’t want to say it, because they may use it another time, number 7, Pitch 7. But I will say that Jesse became successful in what he was trying to do in the first film.
Geeks of Doom Could you talk about the improv in this film, and if there were times that you couldn’t stick to the script because the improv was just that good?
Ben Platt: Definitely lots of improv in this film, and that was another great thing about having Elizabeth as a director, because of her comedic background in films like 40-Year-Old Virgin and Wet Hot American Summer. We all felt we were comfortable to do our own thing. When you work with Rebel Wilson, it is a little intimidating because she is a wonderful improviser, but this time we all felt confident to throw our hats in the ring and do our lines as well.
Skylar Astin: I had a mini scene with Adam Devine. It was in a party scene where I had called him out for being inappropriate, and he blows up at me. When Adam hits that pocket where he is rageful but also being hilarious. I think there was one point where he took his shirt off, went full on cross-eyed screaming bloody murder at my face.
Geeks of Doom: One of that best things about these films are the selections of songs that the bands cover, so which songs do you wish to cover in the next seven or eight Pitch Perfects?
Skylar Astin: Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
Ben Platt: Some Sam Smith. That be nice, I’m a big Sam Smith fan. The Treblemakers this time reestablish the down home a cappella, so it be cool to do something more vocally.
Geeks of Doom: Could you tell us about some of the outtakes that we will get to see on the DVD?
Ben Platt: There are a couple of moments where we will film scene and then we’ll film a reaction of a particular people to that scene, but the people that are doing that scene that’s being reacted to aren’t there, so some are just there as a placeholder, so it is difficult to keep a straight face when you have emotions to like a PA who tells you “this is where Becca is standing.” I think moments like that are difficult to take super seriously, but I hope we pulled it off.
Skylar Astin: We both have a theater background, so we are getting used to the filmmaking process, but it is a little bit more of a puzzle where you start in the middle and figure it all out, and then it gets smooth at the very end. And that is always a learning process, but we are playing pretend, and I think we are doing that very well.
Geeks of Doom: What is it like to be on a film that is driven by so much female energy and empowerment?
Ben Platt: It is wonderful. The thing about this particular movie is that we have all become such a family that it almost doesn’t register women, men, whoever, just a wonderful group of characters we’ve all known to become comfortable with, and so the fact that a large percentage of those characters are female is a wonderful thing, and I am happy to be a part of something that gets us in the right direction.
Skylar Astin: In forms like that, and I’m sure we are encouraged to call it a girl movie, but in reality, it is an ensemble film. That is exciting, because to us all the surrounding elements are revolutionary and everything and it is exciting to be a part of that. We’ve grown really close in the past few years.
Geeks Of Doom: What is it like to play a strong supportive boyfriend to a strong female lead?
Ben Platt: We are setting the bar way too high, especially for awkwardness. It’s not always as charming as Emily let’s it be, especially with Benji, but don’t take that as a lesson.
Skylar Astin: Like I said before, don’t worry there is no love triangle that was removed, but there is some tension between Jesse and Becca, a little bit of a life decision that was in their way, and when it all came together Jesse learned that he could be a little bit of Becca’s support system in this film, whether that is on the DVD or when we do Pitch Perfect 2 and a Half.
Geeks of Doom: Ben, how excited were you to learn that your character would be Emily’s [Hailee Steinfeld] love interest?
Ben Platt: Very excited, it’s a new thing for me. To get that different storyline, I’d assume he’d be a stock – I mean I love the character Benji – but I assumed it’d be the same lines, like providing a bit of magic and a bit of comic relief. It’s nice to see him as a real guy and you get to see him group up as a real man. It’s nice to see a character that is not necessarily your averaged squared jawed leading man getting a beautiful girl. I think it is great.
Geeks of Doom: So did you have to get to know her before you started working on set together?
Ben Platt: No, the first time I met her was when we got to Baton Rouge together. She is like the pro of pros, she has been working since she was 13, 14, she was Oscar-nominated when she was an infant. It was very easy because I could follow her lead, and she is so comfortable on camera and making connections with people, and of course apprehensive because she is the only new cast member, and that’s who I am doing my scenes with, but it was incredibly easy, so it was wonderful.
Geeks of Doom: Did you have to chemistry test and did you know that she could sing?
Ben Platt: We did not chemistry test because we were told “Hailee Steinfeld wants to be in this film,” so she was in the film. As far as singing, I didn’t know she could sing, I think that is something that she has been keeping in her back pocket, and it’s cool to get to hear her sing in this because she’s got a really beautiful voice. As far as helping, all I could do was be supportive and hear her singing quietly offset to her self, and be like “That sounded incredible, you should definitely incorporate that, it is an awesome voice.” Obviously she is intimated coming into this already established group. But she came off really beautifully.
Pitch Perfect 2 opens in theaters on May 15.
Pitch Perfect 2