Identifying With Offbeat | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Tara Lynne Barr stars as a high-school student turned spree killer in God Bless America.

Tara Lynne Barr

Identifying With Offbeat

May 11, 2012 Web Exclusive
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Actress Tara Lynne Barr doesn't want writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait to know this, but contrary to her character in his dark comedy, God Bless America, she likes the movie Juno. In Goldthwait's film, Barr plays Roxy, a spitfire who abandons high school to band with a suicidal middle-aged divorcé, Frank (Joel Murray), on a killing spree after he murders one of her school mates, an intolerably spoiled star of a My Super Sweet 16-styled reality show. Roxy precociously opines on myriad topics, and when Frank sarcastically calls her Juno, it sparks another of her zealous, foul-mouthed rants. "That's who we should kill next," Roxy says, referring to Juno writer Diablo Cody. "Fuck her for writing that movie. She's the only stripper who suffers from too much self-esteem."

Unapologetically violent and wickedly funny, God Bless America skewers contemporary pop culture and social attitudes, railing against various reality TV shows, political commentators, religious extremists, public figures from the Kardashians to Woody Allen, exploitative branding, self-entitlement, and bad manners in general. At its heart, though, the film is Goldthwait's rallying cry for civility and consideration toward one another.

Barr, currently a freshman at Chapman University in Orange, California, has been acting in theater since age seven. Her TV work includes appearances on Disney and Nickelodeon shows, and she has contributed voice work to video games such as Prototype 2. She might be best recognized for an eBay commercial that aired this past holiday season. Under the Radar met with Barr shortly before God Bless America's theatrical release.   

What were your impressions of Bobcat's script when you read it?

You would expect that I would be hesitant about the material, but actually it was very refreshing to me, because girls my age, the roles that we go out for, are kind of the same, and they're stereotypes or caricatures of real people. There's the hot cheerleader, and then there's the goth girl, you know, stuff like that. They're caricatures, and Roxy was not that. Even though she's kind of a fantasy character and there are less realistic elements about her than like something you'd see in a studio film, she's still so different than anything I'd ever read. And the script itself was just shocking in the best way possible. I enjoyed her. I love a good, dark comedy, so I was just jumping at the opportunity. Not literally, but I was very excited.

Were you familiar with any of Bobcat's work beforehand or did you familiarize yourself with him after reading the script?

Yeah, I did. I was most familiar with his voice, because when I was little, I grew up on Disney films, and he did a voice in Hercules! One of the Pain and Panic. I don't know if he was Pain or Panic, but he was the short, stubby one [Pain], and it was so distinctive. I knew him from that, because I watched that movie every day for like a month, and after I got the audition and I got the callback, I knew that I was going to be in the room with Bobcat, so I was like, "OK, I gotta do some research. I can get a gist of his type of comedy, but I'd like to see how he operates onstage." And I watched some of the stand-up, and I was like, "Oh my God, this callback is gonna be so stressful. He's just going to be yelling at me the whole time." But it was such the opposite. When I went into the callback room, it was him and the casting directors, and he was so low key. He didn't give any feedback, just "Hi, thanks for coming in." It's just like, "Whoa, is this the same person?" So I was relatively unfamiliar with his filmmaking, but I did know of him as a comedian and a personality.

Do you share any traits or similarities with Roxy?

I do, actually. Roxy, as a character, she's invisible in high school, but not because she's a mean person or because she's weird, but because she is smart and because she's not like the rest of her classmates. She's not vapid, and she doesn't just talk about reality television and pop politics and stuff like that. She has an opinion, and she listens to offbeat music like Alice Cooper, and she pays attention to politics and what's going on in the world, unlike her classmates. And I'm not trying to say this as in like,"I'm so above it all" or an elitist or anything like that, but I really don't watch any reality TV. I don't really listen to the modern music, I guess. My favorite musical artists are Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell, and I like Bob Dylan a lot. And so I guess I have an offbeat personality like RoxyI don't swear like her, but I would say my personality is definitely offbeatas with her hobbies and stuff, and her interests. I'm not a psychopath. There's a difference there. [Laughs] But yeah, I'd say that's how we're similar.

You're 18?

Yeah, 18.

Have you been going to school?

Yeah, throughout my entire career I've been doing school consistently and trying to keep up with my schoolwork because, to me, as an actor, it's important to not just be an actor and do the work but to have a foundation of normalcy, because you learn so much from real life experiences. If I were home schooled, I wouldn't get the experiences that I got in high school or college. I'm in my first year at college. So, I'm learning so much as a person, and that just creates an incredible well of experience that I can draw from as an actor. And I think that's really important for actors to have.

Where are you going to college?

I go to Chapman University in Orange. They've got a really great film school there.

Does God Bless America take aim at or ridicule anything that you're actually a fan of?

I high-five. I was kind of like, "Aw, bummer. I high-five a lot." And some people actually come up to me after they see a screening and they'll be like, "Hey, great job," and I'll high-five them back, and they'll be like, "Hey, no high-fives." And I'm like, "I'm sorry! You can't beat that out of me." And also, there are certain words that I say. I say stoked a lot. And in the movie, we're like, "We need to kill people who say 'stoked,' we need to kill people who wear crystals" or "call themselves spiritual." So, there are some things, but when it comes to the big things like reality TV, nasty political commentators, those types of things, I steer clear from.

Did you have conversations with Bobcat about those little things like the high-five?

You know, I've never told him that I high-five. I don't think he'll hate me that much if he finds out that I high-five. Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. You know what? I like the movie Juno, and I hope he doesn't hear this. But I did like the movie Juno. I saw it a couple times with my friends, and I thought it was very cute and quirky and fun, and it has a nice message.  I hope he doesn't find out. But, there's another thing. Those are the only ones though! Promise.

Does your interest in older artists such as Hendrix, Dylan, Joni Mitchell come from your parents?

I don't know. With my dad, we were always listening to The Beatles and The Eagles. He's a big fan of Joni Mitchell, too, which is how I got into Joni Mitchell. My mom was much more into The Carpenters and stuff like that. So, in that sense, I guess I was raised on older music. But, you know, are my parents gonna listen to Rihanna or Justin Bieber? But, I've never really listened to the radio much. I've been more now that I've been having to trek up to L.A. from Orange County every other day. But, I don't know why. I did get some influence from my parents, but I think it's just my musical taste. I just think that music back then was much more musical, and they actually played instruments, and it wasn't synthesized, and it wasn't robot singing.

So what about Alice Cooper? Were you familiar with him?

I was familiar with him, but I was familiar with the songs that everybody was familiar with, like "School's Out." But I knew him more as like a personality than as a musical artist. He's unlike any other. Like they said in the movie, I agree with the statement that he is kinda the king of the punk/glam rock movement. But, I'm not as big a fan as Bobcat, that's for sure. He loves the guy.

Tara Lynne Barr as Roxy and Joel Murray as Frank in a scene from God Bless America.

Did you have to learn how to fire a gun?

Yes, I did. And it wasn't very extensive. Before we started filming, Bobcat, Joel and I, we met up one afternoon, we read through the script, went out to dinner, and we went to a shooting range. A nice little afternoon. [Laughs] But that was the first time that I had ever shot a gun in my life. And I've always been a pacifist, you know, "Guns are bad. Guns are only for the purpose of killing people and animals, and it's not good." But, [sighs] it's kind of fun.

That's what I hear.

It is very, very fun. And it's weird because, the first time that I shot it, Bobcat has a video of me, and I turned around, and I just have this creepy, maniacal grin on my face. And I was surprised by how much I liked firing guns. I won't do it unless it's for a film, but it was fun.

There's that cool shot that's in the poster, where you're leaning out of the car. Was that fun to do, or was it difficult getting that shot?

I actually had a harness on me, but it was the most janky harness you've ever seen. There's no way that would keep me from falling out of this car if I made a wrong move or leaned out too far, but that was kind of fun, the danger of it. There was more of an adrenaline rush, because Joel wasn't in that car. That was a stunt driver, and we actually did that stunt where he spins around really fast and I'm getting out of the car as there's dust flying up, and my hair's a mess, and I'm just like, "pow, pow" at these Westboro Baptist Church members. I remember when we were shooting it, Bobcat said, "That's the trailer, right there." But it was the danger of it that made it more fun. I didn't have any hesitation about it. I was ready to do what it took to yield a good product.

Your character says some pretty outrageous things. Did you guys have to contain yourselves from laughter while shooting?

If we had to contain ourselves from laughter, it was probably because of Bobcat, because he would just say funny things off in the corner. I remember, there were certain times when instead of saying, "Action," he would just go, "Act," in just the goofiest way, and that would kind of crack me up. There were definitely some moments of laughter, of giggles, especially during the night shoots when everybody's too tired for their own good, and every little thing is the funniest thing you've ever heard, giggle fits and stuff like that. On that note, it was a very, very fun set to work on, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

In your eBay commercial, which is very funny, you have to sing a lot of dialogue in a short span.  And in this film, there are some scenes where you have to recite a lot of dialogue in one shot. Does your talent for that come from having a good memory or from your experience in theater?

I think it definitely comes from the theater background. I started in theater when I was like seven, and I've been trying to do it consistently ever since, when I have time. And I think it definitely helps with the memorization and probably the diction too. But, as you can tell, I'm a quick talker, and I can talk a lot, for as long as you need me to. [Laughs] So, maybe that helps too.

What gave you the idea that you needed a manager at age nine?

I knew I wanted to act professionally. When I started in theater, it was more for the purpose of, "Ooh, hey, people are looking at me. This is fun. And I get to act like a goofball on stage." But, after a while, it kind of became less of a hobby and more of a passion. Like, "Wow, I can't imagine doing anything else that would fulfill me as much for the rest of my life." And so, I thought, "Why not get started early? I have friends who have agents and managers. Why not?" And my mom and I were so clueless. We were looking in the yellow pages for agents and managers. And eventually I got here. But, at that point, I was just like, "You know what? This is what I want to do. And, let's get started."

Who would be your dream directors to work with?

This might sound like a cliché, but I adore Martin Scorsese. He's just phenomenal, his films. And what I love about his films is how important music is to the storyline and to setting the mood of the film, like GoodFellas. The music's so great in those films. And he would be a ball to work with, 'cause he really knows how to work with actors, it seems. He's never yielded a film where the acting has been less than stellar, and partially I assume [that] is because of his direction. So that would be phenomenal. And also, one of my favorite directors is Sam Mendes, who did American Beauty and Revolutionary Road. He's incredibly talented, and he actually started out as a theater director. So I feel like he too would have a knack for directing actors and, again, great performances in his films. And, of course, Tarantino, because I feel like he'd be fun, and he's so quirky and interesting, and his style is so distinct that I think it would be really, really great to work on one of his projects. Or Woody Allen! You know what? I have a laundry list of people I'd love to work with, but those are a couple of them. Hey Woody, hire me!

God Bless America is currently available on demand and is playing at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema in New York, the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles, and in other select cities.




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January 16th 2013

i love tara lynne barr..