John Carchietta’s high school love story Teenage Cocktail was one of our favorite selections at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival, a small-town romance with a thriller element and a decidedly adult twist, anchored by two captivating performances from Nichole Bloom and Fabianne Therese.
The morning after Teenage Cocktail premiered at the festival, we sat down with the two leads to chat about bringing Annie and Jules to life, creating chemistry onscreen, and how much their own teenage experiences informed their roles.
Good morning! How was the premiere screening?
Fabianne Therese: Nerve-wracking!
But now that it’s over with, you don’t have to be nervous anymore, right? It’s all smooth sailing.
Nichole Bloom: Well, we hope. There are still three more screenings left.
Fabianne Therese: We may still get tomatoes thrown at us.
I’m sure that’s not going to happen. Can you tell me about your initial reactions when you first read the script?
Nichole Bloom: Well, when I read the script I was being considered for [Fabianne’s] role, actually, so I had a different perspective on it. But I thought it was exciting, because I don’t read a lot of scripts that are about two girls in high school.
And when John cast both of us, I thought that was really cool because we’re both not your traditional “leading ladies,” or so I’ve been told my whole life. You know, getting agents and having them tell me “it’s going to be really hard for you because of your ethnicity.”
Fabianne Therese: Or your nose, or your teeth.
Nichole Bloom: Yeah! So I feel like, reading it again after knowing I was going to be Annie, and knowing that I was going to be working with Fabi, I thought that was really cool and different, because of who we are.
Fabianne Therese: I was really stoked when I read it. I was like, please let me be in this movie. I’ve done a lot of horror films and I’ve done a lot of genre stuff, and I’ve done things where I play the best friend or these other side characters that you don’t really get to spend a lot of time developing. And when I read this, both [characters] were full, and they had so much room for real work, which is such a treasure when you find it.
Nichole, I was familiar with your work already because my wife and I played Until Dawn.
Nichole Bloom: Oh my god! [laughs] That’s a pretty one-dimensional character.
Yeah, and Annie is definitely more fleshed out, but you can still see some of those same elements in her personality. Do you have fun playing the bitchy character from time to time?
Nichole Bloom: Yeah! I also play a bitchy character on Shameless, so every time I get to play a sweet character it’s really nice. But they’re just as much a part of me. I can’t say that I’m more one way than the other – I’m probably more polite in real life – but I put a lot of myself in my characters, so I’m probably a little bit like Emily. I probably wouldn’t be going around slapping being and calling people bitches to their face, but I might be having those thoughts. [laughs]
What was the shooting schedule like for Teenage Cocktail?
Fabianne Therese: It was pretty quick, like 18 or 20 days, and we’re in almost all of the scenes.
Nichole Bloom: Yeah, it was exhausting.
Fabianne Therese: But I kind of liked that – at least in our movie, it kept us in it. I didn’t have time to think about another project, or daydream about whatever my real-world problems were. I was just in the zone with our movie and our relationship, and what we were going to be going through tomorrow, and where we were coming from emotionally.
Nichole Bloom: I feel like, in hindsight, it almost felt longer because of the span of the story. It’s weird to me that it only took 18 days, it feels like it took a couple of months.
Did you bring any of your own high school experiences into your characters?
Fabianne Therese: Oh yeah, for sure. I had a relationship when I was in high school that was similar, but I was the person who was the sheep blindly following this girl. I had really loving parents, and her parents were kind of non-existant, so she was always wanting to run away. She taught me about movies and music, and I really looked up to her – we would listed to Bikini Kill together and think it was us against the rest of the world.
And eventually, I grew out of that relationship, because she was kind of stuck in this place of being bitter toward things. I don’t think that’s necessarily how our [onscreen] relationship is, but I did pull a lot by remembering where she was coming from. Because she did really love me and care about me, but she had her own issues to work through and kind of brought me on her ride. And I tried to use that a little bit, without making [Jules] seem too much like a bitch or a manipulator or a hurtful person. She just really loves [Annie] and wants to find her own escape from her own personal issues through their relationship.
Nichole Bloom: I definitely had a few friendships like that in high school. I guess it’s just a symptom of not feeling secure in yourself as you do later in life. I can really relate to that feeling of idolizing someone who is your friend, and wanting to follow them to the ends of the earth. So the idea that they want to run away together and do all this crazy stuff didn’t seem that implausible to me, because that easily could’ve been me in high school.
One thing that really stood out to me was the chemistry between the two of you. It feels so genuine and authentic.
Fabianne Therese: It’s very forced. It’s all fake.
Nichole Bloom: We hate each other. [laughs] I have a restraining order.
Fabianne Therese: We’re really good actresses. [laughs]
Nichole Bloom: No, I would sleep over at her house and stuff. We got really lucky, because I’ve had to fake chemistry with people, and that can be really awkward. But this didn’t feel like that at all.
Fabianne Therese: I think it’s also easier working with another girl. I’ve only ever had those kind of chemistry problems when I’m working with a guy. But it feels like this boundary is just dropped, because we’re in the same boat, we’re on the same team. And we had some mutual friends in common and we liked the same stuff. We got along really well, really fast.
One of the first lines of dialogue we hear is Jules telling Annie “you don’t really love me,” before we flashback to the beginning of their story. Do you think Jules really feels that way, at that point in their relationship?
Fabianne Therese: Yeah, one hundred percent. I think she’s so insecure because her mother left and she doesn’t have a present father, and she has this wall up that no one has been able to penetrate. And when you’re the person who is kind of in charge of the relationship, the fear is always that you’ll become equal. And I think at that point, they’ve become equal, and she’s so insecure that she can’t understand [Annie’s] reasons for backing out, so it must be that she doesn’t really love her.
Without going into spoilers, there’s a point in the film where it seems like everything is going to be alright, and then Jules decides to take things one step too far. Do you think Jules was motivated by greed?
Fabianne Therese: That’s a great question. I don’t think it was based in greed, I think it was based in a false sense of necessity. For them, it feels like their lives are over as they know it, so they have to take that step. And I think subconsciously, some part of it as also a test – like, are you really ready to do anything? If you get into some real, crazy trouble with someone, it bonds you, and I think sometimes people search for that.
The ending of the film is somewhat ambiguous. Do you two have your own opinions about what happens to Annie and Jules?
Fabianne Therese: We definitely have an opinion, but I think everyone deserves to have their own opinion without being tainted by ours. [laughs]