Love and Monsters is a story about the apocalypse, but more importantly about how communities come together in the face of it. The film, which is out on VOD now, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) as he exits his underground bunker in search of his high school girlfriend’s colony.
The vast majority of said community is made up of older generations that have made it out alive, but amidst the fray there is one particularly badass 8-year-old named Minnow. Ariana Greenblatt, who plays her, spoke to Screen Rant about improvising with the likes of Michael Rooker and showcasing that strength comes at any age.
Minnow’s one of the younger people in the story. How has she managed to survive in this world?
Ariana Greenblatt: Well, she is so young, so this is the only world she really knew. Her partner in crime is Clyde, played by the wonderful Michael Rooker. [Clyde] has really guided her and made her this wonderful survivor warrior that she really is.
I feel like she’s super inspiring for many people that will watch to be like, no matter how young you are you can be so brave and so courageous in anything you do, for sure.
Can you talk to me about Clyde and Minnow’s relationship?
Ariana Greenblatt: Yeah, for sure. They are like a father and daughter relationship, but we’ll find out – I don’t want to spoil anything, but – they aren’t father and daughter. But yeah, the relationship is super cool. I feel like it’s pretty equal, to be honest, although he’s an older guy and I was such a young little girl. So, I find it super cool to see that relationship and dynamic throughout the movie.
But yeah, he’s amazing. Michael was amazing to work with. He’s so cool. He’s so funny, so that was awesome.
How long have Minnow and Clyde been traveling together, and what do they have in common?
Ariana Greenblatt: Minnow and Clyde have been traveling together basically since she was born. I want to say they’ve been traveling around seven or eight years.
Their similarities are they’re both brave, they’re both funny, they both sarcastic. And as tough as they really are, they do have a soft spot, and they do want to help people. But it’s a really cool dynamic to see, and they’re very similar in many ways.
Michael Rooker is known for his personality. Do you have any fun stories you can share?
Ariana Greenblatt: Yeah, every day was a whole different story. He’s so funny. But I want to say that, for some scenes, I had to memorize my lines along with Michael’s lines, which was a fun fact. But he’s definitely has a very big personality, which makes Michael Rooker. You need Michael Rooker with his personality. And he’s so funny; he’s so brilliant. He’s so natural with everything he does, so once they say cut he just goes off and says this joke or whatever.
Dylan O’Brien plays Joel, and he’s also amazing. In the beginning, how does Minnow view Joel?
Ariana Greenblatt: I feel like she doesn’t have a lot of faith in him. She’s kind of shocked about wherever they find him. I’m trying to like swerve around on spoilers, but she definitely doesn’t have a lot of faith in him. And she like, “If we’re gonna take him in, we have a lot more work to do,” which I find super funny. She’s pretty doubtful, but at the end, can you see the whole transition in their relationship and dynamic, which is awesome.
I love when you were sharing the screen, there’s these little lessons that you have: not both or keep your socks dry. Which one was your favorite personal lesson?
Ariana Greenblatt: Probably “Don’t settle, Joel” is my main one that I said, which comes up later in the film. But there was one scene where I was teaching him how to use a bow and arrow, and it was all improv. You’ve seen the scene, it a long one of me teaching him something, and it’s all improv. It’s like a minute and a half of just improv until they said cut.
So, I was just making up the craziest things I could, and it was so funny. “I don’t know what I’m saying, but I’m just gonna say whatever’s on my mind,” which is definitely something Minnow would do.
Talk to me about improv and how much freedom you had shooting this film.
Ariana Greenblatt: Yeah, I feel like we had a lot of freedom. The director and Dylan and Michael, they all had a way of doing it. And then sometimes they’d go, “Okay, why don’t we try it this way? Or this way?” That’s one of my favorite things to do while acting, to have so much freedom and to try whatever works. If it does, it does, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But yeah, there’s a lot of freedom on set and there was a lot of improv going on.
A large portion of this film is really centered around the character of Joel. Can you talk to me about working with Dylan and what impressed you about his acting?
Ariana Greenblatt: Something that impressed me was how quick he can really melt into his character and become the character, which I find super cool, and I definitely learned a lot from him. But something that I love is that he’s just really funny and he’s so sweet and he’s so caring.
We have this thing that we have the same personality, so we are very sarcastic and we have the same humor, so I’m not gonna hype him up too much. Because if he sees this, he’s just gonna bring it up to me again how nice I’m being. But probably that.
You did some crossbow shooting in the film. How good did your aim get by the end?
Ariana Greenblatt: I had a few sessions, maybe two or three sessions learning how to do a bow and arrow, which was so amazing. Every time I was like, “Oh my God, I want to do this at home.” I would say my aim is pretty amazing – I’m going to hype myself up. It was so fun to do. Yeah, it was really great. I loved it. And I felt so cool every time I used it, for sure.
Another film that I loved you in was The One and Only Ivan; I thought you were brilliant in that. You got to work a lot with green screen in that film as well. Can you talk to me about some of the practical effects that you had for Love and Monsters?
Ariana Greenblatt: Yeah, so obviously the scenes that involve monsters, they’re not really real. We had to use a lot of our imagination, and there’s a lot of random eyelines like tennis balls or hands strung up, or a mark from a rock or something.
But before we started filming, we had these vision boards in the main office, so we got the vibe and aesthetic of what the monsters should look like – which definitely helped to have that vision of what we’re looking at during filming.
The sets and locations all looked real. Where did you shoot this?
Ariana Greenblatt: We shot in Queensland, Australia. Just that aside was amazing, to film in Australia. A lot of the locations were so, so beautiful. I could name one where there was random cows roaming where we were filming, and this lush green mountain. One of them, we had to use a helicopter to get to one of the scenes, which was so crazy. My first time being on helicopter and on top of this mountain looking down at Queensland, Australia. It was crazy. I saw kangaroos and koala bears; it was phenomenal and amazing.
How does being in a real location and on real sets help your performance?
Ariana Greenblatt: It definitely helps more than a soundstage, I would say, because you’re in the environment that your character’s meant to be in, which is super duper helpful. Just to be outside and in the grass, walking through the trees and everything like that – it’s way better to be in an actual location than a soundstage in my preference. So, that definitely helped in that aspect.
Sean was telling me that a lot of the claws and elements of the monsters that you had were real. How did that help?
Ariana Greenblatt: Yeah, in my scenes, there was one where there were some parts of a monster that we had a situation with – let’s just say that. It was made out of silicone, with these plastic things, and they colored it to make it feel real with the texture and everything.
I didn’t get to work with the real claws of the monsters and everything, like the other characters did. Let’s just say our characters know how to skirt around those types of monsters, but they were super good at the detail and every aspect that we had to use monsters in.
I thought Michael Matthews was a brilliant director. He was the perfect choice for this. Can you talk to me about the collaboration process and his directing style?
Ariana Greenblatt: I agree with you 100%. He’s so sweet, and he definitely let me play around with a lot of my ideas. Because we had so much great chemistry with Michael and Dylan, he kind of let us do whatever we want. But let’s just say he had a lot of patience with us, because we didn’t really ever stop talking. We were always laughing about things, so he definitely had a lot of patience. A lot of respect for that. But, yeah, he’s brilliant; he’s amazing.
What did you want to bring to the character of Minnow that wasn’t on the page?
Ariana Greenblatt: Yeah, I wanted to bring a lot of depth to that character, because you see a lot of sides of Minnow throughout the movie. You see the funny side, the sad side, the angry side, “Oh my God, you’re so dumb,” side – which I thought was really cool that they already had.
But I wanted to bring a super, super strong girl that has a lot in her mind. She’s so young, and she’s already experienced so much. So, I really wanted to bring that aspect out. And, hopefully, I did pretty good. Working with them was just so easy to morph into the character, because they’re just so natural and amazing. We kind of played off of each other in situations, but I wanted to bring the girl power side. Like I said before, you can be whatever age and still be super strong and brave and have a lot of courage.
Does Minnow think that Joel is going to reconnect with Aimee, and is it a good idea?
Ariana Greenblatt: She’s 50/50, cuz she’s like, “…We don’t know if he’s gonna listen to us.” So, she’s pretty doubtful but also pretty faithful. At the end, they have a huge, strong relationship and bond, which is very beautiful to see.
I feel like she’s super hopeful that he made it. I don’t think she thinks it was a good idea, but we’ll see. She definitely didn’t think that’s a good idea, but she believes in him and she is just faithful that hopefully, he made it. We’ll have to find out.
If your character does survive, where would you like to see her go next in the franchise?
Ariana Greenblatt: I would love to see her grow up and become a strong woman. I think that’d be a really cool thing to see, but there’s so many ideas that I would love to see. I would love to see Dylan connect with them again.
More: Michael Matthews Interview for Love and Monsters