A Set Visit with the Gang from “21 and Over”

The next to visit the pizzeria was Justin Chon. Chon’s claim to semi-fame at the moment is his role as Eric Yorkie in “The Twilight Saga.” It’s very possible more and better roles may be ahead for the actor, who despite his extremely youthful appearance was already pushing 30 at the time of this interview. “21 and Over” turns out to be an excellent introduction to Chon’s talents for those of us outside the Twihard community.

Though all but comatose through about 40% of the film, Chon’s Jeff Chang is arguably the protagonist of “21 and Over.” Indeed, it appears he actually will be the star of a heavily reedited – you might say wildly bowdlerized – version that will be hitting theaters throughout China. In the Chinese release, the 100% American Jeff Chang will reportedly become a recent Chinese transfer student while his lifelong pals, Casey and Miller, will become poorly chosen new acquaintances who lead Chang into ill-advised American temptations. It’s a little bit shocking, as “21 and Over” commendably exists in a post “Harold and Kumar” universe where Asian-American males in mainstream U.S. films are finally allowed to be American and male, as well as Asian. Win a few, lose a few.

After some discussion of the filming of Jeff Chang’s ill-fated bull ride, we discussed the transition from the paranormal romance genre to the world of raunchy buddy comedies. “I told [co-directors] Jon and Scott the other day, ‘It’s a bunch of dudes making a fucking movie.’ I feel like all the messing around I did as a teenager and all the partying I did in college has prepared me to do this movie.”

Chon was, if anything, even quicker than Miles Teller to share with us some brief glimpses of his own past overindulgences that involved waking up in strange parts of town and stranger beds. He actually had some words of wisdom that no right-thinking cocktail blogger could possible disagree with.

“As a teenager in college, you don’t get taught how to drink properly because you can’t [legally] drink until you’re 21. In other countries, you can start drinking at 14 and 15, so you don’t think of it as such a big deal so that, when you get a hold of alcohol, it’s not like, ‘Oh, I have to devour as much as I can’… I guess that contributed to me having these insane nights [when I was younger],” Chon said.

“I give everybody 10 years of good partying. However you space that out, that’s up to you. I feel like you have that run of 10 years. After that, you’d better slow down and relax, or you’re going to have a problem.”

Still, it sounded like not every bit of wildness had left Chon. Just as Teller and Astin found nakedness to be freeing, Chon finds the highly inappropriate behavior his character is allowed to engage in to be oddly refreshing. Liberating, in fact. “I’m getting paid to piss on all these people.”

Chon was quick to point, however, that the misbehavior is grounded in realities we all face. “There’s a reason why I’m acting out and going crazy in this movie. It’s because I’m lost. I’m trying to find my way and I don’t know what that is.”

Next up was co-writer/co-director Jon Lucas. He had found himself, for the first time ever, directing the film solo for the very brief scenes that were being shot that day, but still was able present a calm and affable demeanor. We started out discussing the choice of Seattle as a backdrop for “21 and Over.” It really came down to the very traditionally collegiate look of the University of Washington.

“I went to school back east and, a college with palm trees…I get that UCLA is a great school, but it doesn’t seem like college to me. It feels like a vacation,” he said, praising UW’s more traditional look. “Knowing that we’re first-time directors who are going to make a lot of mistakes, one thing we can at least have is a beautiful campus that we can fall back on. The movie may not make any sense, but it’s going to be a beautiful school to look at for two hours,” Lucas joked. He also noted the production’s slightly creepy good luck in shooting for three straight weeks in the nation’s rain capital with only one day of significant precipitation.

He also addressed the inevitable comparisons that will be drawn between “21 and Over” and “The Hangover.” He started by acknowledging that the 2009 comedy sensation was very much director Todd Phillips’ movie, and that he and Scott Moore were extremely pleased with the overall result, which obviously has not harmed their careers. At the same time, the writing team’s directorial debut would naturally be more personal to its writers. “I think it’s going to be more of an expression of who we are. Our comedy comes from a slightly different place than [Todd’s].”

“We might go for the emotion like ‘The Hangover’ maybe didn’t,” he said before reflexively re-praising “The Hangover and noting that some might find that a slightly absurd statement. “I say that on the day that we’re shooting the barf rig. This movie’s a really serious exploration of feelings, with barf on a buffalo.”

Finally, we were greeted by the very attractive and personable Sarah Wright, who has the tricky task of being a relatively sane female love interest amidst numerous less than stable males. Wright, who appeared in 2008’s “The House Bunny” and has a recurring guest role on “Parks and Recreation,” launched her career as a teenage model in Japan. Far from a big name but already a familiar face, she has been a busy working actress since debuting on the 2005 sitcom, “Quintuplets” with Andy Richter. In “21 and Over,” Wright convinces us that she’s pretty much seen everything when it comes to insanity, and that’s probably true for her in real life as well.

Wright, who in real-life recently married actor Eric Christian Olson (“NCIS: Los Angeles”), even confessed, somewhat sadly, that she has no crazy boozing stories to tell because she is actually cautious about excessive drinking. She was, however, willing to speak up for “21 and Over” as something beyond a slapstick male-bonding testosterone fest. She compared the film to “The House Bunny,” which had been marketed to some degree as a chick flick. As it turned out, however, males didn’t especially mind laughing while watching the adventures of often scantily clad young women.

“There’s a love story [in “21 and Over”], that’s so cute and really fun. If it’s portrayed right, women will kind of fall in love with it. There’s also a journey that the guys make – definitely [that applies to] Jeff Chang’s character and the Casey character – of self-realization. It’s something we all [experience] when we’re going through that time in our lives, which is just figuring out who we are as people. I think everybody can relate to that. It’s not just about drinking and debauchery. It’s a night where you sort of kind of figure out one more piece of who you are.”

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