She’s the newest member of the Barden Bellas, but she’s not the only new face audiences will meet when Pitch Perfect 2 rages into theaters this weekend.
Still, Hailee Steinfeld may be the most familiar newcomer, thanks to the fact that she’s an Oscar nominee for her performance in 2010’s True Grit. Since then, the 18-year-old actress has lit up the screen in Ender’s Game, Romeo & Juliet and, soon, Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video, but it’s her role as Barden University freshman Emily Junk (yes, her character’s real name) that’s got Steinfeld buzzing once again.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about seeing the first Pitch Perfect and what went through your head. Was it one of those cases of “I’d love to be in this movie one day?”
HAILEE STEINFELD: Without a doubt, and I know that sounds so expected in a way, but I remember actually being sort of late to seeing it. I remember driving around and seeing the posters and every time saying, “I’ve got to see that movie.” All of my friends had seen it so it ended up being like a Friday night family movie date. I just remember, if I wasn’t jumping out of my seat because I was so excited that a song was in the movie, my parents were.
What’s your memory of the first day on set with the Bellas?
Well, I remember the first day I got there, I got off the plane, having not slept the day before, and went into dance rehearsal that they were already two weeks into, which in Bellas rehearsal time is a lot of work. I thought I’d just go in and meet everyone and they’d take my measurements and do a fitting and I’d get settled. That was not the case! I literally got off the plane and was in dance rehearsal and was so completely lost and disoriented.
That doesn’t seem fair.
Right? Everyone was really, really great in helping me get caught up and everything, but I just remember that being my first initial experience, just being like, “Oh my God, I truly am an outsider trying to get into this.”
Was there a difference between how the girls welcomed you versus how the characters welcomed Emily into the Bellas?
I would actually say there were more similarities than differences. Emily comes into the picture and the girls are a little skeptical. To be a Bella, you have to have certain qualities, right? So I think coming into this cast, I got in and I think the girls were like “Okay, let’s see if this girl can jump in with us. Let’s see if this girl can get into it.” And again, they were very supportive and very great, but I think there was a little bit of that as there is with Emily.
Was there a moment you can pinpoint when you felt like you really belonged?
By the time we shot our finale. It was one of those things where all 10 of us were in the same boat, in that lyrics were being changed, songs were being changed, choreography was being changed. Everything was being changed up until the second we shot this, and everyone was nervous and anxious and frazzled, but we all came together minutes before. We shot it in front of an audience and it was this weird moment right beforehand where all of us were backstage and it was like, “Okay, this is it. We don’t get to do this 792 times.” We came together, regardless of all the changes that had just been made and everything that had happened the last two months. This is it and this was the finale and we wanted to make this better than everything else, and it was that moment that you really felt like you were a part of a team.
Was there anything Elizabeth Banks said to you at the very beginning of filming that stuck with you?
I remember going into Liz’s office the first week that I got there and she had all these storyboards and Post-it notes and timelines. Everything you could possibly reference. She took me through and basically just mapped it all out for me and told me that it’s going to be crazy, but it’s going to be all good and fun and whatever we want it to be. I am her biggest fan. She is so amazing and enthusiastic. I don’t know how she did it.
What sticks out to you about shooting these big song performances?
When you do any scene in a movie, you have to do multiple takes—you have directors that’ll get it in three and you have ones that like to do however many just for safety. But I did find with our musical numbers, the amount of camera angles… I’ve never seen anything like it. I kind of actually loved it because the more I did it, I continued to be more comfortable and confident. I didn’t mind the process… but the amount of camera angles! You’re going all out every single take and it was like man, the camera was on our feet.
You were such a fan of the original movie, and you’re right in the target demo. Do you feel like you had a finger on the pulse of what fans may have wanted out of Pitch Perfect 2?
I guess I did, but I don’t know that that has anything to do with decisions I made. The script was just incredibly written and I never really felt like I was making a movie. I remember how I felt when I saw it for the first time—it was like reliving everything we shot. I was confused as to whether I was just genuinely having a good time or if we were acting. But no, I definitely share a lot of similarities with my character in being a fan of the Bellas and walking into this not really believing that I’ve become a part of it.
Having not yet gone to college, how did it feel making your freshman debut before you actually go to college?
It’s kind of funny. I’ve found this with a few movies that I’ve done where [I’ve had to have] experiences that I haven’t experienced in my own life. I wonder if that’s a benefit to me or not. I think with Pitch Perfect, it’s obviously a lighter tone, so I think it was beneficial that I had never been and I could walk onto this campus and be like, truly, where the heck am I, what am I doing?
What does Emily represent for the Bellas?
Something I loved so much about this movie is that each one of the Bellas represents something different, personality-wise. I find that with Emily, she brings this freshness and innocence that I think you kind of lose by your senior year of college.
Do you envision a world where Emily passes on the Bellas traditions to another generation?
I see her as very encouraging and she wants everyone to be happy. So I can definitely see her taking that older-sister role and introducing a whole new group of people to what she’s been through. I think Rebel’s character and Anna’s character and, really, all of those girls kind of had that approach with me. It was sort of like, we’ve been through this, this is what it is.
So, the elephant in the room: have you had any conversations about Pitch Perfect 3?
No, I haven’t, but if that’s going to happen, I’m in.