It’s been a month and a half since I was on set, and filming has wrapped, and I still haven’t posted the photos of Brooke and Lauren I promised to give you. Well WAIT NO LONGER! Here they are.
John’s sister Lauren is not a huge character in the first book, but she’s still an important one, and we are delighted to have Anna Sundberg in the role. Anna is a young actor with a handful of local MN credits, mostly in theater but some you might have seen, including an episode of Fargo. I got to watch her play a scene with Max–the two siblings together, not “close” but still relying on each other to navigate the world, and they were wonderful. She’s a fantastic Lauren, and if (knock on wood) we get a chance to do a movie of the second book, we’re going to be incredibly lucky to have her. Fingers crossed.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The deeper I dig into this series, and the more I write for it, the more I realize that Brooke is one of the most important characters, right up there with John and his mom as the top three. In the book I’m currently writing, #5 in the series, she’s a co-lead. Also, spoiler warning: Brooke survives until at least book 5 Even in the very first book, Brooke is a focal point for the story, and a great character that readers fall in love with. We needed to have someone awesome in the role, and Director Billy cast a wide net, looking at casting agencies, looking at local talent, looking everywhere he could. After a long search, he found Lucy.
No, I’m not going to tell you her last name, partly because this is her first real screen credit (she did a commercial once) so you can’t look her up, but also because she’s a sixteen-year-old girl, and I don’t want you to look her up. She’s going to be a big star someday, but let her have a few more months of childhood at least. My first thought when I saw Lucy was “Brooke is supposed to be blonde,” but Billy reassured me that she was perfect. “Don’t get distracted by stuff like hair,” he said, “just watch her act.” Her first day on the set she did a tiny little street scene: she met Mr. Crowley on the sidewalk, gave him some leftover pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving, and that was it. Twenty seconds of screen time. And she was PERFECT. She’s kind and cheerful and quirky and awkward and grounded and complex and believable and so overflowing with personality it’s amazing. I told Billy he was right. Lucy’s not just The Girl, she’s a character in her own right, ready to stand alongside John as an equal.
Lucy sat me down in the “stay warm between shots” room on her first day and asked me questions about Brooke: what is she like, what does she want, what does love and hate. I answered her questions mostly by turning them back on her: what do you think she wants? It was a fascinating experience to watch her pick the character apart, translating the tiny glimpses we get on the page or screen into a full person. At one point she asked me “Why does Brooke like John? I mean, aside from the fact that he’s a dark, dreamy loner?” I just laughed and told her she’d do fine.
In that same conversation I asked her if she’d read the rest of the books, and she said that she’d been cast so recently she hadn’t had a chance–she’d just finished the first one, and had the second in her bag, ready to start that night. I apologized in advance for the crap I put her character through, and we laughed, but that idea has stuck with me: I’ve met Brooke now, and I’ve met John, and I keep writing horrible, awful, nasty things that those characters have to survive, and it’s changed the way I think about it. Book 5, the one I’m writing right now, has a distinctly different tone than the rest of the series, and that’s partly due to my experience on the set: I’d had the plan for a very long time, but was never convinced that I could actually make it work. Now that I’ve met John and Brooke, I know that I can. And I’m very sorry for what I’m putting them through, but I’m just as inspired by the way they get through it. Very few people could do what they do, but the much bigger point is that very few people would choose to. John and Brooke do.
Meeting John and Brooke and the actors who play them was a highlight of my life. I can’t wait for you to meet them, too.