On Sunday, July 17th, ABC Family debuts its made-for-television special CYBERBULLY starring Emily Osment and Kay Panabaker. It provides an inside look at how teens today are being terrorized and subjected to cyber-abuse at the hands of their peers and one courageous young woman’s last stand against online bullying. Talking about their characters and the film are co-stars Emily Osment and Kay Panabaker.
What is CYBERBULLY about?
Emily: The show focuses on a girl, my character Taylor, and her battle with bulimia and cyberbullying. Her best friend Samantha tries to help her, but she really doesn’t know how. It’s basically her story and her insecurity and how she handles it.
Kay: It is [a good cautionary tale]. It’s not really based on a true story but it’s extremely relatable with everything that is going on with cyberbullying right now. . . It’s a huge problem and the more we bring attention to it, hopefully, the better things will get.
How did you get the role on CYBERBULLY?
Kay: I was going through a transition period and they asked me to audition, and I said I was out of town and couldn’t do it. Then they cast somebody else, and then at the last minute she couldn’t be available, so I landed it. . . So I got thrown into it, but I was stoked to be a part of it ’cause I obviously knew that [Emily] was doing it, and I’ve known her for many years. I also liked it because of the role — she is such a dramatic and drastic character. I really wanted to help show that. I think the movie focuses not only on her journey, but the journey of the best friend and the bullies and how this whole subject matter affects them all.
How realistically is cyberbullying portrayed in the film?
Emily: We play it very realistic. Yet everything in the movie is extremely dramatic. It’s heartbreaking. But it’s very realistic in that everything in the movie, you completely believe. It also shows the exponential growth between where she starts and where she ends up, and what she goes through. The crew and cast and the director and everyone did such a good job. Visually, what I look like in the beginning of the movie and at the end — the way my hair is styled and what I wear is just incredible.
Can you relate to anything portrayed in the film?
Kay: I think as public figures, we now ask for the public’s involvement in our lives through Twitter through MySpace through whatever. And people take it upon themselves that now they have a direct line to you, they can give you career advice, character advice. There is no longer that sense of boundary with public figures and, in general, there is such instant access to a person and yet they really don’t know you and I feel like, as my mother’s always taught me, you always should conduct yourself privately as you would publicly. So if you wouldn’t say things to the person’s face, then don’t say them online. And if you can’t withhold yourself from doing that then take yourself offline and figure out a better outlet for whatever you’re dealing with.
Emily: It’s a little hard to say that I relate to my character just because her life is so traumatic and I’ve never really dealt with anything that is that emotionally strenuous. But my mom is a teacher and I heard stories about bullying all the time. I sat down and talked to her for a few hours before going to Montreal to try to get a grasp about what she hears and what she sees in the kids and the toll it takes on them. So I really wanted to get a full sense of what it’s like to be bullied.
Have you ever been tempted to respond online to someone who is being a jerk?
Kay: No, ‘cause it just sort of feels – we don’t go looking for things, but you find it. And then you think, ‘Wow, you really don’t know me if that’s what you’re going to assume about me and you don’t know me.’ Therefore, that doesn’t warrant a response. ‘Cause then they’re just going to keep looking to get a response. If they don’t get it, then they’re going to stop. . . When I have stuck up for a friend of mine, it doesn’t amount to anything. Ignoring them is really the best solution that I found. And if you can’t do that, then find some way to vent about it, but not to that person. Don’t give in to them.
How do you make a film about typing on a computer cinematic?
Emily: That’s a very good question. It’s difficult, because a lot of the times that’s a challenge.
Kay: It was very cool the way the film was shot. But we had the most amazing DP and a fantastic director and a crew that worked together. They wanted to make it look beautiful. There were a few outside scenes, but mostly it was inside in a bedroom looking at a computer – and how do you make that gripping? The way that it was shot, we shot most of it so that you were not looking at a computer screen the whole time.
Emily: It was hard for me, character-wise, to go from ‘everything’s good’ to sobbing after I read something online. There were so many scenes where there is an emotional change – which a lot of teenagers have – they are like bipolar, they go so quickly from happiness to ‘my life is over!’ There’s a lot of that in this movie, so that was probably the most difficult. I cried every single day. Every single day was just so emotional.
Kay: And sometimes she would have one or two scenes that were okay, then there were days where she was crying the entire day.
Emily: And then at the end of the day, she’s like, ‘let’s go to the gym!’ and I’m like, ‘I’m tired.’ The entire time I was shooting the movie, I was just so tired.
What was it like working with Kelly Rowan?
Emily: I love her! She got me on the healthy kick. She’s just the sweetest person and she did just a fantastic job of giving me excellent advice, and doing it not like in a motherly way. But just in a very friendly, good way.
Kay: Every scene I would have with her, she would be like, ‘These were my experiences and this is what I’ve learned. Take it or leave it.’
Emily: Yeah, and she’s very real and she’s extremely down-to-earth and very funny. She’s very sarcastic. She’s just like me, so we got along really well.
With that quick take on CYBERBULLY, be sure to tune in for its debut on ABC Family Channel on Sunday, July 17th at 8:00PM
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).