“The Lucky One” tells the story of Logan, a Marine who returns from deployment in Iraq. The loss of his comrades weighs heavily on him, as well as a photo he found. A young woman is pictured on the front of it, a special message is on the back, and Logan sets out to discover the identity of his “guardian angel.”
Efron plays Logan, and Schilling plays Elizabeth, the woman on the picture. She is a divorced mother of one who lives in Louisiana with her grandmother, played by Danner. Schilling, who starred on the NBC drama “Mercy,” visited Atlanta recently to discuss the film experience, her co-stars and how “The Lucky One” will touch everyone who sees it.
MDJ: What were the challenges and rewards of playing this character?
Schilling: I think the challenges are also what I loved. When I first read the script, I immediately connected to her. I think when we meet her, she has some walls up and she has been hurt. But I admire her. She’s doing the best she can with her child. She’s a hardworking single mom. By necessity, her own personal life has sort of fallen to the side. She had the courage to, with Logan’s help, open herself up to being loved again. She’s a woman who found her voice and found her worth. I love the idea that no matter what you are going through (that) you are worthy. Love is out there. Love is available to you.
MDJ: You had many emotional scenes in the film. Where did you draw from to portray those feelings so powerfully?
Schilling: I think it’s a combination of a couple of things. There’s some outside external detective work. I talked to women who have experienced loss or families of people serving overseas … and then just seeing what that sparks in me and how that triggers my own experience.
MDJ: After extremely dramatic scenes and the director says, “Cut,” how do you regroup?
Schilling: I need a little bit of time. But with Zac around, he had me laughing a lot. It’s something I would not have anticipated. I was surrounded by such great people. I take a little bit of time, but you also can’t take it that seriously.
MDJ: Tell me about Zac as a costar. Were you familiar with him before this film?
Schilling: The cool thing for me in this movie is that I had never seen “High School Musical.” I think I saw a little bit of him in a movie called “Me and Orson Welles.” I knew of him. I only knew the person I saw in front of me at my screen test, which was this man, this very attractive man. He not a teenager at all! He’s a really hard-working actor. Some of the stuff we did in the movie was so vulnerable, but he was so present. He made me feel so safe to do some kind of vulnerable work. On the flip side, he’s one of the funniest, down-to-Earth guys. He’s really good at keeping that balance of levity while respecting the work.
MDJ: What was it like meeting and working with Blythe Danner?
Schilling: I looked up to her forever. If I could have a career like hers, or if I could be like her, I would die happy. I’ve been watching her since I was very young. I’ve said the second-most exciting phone call I got after I got the job was that she was going to play my grandmother. It’s also a testament to her because I could have felt so intimidated by her. She’s just the most gracious, compassionate woman. She put me so at ease. I feel really lucky to count her as a friend now.
MDJ: How does “The Lucky One” differ from other romantic dramas?
Schilling: It shares a lot with romance films that everyone has already embraced — the stories of finding true love. (However,) these characters are based in reality. They’re not Hollywood fake people. There is a fantasy element of a love story, but it’s also really grounded in reality.