Spotlight On: 1600 PENN star Amara Miller

1600 Penn - Season Pilot1600 PENN is back tonight after a small one-hour-THE-OFFICE-induced hiatus, and to celebrate, we spent some time chatting about the show with series star Amara Miller, who plays the whip-smart third-child Marigold Gilchrist on the show.  Miller, who starred in 2011’s THE DESCENDANTS, talks about her character, what’s coming up in tonight’s all new episode, as well as what she hopes to do in the future and what causes are near and dear to her.  Check it out, and watch 1600 PENN tonight on NBC at 9:30/8:30c!

I fall a little bit more in love with 1600 PENN with each new episode.
It’s definitely, you definitely have to keep watching – it gets better every episode.

Was it a goal of yours to be on a television show?  Was it a right-script/right-time type situation, where you thought, ok, I want to go in an audition for a comedy series?
You know, I was looking at a lot of movies.  Last year, when pilot season came around, they sent us the script for 1600 PENN and I read it, thought it was absolutely hilarious and thought why not try out?  I did, and they gave me the part, and we decided, let’s go do this, it could be a fun experience!

1600 Penn - Season 1First thing out, you break out in this huge movie (THE DESCENDANTS) and now, first pilot goes to series – is the world of show biz what you expected?
Oh even more! Everyone has been so great, on both sets, everyone been has been extremely welcoming.  I’ve learned so much from all of the actors I’ve worked with so far.

Talk a little bit about 1600 PENN for us – describe your character, Marigold, and what about her you’re relating to, and what you like about her?
Marigold is a spunky teenage girl, who is really strong and confident like her father Dale.  Those are two things that I really admire about her.  As you watch the show, you start to see a whole other side of Marigold, especially the relationships she develops with other characters in the show.

The Gilchrist family is full of such specific characters – everyone is so individual and has their own voice.  How much like Marigold are you?
She is really strong and confident and those are definitely two main things that relate to me.  She is more of a tomboy, wears a lot of pants.  I’m what you would kind of call a girly-girl; I like dresses and skirts [laughs] and stuff like that!

1600 Penn - Season 1What can you tease about what we’ll see in this next episode, and coming up beyond that?
The next episode that’s going to be airing is one of my favorites.  My brother Xander is running for class President.  It’s a funny twist – dad is President and he’s running against this really popular girl.  In the first episode, Marigold mentioned that she had a crush on a girl named Jessica; well, Jessica is in this episode!

I like that they’re exploring a world for everyone – as you work with the writers and other actors, do you get to give input about what Marigold might do as you’re learning the character?
All of the writers and the directors are so open to ideas.  They said if you ever had any thoughts on your character or something that could be changed or added, just come to us.  It was definitely a very open environment where you could put yourself out there!

1600 Penn - Season 1As you’re shooting a show like this – is there someone who breaks the most, or who makes you break the most?
Oh definitely Josh [Gad].  I think every single scene that anyone of us filmed with Josh, I think at least 3 takes have been ruined.  One time, with Josh and Jenna in the White House kitchen, I think literally 6 takes in a row, they ended up just laughing and laughing.  Jenna would look at Josh and he’d just start smiling or say something, and we’d all start cracking up.  The great thing about Josh is that he does a ton of improve, he adds lines, he is constantly, every single take, coming up with newer, funnier material.  And he says his lines, but addons to that are really-really fantastic.

When you looked at where you want your career to go, was improv and comedy, something you saw yourself doing, or learning more about, or was drama where you wanted to focus?
Yeah, definitely when I was first starting, I did a dramatic movie, and I was like, this is really fun.  Drama is a lot of natural acting, what your instincts tell you.  I can ask myself, hm, how would I say this?  Comedy, after I’ve tried comedy, it’s a lot harder.  It’s one you can’t smile onscreen.  In the characters’ world, nothing is funny, it’s awkward or weird stuff that in reality would be hilarious.  You can’t smile or laugh at anything.  Everything is a lot hand motions, a lot of hand motions, over exaggerating.  You’re trying to make the audience laugh, so it’s definitely a really big change.  I really love both and I don’t think I could choose one.

Right out of the gate, you’re working with some of the biggest names – George Clooney, Alexander Payne, Bill Pullman – is there specific advice that they’ve given you?
[laughs] Oh my gosh, so many things!  I’ve learned so much.  It’s not so much them straight away telling, but from watching, seeing these little tricks – if they mess up a line, instead of cutting the whole take, they’ll take 5 seconds and start the line again.  Small tricks like that, a lot of watching!

Why do you think that 1600 PENN is a show that people should tune into on Thursday nights?
Definitely because it’s hilarious!  A lot of people really love comedic television, and 1600 PENN is a really, really funny show.  I definitely encourage people who love comedy to watch it!

What else do you have coming up next?
I’m definitely looking into movies right now.  TV has been a great experience.  I’ve been going through the whole audition thing, looking at different scripts.  It’s a good, good time.

Is there one role, or one type of role that you’d love to play?  Or is it whatever comes and speaks to you?
Definitely whatever comes.  When I’m reading a script, I look of course how engaging the story is.  If I’m distracted, that’s definitely a real sign that “oh this might not be the right script.”  It’s really hard to find good characters, especially for young girls, and engaging material that you can hardly put down.

Talk to me a bit about causes that you’re involved in – what are you working on with some of the recycling and single use plastic charities.
I’m definitely involved in a lot of charity – one cause is, like you said, the Plastic Solution Coalition, and it’s helping spread awareness of the use of Plastic.  Another one, my costar Shailene Woodley and her mother came up with it to help stop bullying in school, elementary schools.  It’s called All It Takes, and it’s an amazing program.  I can relate to that, because I was bullied in school a lot for being different, being a little bit odd, and I didn’t know how to fit in.  I think those are two important causes that need to be looked at.