Exclusive Interview: Zoey Deutch on Buffaloed, Producing, and Debt Collecting.
I am proud to say that I am a big supporter of Zoey Deutch and have been constantly impressed by her work as an actress for the past five years. Zoey and I met for the first time at Sundance after the premiere of Before I Fall and after that premiere, our paths crossed a few times at various junkets and social events. Each and every interaction that I have had with Zoey Deutch has been overwhelmingly rewarding to the point where I not only enjoy speaking and interacting with her but felt like this is someone who I want to support and become friends with. I have been working in the industry for the past twenty years and I can tell you from experience, this sort of connection doesn’t happen as often as it should. A large percentage of talent often views speaking with critics and journalists, as “just part of the job” but not Zoey Deutch. She takes great pride in those who interview her and goes out of her way to make sure that you know that she knows you matter and appreciates that you took the time to speak to her about whatever project she is currently doing press for.
Zoey is one of maybe two dozen celebrities who’ve I met and interviewed multiple times over the years and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I constantly look forward to our interactions. Earlier this week, I got a chance to do a phone interview with Zoey for her latest film, Buffaloed. The film, which premiered last April at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows Peg Dahl (Deutch), who after getting in trouble with the law finds herself buried in debt. With her dream of escaping from her hometown of Buffalo, New York now squashed, Peg looks for new ways to get out of debt. Peg stumbles upon a job as a debt collector which little does she know will forever change her life.
Buffaloed is a great indie film about an industry that I believe the majority of people know very little about. It is an engaging and entertaining film but one that also serves as quite the learning experience. Sure, some of what is shown in Buffaloed is exaggerated but there is a lot of truth to this story. Buffaloed is smart and sharply written while the direction by Tanya Wexler perfectly blurs the lines of comedy and drama. The whole film is topped off by Zoey Deutch who delivers a multi-faceted performance that shows off her dynamic range as an actress.
Below is the first half of my most recent interview with Zoey where we talk about Buffaloed. The interview was so much fun that we went way over on time so I decided to break the interview into two. The second part of this will be posted next week and will be more of a profile interview about her career thus far.
Scott: Hello, Zoey. How are you?
Zoey Deutch: Scott! How are you?
Scott: I’m good. How are you doing?
Zoey Deutch: Just fine. I’m so excited that I got to talk to you today.
Scott: I know, me too. I am sad that I can’t ever get to you in person anymore. You’re so in demand.
Zoey Deutch: I don’t know what’s happening, I’m here in New York. I’ve been going back and forth a lot, but I’m very happy that this movie’s coming out because it’s been a long time coming.
Scott: Yes. I was bummed that I didn’t get to go see it earlier because you did have the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, which must feel like forever ago at this point.
Zoey Deutch: Totally.
Scott: So, let’s start there. I remember that Buffaloed was one of the most buzzed-about movies out at Tribeca, and you’ve been no stranger to film festivals since you’ve been to various ones. What was it like being at Tribeca.
Zoey Deutch: I was just excited that it was well received and I loved the script. I loved the process of getting the movie together. I loved making the movie. I loved the outcome and everybody I got to work with, and very rarely do all of those things come together in that way. I mean, all in all, it’s a very funny, but more importantly, poignant story about a young woman who’s obsessed with making enough money to get out of her blue-collar existence. She finds her calling in this ethically debatable industry, which is the one that destroyed her chances of becoming somebody, to begin with, which is debt collecting. She becomes her own worst enemy. That was a really interesting concept and made for a really interesting character.
Scott: Obviously, I’m a big fan of you and have been a big supporter of your work.
Zoey Deutch: Thank you.
Scott: You deserve it because you are one of the sweetest people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in this industry and I want nothing but endless success for you.
Zoey Deutch: Thank you. That’s so sweet.
Scott: No problem at all. I wanted to ask you, in terms of producing, I know you were a producer on The Year of Spectacular Men which you made with Maddie and your mom, but what was the process like working as a producer on this film?
Zoey Deutch: Really different. The producer hat takes on many forms. I feel like, for me, the producers that I’ve worked with that I’ve been the most impressed with are the type of people who there is no task too big or too small, and I did my best to embody that. And so, as you said, it’s the second feature I’ve produced and I’m deeply proud of the outcome and I got to do it alongside some amazing folks. And when we found Tanya Wexler, and the process of hiring a director was very foreign and different to me. The casting was a little bit different from the first one I did because the first movie I produced was sort of like a ragtag team of all of my friends and family and sourcing people that I know and love in that way.
Buffaloed was a different process, which I loved learning from. I was so happy to get to work with Judy Greer and Noah Reid and Jermaine Fowler and Jai Courtney and location scouting is just as glamorous as you would expect it. I’m kidding. And post-production is just as easy as you’d expect. I’m also kidding, it is very tedious. But I didn’t expect that I would like producing so much. I did it originally just because I felt like I wanted to have some semblance of control. I wanted to do it because I felt like I wanted to create my own path, but what I didn’t know is I would enjoy it so much. I love being a part of every step and detail. I am better with more information. I am a better performer. I’m a better actor when I have all those, all the information, so I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it doing it this time and I am enjoying it right now doing a few other projects as well.
Scott: I love this movie by the way. I feel like I tell you that every time that I talk to you, but this movie, just proves to me once again, why you need to be out there more and why you’re a star. You carry this movie on your shoulders. You’re quirky, you’re funny, but you can be a total badass when you need to be one. So, I wanted to ask, what sort of research went into debt collecting that you had to do to prepare for this?
Zoey Deutch: Aww..thank you! Yeah. It was fascinating. Well, to be totally honest, I didn’t know much about the world of debt collecting. It was a foreign concept to me. I thought when I read it originally it must be a super heightened kind of theatrical version of this world. When I initially talked to Brian Sacca, the writer of the film who is from Buffalo, he explained that now the present day, it’s a little bit more regulated, but when he was growing up it wasn’t, it was a lawless mob shakedown of sorts. I didn’t understand that. I didn’t understand that it didn’t require any official kind of training or education, that it was so like I said, lawless.
But the research process, it was just a lot. Believe me, you go down a black hole of research. It’s so fascinating. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why I love acting is I feel like each part, each world you step into, each mind that you start to unravel you get to ask all these questions and it starts to feel like you’re taking a crash course in a new life. As someone who loved school, taking classes, reading, learning and asking questions, it’s particularly fun when there’s a subject like this that feels very foreign to me.
Scott: I didn’t know anything about the topic either. I feel like the film is fun because it’s entertaining and you’re engaged in the story, but at the same time, I feel like you as a viewer, are learning about this process and you get this who new level of disgust towards debt collectors, and especially learning the fact that they buy the accounts for pennies on the dollar and then they’re able to make these huge amounts of money off these people who clearly don’t have money in the first place. I just found that whole thing to be so eye-opening.
Zoey Deutch: Yes, it is. It’s wild. I also think what’s interesting about the character is I don’t blame her. I think I fell that much more in love with the character Peg because it’s a story that usually features a male protagonist. I mean, we’re so accustomed to seeing these male hustlers and antiheroes, but she’s desperate, obsessed with making enough money to be taken seriously, the budding businesswoman She’s on a mission to get out of the town that she doesn’t want to be in anymore and she’s willing to do this thing that she despises to get out of it. She also goes against the typical expectations of femininity. Instead of embodying feminine, well, how should I say it … feminist ideals, like her determination to provide for herself without being reliant on male figures.
So, in that way, you can’t hate her. You’re like, “Okay, I understand why you’re going to do this thing that I don’t approve of. That’s pretty gross, but also you want financial independence and there’s no other way for you to attain it at this point.”Her greed is great because she’s doing what she’s doing because she wants freedom. She’s seen her mom, everyone else in Buffalo and knows that if you don’t have financial stability, you’ll never be free. She’s a voice to how women in some blue-collar towns feel like they can never get out because they can’t achieve the financial stability and foundation, you know?
Scott: Oh, 100%. I mean, I think the movie’s very timely to today.
Zoey Deutch: Absolutely. She knows that if she lets a guy take care of her or take her out to dinner, she’ll lose financial edge and control and it’s almost more than greed. She’s driven by control, like how they say anorexia is all about control and it manifests itself in food. It’s like people think that Peg is shady and greedy, but it is all about control manifesting itself in money. She just can’t stop.
Scott: At surface value, you can view this character as kind of slimy, but when you dig deeper, and I think that’s what’s so great about your performance, it is like an onion where you keep peeling back the layers and you get more and more out of her as well as her reasoning for doing things which change throughout the film.
Zoey Deutch: Totally.