Good for Skylar Astin, who made that rarest of leaps from Broadway star to Hollywood commodity. The 25-year-old native New Yorker first wowed audiences as part of the original cast of the Tony Award winning-musical Spring Awakening and started appearing in movies shortly thereafter. A hilarious guest stint on season one of Girls helped, but it wasn’t until his breakthrough performance in last year’s A capella throwdown Pitch Perfect that Astin’s star power came fully into focus. Now, on the heels of that movie’s success and next week’s release of Hangover-style bro-medy 21 and Over, Astin has a full-blown movie career on his hands. We caught up with Astin to talk onset shenanigans, that time he turned 21, and the awesomeness of being in movies.
What’s your character like in 21 and Over?
I play Casey, who’s one of Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) best friends. I, along with Miles Teller, go and surprise him for his 21st birthday, but it turns out he can’t go out because he has a big interview the next day. Obviously, things get a little crazy after that. Casey is sort of an over-thinker, he takes himself a little too seriously.
Was your 21st birthday as crazy as the night in the movie? What did you do?
It wasn’t all that crazy. I do remember having a very fun time, which I know must give away a lot. I was living in New York at the time, and I had friends over to my apartment. So we started out having a party on the rooftop, which probably is not the safest thing to do looking back, but we were responsible. We survived the night. There are funny parts of it that I certainly remember, like hiding my dog. I decided it was a really good idea to bring my dog along to the store, so I had to hide him because you can’t have pets in the store. Or maybe I just thought you couldn’t. Obviously there was more to the night, but I feel like I should probably stop now.
What was it like starring in one of these epic party movies, from the writers of The Hangover?
I have always loved movies like that. I love Superbad, The Hangover, Animal House… those genre films are some of my favorites, I own all the DVDs. And it was such a cool thing to be able to take a crack at it; such a fun experience. I think it’s pretty awesome to be able to stop and take it all in, and go to work every day on this big studio film and collaborate with the writers and do improv. It’s really amazing to me, because I was actually cast in this well before Pitch Perfect, so they were really taking a gamble on me as an introduction. I’m just so excited for others to see it.
Any crazy antics that happened on set?
Well, I ran over Miles’ foot with a golf cart. I did it on my birthday. We were doing a stunt and had done it perfectly three times before. There were about 700 extras around and I was maneuvering a golf cart at 30 miles per hour. Basically, I’m supposed to pick up Miles and he’s supposed to jump on the golf cart. And Miles is from Florida, so he has a lot of experience jumping in and out of moving golf carts. But for some reason, something got in the way, or something happened and yeah, I flew over his leg. It was an honest mistake.
Is there a common thread between the characters you play?
I guess just a real sense of originality, a sense of style. Even on Girls, I was such a fan of Lena Dunham’s independent work that I knew I would love to work on anything she’s involved with. And in this movie, it’s hilarious but there’s something also about it. It has a grounded element of comedy. And there’s something to being the straight man in a comedy duo and being able to navigate the plot. Because sometimes you want to be wacky and hilarious, but you have this other job. You have to steer it. And those roles often can be one-dimensional. But Jon [Lucas] and Scott [Moore] really made this dynamic character that fit into this “odd couple” idea to me [with Miles Teller.] I often get asked, “What’s your favorite thing to do? Film, theater, TV?” And it’s really hard to answer that because I’m attracted to really different things.
What music are you listening to right now?
Well, I just watched the Grammys, so I’m ready to say Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers. I’m into Purity Ring right now. I really like the Black Keys. I’ve been getting into house music. My brother’s a DJ and has gotten me into it. But honestly, I listen to everything. Pop to indie to classical.
Do you want to do anything besides act?
I’m so young and I have so much to look forward to, that I don’t want to say I have definite plans for anything yet. When I was doing theater in New York, I never imagined I’d be doing what I’m doing now. So I don’t know. I can’t say that I don’t intend one day to direct or produce or make an album, if it makes sense at the time and it’s something I want to do. If I was presented with those opportunities, and I felt up to the challenge, I would certainly do my best. What’s happening now, and the experiences I’m having on set, if these experiences continue and I continue to learn and grow, I don’t see why I wouldn’t want or be able to direct. But I think I need several more years of maturity to take that on.
What made you want to be an actor?
When I first decided I wanted to be an actor, it was more along the lines of theater. There were some performances that as a youngster peaked my interest. And then when I finally got the courage in high school to try out, I made it into the musical and I found it strange at first. I was a little resistant. But once things started moving and I was up there on stage, it was life changing.
What musical was it?
Godspell. I played Jesus.
Who would you love to work with?
My favorite actor of all time is Daniel Day Lewis. But I don’t know if I could handle working with him, since he’s in character all the time. But he’s amazing. If I did have the honor to work with him I’d just take it all in. And, this might be weird to say since I just worked with them, but I’d love to keep working with Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. In a way, it would be great to kind of develop our own crew of actors. Miles and I talk about this all the time. I respect Paul Rudd and Jason Segal and Judd Apatow and all of those actors who have continued to work together and support each other and I’ve watched them do their thing. It would be cool to think that at some point we could create that type of thing on our own. It’s a bold statement.
You moved to LA, but you’re originally from New York. Your Pitch Perfect co-star Anna Kendrick who also made the move said that everyone in LA is so nice, it throws her off. What do you think of the two cities?
I think a lot of New Yorkers hate on LA because it’s easy to do that. There are a lot of stereotypes. I’m a New Yorker, though, through and through. I’m there at least six times a year, honestly. My whole family is there. But LA is awesome too. It’s what you make of it. I choose to love it. It can be tough on people, but hey, New York ain’t easy either. The thing I love about New York though, is that everyone is so honest. It’s not mean; it’s just honest. If someone tells you “Fuck you, man,” for something that you did, you can move on with your life. It’s not a terrible thing. Wait, this is the web, right? I can say “fuck,” right?
You can say fuck.
What’s next on your radar? Projects on the horizon?
There are a few things, but I don’t think I’m at liberty to say. There’s a lot of ‘ifs,’ ‘maybes’ and possibilities. I’m sure you’ll know about them before I do! You’ll be like ‘little did Skylar know, at the time of the interview he was just cast in the new Rudy remake.’
You and Sean Astin do share a name.
Yeah, you would hope I’d be a top pick for that.