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Jim Sturgess and Brooklynn Prince were in the middle of filming a scene on the set of Home Before Dark‘s second season when their Apple TV+ production, like so many others, was shut down a few weeks ago. Now, the stars are both self-isolating with their families in their Vancouver apartments — but they still manage to FaceTime every couple of days.
The duo play Matt and Hilde Lisko, father and daughter journalists who resurrect the investigation of a cold missing persons case when they move from Brooklyn back to Matt’s hometown of Erie Harbor, Washington. When Hilde begins investigating the death of a neighbor — inspired by the real-life, award-winning kid journalist Hilde Lysiak — she unwittingly discovers a link to the kidnapping and disappearance of Matt’s childhood best friend 31 years ago.
The inseparable pair is known on set for their spontaneous songs and close father-daughter bond, so The Hollywood Reporter hopped on Skype with Sturgess and Prince a few days ahead of Home Before Dark‘s premiere for their first face-to-face chat in several days (with a cameo by Prince’s real-life dad). They discussed meeting for the first time, their songwriting process and what it was like to talk to the real-life Hilde and Matt.
When is the last time you two saw each other?
Jim Sturgess: We were in the middle of shooting a scene when they shut the whole show down in the middle of the day.
Brooklynn Prince: They were like, literally just about to block.
Sturgess: That was it. Me and Brooklynn, we were ready. We learned our lines. We’re prepared. We’re ready for work.
Do you have questions for each other?
Prince: All right, so I don’t have a pad and pencil in front of me. But what is the hardest part of shooting Home Before Dark?
Sturgess: What is the hardest part of shooting? It’s probably doing one of the kitchen scenes in the Lisko house. Not only do we have Brooklynn, but we have Kylie Rogers [oldest daughter Izzy], Brooklynn Prince. Mila [Morgan, youngest daughter Ginny], me, Abby [Miller, lawyer mom Bridget]. We’re equally as crazy as the kids. And when all of us are together it’s like herding cats, it’s hard to get all of us to concentrate at the same time.
Prince: And also, we’re eating the sugary cereal.
Sturgess: There’s a lot of food. Normally, I’m cooking some eggs. Brooklynn’s normally eating some cereal. Yeah, so just keeping us all remembering our lines and not just acting like a real family having breakfast. Making toast and remembering my lines at the same time.
Prince: [mimes cooking eggs and toast popping up] Yeah, like, pop. “So how are you guys doing today?”
What was it like when you first met, and how did you become friends and create this close bond that you have?
Sturgess: I got a phone call saying would I come to L.A. to meet this young girl Brooklynn Prince to see if we would have good chemistry. So there’s a chemistry read screen test kind of thing. Brooklynn had already got the part, so Brooklynn already knew she was Hilde. I was very nervous. I remember having to fly to L.A. and meet Brooklynn’s mom and the showrunners and the director, Jon Chu. We talked for maybe 15-20 minutes all together, and then they said, “Okay, we’re going to bring Brooklynn into the room now.” And I was like, “Oh, God, here we go.” So we met and we just kind of hung out. John Chu had us playing lots of games. We were kind of improvising and we told each other some fun stories. And we made up handshakes that went on for like 20 minutes. Remember what else we did?
Prince: I think we did a trust thing where, like, you have to trust people. You cover eyes and they have to lead you around. Yeah, we did that trust thing.
Sturgess: Then we tell each other stories about our families and we have to remember something about each person.
Prince: And then we have to tell them a specific detail. And then they had us do the audition, the scenes. And then I was like, “Jim is amazing.” After he left I was like, “I hope he gets to be Matt.” And then they’re like, “He’s playing Matt.”
Sturgess: I remember they phoned me when I was in the car just about to get onto the airplane to go back to London. And they phoned saying, “You got the part.” I was so happy.
The showrunners Dana Fox and Dara Resnik have said that you sing lots of songs together. Are you still singing them? What are your songs about?
Prince: Well, we have come up with the latest two. Remember, that one about teeth?
Sturgess: “Wobbly Tooth?” Yeah.
Prince: Yeah, “Wobbly Tooth.” It’s when I had a wiggly tooth. We made one about wobbly teeth and we were laughing. We were rolling out songs. We were cranking them out.
Sturgess: Usually if you leave me and Brooklynn on our own for too long, within about five to 10 minutes we have a new song, don’t we Brooklynn?
Prince: Yeah. All you have to do is put us in a room, leave us for 10 minutes and we’ll have two songs.
Sturgess: We normally make up a song every five minutes, so yeah, two songs.
How often do you FaceTime each other?
Sturgess: We haven’t FaceTimed [recently]. We’ve texted each other. We FaceTimed each other the other day. Now that we’re on lockdown it’s our only way of talking to each other.
Prince: We haven’t been FaceTimeing a lot. I think we are more normally on text or sending voice messages to each other. I think we’re going start FaceTimeing.
Sturgess: Well, normally we see each other every day pretty much.
Prince: I’m now making songs up by myself. I’m like, this is very lonely, I’m the most loneliest person in the world.
We’re all feeling a little lonely right now! What have you been doing with your time since you’ve been locked down? Are you watching anything fun? Are you reading anything, listening to anything? Brooklynn, are you doing school?
Prince: Sadly and unfortunately. But I have been watching like classic movies with my parents like Some Like It Hot. I watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, A Little Princess, by Shirley Temple, she was in that, and then we’re going watch a bunch of other movies that my parents want to show me. I just watched Ford v Ferrari with my dad and I didn’t know how much I was into racing movies until then. I’m literally glued to my seat, like, “oh, yes!” It kinda helps me explore myself a little bit more, you know?
Sturgess: I have a question. My first question. Have you ever seen a movie with me in it?
Prince: [silence, looks off screen to her father] No, no. We have? We haven’t.
Sturgess: I’ve seen two of your movies, dude. I’ve seen two of your movies!
Prince: I’m going to watch Across the Universe the next time I watch a movie, OK? It’s taking a little bit of time, OK, Jim? I’m sorry. I’m super busy as you can tell. I listened to the soundtrack. I’ve got the soundtrack of you. I played it outside his trailer door one time and he was like…
Sturgess: Brooklynn often knocks on my door and runs away. There is often not anybody there. Or she plays music through my door, underneath the door.
Prince: I’m like the prankster. You did a movie with Saoirse Ronan but I don’t know if I can watch that. My dad probably needs to watch it first. And then we’re going watch Across the Universe. And then I don’t have any other movies, my dad and mom probably do.
The show doesn’t talk down to kids, and it takes Hilde really seriously. Jim, can you talk about the importance of that?
Sturgess: I think it’s one of the most special things about their relationship. When you see the real Matt with the real Hilde, they do have an absolute mutual respect for each other and take each other very seriously, and also have a lot of fun and take each other completely unseriously. There’s a real nice balance of those dynamics. I think that’s what the show does best — it really touches on the idea that as much as the adults can teach the kids things about life, which of course is a part of parenting and a part of growing up, kids can also teach the adults a thing or two about the world that we live in. In order to see the world as it truly should be seen it’s great to see it through the eyes of a child — the innocence and sort of purity that a young person sees the world without any of those lies and the deceit that comes in as you get older and older. The way the young look at the world is more important than ever.
Brooklynn, what do you think about that?
Prince: Just what he just said. He took the words out of my mouth.
Sturgess: I think I stole that from another interview that you did. We’re going to have it all written down on a piece of paper right here. [flashes a sheet of paper to the camera]
Prince: I saw it, Jim.
Sturgess: I have a question for you, Brooklynn. Who do you think would win in an arm wrestling competition between me, your real dad and the real Matt Lysiak?
Prince: I think you and the real Matt first, I don’t know. I think maybe you would win. And then you’d go up against my dad and you’re out the door.
Sturgess: He’d destroy me.
Prince: He’s lifted the weight of a baby elephant.
Sturgess: Well, I can’t compete with that.
What did you learn from the real Hilde and her dad? What was it like to meet them in person?
Prince: I was super nervous to meet her because I was like, “Wow, this is the real deal.” It can’t get any more real than this. And then I met her, and me and her just hit it off right away. I have learned from her even before I met her that when people bully you and say you can’t do something, don’t let that go to your head and just do it because you want to do it and no one’s stopping you from doing that. That was amazing to me, the fact that she was doing that. I learned that if I really had a passion for directing, if someone tells me no, I can go ahead and do it. There’s nothing in my way of doing it, you know?
Sturgess: For me, meeting Matt was really interesting. But strangely, I was the one who was supposed to be interviewing him, but he’s an investigative journalist, so he’s more inquisitive than I am.
Prince: Same with Hilde. Like, I’m supposed to be asking questions about her and she’d be asking questions the whole time about me.
Sturgess: He’s a very inquisitive man for sure. But I think a lot of it was observation when he didn’t know I was watching him. You know, from the other side of the room you could see him and Hilde sitting together. The way they talked, the way they hung out. They way they sat in silence. The ease they just had around each other was probably more important than when I actually sat down and spoke to him.
Prince: Jim, you spy on people?
Sturgess: I like to call it observing.
Prince: Do you spy on me?
Sturgess: Observing is part of the job!
Prince: Do you observe me?
Sturgess: Of course. You know I’m always watching you.
Prince: He’s always watching me but when he’s not I just [mimes knocking] on his door.
Sturgess: That’s why I’ve always got to be watching you. If I take my eyes off of you for two seconds something bad always happens.
What are you most excited for people to see in the show? Is there a specific scene or are you just excited that it’s finally going to be out in the world for people to see?
Prince: I’m really excited for them to see all of it, but I am super excited for them to see the scene where she stands up to the [sheriff] towards the end. I just really love that scene because like it has a side shot of him, his face she’s [standing in front of him and] she’s really strong. You look at this 9-year-old girl that’s like a midget, but she’s standing up to this huge, full-grown man.
Sturgess: It’s a good scene, B. I think for me, I’m most excited about people seeing Brooklynn’s performance and seeing Brooklynn and discovering Brooklynn as an actress. I’m so proud of her. She’s done such an amazing job. When I watched the show, I was blown away. And everybody’s hopefully going to see that soon. She works so hard. We did six months together, she was in nearly every single day. She always knew her lines and is always great fun to be around, and I just can’t wait for everyone to see that and feel the force of my girl, B.
Prince: I’m also excited for to see Jim Sturgess’ wonderful face. Jim has a little, like, cute face. It’s an awesome face because it can either be a serious face, a mad face or like a happy face or like a sad face or a depressed face or a traumatized face. It can just form into all these different things. It’s like a Barbie doll. A Barbie doll’s face sometimes.
Sturgess: [Laughs] This is gold, Brooklynn. Gold. I’m excited about people getting to know the family, too, to be a part of the family we’ve created onscreen. We work really hard to make that feel real as possible.
Prince: Because we worked really hard on creating this family and you know, we’re just so invested in it that I’m really excited for people to see the hard work that we’ve put in especially for Dana, Joy [Gorman Wettels, executive producer] and Dara. They put so much heart and soul and thought into this and I’m so excited for people to see this and love it and I am so excited. It’s something that Dana, Dara and Joy deserve is for people to watch their show and for people to love it and for people to enjoy it.
Sturgess: What’s another good scene? I’m trying to think of another good scene.
Prince: Another good scene is Sam on the airplane, when he’s up on that airplane in this beautiful moment. It gets a really dramatic. It’s a soul-crushing scene because you see Sam having this wonderful, beautiful moment and gets interrupted but I won’t tell people why because people will see this interview and I don’t want them to get spoiled.
The first season of Home Before Dark is now streaming on Apple TV+.
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