Levin Rambin speaks with Teen Vogue about playing strong women.
What made you choose this role?
"Luckily, I was in good physical shape from The Hunger Games, and I was ready for the intensity of surfing. I really loved the story and the heart of the movie. My character's personality is similar to mine."
Had you ever surfed before?
"No, I hadn't. Well, I surfed one time when I was eleven, but definitely nothing like Northern California waves—they're big."
"I trained almost every day for three weeks before I started filming. And then after that, I got to be good enough to where I was allowed every day to hang out with actor Jonny Weston, who has been surfing his whole life. I had to keep up with him because he wasn't going to slow down for me. So I adjusted and fell in love with the sport."
Can you tell us about your character?
"Kim is a local Santa Cruz girl, and she's known Jay since they were kids. But she's a couple of years older than him, and they have this connection that's undeniable as a friendship. Once they enter high school, she realizes that he's really grown up into a man, and his passion and ambition makes him become attractive. But she neglects those feelings because he's younger and less popular. She has an inner struggle and has to come around and accept how she feels. She's just like one of the boys; she's a tomboy. She's right there next to Jay and all the crazy stuff that he's doing."
How is it different to play a character that's based off of a real person?
"I was actually excited to play someone that's still alive because I'm good at feeling people's energies. I met the real Kim, and she was very guarded because she's been through a lot. We became close and connected. I wanted her to feel comfortable with me, and I felt like I did my job in telling her life in a way that she was proud of. Jay's not here to fight for their story, so she's very much carrying his legacy."
Next up, you have the Percy Jackson movie. What's your role in that?
"I play Clarisse La Rue, who's the opposite of Kim and any character I've played. She's the daughter of Ares, the God of War; she's a bully and she's mean, tough, and smart. She doesn't let anyone get in her way, and if you are in her way, she'll squash you like a bug. She sees Percy as a threat and goes after him."
It seems like you gravitate toward playing women who are both physically and emotionally strong. Why is that important to you?
"I'm lucky that people have written these cool, strong roles for young women. They've managed to picture me in that vein, and I'm happy because I've never been the damsel in distress. I've never been the wilting flower. I've never been the girl who's subservient to a man. It's been difficult to find roles that are independent, strong, and self-assured; I always say I can't play the princess. I'm not a pretty princess! I'm a tomboy."
Do you think this is why The Hunger Games resonated with so many girls?
"Exactly. Katniss is a great example of this wave of strong young women. Jennifer Lawrence has strength, confidence, and self-assurance, and it's important to young people who idolize her."