I had the pleasure of speaking with Juju Journey Brener about her role in Vanquish, available in select theaters and Apple TV April 16.
We also discuss the ups and downs of being a child actor and how the COVID lockdowns have affected her.
VANQUISH will be available in Select Theaters on April 16th and on Apple TV, and Everywhere You Rent Movies on April 20th! Available on Blu-ray and DVD on April 27th!
Yanis: You did an incredible job portraying Lily. What was your process like preparing for this role?
Juju: Thank you so much! I watched Midnight Run and Bad Boys which are the director George Gallo’s movies.
I read the script with my Mom, marked it all up and also researched kids with illnesses and decided on a back story for Lily because it was not specified what illness she has.
Y: Tell me about a moment or a scene that was particularly intense or memorable.
J: Two scenes that were memorable were: the pool because the location we shot at had this amazing turquoise indoor pool and I love swimming.
I also loved the end part in the car when we drive off to our future. We shot inside a real Mclaren — sports cars are cool, this one was really amazing. I’ve never been inside one of those before.
Y: What was it like filming in Mississippi? Had you been there before?
J: Before filming Vanquish I had never been to Mississippi but always wanted to go to the South. It was amazing to film in Biloxi ! We were on the beach and the water was warm and super shallow, even when you swam far. I got to spend time there on days off.
I also really loved the food. I ate Grits every day! So yummy! I also loved corn bread, fried oysters, key lime pie and fried pickles. Also the people are so nice and friendly.
Y: What was it like filming with Ruby Rose? How did the two of you go from being strangers to having a completely believable parent-child relationship on screen?
J: Filming with Ruby was super cool! She is so talented and beautiful. I knew she played Batwoman and that is awesome.
We didn’t have much time to prepare with each other, but as soon as we started rehearsing and hanging out in Biloxi she was just really friendly and nice, and as actors we’re trained to know how to make relationships work on screen.
From the first scene I just started hugging her and holding her hand and in my mind I pretended she was my real Mom, to make it believable. This is what I learned to do through studying acting.
Y: What did you learn from working with Morgan Freeman?
J: I learned that sometimes even if it’s a big or important scene you only get to do 2 takes and that you have to really nail it and be good on the first or second one. His acting is very subtle, that inspired me and I like that because that is what I always try to do.
Y: I think a lot about how COVID is affecting children. What was the adjustment to lockdown like initially for you and your friends?
J: At first it was weird because I didn’t see my friends for a long time and I was sad because I couldn’t go to dance classes.
I’m also a dancer and before COVID I would dance many hours a week. I couldn’t go to the movies which I love and was home a lot. But it made me work harder on school, reading and speech because I had more time and I got much better at those things.
I also made a garden with my sister, painted a lot with my Dad (he is a contemporary artist) and played video games with my friends remotely. My family says that I matured a lot during this time.
I’m happy things are opening up, as I got to travel to Miami and recently also went skiing in Mammoth with my friends. Dance is back too, so that is super awesome.
Y: Parents of child actors (and aspiring child actors) are dying to know: how do you balance the professional side of the relationship while prioritizing the parent-child relationship?
J: In our family’s case it’s a bit different because our parents know the industry. My Mom was an actor and producer for many years, and my Dad was a manager, writer and producer. My sister is also an actor. My Mom is also a consultant and coach so she helps other actors and families.
My Mom helps us a lot with all our schedules, scripts, auditions, shoots, characters, and all work related stuff.
But both our parents are also just regular parents that make us breakfast, drive us to school, help with homework, do our laundry and yell at us when we’re lazy and don’t clean after ourselves or leave food in our rooms.
We spend lots of time together and travel to cool places like Thailand, or Miami and make it a point to do fun things like beach days, ride bikes, snow skiing or zip lining that have nothing to do with Hollywood stuff.
Y: What are you looking forward to doing most once COVID is over? Was it something you used to take for granted?
J: I was really looking forward to going back to be able to go to the movies, go skiing and to Six Flags, but now that things are opening I just went skiing and it was amazing and next up is Six Flags and Vanquish in an actual theater!
I don’t think I took it for granted I think I just didn’t realize one day it could all shut down. I’m definitely happy I can do things I love again.
Y: What are your long term goals in this industry?
J: My goals are to be a series regular on a Netflix show, a Disney Show, to star in many movies both comedies and dramas with actors I like, like Ben Stiller, Liam Neeson, Aiden Gallagher and Angelina Jolie .
I also want to make music, sing and perform. I also love doing animation so I’m sure I will do lots more of that. I definitely want to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
Y: I know you’ll win those awards and many awards. Don’t forget to thank me in your acceptance speeches!
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring child actors and their parents?
J: You have to work really hard and often in odd hours and on the weekends and know that you will be juggling school and life while being a working kid at same time.
You will often have to miss out on certain things so unless you’re willing to do that it’s probably not the right thing for you.
You have to really love it and want to do it and have a good attitude and get along with people on sets. You also have to be able to deal easily with rejection because many roles you audition for you don’t get. I also recommend getting in a great acting class because you have to be really good to succeed.