Shannon O’Connor ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-in-Chief
Whether she is trying to survivor a terrifying tornado of sharks in Sharknado or raising hell and belting out country tunes in Nashville, Aubrey Peeples is taking Hollywood by storm.
Peeples is one of the newest editions to the ABC hit drama Nashville, portraying Layla Grant the seemingly sweet but surprisingly scheming rising country star who has solidified herself as Juliette Barne’s (Hayden Panettiere) number one enemy. Emertainment Monthly got the chance to talk with Peeples about life on Nashville, her upcoming projects and of course Sharknado.
How did you get involved with Nashville?
Well, I originally auditioned for the pilot way back when and I have auditioned for the casting director Jeanie Bacharach for her other projects as well. So, the office was familiar with me and I was familiar with what they were doing and I guess it was just about the right role. I was filming this film in Alabama, when I got the audition notice for the role of Layla [Grant], so I sent in a tape and I got a call back from that and I flew to Los Angeles and went to the call back and worked with Callie [Khouri], the creator of the show, and Jeanie. I did a whole bunch of songs for them and we went my audition multiple times and that was it and a few weeks later I got the call.
You had quite the introduction, you got to go right in and open up with a song, what was that like?
It was awesome, I believe I got the song a week before we shot it [the scene] and that whole week preceding shooting I was constantly in dance rehearsals and I recorded the song in the studio; just all these things surrounding this song. It was sort of building and building and building, and then when we shot it we were shooting at like three in the morning. It was a night shoot and it was awesome because we were in this really nice neighborhood and we were at this beautiful house and it was an outdoor concert, so we were literally like tearing it up at four in the morning. We were all like, “I wonder what the neighbors are thinking,” [as] we were basically having a rock concert, it was awesome.
What drew you to the character of Layla, because she is a very interesting character?
I love her [and] I think a lot of people hate her already. She has a lot going on, she is ruthless and she is going to do whatever she can for her career and I think that is a really interesting quality to have. There are a lot of people, who pursue artist endeavors and are not driven and then there are also people who are very driven, but their motives might not come from the healthiest place. Sort of with Layla we’ll get to see that a lot of the way she was raised and there are a lot of factors driving her ruthless and competitive nature, but that was the competitive nature that allow her to do so many fun things with the other characters. It’s great because she is constantly struggling for power, and she is constantly fighting and fighting and fighting and I think that is so fun. She is a complicated character to play, because she is always sort of always switching back and forth from being “on” in front of a crowd with her sweet image she presents to people, to letting her anger and drive show through. It is a constant up and down with her and it is sort of like you are always on edge with her, which I think is hard to play but it is an amazing challenge, I love it.
Layla comes off very sweet, especially when you first meet her, but then you see her evil tendencies. How do you go about playing that balance?
I think normal people as they grow up sort of learn how to control (laughs) themselves and sort of stay not one level, but stay in control of their emotions and not necessarily say or do what immediately what comes to them. With Layla, I sort of break that down and throw that out the window. She lives by the whims of her emotions, like whatever she feels in that moment she is going to do and say whatever she wants. She is 19, you know, so she really has not learned how to control her behavior yet, and she thinks that she is in control of it, but she’s really sort of a mess. So, with Layla you really are living in the moment and living off of your instinct, which is a very exciting way to live, especially in this industry. It is very interesting that she would act that way, but it makes for a good storyline.
She also has a lot of similarities to Hayden Panettiere’s character Juliette Barnes as they both have the sweet stage face but behind the stage they can be very evil. Are there going to be any bonding moments soon?
I don’t know. [In] The episodes we shot there has not been a bonding moment yet, there are a lot of good scenes and good interactions between them, but not necessarily bonding, not yet.
What is it like working with Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton?
They are amazing. I haven’t any actual scenes where I get to interact with Connie, but I am with her on set and she is just the coolest. Hayden, it is amazing working with her especially because our characters are both fiery and have so much going on underneath the surface. Hayden just brings so much, she is really an incredible actress and I love watching her work, I feel like I am learning so much from her. She just brings so much to the scene with all of her character work, so it is just so fun to get in there and just get in the ring with her (laughs). She is also hysterical to be around; she is really funny which makes the whole process even more enjoyable.
You and Hayden exchange a lot of heated dialogue, but you guys get along so well off set, do you find it hard to balance that?
I don’t know, it is kind of like you have to be prepared and you go and do your job, but we are not going to be mean to each other between takes and like stay in the mode [of the characters]. It is a really welcoming and nurturing environment on set, where we are sort of allowed to play with the dialogue and experiment and try new things. It is basically a very safe environment, where there is no pressure, there is pressure, but we go on set and Hayden and I are able to experiment and try new things and that sort of takes the pressure off of us being so mean to each other in the scene (laughs).
What kind of responses have you been getting for playing the main adversary of the season?
I have been getting a lot of different responses; I think that people love to hate characters like Layla. (laughs) I get around town every now and then in Nashville and this one woman came up to me and was like, “You are just so rude” and I was like, “It’s a television show (laughs).” It was hysterical, it is so funny that our really dedicated fans they really live and breathe the show and it sort of becomes its own separate reality. I think that people might not like her, because she seems to be sort of evil, but I think that they love to watch that. Even people who don’t really necessarily agree with what my character is doing there is a lot of love for Layla and Will relationship, which was trending on Twitter a few times. It is interesting, it is an interesting knowledge that people may hate you but they still love to watch you.
What is in store for Layla in the upcoming episodes, at least the ones that you have shot?
There are definitely new twists and turns with the relationship, not just for Layla but with all the characters. There is definitely some drama coming up with Layla and Will. Layla basically just started going on tour with Juliette and so there is definitely going to be a lot of fire between them, a lot competition and a lot of power plays are happening, a lot of shifts in power between Layla, Juliette and Will. It is all a power play and the power keeps shifting hands and that is so interesting to watch. It is so fun reading the scripts every week.
I have to ask about Sharknado, where you surprised that that was such a huge summer hit?
You know I was a little surprised it was as big as it was. It was an asylum film, so we knew we would get sort of a cult following, because all of the crazy shark movies and sci-fi movies they have their own following, but I did not expect it to be what it became at all. This before I was involved in the Twitter world and I tweeted like one or two things about it and I saw what was happening on Twitter and my friends were like, “Are you aware of what is happening right now.” It was crazy it was literally like a tornado itself like what happened with it, I was not expecting that at all (laughs).
What was it like filming Sharknado?
Actually a lot of people have asked me, “was it just such a ball on set? Was it so fun? Were you just goofing off the whole time?” because it is obviously a very silly movie, not silly, but it knows what it is I think (laughs). Actually it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, because people don’t realize the physicality that went into it. We were literally freezing cold the entire movie, because we are drenched in water the whole time. Before pretty much every scene we had to go under this rain tower and we shot in January and even though it was Los Angeles it was pretty chilly. There [also] were times that we had to go into these freezing cold pools (laugh). So there is that aspect involved and then there is the aspect that you are constantly in fear and running from these sharks and you have to stay in that physical model. On top of that the sharks are not there, there was nothing there that we were running from so we had to imagine the whole thing, [and] I have never done a visual effects movie before so that was a challenge. It was really hard and we had to put a lot of hard work into that, but I definitely think it paid off and (laughs) I think it was worth it.
Are you going to be back for the sequel that has been announced?
I have no idea. There has been talk, basically as soon as Sharknado did so well the first time it aired, Syfy ordered Sharknado 2, but I do not know anything about it. I am not sure if it will be the same director or the same actors, or anything. I do know that they want it to take place in New York, but I don’t know if we will actually shoot there or not, but I think so. I would love to be involved with it; I am not sure what will happen though.
How was it working with Tara Reid and Ian Ziering?
It was just a blast, I mean the whole cast was incredible and I have made some really good friends that I still have from this day from that film. While I say it was very hard work and was very physical [and] that is so true it was physically straining, but at the same time every few minutes we would realize the things that we were saying and doing. It was really fun in that regard that we all just laughing the whole time and trying to stay emotionally there. It was really fun in the fact that we really did become a family, not just because it was so funny, but because we were working so hard. Every set sort of becomes a family. We were playing a family and we were in a car and freezing cold and wet and huddling together the whole time and being attacked by things that weren’t there, I think we definitely formed a special Sharknado bond.
What other projects do you having coming up besides more episodes of Nashville?
Over the summer I shot a film it stars Nicholas Cage and Danny Glover and it is directed by Paco Cabezas, who is brilliant, he is from Spain and this is first American film and it is going to theater this coming spring of 2014 and it is going to be released internationally. It is called Tokarev and basically in it I play Nicholas Cage’s daughter and I go missing and Nicholas Cage sort of has to confront this dark, violent past that he had to try to figure out whodunit. I also shot a pilot last spring, called Star-Crossed, it’s for the CW and it was picked up. I have no longer really gotten to be involved in it, because I have been working on Nashville, but I am, as far as I know, still in the pilot and regardless I hope people watch it because it was a really cool project and all the other actors are phenomenal in it. That is a midseason replacement show on the CW so it will probably be airing in the spring. Those are the few things I have coming up besides Nashville.
Check out Peeple’s show stopping number “Tell Me” from Nashville:
Tune into Nashville Wednesday’s at 10/9c on ABC.