After stints on a few teen TV shows like Ravenswood and Awkward, Haley Lu Richardson is now finding her footing in the world of film. The actress, raised in Arizona, first moved to LA four years ago to pursue a career as a professional dancer. Her dream, though, has always been acting. Now Richardson has three upcoming — and vastly different — projects, including crass gymnastics comedy The Bronze, high school flick Besties and M. Night Shyamalan’s new thriller Split. We chatted with the actress about her recent work, dealing Shyamalan’s specific direction and why you should never act like a dick onset.
So The Bronze is finally coming out?
It’s finally coming out! That premiered at Sundance last year. Honestly, I’m really excited to see it, because the only time I’ve seen it is at the opening night of Sundance. So many people were there and it was my first time at Sundance and it was like so scary that I honestly don’t even remember the movie. I just know that I laughed a lot. There’s a gymnastics sex scene [in the movie] and that’s what everyone’s talking about when it relates to the movie — that freaking gymnastic sex scene. I was sitting right in between Sebastian [Stan] and [co-writer and star] Melissa [Rauch]. Melissa had seen it a bunch obviously, but Sebastian had never seen it and they’d never seen it together. So I would look over at Sebastian and look over at Melissa and their faces were bright red. I picked the best seat in the house!
Had you done gymnastics before the film?
I actually did gymnastics when I was young. I stopped right before the competitive level. I always did it for fun. But I could do some tricks. And then I danced competitively for almost ten years. I still dance around my house, but I don’t dance competitively anymore. I actually moved to LA and my first year here did professional dance. I had a dance agent before I had an acting agent. I went out on backup dance auditions, big cattle calls. I did some music videos.
Who did you do music videos for?
Well, I was in video games. You know like Dance Central for Xbox Kinect? How you watch the people dance and follow the people’s moves and stuff? I did a couple of those. And then I did this one music video for this Mexican artist named Kevin Ortiz. They described him to me like, “He’s the Justin Bieber of Mexico.” I was like, “Okay, I don’t know about that.”
Once you started acting did you have a role that made you feel like you could actually do this as a career?
That Kevin Ortiz music video! No, kidding. I knew I wanted to be an actress before I even got a role. I knew “This is my plan. There’s nothing else.” Even when you’re just auditioning you start feeling things click inside and gears turning. But I did this movie called The Last Survivors. I filmed it four years ago after six months of living in LA and it’s a post-apocalyptic, drought-stricken world all about this 17-year-old girl who goes around and kills all the bad guys. It was just a really cool role to play for my first movie. There was a lot of responsibility. I had to carry the movie, which obviously was the best lesson in acting you can get. That’s when my parents started seeing my commitment.