Interested in starting a conversation about bullying? “A Girl Like Her” gets up close — very, very close — and personal with a mean high school girl who bullies a classmate into constant suffering, employing in-your-face docu-style camera techniques that make you feel as if you’re there.
“At first I really was hesitant. It was a big choice I had to make whether to play that bully and have people think I was that character,” admits Hunter King, the “Young and the Restless” Daytime Emmy winner, who portrays the beautiful but brutal bully, Avery, in the film that begins a rollout release March 27 in 17 markets. “I decided to make the choice to take this role because the movie is about something so important. It speaks to so many people.”
Still, she lets us know, “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as an actress.
“Days when I’m done shooting over at ‘The Young and the Restless,’ I’m back to reality right away; ‘This is my job,’ you know? ‘This is real life. I’m OK,'” she adds. “But with this film, a lot of the days I would feel depressed and sometimes it was even difficult to transition back to my real life because I was so emotionally drained from everything that was happening. I had to really dig deep for the emotions.”
Hunter worked with filmmaker Amy S. Weber on the faux documentary that chronicles the worlds of the bully, the bullied (Lexi Ainsworth) and an onlooker (Jimmy Bennett). Weber, she notes, “wrote an outline of the script, of the scenes that are supposed to happen” — but left room for a great deal of improvisation. “Before each scene of the bullying interaction, we would get together and she would explain to me what she would want to see happen and she really made me feel fully confident to embody the character of Avery and get like a really authentic reaction out of everyone.
We really worked together to give everybody a taste of what was going on in Jessica’s (Ainsworth) life.”
And what is going on in Avery’s life.
“Amy really had to prepare me for what a monster I would be in this film. It was really, really hard for me to get into Avery’s head and her mindset. I have never spoken to a human the way Avery speaks to Jessica. But with my director being there and my mom, we really created a really crazy, compelling character. By watching this film, people are going to experience the bully’s side of it,” says the young actress.
Hunter herself knows what it is to be on the wrong side of high school jokes and bad comments — though the former cheerleader is quick to note that what she experienced at her “regular public high school” was on an entirely different level from what is depicted in the film.
“Everyone deals with those mean girls in high school. I had a lot of people make fun of me, and there were occasions when girls or even guys, when they’re just mean and say really hurtful things to you and make fun of you publicly. I got to the point where I thought, ‘I want to focus on my career and I don’t want to deal with being treated like this anymore.’ I had to put myself through that. I graduated early – fortunately, I was able to do that. I didn’t have to go through it like Jessica did.
“But even now, not being in high school, I experience it on Twitter. Anyone who has a social network presence is open to that treatment. The only difference is now I try not to take it as personally as I did in high school. It’s helped a little bit with the different mindset. People can be bullied in middle school or high school — or at work. You can be bullied at all different ages,” she notes.
She hopes that the film will get people talking. “It really is amazing, to be part of something this huge. It’s mind boggling,” she says. “That’s our main goal with this film — to spark dialogue about how to solve this epidemic of bullying and how to get to the root of the problem.”