Movies + TV

Be Nice to Others: A Mini-Interview With Quvenzhané Wallis

We chat with the star of Beasts of the Southern Wild about school, seafood, and finding your voice.

Collage by Minna

The new movie Beasts of the Southern Wild is told from the point of view of Hushpuppy, a child living with her father in a southern bayou community called the Bathtub. Her father is very ill, her mother left them both, and government rescue workers are attempting to bring Hushpuppy and her neighbors into a world they don’t want a part of. This movie could so easily be a condescending pity party, but instead it moves you in unexpected ways. It could so easily garner a ton of convenient sympathy, but instead it draws you so much into the world of the Bathtub and of Hushpuppy that keeping a comfortable distance isn’t an option.

This is largely due to the performance of Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy. It’s been said a million times and should be said a million times more: this girl is amazing. She has the combination of childlike naïveté and awareness that’s necessary to play someone both quietly observant and loudly willful. As Hushpuppy unknowingly exposes the beauty in the world around her through heartbreaking narration and the kind of gently powerful expressions that happen when you find secrets to keep to yourself, it’s impossible to not NEED to know her universe. Even the way she sees the smallest things—not just her dad or her mom or the awaiting end of the world—is inspiring. Her childlike wonder is the sort typically reserved for whimsical, colorful, immediately delightful Alice in Wonderland–type stuff, ooh’d and ahhh’d at by children whose wonder is expressed through sheer loudness. But seeing this six year-old girl mentally prepare for the apocalypse while running around barefoot with a sparkler in each hand, musing about animals and the desire to be remembered as someone with a story; being loud and then quiet, expressive and then secretive at all the right times—that is plain wonder right there.

Quvenzhané auditioned for the part of Hushpuppy when she was five years old, though the casting call asked for ages 6-9. She had not acted before, but was good at reading and screaming, and got the role; they filmed three years ago, when she was six. She is now nine years old, killing it in interviews and getting the respect she deserves.

I got to talk with her on the phone very briefly—I couldn’t help feeling like I was pulling her away from being a nine-year-old—and the interview is short. But she gives some very sound advice. Also, please see this movie. Have I said that yet? Please.

TAVI: How has it felt to go to festivals and see people respond to the film?

QUVENZHANE WALLIS: It feels good, because I get to meet different people who are excited for me.

The audition for this movie asked for girls between six and nine, but you were five when you tried out. Why did you decide to try it anyway?

It was just something I wanted to try.

What was the most fun part of filming for you?

Dealing with all the seafood.

Yeah, the animals must have been fun! What was the hardest part of filming?

Dealing with all the mud.

Your scream and burps in the movie are loud and powerful. Did you need to practice those?

No, it was something I already had.

How are you like your character, Hushpuppy?

We both like animals, we both have animals, we both have good fathers.

Did anything surprise you about the movie when you saw it for the first time?

There was a bigger me and a smaller me, and a bigger voice and a smaller voice.

I watched an interview where you said you wanted to be a dentist. Do you still want to do both that and act?

Yes, ma’am.

What’s you’re favorite subject in school?

Math.

Is there anything you’d like to say to other girls like yourself?

Stay in school and take care of others. And be nice to others. ♦

Beasts of the Southern Wild is in theaters now. Check here to see if it’s playing in your city.

19 Comments

  • Jes August 24th, 2012 7:10 PM

    I saw this movie and it was wonderful.

  • Tyknos93 August 24th, 2012 7:11 PM

    SHIT I SAW THIS FOR MY BIRTHDAY LAST WEEK!!!!! I’m so in love with this movie and Hushpuppy you have no ideaaaaaaa!

    http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

  • Adrienne August 24th, 2012 7:19 PM

    I watched this movie with my friends!! It is easily one of the best movies I’ve ever seen; I cried at the end. Also, there are many beautiful lines in the movie… I wish I had a pencil and paper in the theater so I could write them down!

    One of my favorite parts:
    Wink: Who’s the man??
    Hushpuppy: I’m the man!
    Wink: WHO’S THE MAN???
    Hushpuppy: I’M THE MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Quvenzhane is so cute!

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

    • Tyknos93 August 24th, 2012 9:03 PM

      Seriously @ the “no crying” part I was sobbing like a toddler.

  • vanguardinspace August 24th, 2012 7:20 PM

    I so badly want to see this film. The character’s sense of wonder in the film is so representative of her childhood as the actress’ responses are of hers. The simplicity of her answers, the fact that she probably just said the first thing that came to mind without editing because of “how it might come across”…something older people could learn from.
    Plus, she’s just so darn cute!

  • decemberbaby August 24th, 2012 7:21 PM

    All the best possible wishes in the universe to her. She’s so incredible.

  • victoria August 24th, 2012 7:36 PM

    WHAT A CUTIE. She seems so well spoken but definitely, as you say, able to retain the naivete and sense of wonder in being a child.
    I am SO EXCITED to see this movie!!!!

  • ocolli August 24th, 2012 7:40 PM

    I couldn’t even watch the trailor or read the entire interview without crying.

  • Taylor WM August 24th, 2012 8:02 PM

    I saw the trailer for this a while back and have been trying to remember the name of it since, so thank you! Hahaha :)
    This looks like genuinely such an amazing movie, with an actual message so I can’t wait till it comes out in the UK :)
    Taylor x
    http://www.whitemoth.blogspot.co.uk

  • juliette August 24th, 2012 9:28 PM

    This looks so great :)
    (Also just letting you know the title should be ‘A Mini-Interview’ instead of ‘An Mini-Interview’… not trying to break rule no.2 of being a jerk, just thought I’d better point it out)

  • tellyawhat August 24th, 2012 9:59 PM

    This movie is so beautiful. Scenes with the little Bathtub girls walking through fields in slips definitely made me think of Rookie. I love her answers to your questions. I love babies. They are so GOOD.

  • katrinaexplainsitall August 24th, 2012 10:06 PM

    Ohhh my god. She is adorable. I MUST watch this movie. Too bad it’s playing anywhere near me D:

    http://www.katrinaspice.blogspot.com

  • aliceee August 24th, 2012 10:31 PM

    This is so sweet. I need to see the movie!!

  • Susann August 25th, 2012 5:47 AM

    Soo sweet! Such a confident and cool girl!

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • Cerise August 25th, 2012 10:58 PM

    I have to see this movie! I’ve watched the trailer I don’t know how many times, and Quvenzhane is wonderful. I just love how honest she is about everything.

  • ivoire August 26th, 2012 12:26 AM

    ShE IS SOOO CUTE AAAAAHHHH<3 'Stay in school' awwwww

  • NickyLarson August 26th, 2012 7:31 AM

    This movie looks wonderful. It’s such a shame we have to wait untill December to see it here in France.
    I like how in the interview she sounds exactly like what she should be – a 9-year-old girl, that’s refreshing.

  • mollysocks October 28th, 2012 10:18 PM

    This was the most incredible movie I’ve ever seen. It’s some serious raw power. Seriously, everyone MUST see this movie NOW. Incredible. Incredible!

  • irismonster May 28th, 2013 5:18 PM

    I loved this movie so much! I’ve seen/read a lot of interviews with Quvenzhane and she strikes me as a really, really powerful actress. Hushpuppy is such a strong character, and her performance is so powerful, it’s hard to believe that a normal, friendly little girl can muster that much power.