‘The Exchange’ Stars Ed Oxenbould and Avan Jogia Talk About Their New Comedy Movie
The stars of the comedy movie ‘The Exchange’ talk about the challenges of shooting in rural Canada and 80s fashion choices.
In the new comedy movie ‘The Exchange,’ Ed Oxenbould plays Tim Long, an unpopular high school student in rural Canada who expects his life to be perfect when a French foreign exchange student comes to stay with his family. But Stéphane (Avan Jogia) is more interested in hip-hop and girls than French New Wave films, much to Tim’s chagrin.
So begins a story about an unlikely friendship, set in the 80s, and one that is based on the experiences of the actual Tim Long, a long-time writer for ‘The Simpsons.’ Oxenbould and Jogia recently sat down with Moviefone to talk about the movie.
First, Ed Oxenbould talks about playing a younger version of writer Tim Long.
Moviefone: Could you describe Tim Long a little bit?
Ed Oxenbould: Tim Long. Well, this is interesting because I'm describing a character that I brought a lot of myself into. Obviously, it is a fictional character, but it's based on a very real Tim Long who wrote it. It was this interesting mix of me having to find a balance of making him kind of funny enough with also bringing enough realness. It was just an odd thing having him being there on set watching me every day play him.
But he was so great. He gave the best feedback and he was always open for a bit of a joke. He didn't mind if I kind of took it a bit far or made it a bit ridiculous. He would go, "Sure. Go for it." He's great. He's such a great guy. And I think the character of Tim is such a good character. He's a bit pompous, and Tim Long would be the first person to tell you that. But he's a great guy.
MF: Do you have that same love of French New Wave film that Tim has? Or are you a little bit more populist?
Oxenbould: I'm not quite as full on as he is. Tim's very elitist. He only likes this kind of certain thing. I think if you don't like that, he's looking very far down on you. It's hard not to love film. It's all I do. It's kind of what I live for, but definitely not to the extent and I don't have the knowledge of French film that Tim does.
MF: How close is this to Tim's real story?
Oxenbould: That was always a question on set. It was always, did this happen, did this happen? There was some times where he didn't want to admit it. And I think he kind of preferred it to be up in the air and he goes, "Maybe this happened, maybe this did." But the base story of 'The Exchange,' the exchange program happening, and him being extremely disappointed with his exchange partner was all very true. I think there were times where he stretched it and even little things that we just changed around to make it a little bit warmer and funnier and sweeter. But I think for the most part, he was really that arrogant at that age. And he was really that disappointed with Stéphane.
MF: Where did you shoot this movie?
Oxenbould: We shot it all in Ottawa.
MF: During the winter, right?
Oxenbould: Yeah. I think it was one of the coldest winters they've had in 30 or maybe 20 years or something.
MF: Is that an adjustment for a kid from Melbourne to have to get used to? And how long were you shooting that?
Oxenbould: Yeah, we shot for quite a while. It was quite a while ago no. It was 2019. We shot at the beginning or the kind of first quarter of 2019. It was a pretty big adjustment, but I've been lucky enough. I've lived for little stints in Philadelphia and kind of traveled. I was all right, but it was cold.
There was some days which were really, really bitter and really hard to get out of bed in the morning, especially if we were doing early calls. We did a lot of night shoots. We finished on a night shoot. That was when all the homesickness was setting in and we were doing this little car crash sequence. We were all going all night, and it was unbelievably cold, Arctic. So ridiculous.
MF: You end up in those rural areas and the wind comes up and it's devastating.
Oxenbould: There's just nothing to stop it. And on that night, I think it was when everyone went, we've had a great time, but we are ready to go home. And then we all left the next day. It was brilliant.
MF: I know the scene you're talking about with the cow. I won't give anything away. I assume that's actual cows on set. Is there a cow wrangler?
Oxenbould: There was a cow wrangler. It's all very weird. When you work with animals, it's always weird. There's always a weird protocol and everyone's always uneasy because this cow could either cooperate or just throw a massive, expensive fit, but this cow for the most part cooperated.
I think what you see on screen is a mix of CGI and a real cow. There was a real cow there, but they painted spots on it. I'm not sure why, but they painted spots on it. And I think it's a mix of kind of our CGI into the cow and all these different compilations and shots, but it looks great in the final film.
MF: There's a lot of VHS shooting in this that Tim's family does. And then there's some at the end again. Who's operating the VHS camera and had you ever used one of those before?
Oxenbould: No. I think I just missed the kind of the point of using them. All my old baby footage is on VHS, but I think I just got in when the digitals came in. But it was pretty great. We were always unsure of when we were on set because we used a real VHS and I think there was always an issue of, it might not turn out well. It might not work full stop. So whenever we shot the VHS, we also shot a double on them, the red on the red camera that we shot.
But it turned out so well, it looked great. It was the perfect grainy footage and cutting back and forth was so seamless. It just adds another layer of authenticity. It's really unique. I can't remember the last film that I saw actual VHS footage in.
MF: With a comedy like this, is it tough for you to not break during the funnier scenes? What's it take to stay focused and not break in those?
Oxenbould: I wish I had some kind of formula for not breaking because I haven't figured it out. It's so tough. When you're working with, like you said, the parents, Paul Braunstein who played that and Jennifer Irwin who played the mum, they're just so funny. They're so naturally funny. Even though you kind of know what's coming, we'd done table reads and rehearsals, you get all the laughs out, mostly all the laughs out.
But then as soon as they'd improvise something and throw something out there, it just turns your whole world upside down. And then Dan, the director would yell something funny to say, and you just include it. It was so hard to say in the moment when you're bombarded with all this funny stuff from Tim, all the cast, Dan, even producers are yelling stuff, yelling really funny stuff. It was so hard not to break.
MF: Avan is so funny in this and so charming and you guys have this really interesting chemistry, how much time did you guys spend together before actually shooting, if any at all?
Oxenbould: I think that is really what makes the film so special is that chemistry. And even though there's a 10 year age difference between us, it doesn't feel like there is at all. I think we just bonded immediately. We just kind of bonded over a love of video games and kind of everything. He's such a knowledgeable, interesting person. We bonded on so many topics. I think just having a few weeks beforehand of rehearsal and we went out. We kind of explored Ottawa together and we just had so much fun. It made those friendship moments, it made them so strong.
MF: How good is your French?
Oxenbould: It's not great. It's not great. It used to be really good. I did it all through my primary school and into middle school. And then I did it the first year of high school, and I came maybe nearly the top of my grade. And then I dropped it the next year and it all just went and got replaced by stupid teenage thoughts.
Next, Avan Jogia talks about his character.
Moviefone: Can you describe Stéphane?
Avan Jogia: Stéphane is, well, a French foreign exchange student that Tim Long sort of orders up from France with the hope that he would be sort of a sophisticated film person, sort of like him, into interesting music and into films and into books, and into sort of those sorts of things. And what he receives is this man, Stéphane, who's a young man who's sort of just a ruckus, drinking, smoking, trying-to-sleep-with-everybody sort of fella. He's not really the refined art person that Tim was expecting and hoping for. So yeah, it was fun, man. It's fun to play a character that's a big... I don't get to do much big broad comedy. And so it was, it's fun to always stretch those muscles.
MF: What's it take to make that French accent work?
Jogia: I think my deal with sort of any person, anything with the voice is behavior first, and then the voice leads that, rather than the other way around, which I find becomes a sort of stilted thing. But yeah, I had accent training and help and I watched a bunch of '90s French hip hop interviews and yeah, just sort of got the sort of energy of the guy.
MF: How does it feel putting on those insane '80s fashion choices?
Jogia: Loved it. I loved every second of it. Just the zip-up, just the windbreaker with all the, I believe it's like a cyan and red windbreaker, just absolutely outrageous and just fun. I got to shave some grooves into my head. I got into acting in order to do, just to be other people, right? To transform and do other things. And so any opportunity that I'm given to jump into an era or jump into an accent or jump into a state of being that's different than my own, I'm always excited to do that.
MF: One of the things I like about this movie is it's, yes, it's a broad comedy, but it's got real emotion in it. Is there something that appealed to you in Stéphane as a character that you thought you could really work with? Because he's not just an obnoxious lothario, right?
Jogia: Yeah, he's not that way the whole way. There's real scenes. That's what I sort of liked about it too. I was like, "How can I make this one thing work?" Which is this large, bizarre, crazy comedy individual, right, work? And then also try to make these moments work where you truly feel bad for him, you truly feel like he's conflicted about his place in this very small Canadian town and how the town is turning on him, and how that makes him feel.
That to me is, okay, well, that's fun. That's a little switch or turn that would be fun to do. And if I can pull that off, it's sort of a fun little backflip, is to try to do a comedy character and then also deliver some sort of heartfelt thing, which I think the film obviously is designed to do that. I mean, it doesn't get saccharine. It doesn't get overly preachy, and it's a good premise and yeah, it's about outsiders. And obviously Tim Long is an outsider in his own community, and then Stéphane ends up being an outsider with people who used to praise him when he arrived. So I think that's interesting.
MF: It feels like there's, part of his charm is that he's genuinely sincere.
Jogia: Yeah, he's not mean and "bro"-y... Well, he is, obviously, but I think it's just, it's this sort of genuine joie de vivre that this character has. He's got a lust for life and he's absolutely up for it 100% of the time. And it's sincere, sincere, and sincerely wants Tim to really like him, and doesn't understand why Tim finds him offensive to his sort of arty, sort of more quiet sensibilities. He doesn't understand why he offends Tim so much. And I think that's sort of again, a fun aspect to play as this character. It's hard to play someone who genuinely doesn't get it. That's something that's really a difficult thing to sort of do. And so that was, I was like, "Well, that's challenging. I'd like to try that."
MF: How cold was it shooting on location? Because it looked like it was pretty cold.
Jogia: It was very cold. Very cold, and I'm the only Canadian. Although I think Tim's Canadian, but he's been living in L.A. He's soft, now. I say that, I've been living in L.A. too, but I live back in Canada now. Yeah, it's cold. I mean, eastern Canada is cold. I'm from western Canada, I'm a little bit warmer blooded. I'm not as built for that. Yeah, I mean, it was every day snowing. And then the one day that we shot the big snow scene, we didn't have snow. Of course, of course, because that's how it works when you're making a film. The time you want it, you don't have it, and the time you would love it to go away it's just relentless and snowing.
MF: Has this kind of given you a taste for more comedy, should you get the opportunity?
Jogia: Yeah. I mean, it's sort of this thing I've always really enjoyed. I don't... And it's sort of this little sparkly thing that I get to do every once in a while, and it brings me a lot of joy to be able to do that sort of thing. And so, yeah, I think comedies are definitely in my future.
'The Exchange' will be on demand and digital on July 30.