Interview: Maeve Whalen Talks ‘Two Sides’ And Growing Up In The Digital Age

Maeve Whalen is one of the stars of Snapchat’s new original series, Two Sides. Directed by Hannah Lehmann, the 10-episode series follows the different perspectives of Chloe (Whalen) and Jeremy (Kai Kadlec) as they navigate a modern-day breakup.

Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Whalen to chat about the series, growing up in the digital age, filming in Texas, and much more.

Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard about ‘Two Sides’ and the opportunity to be in a Snapchat original series?

A: Hmm, I think my initial reaction was like: “wow, Snapchat is producing original content now? Cool! It’s about time!” I think it is a testament to how the industry is changing and the acting game is changing. More and more people live on their phones these days, so it is cool to watch a story catered to such a small format.

I grew up with flip phones so the whole experience of watching a show anywhere you want is a very cool concept to me. I was extremely grateful to be a part of the series and to work with an amazing cast and crew.

Q: It is interesting to see a social media platform like Snapchat producing stories about young people growing up in the digital age. What do you feel this story captures about that experience?

A: Growing up in the digital age is new for everyone. This is the first generation to really go through the process so I think there are definitely some learning curves. Furthermore, the idea of getting over someone in the digital age seems virtually impossible because you are constantly being confronted with their online presence.

What I love about Two Sides is that it tackles that predicament almost unknowingly. I think the root of a lot of Chloe and Jeremy’s problems post-breakup was seeing each other’s posts, out having fun, but internally they were struggling.

My favourite moment was when Chloe deletes this smiling photo of herself captioned, “Out with the old in with the new” while crying in her bed after a terrible date. There is this overwhelming sense of dichotomy in the digital age, you want to prove that you are over a relationship or that you are out having fun when in reality you’re not.

It’s this struggle of wanting to live a different life online and then being confronted with feelings of loneliness and dishonesty because in reality you are missing a real human connection. This causes a lot of confusion and is a topic I believe many young people are dealing with today.

Two Sides embrace: Kai Kadlec and Maeve Whalen

Q: What else resonated with you about this story and the character of Chloe?

A: Two Sides is a story about losing your first love. Chloe experiences this visceral pain and it is extraordinarily tough for her, it makes her question herself for the first time. In losing him she felt like she was in a sense losing herself.

There is this scene where Chloe puts on a mixtape that Jeremy made her and she wallows in missing him. Music tricks you into feeling closer to the person still even after losing them. I have driven around crying listening to songs after a break-up countless times and still do! What is great about Two Sides is that the pain of breaking up with someone is universal.

I think there is this idea growing up that there is a soulmate and this person will help you solve these questions regarding who you are and who you want to be but I have found that it often prolongs you from answering them on your own. The ending in Two Sides hopefully makes the audience come to terms with this and realise they are never alone if they have themselves.

Q: Director Hannah Lehmann has experience on similar projects that have made a TV show (‘The Out There’) for Instagram. What was your collaboration like on this project?

A: Hannah was our fearless leader on Two Sides. She is so gifted and talented. It was a very fast-paced series, we shot around 22 scenes a day and I never questioned whether she was in it with me or not. She placed a lot of artistic trust in Kai and I, which helped the series turn out the way it did.

She didn’t want to tell us what Chloe and Jeremy’s relationship was, she gave us free rein to discover it organically which I think made for a very honest portrayal; she gave us the camera to take videos of ourselves as Chloe and Jeremy in love without the crew or anyone around, and made it into “an anniversary video” for the show. She is not concerned with the rules and very open to finding organic ways of storytelling.

I know her name is one we will be hearing a lot more of and it was an honour to work with her.

Q: How was the shoot in Texas with the rest of Hannah’s team and co-star Kai Kadlec? Any fun memories to share?

A: My last day of shooting was maybe the most memorable to me. It was really fun to be in the house with the whole cast. It was the last shot of the night and most everyone was wrapped aside from myself and Jonetta Kaiser (who plays Heather). We were walking down the street from the party. It was just the DP, AD, and lighting, everyone was tired but we stuck through it because we all truly believed in the story.

It reminded me that movie magic can mean a lot of things but in my opinion, and more specifically on Two Sides, it meant a group of people making something together that every single person believed in. I felt a sense of family while making this project and it will be something I will never forget.

Q: Did the split-screen style or anything else throw up notable challenges for you?

A: It was definitely a new skill to play within the frame of an iPhone screen. I remember the Ferris wheel scene where we breakup being particularly tough because our instinct as actors was to move away from each other during the fight, but we’re forced to stay close to not move out of the small frame. I had to figure out a way to use the closeness to my advantage.

Q: ‘Two Sides’ will reach a lot of young people. What do you hope they – in particular, young women – take away from the series?

A: Navigating breakups is never easy, and I hope viewers will see that it is not easy for either person—even the one who does the breaking up.

I think in moments Jeremy had just as of a tough time dealing with the breakup as Chloe, which you really get to see in the last episode. And I hope young girls find strength in Chloe. She was tempted to, but when it came down to it, she didn’t put her life on hold for a boy. She set a boundary for herself and kept it by going to Harvard.

I hope that girls will learn to love and accept themselves, to be gentle and know that the process of getting over someone will not speed up by you wanting it to, but by you accepting where you are today.

Rising star Maeve Whalen

Q: Can you tell us about your background and why you chose to go down the acting route?

A: My mom always says if I could have said two things when I was born it would have been, “I want a dog and I want to be an actress.” So, I would say I always wanted to be an actress.

I had an insane imagination as a child and took imaginary games very seriously; I was that annoying kid who loved putting on shows at family parties. The shows lasted way too long but would end with a rendition of Travelin Solider by the Dixie Chicks and would have the whole family in tears.

I think it started as a love for escaping reality and has evolved into a love of depicting reality. Singing that song really showed me how a story could move people and sometimes I think it’s the sole reason I’m still chasing that feeling today.

Q: Is ‘Two Sides’ the type of project you are looking for at this point in your career? What excites you as an actress?

A: The sense of camaraderie amongst the cast and crew was something I hope to have on projects moving forward.

The story is so much bigger than me and I think it’s important for me to ask myself, “Do I feel I can portray this character openly and honestly?” As silly as it may sound, I am looking for projects that move me. The biggest treat for me— a lot of other actors would surely agree—is good writing.

I guess my hope as an actor is to give a voice to character’s that might not otherwise have a voice, to remind the audience that they are not alone. If I can make one person in the audience feel a little less lonely or make them want to be better, I’ll feel I have sufficiently done my job.

Q: What is next for you? Any ambitions or plans to share with us?

A: I would love to do another season of Two Sides! It would be so wonderful to work with everyone again, and am curious to see how Chloe is doing at Harvard post break-up. I hope to be on the silver screen someday very soon!

You can watch ‘Two Sides’ on Snapchat now

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