Ray Ramano’s directorial debut, Somewhere in Queens, was a film I missed at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. In fairness, there’s only so much that you can cram into a film festival time frame, but I was admittedly disappointed as a fan of Everybody Loves Raymond.
I finally caught it in preparation for an interview with the two young leads, Sadie Stanley and Jacob Ward. The former made a name for herself as the titular character in the Disney Channel live-action Kim Possible movie. She has since gone on to appear in a number of series, including The Goldbergs, and will be a lead in the upcoming season of Cruel Summer.
Ward, on the other hand, is a relatively unknown actor whose experience primarily comes from a variety of short films — some of which he has both acted in and directed. Somewhere in Queens is his big break and with the charm of a young Rocky — a character and series name-dropped in this film a number of times — he does great work with Sadie and the rest of the cast.
ClutchPoints spoke with Stanley and Ward during the Somewhere in Queens junket and discussed building their rapport, the casting process, and, of course, Ray Ramano.
ClutchPoints: I’ll start with you, Jacob. I was reading that you had a dialect coach, which makes sense because the New York Italian accent’s really hard to nail, so can you tell me any of the tips you might remember from it? And I know it’s been a couple of years since you guys filmed, but can you still channel it on command?
Jacob Ward: [chuckles] My dialect coach was named Jessica Drake, and yeah, I got to work with her a little bit and I think her technique is she goes through the script and she writes the script the way that it should sound in that accent if that makes sense. And she would do that for all of the scenes that I had and then we’d go through it together and we’d clarify a lot of issues.
I think at the end of the day, it’s about finding that placement in your mouth. I can kind of, sort of channel it, but please don’t ask me to because it’s not very good anymore.
Ward: Yeah, I need to work on it a little bit.
CP: I’ll jump over to you, Sadie. I read that during the audition you really grabbed the attention of everybody due to the way you grasped the character of Dani. I don’t know how much of the material you got beforehand, but what was it about the character that you really understood and channeled in your audition?
Sadie Stanley: Reading the script for the first time, I immediately loved Dani. I immediately could relate to her, but she’s the kind of girl that I kind of strive to be in a lot of ways because of the way that she’s so carefree and she really doesn’t care what people think about her. And I could really relate to Sticks (Ward) and his fear and anxiety that he carries with him and he’s just looking for his place in the world. And Dani comes in and helps him look at it from a different perspective — and I’ve had people do that for me in my life — so I just loved that Dani could be that person for Sticks to bring out this different side of him and to make him let loose and make him be a kid.
I just loved that relationship between them and yeah, I could just picture Dani in my mind, I had a very specific image of her in my mind of the way that she dressed and the way that she carried herself, and I just wanted to do it myself.
CP: Jumping back to you, Jacob — Sticks is a basketball player, and I don’t know your athletic background, but how hard is it to film basketball sequences? Because I think along with soccer and tennis, that has to be one of the most fluid sports and hard to replicate, right?
JW: Yeah, it was really cool getting to watch how it all worked. We had a team come in that coached the offense and the defense — they drew up plays based around Sticks to make him look good and we are really playing and we’d run the plays and then we’d just go open court for a little bit, running back and forth.
It was difficult because the pressure’s on [you] to make shots, but it was really, really fun as well.
Somewhere in Queens. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
CP: Coming back to you, Sadie, I know that we see at the end of the film where Sticks ends up — he goes to college and seems to do really well — but we don’t necessarily see what happens to Dani. I know that it’s implied that she probably goes on her trip, but for you, because you seem to have such an understanding of this character and in your heart of hearts, where do you think she ends up? Does she go on that trip? Does she find herself, and does she end up going to college?
SS: I think she does. I think she has a lot of adventure ahead of her [smiles]. I mean, we don’t see it too much in the movie, but I think Dani comes from a bit of a tumultuous home life — we kind of see that she’s taking care of her younger brother a lot and her mom is maybe not around as much — [but] we only get a glimpse of that. But as far as the character work that I did or whatever I felt about Dani, I think that she wanted to get away from that a little bit and she had a lot of life to live and a lot of adventures she wanted to go on.
So I definitely think she went on that road trip for sure.
CP: This question’s for both of you. You guys have such a nice, sweet, and honest chemistry in the film, but I don’t believe we see the formation of the relationship between Dani and Sticks — I think they’re already dating and in the early stages of it — so as an actor, do you think that’s an advantage or a disadvantage to not have to film those scenes where they’re kind of flirting and the relationship is forming, if that makes sense?
SS: Hmm… that’s a good question.
JW: Yeah, I don’t know if I’d say it’s either an advantage or a disadvantage — I think it’s just different, right?
JW: I think for us, we were able to build that relationship outside of the set and then allow that to translate because we did already know each other, you know, within the context of the film — so that was definitely nice. But I don’t know if it’s [an advantage or disadvantage], I think it’s just different.
CP: So did you guys have time then before the production of the film to kind of meet and build a rapport? And did you do any specific activities? I know some people with their co-stars do mini-golf or escape rooms. What’d you guys do?
SS: What did we do [smiles]? I think we just went to get food.
JW: We saw some movies, we went to get food, [and] we would also carpool a lot.
SS: [laughs] Yeah, we did. We would carpool to set or to rehearsal or whatever. Yeah. We met each other at the table read for the first time and then we were both nervous and then we just bonded after that because we were both nervous and then we just started going to get food or see movies — we both liked watching movies together.
CP: So now I want you to compare two of your scene partners. Obviously, each has different roles and contexts within the film, but for you, Sadie, can you compare Ray Ramano — strictly as an actor and not as a director, and then Jacob, can you compare Ray and Sadie and what they each brought to their scenes?
[Ward turns to Stanley]: Without saying Ray is way better [smiles].
Stanley: [laughs] Yeah, okay, I’ll try to refrain from that.
Honestly, I think that Ray and Jacob have similar acting styles. They both come from a very grounded, honest place. They’re both really good about doing so much, but also doing very little — you see it all in the eyes, it’s all very internal. And it’s in those quiet moments that you really see them shine. So I think that’s what they have in common. They’re both very generous scene partners [and] lovely to work with. 10/10, [would] recommend [smiles].
[whispers to Ward] Now say how much you love me [smiles].
JW: Well, I think they [Stanley and Ramano] both have just such a commanding presence on-screen, you know? Anytime they’re there, your eyes are just drawn to them. And [as] Sadie said before about Ray, there’s such honesty beneath everything there, and I admire them both, which that’s a similarity, I suppose.
A still from Somewhere in Queens courtesy of Roadside Attractions.
CP: I think we’re all roughly in the same age range, but did either of you grow up watching Everybody Loves Raymond?
JW: Yeah. it was always on growing up, but I think now being older and watching it — I’ve started rewatching it with my wife — it gives me a whole different perspective on it. It makes it that much funnier and that much more real and grounded and so I love that show, yeah.
SS: I haven’t seen a ton of it, but I am a fan of Ray and I’m a fan of his other work as well, Paddleton, etc.
CP: Jacob, I know you’ve directed some short films in the past, right? Is there anything that you learned from Ray that if you continue to do that, and I assume you will, you’ll apply to those future projects?
SS: Great question!
JW: It is a good question. I think it’s his attitude in the way that he becomes a leader without ever kind of forcing himself to be the leader, if that makes any sense. Like, everybody on the set and everybody around him respects him because of how kind he is, because of how talented he is, and I think that translates into him really being able to work with people well. And also, I think his attention and care to every single person involved is a really important thing for a director to pay everyone their due respect.
CP: Sadie, one last question for you specifically. I was reading over your filmography and I saw this project called Cruel Summer, which I believe I’ve heard about, but I haven’t seen it. Is it an anthology series? Can you kind of just tease readers as to what this is and what’s to come in this new season?
SS: Yeah, sure! It’s a Freeform show that’s also on Hulu. Season 1 is already out — it did really, really well — but it’s an anthology series. So Season 2 has a brand new cast, brand new story, brand new world, which I am a part of, which I’m very, very excited about. We wrapped last September, and it should be out this summer.
The thread that connects Season 1 and Season 2 is we have three different timelines that we jump back and forth in every episode. It’s set in Y2K in the late ’90s and yeah, it centers around these two young girls in high school and some stuff goes down and I can’t really tell you anything else [smiles], but you should watch it [laughs].
A still from Somewhere in Queens courtesy of Roadside Attractions.
CP: Outside of each other and Ray Ramano, who was your best on-set friend?
JW: I mean, everybody was really great.
SS: Everybody was amazing. I mean, everybody had their own quirks and their own characters. Deirdre [Friel] was amazing — she was so funny; Sebastian [Maniscalco] was great, [he’s got a] very dry [sense of] humor; Franco [Maicas] was a good friend also.
JW: Yeah. And then Lauri [Metcalf], of course, is such a kind and talented person as well.
I think everybody had a really great relationship with each other on [the set of] this film, which was really awesome.
Somewhere in Queens will be released in theaters on April 21.