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Forget Prince Charming â geeks are the new cool. Just ask Sarah Hyland. The adorable Modern Family star is putting a few modern twists on the classic fairy tale formula in Disney Channelâs Geek Charming, premiering Nov. 11 at 8:00p ET/PT.
Hyland plays Dylan Shoenfield, the most popular junior at Woodlands Academy. When Dylan accidentally drops her âitâ handbag into a fountain, geeky film student Josh Rosen (Hyland’s real-life boyfriend, Matt Prokop) comes to her rescue. To repay him, she agrees to be the subject of Joshâs latest documentary, believing it will help her win the Blossom Queen crown. Little does Dylan know that Josh actually intends to film a hard-hitting exposĂ© about popularity as his entry for a scholarship contest.
When we caught up with Hyland over the phone, she and Prokop were cruising through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru for a late-afternoon snack. Between ordering the No. 1 and joking about Kanye West’s geekiness, she talked about her fun new flick.
Youâve had a busy few weeks with the Emmys and Modern Familyâs premiere. Congratulations! How has it been for you?
Hyland: Yeah, itâs been crazy. Itâs been really busy. One of the highlights would probably have to be meeting Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin, [True Blood's] Bill & Snookie, at the HBO after-party. Or winning Best Comedy. Or winning all the Emmys. (laughs)
Hyland: This âhigh school princessâ persona she has, sheâs created for herself, so for the first half of the movie, you really see her put on a character. Itâs not the true Dylan Shoenfield that you think it is, Iâm sure, for the first half of the movie. Any viewer would hate me watching it. Towards the end, you really see who she is, and what kind of person she is, and why she was acting the way she was.
How is Dylan different than the role you play on Modern Family, Haley?
Hyland: Well, they are kind of similar in a way. Haley is veryâŠ Sheâs popular and sheâs into fashion and makeup. She doesnât really have the money that Dylan Shoenfield has, but she definitely puts all of her allowance to anything vain and trendy. Dylan has crazy amounts of money, so much that she doesnât even know what a bus is. But Dylan is actually secretly really smart, whereas Haley isnât the brightest bulb. There are a lot more layers to Dylan than Haley. Haleyâs pretty [straightforward]. She is who she is, and she has a good heart underneath, but thatâs about it. Thereâs not a lot going up there, I think.
In this movie, you actually get to work with your real-life boyfriend. There have to be some good stories there. What were some of the best and worst parts about working with Matt?
Hyland: Well, the best is just that we got to spend a lot of time together. When Iâm working on Modern, itâs a long day, and I just want to get home to my boyfriend and dog. With Geek Charming, if it was a long day, it was like, “well weâre already here together,” so thatâs fine. Long hours werenât really an issue for us just because we were already together all the time. And that was a lot of fun.
Were there any difficulties working with him?
Hyland: Probably when weâre fighting all the time (laughs).
Fighting on-camera or off-camera?
Hyland: On-camera. No it was funny because âŠ our characters had to hate each other in the beginning of the movie. So it was a lot of fun, but sometimes it was hard. And, you know, thereâs a scene where heâs carrying me. I was more aware. Like, Iâm sorry if Iâm hurting you. I was more aware of stuff like that.
This film seems to have a quirky, fun sense to it. Could you share one of your favorite scenes?Â
Hyland: One of my favorite scenes is actually when Dylan is showing Josh how to make an âeverything-but-the-kitchen-sinkâ sundae. It goes into video mode because Josh is filming her and thatâs when you really get to know Dylan and how goofy and silly she is.
That scene is actually the director, Jeffrey, he goes: âMake an ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ sundae. And donât stop until I say âcutâ.â So it was like a 15-20 minute take, of us being crazy. When you see that, thatâs really just me being me. Basically I was just, I was just being me because it was a lot of fun. Just messing around. I had so many gummi bears that day! (laughs)
Every Disney movie seems to have a message, a lesson you learn at the end. Whatâs the take-away from Geek Charming?
Hyland: The moral of the story is to just really be true to yourself. And donât try to be something that youâre not just because you think everybody else will like it. In the end, if youâre not yourself, people probably arenât going to like you.
Is this movie anything like any experiences you had in high school?
Hyland: Not really. I went to a performing arts school. So, we didnât have any of that kind of stuff. We didnât have a Blossom Queen or football teams or soccer teams or anything like that. So, it wasnât a lot like that. Everyone was pretty much popular at my school because it was really, really small. I didnât really have the normal high school experience.
Is it tough for you, then, when you play a âtypicalâ high school student?
Hyland: Oh no. There are so many high school movies out there that you watch them and, after so many, you kind of figure what it was like. And itâs kind of fun to be a part of something like that you never got to experience. That I would never have gotten to experience if it wasnât for my career.
Hyland: Dylanâs personal style is really very, very fancy. Like, rich. Itâs classy and put together. Like, she really thinks through everything she puts on. And she wears heels all the time. Even when she dresses up as a quote-unquote “geek,” she is wearing heels. The only time you donât see her in heels is when she is barefoot because sheâs in her bedroom getting dressed.
Is there a little bit of you in that at all?
Hyland: No. I only wear heels to events because I have to. Really, I love heels. I have a great appreciation for heels. Iâve lost all the muscles in my legs from dance to wear heels all the time now. So, I donât know. I donât really think as hard as Dylan to put stuff together. She thinks of scarves and earrings and necklaces and bracelets and rings and stuff. I hardly ever wear accessories. I wear one necklace that my boyfriend gave me for Christmas last year all the time. And thatâs it. Iâm not a big accessories person. I used to be. But now Iâm too lazy. Iâm not as thoughtful as Dylan. Iâm too lazy to do anything like that.
In the movie, the princess falls in love with the geek, but arenât geeks kind of the new cool?
Hyland: I think so. Iâve always been into that. But, you know, in the typical high school fashion, the populars stay with the populars and the geeks stay with the geeks. You kind of just have to believe in the movie and go with it and not expect what you expect from todayâs trends.
Whatâs so appealing about a geeky guy?
Hyland: I mean, theyâre smart. They are smart and they have goals. And theyâre really into one thing. And being so passionate about anything is, I think, really attractive.
Do you have any favorite geeks?
Hyland: Kanye! (laughs) Heâs a geek. He likes teddy bears. (low voice in the background ârobotsâ) And robots!
Is that Matt in the background?
Hyland: (laughs) Yeah, thatâs Matt in the background.
Itâs a DonaldâŠ Do you know who Donald Glover is? From Community? The black guy? He does this standup routine where heâs like âThere are no black geeks. Geeks are âinâ right now, but you know Kanye West? Heâs a geek! He likes teddy bears. Barack Obamaâs a geek!â He has this whole bit. (laughs)
A geek isnât necessarily Urkel or anything, you know, they donât wear their pants up to their belly buttons with suspenders and big thick glasses. They are into certain quirky things, so, yeah, technically, Kanye West is a geek. Robots and teddy bears! (laughs)
You seem pretty grounded. How are you staying out of tabloid trouble?
Hyland: Probably my boyfriend and my dog. (laughs) We like to stay in, and the most we go out is, like, to watch movies. We go out for friendsâ birthday parties and stuff like that. But weâre not big club-goers.
Youâve been in the business for a long time, first as a child actor now as an adult. Have you noticed any differences in the roles that are coming your way or how youâre treated on the set?
Hyland: Iâm still not really playing an adult yet. The oldest Iâve played is 18, but still in high school. So, yeah, I havenât really noticed any difference. Iâll notice a difference when Iâm playing a college student. That will be, that will be a big chapter in my life. College. (laughs)
What other projects do you have in the works?
Hyland: I just did a little Lionâs Gate film called Gay Dude. And me and Matt actually just did another movie together over the summer. Chris Colfer wrote a movie Struck by Lightning and weâre both gonna be in that.
Who is someone you would love to work with in the future?
Hyland: HmmâŠ Russell Brand. I think heâs one of the funniest people Iâve ever met or the funniest people Iâve ever seen. I love Russell Brand. I think heâs fantastic. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of my favorite comedies.
Photo Credit: Bob D’Amico/2011 Disney Enterprises