×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kids From ‘The Florida Project’ Talk About the Shoot — and the Importance of Ice Cream

Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto and Christopher Rivera, the three child stars of Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” stopped by the Variety offices to discuss the poignant coming-of-age drama set in a welfare motel outside Disney World. In the film, Prince plays Moonee, a precocious 6-year-old left to her own devices while her spirited mom struggles to make ends meet, and Cotto and Rivera are her two best friends. Over the course of one summer, this ragtag trio embarks on a series of mischievous adventures, winning over the hearts of everyone on their path, including the motel’s craggy manager, played by Willem Dafoe.

How did you all get cast in this film?

Valeria Cotto: Can I tell you the story? Once upon a time, there lived my mom, my uncle, myself and my siblings. We were walking around a Target store, and Sean [Baker] approached us. And he gave us this business card that had his two dogs on it, but on the other side it had his name and his email. He said, “Call me if you want to audition.” I really wanted to act, because I watch TV a whole lot, so when I heard I could probably be in a movie, I was like, “This is my chance!” So when we went home my mom said, “Do you want to do this?” And I said, ‘Absolutely!” And I go to audition, and the first day I meet these two kids [points to Brooklynn and Christopher] and they’re my best friends now, and when I heard they got the part and I got the part, I was like, “Yay I get to be with my friends and I get to be in a movie!”

Brooklynn Prince: I did a commercial for Chuck E. Cheese. I’ve done acting since I was 2. I was in modeling, then I did commercials.

Christopher Rivera: This was my first movie, but I did something before. I think it might have been for TV. I forget what it’s called, but I remember running and somebody was chasing after me.

What was your favorite part about making this film?

Prince: That we got to make a family.

Rivera: We got to shoot for two months.

Prince: It wasn’t two months. It was 35 days!

Rivera:  I loved that we got to eat, be funny and make new friends. I liked that we go to eat gummy bears in one scene.

How did you like working with Sean Baker?

Cotto: Sean was amazing to work with because he’d always be patient with us. He’d treat us equally. Sean, he loves us, and he’s an amazing director. Who doesn’t like him?
Prince: My favorite thing about Sean was that he was nice, he was patient and he was always there for us if we didn’t know any lines. We were equals, and he wanted to play with us.

The film tackles some pretty serious topics, like poverty.

Prince: What’s poverty?

It’s when you’re poor and don’t have enough money, like the characters in the film.

Prince: Oh, yeah.

Have you seen the film?

Rivera: Yeah, but we can watch it because we’re the stars of the movie.

Cotto: People that are reading this, this is rated R. Not for children. Capiche?

Prince: When I saw it I was amazed. Like mind blown!

Cotto: When I saw the movie, my hands were shaking.

Rivera: Her whole body was shaking.

Cotto: I was crying. I was sobbing.

Brooklynn, what was it like working with Bria Vinaite, who plays your mom in the film?

Prince: We had so much fun together. I mean, it was like she was my real mom. We have so many funny memories. One time we knocked on the door to see if she could come to me and Val’s room, and then she was napping.

Rivera: I’m like, “can you come outside?” And then she was like, “for what?” And I’m like, “to go to my room,” and she’s like, “no I need a nap first.” And then I came back 20 minutes later and then another 20 minutes later. And the window’s open and I hear her snoring.

Cotto: You know that scene where we’re like dancing on the bed? Every time we’re always dancing so funky and all crazy, and once we were jumping on the bed, and we were like five little monkeys, jumping on the bed, and then we actually fell off the bed!

Do you have any favorite scenes from the film?

Prince: My favorite scene is the rain scene with me and Bria, because it kind of shows what Bria feels. She feels sad on the inside because she’s gonna lose her daughter, but on the outside she wants to have fun.

What about the scene where you ask a stranger for money to buy an ice cream? That was sort of heartbreaking, too.

Prince: I was like, “OK, what are we trying to do? Are we trying to take people’s money or something?”

Cotto: They were set people who were hired to do it.

Rivera: And I’m like, Brooklynn, “take the money from the lady.” I’m like, “come on!”

Cotto: We ate 45 cones. My favorite flavor is mint chocolate chip.

Prince: Mine, too! We’re like twins! But by the way, the ice cream was actually sugar-free because of Sean Baker. Boo!

There’s a really powerful scene in which you all burn down an abandoned condominium complex. What was that like to film?

Rivera: It was awesome. I’m like, “Let it burn!”

Prince: Um, I was supposed to light it and when they handed me that lighter, I was like, “no.”

Cotto: When we burned down the condos that was kind of scary because it’s like burning, but the fire wasn’t actually real. There was a guy in there that was like making the fire happen.

Prince: But we actually thought we really put it on fire, and we’re like, “we’re so sorry!” And they’re like, “no, no, it’s fine.”

What was it like working with Willem Dafoe?
Prince: I’m a huge fan of him. He was so cool. He was in “Spider-man.” When I found out I’m like running around the house shouting, “I’m gonna meet Willem Dafoe!” And he’s in “Spider-man”! I love Marvel!

Rivera: He was like a dude.

Cotto: When I heard Willem Dafoe [was in the movie] I was like, “Who’s Willem Dafoe?” And then my mom’s like, “you do not know Willem Dafoe? Oh my goodness.” And she showed me a picture of him. She’s like, “so he’s gonna be playing the manager.” And she told me how many movies he’s been in and I’m like, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I’m meeting a superstar! Can I have an autograph?” He was in “Finding Dory” and he played Gill!

Brooklynn, in the last scene of the movie, you cry, and it’s such a beautiful moment. Can you cry on cue?  

Prince: I just did it.  They called out, one, two, three … and then I just did it. We did it in one take.

Is it exciting to be in a movie that is out in the theaters? What do your friends at school think?

Cotto: Well, I’m not a big movie star.

Rivera: I’m the biggest movie star.

Prince: I’m not a movie star, I’d just say I’m —

Cotto: A star?

Prince: I’m just myself.

So what’s next acting-wise? Is there anybody with whom you’d like to work?  

Prince: I want to work with Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning, Emma Watson, Daisy Ridley, Gal Gadot, Millie Bobby Brown, Ariana Grande, even if she’s not an actress.

Rivera: I want to be in a movie with Tom Cruise and Daniel Radcliffe. But right now we’re just promoting our movie.

Prince: I love promoting our movie!

Cotto: Hey, everyone! Enjoy “The Florida Project.” It’s in theaters everywhere. We’ll be coming to your city or country soon. We love you! Goodbye!

More Film

  • 'The Apollo' Review: A Legendary Theater

    Tribeca Film Review: 'The Apollo'

    You should never take for granted a documentary that fills in the basics with flair and feeling. Especially when the basics consist of great big gobs of some of the most revolutionary and exhilarating popular art ever created in this country. Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo,” which kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival on [...]

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content