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Claire Stern
Apr 24, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

Modern Family may have just wrapped its sixth season, but its sassiest cast member is already out celebrating her next project. See You in ValhallaSarah Hyland’s first big feature-length film since 2013's Scary Movie 5, hits theaters today, and her TV fam, including mom Julie Bowen and little bro Nolan Gould, were on-call to support their co-star in her moment of glory at the movie's L.A. premiere earlier this week (pictured above).

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The film, written and directed by brothers Brent and Jarret Tarnol, tells the bizarre story of an estranged family that's forced to reconvene in their hometown after the sudden (and very strange) death of one member (spoiler alert: it involves a ritual suicide, meth, and a sword). Think of it as a much darker version of Garden State, with Hyland providing the majority of the much-needed laughs. We caught up with the actress before the film's release today. Here's an excerpt from our chat:

How did you get involved with this project?

Brent Tarnol is a good friend of mine, and he told me that he wanted to write something for me a few years ago. I was like, "That’s dope, can I produce?" It was an amazing project to work on, because we had total creative control over what we wanted to do---if we wanted to do a full-on drama or a comedy. We decided to go in-between and do the family dramedy.

Your role is a lot more serious than in Modern Family. How did you prepare for it?

It was a crazy summer. I was filming Bonnie and Clyde and Vampire Academy while I was scouting talent. I would literally go from being a vampire to putting on my producer hat and talking with our casting director, but I had the plane ride from London to L.A. to switch over from geeky evil vampire Natalie to Johana, and it was really fun to create her. We added a lot of elements of my own personal self.

What are some similarities between you and your character?

Well, for one, we made her wear overalls [laughs]. Also, the first time you see her talk, she’s eating Eggo waffles. With her hands. At the time it was my snack of the moment---I go through weird phases with food. I literally couldn't stop eating Eggos.

You and Odeya Rush seem to be close. Did you recruit her for the film?

I really wanted her to play my niece. I already knew her because we have the same makeup artist, Allan Avendaño, and a lot of people think we look alike. I had seen her in The Odd Life of Timothy Green and I thought she was amazing. She looks too close to my age, though, even though I'm seven years older, so we had to write a line into the film being like, "Oh, this is weird, we look the same age."

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The movie seems to attempt to tackle a lot of the same themes as Garden State. Was that intentional? Are you a big fan of Zach Braff?

We definitely wanted it to feel like that type of film, because there's a lot of quirky moments. We have really offbeat characters, and there's definitely a sitcom element to it. I wanted to touch on a lot of subjects, like gay marriage, teen pregnancy and what it’s like for girls to go through, and what the loss of a brother and the loss of a mother does to a family. That’s just life, and some people view it as controversies, but that's because people live in a bubble and they don’t think about it. I wanted people to open their eyes. Family and love is the most important thing, no matter what.

This was your first foray into producing. Do you aspire to direct one day?

I would love to continue to produce in the future, but directing isn’t really on my mind right now. I have more of a vision as a producer than as a director. I think, because I was a child actor, I like people telling me what to do. I need to have some direction in my life, but I want to have people talk to me. I like having discussions, but it's way too much responsibility to direct!

Watch the trailer for See You in Valhalla below, and catch the movie in theaters today.

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