It is quite a daunting task to turn a well loved book character from a Judy Blume novel into a flesh and blood character on screen. Will she meet the author’s expectations? Will she meet the readers’ expectations? In this case, the character is a young teenager who must carry the whole film. Finding an actress still in her youth who can play naive while not being inexperienced is no small feat. Fortunately, through working with talent agents with an eye for strong, yet underexposed talent, the Tiger Eyes production was able to find a great Davey Wexler in Willa Holland.
Holland began her career in modeling at the age of seven and by the time she was 11 years old, she was the top child model in the US. She then went on to land acting roles on TV in The O.C. and Gossip Girl. But small TV roles cannot compare to taking the lead role in a film. “It was definitely a unique form of stress that I’d never really felt before. The film was the first time I was ever number one on a project; I was working five days a week, 12-to 18-hour days and there was a lot of stuff going on, a lot of emotional scenes,” Holland told Elle Magazine.
In the latest edition of the Tiger Eyes novel, Judy Blume recounts how she felt about the process of casting Davey. “We must have reviewed over 100 head shots before landing in LA. Larry knew pretty quickly that Willa Holland was the one. Neither of us had seen Gossip Girl or The O.C., and we were glad we hadn’t. To us, she was fresh, talented and believable.” Blume speaks about how the character needed an actress that could hide her emotions while at the same time allow instances of vulnerability to seep through. In the book, that vulnerability is related in description of situations, but on screen, it has to be accomplished with facial expressions. “Her face is so expressive, it was as if we didn’t need dialog. She makes the movie. Willa Holland is Davey,” Blume told the LA Times.
You may view more of Judy Blume and Willa Holland talking to the LA Times about the film here
After the production wrapped, Willa Holland landed the role of Thea Queen on the CW network’s Arrow series. Season 2 starts tomorrow night and we couldn’t be more proud to see her on the show every week. If you haven’t checked out Arrow yet, give it a watch