Bria Vinaite and Brooklynn Prince aren’t mother and daughter in
real life, but you wouldn’t know that based on their seamless
approximation of an unconventional parent-child partnership in
Sean Baker’s acclaimed indie hit The
Florida Project. And the duo — both of whom are making
their feature film debut — tell Yahoo Entertainment that they
fell into that relationship on their very first meeting. “We
just hit it off,” remarks the 27-year-old Vinaite, who plays
Halley, a cash-strapped young mother living in a seedy motel in
the shadow of Disney World and struggling to care for her
daughter, Moonee (Prince), when she’s essentially still a kid
herself. “We didn’t have to act — we genuinely loved and cared
for each other the entire time.” Seven-year-old Prince, who was
6 during filming, remembers endearing herself to her onscreen
mother by gifting her with a unique nickname. “My acting coach
would call me ‘Jelly Belly,’ and Bria was her helper. So she
called me ‘Jelly Belly,’ and I called her ‘Mom Belly.’” After
hearing these two talk about breakfast foods and theme park
rides, you’ll call them both adorable.
Yahoo Entertainment: Brooklynn, was it strange thinking
of Bria as your mom when the cameras were
Brooklynn Prince: Thinking of
her as a mom was fun. I treated her like I treat my mom,
hopefully, not badly! I love my mom with all my heart, and my
And did you like to have a daughter,
Bria Vinaite: She brought so
much joy into my life every day. Just to walk on set and see
here smiling was the cutest thing. I feel like I never have to
have kids, because she’s my child! Even now that the film is
done; we were in Los Angeles for a premiere, and I ran into her
outside of the hotel with her grandma. I played Barbies with
her for, like, 10 minutes.
In the movie, Halley and Moonee are almost more like
best friends than mother and
Vinaite: Yeah, I always
say that Brooklynn is like my little best friend.
Prince: Not “little” like a Martian, but like
Did that make it difficult when you had be angry with
each other in the movie?
Yeah. One time Bria had to yell at me, and I was crying because
I was confused.
Vinaite: We would tell the kids before every
scene, though. Because they’re kids! You have to sit them down
and be like, “This isn’t real, and I’m not really mad at you. I
hope you know that.” And in between every take, we’d say, “This
is just pretend.” I wanted her to know that none of it was
How many times would you film some of the more intense
Vinaite: It depended on
the scene. Like with Moonee’s last scene, when she’s crying
about being taken away from her mother, they got that in one
take. Sometimes we’d have to do a few to have different
Prince: We did the breakfast scene [where
Moonee pigs out on waffles] five times! They were cracking up
at how much we were burping. I ate that whole plate of waffles,
just so you know. And, Bria, you did too!
Vinaite: I did. I remember the scene when we
ate all that pizza.
Prince: Oh, my stomach! And I wasn’t supposed
to wipe my hands on my pillow. Usually, I just wipe them on my
clothes. But I thought, “It’s wardrobe. I’ll wipe it on my
pillow.” But the thing was, it wasn’t my pillow. It
was the hotel’s.
Did you have any favorite hiding places in the Magic Castle
Prince: My favorite
place to hide was under Bobby’s desk. [Bobby is the hotel’s
played by Willem Dafoe]. I also loved being under the
stairs, because people can’t see you until they’re all the way
Vinaite: We felt so connected to everyone
there. At a certain point, it was like we were really living
Prince: Very true, girl!
The young cast of The Florida Project: Christopher
Rivera, Prince, and Valeria Cotto. (Photo: A24/courtesy
Did you enjoy working with Willem
Prince: We had a thumb war!
I was really, really good, and then he started beating me, and
I’m like, “I shouldn’t have done that good.” He saved me seats
at lunch, and I got to FaceTime with his wife on his birthday.
He treated us like equals. He wasn’t like, “I have been in this
movie, and it’s better than this movie.” He was just a very,
very humble guy.
Vinaite: He was really great, and definitely
transforms into his role. It’s so inspiring to watch as an
actor. He has a lot of really good advice all the time. Just
working with somebody of his caliber and having them believe in
the movie so much was really great. There was a scene at the
end of the movie that I was really scared to do, where Willem
has to yell at me. I hate being yelled at, but he yelled at me
so crazy that it got me there. He helped me a lot.
Brooklynn, what was it like to see yourself
Prince: I’ve seen the
whole movie! It was crazy, because I kept thinking, “Is that
how I looked? I thought I had a ponytail that day.”
Vinaite: It was bizarre the first time I
watched it. All I thought was, “That’s how I look from that
angle?” and, “That’s what my voice sounds like?”
Prince: Your voice sounds beautiful.
Vinaite: Thank you.
How are Moonee and Halley different from
Prince: I don’t cuss, and I
don’t run on the street. I also don’t eat waffles that much.
I like bacon! I’ve been craving that.
Vinaite: I feel like Halley is more
carefree. I don’t have a child, so I don’t relate to that
aspect of things… [Prince shoots Vinaite a look] I
mean, I have a child now! [laughs] But I didn’t have
a child back then. Thinking back to before I had a child, I
feel like I can relate to being in a situation where you have
to be the one to figure things out. Every adult can relate to
Halley that way.
Did you go to Disney World while you were
Prince: We went to
Disney for about four hours to shoot [the ending], and then
we spent the other four hours just doing rides. Imagine doing
It’s a Small World with all of the crew crammed
in one boat! I was like, “I did not expect it to be this
Vinaite: I went to Universal, but not Disney
World. I did all the rides there.
Prince: I’ll take you!
Prince: Did you do the E.T.
ride at Universal?
Vinaite: I don’t think so, so maybe not all
of them. [Laughs]
Prince: Did you do Gringotts?
Vinaite: Yes! My favorites were the Hogwarts
Prince: My favorite is Gringotts. But the
scariest part was that we got stuck for maybe 10 minutes!
Vinaite: That’s definitely scary. That’s why
I don’t like roller coasters.
Prince: I know, it freaks me out. That’s why
I didn’t go on Gringotts again for a while.
The Florida Project cast at the movie’s New
York Film Festival premiere. (Photo: Jason Mendez/Everett
What was your favorite scene to
Prince: I liked the
shopping scene [where Halley and Moonee go on a shopping
spree at the discount store]. I never get to throw toys and
candy inside a shopping cart! And for some reason, I wanted
Vinaite: That was funny. I was like, “OK,
girl.” I really like the scene after that one where we’re
running across the highway with the shopping cart and she was
fairy wings on. It was really cute.
Prince: I was like, “Wheeee!”
How did you shoot the scenes where you were both
selling perfume to people on the
Vinaite: I had, like, a
little earpiece in my ear, and Sean had the microphone. He’d
say, “Go up to those people,” and I’d walk over and ask, “Do
you want any perfume?” I was really nervous because they
literally thought I was selling perfume, and it was
Prince: I wasn’t afraid of those strangers,
because my first word was “Hi.” And then I’d say, “Do you
want some perfume? It’ll make the ladies flirt on you.” I
cannot believe that guy said, “No, thanks.”
Vinaite: We threw in a bunch of random
lines. There were so many people that we approached. I feel
like Sean had a lot of different takes to use. No one
actually bought the perfume, of course!
Prince: Yeah, you’d be like, “Here’s your
money back. We’re just doing a movie.” And they’d be like,
“Oh.” I saw this one couple, and I said, “Bria, go to them.
They’re young and will take the perfume.” They didn’t know
they were in a movie!
So, Bria, if Brooklynn is like your daughter now,
will you be there when she graduates high
Vinaite: Yeah, sure!
I’ll be there for you, girl.
Prince: Yes! You have to be there at my
Vinaite: I will. Pinky promise.
The Florida Project is now playing in
theaters. Watch the trailer:
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