One of the reasons Ashley Tisdale decided to star in Aliens in the Attic had to do with the casting of her co-star, Carter Jenkins, whom she saw in the TV series Surface. Acting since he was 7, Jenkins has been in such diverse shows as Viva Laughlin, CSI, Miami, House and The Bernie Mac Show.
In Aliens he plays Tisdale’s 15-year-old brother Tom who, when he discovers that the aliens hiding in the attic can’t use their mind-control device on children, leads the kids in his family on the attack, creating makeshift weapons, to send the aliens home.
How did they do the effects in the movie? Ashley said very little CGI was used.
Did she think that the aliens were real? (he laughs) They have these things called maquettes which are these little model versions and those were used to line up the shots and as a reference and they shoot a pass with the maquettes and then they shoot it without the maquettes in it.
It’s really amazing what they do to have these aliens look so real and so good. They have this camera that shoots a 360 degree picture so they can see where all the lights are so they can light the aliens in the CGI correctly, and they have this thing with two big balls on the end of a stick, one is gray and that’s for shadows and one’s like a mirror and that’s so they can see all the lights.
But when we’re acting with the aliens, it was just a little piece of tape on the end of a string.
It’s important that everybody in the scene has the same eyeline on what we’re seeing and what we’re reacting to, so I made a point to be very detailed with the director and the other actors and the visual effects people who were on the set to make sure we were all on the same page.
Otherwise, we could be reacting to something that wasn’t there or wasn’t happening or they could be doing something that we didn’t react to and we look bad. You have to protect yourself.
How do you relate to Tom? Are you a brainiac?
I think Tom is in that stage that everybody goes through; you’re sort of finding yourself.
You’re not quite comfortable in your own skin and he’s trying to find a balance between being this kid who he is, this brainiac kid, and being cool and popular like every kid wants in high school.
How did it feel to be the leader of the other kids?
I realized that I had had some more experience than the other kids in the movie working on sets and it was in real life mimicking my character being a hero and leading the other kids in this fight against the aliens.
I was kind of leading my fellow actors, not to take anything away from them.
What are you afraid of?
When I was five or six, we had a pool and at the deep end there’s a drain and my older brother convinced me that sharks came through the drain and into the pool.
I was so afraid of that.
Did he believe that himself or was he just freaking you out?
No. He was freaking me out. I was so afraid. He said, ‘At night they go in,’ so I wouldn’t swim at night.
Do you have a favorite alien movie?
There are so many good ones. I loved E.T. and I feel like this has some aspects of that. That was a childhood favorite of mine, as was Home Alone.
It’s so cool that this movie, I feel, has elements similar to both of those movies. I hope that Aliens in the Attic will be a childhood favorite for this generation.