The Town - Ben Affleck and Blake Lively
Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively) © 2010 Warner Bros

Blake Lively first gained the attention of movie audiences in the 2005 hit The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but she is best known for her role as Serena van der Woodsen on the TV series Gossip Girl, which is about to enter its fifth season.

In her new movie The Town, Lively takes on her most challenging role to date, as Krista, a tough, street smart, single mom, addicted to drugs and liquor. She is in love with Doug MacRay, the leader of a gang of ruthless bank robbers, portrayed by Ben Affleck who also wrote and directed the movie.

Being in a successful TV series, what do you look for when you go do a movie?

Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively) © Warner Bros

I think the biggest difference for me is that we’re on a TV show for 10 months out of a year so the roles that you can do are so few, so it has to be something that you really want to do, or you just want the time off. So when you find a role that you’re passionate about that’s something you have to play and this was one of them.

I read the script, it was a terrific part. It was a part that I was wrong for probably in more ways than I was right for, but I selfishly really wanted to play it because I loved it so much. So I pursued the part and here I am.

Can you talk a little about Krista?

All Krista wants is Doug to love her and take her away from there. She’s grown up around these tough guys who are doing everything wrong, but they were her only role models. Now she’s a single mom who does what she has to do to get by.

FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) and Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively) © 2010 Warner Bros, Photo by Claire Folger

She has layers of darkness and vulnerability, toughness and desperation. Krista could easily appear to be not very redeemable, but I was chomping at the bit to play her because I knew she could be portrayed in a way that made her a sympathetic character, and you could understand her behavior.

In many ways, Krista is her own worst enemy. And she’s pretty good at dragging Doug down, too, without realizing that’s what she’s doing. She feels Doug is pulling away and she’s fighting against the wave so hard.

How hard was it to pick up the Boston accent and the attitude of the Townie women?

I spent some time hanging out with them but instead of asking questions or trying to imitate their accent, I ended up just being silent and taking it in. I realized that if I was talking, I wouldn’t be listening. I also watched how they connect with one another and how their speech changes, depending on who they’re talking to.

It was interesting to watch how some of them balanced their sexually with being tough, like, ‘Don’t mess with me.’

What was it like working with Ben Affleck as a director and actor?

Krista Coughlin (Blake Lively) and Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) © 2010 Warner Bros

For me I got to experience Ben as a director more in the pre-production, before we actually started shooting, because he did so much work in finding all these wonderful resources for us.

The women we got to spend time with, the place that these people go, just references, magazine clippings. He had this well of knowledge for us to tap into if we wanted, and he was so hard working beforehand and really militant about getting the character down, getting the accent down, really understanding the people, the roots, where they come from.

Just their attitude was such an important thing, how they would respond to a detective versus one of their friends. Then when we were on set, it was just such a comfortable world that was there, that we were just able to step into and lose ourselves, and that’s more when I got to experience Ben as an actor. I never really felt like he was there directing me or judging me, but rather we were just creating this together.

What’s the difference between doing movies like this as opposed to your upcoming film Green Lantern, which is CG heavy and fantastical – do you approach the material the same way?

It’s entirely different. It’s a whole different art. When you’re doing a movie where the world is ending around you, outer space is crumbling around you; you are in a big studio with big blue walls.

With this you’re in a scene in a real bar in Charlestown that Ben filled with real ex-cons, which I didn’t know until they were telling me, ‘Yeah, I lived in L.A. for eighteen years, I didn’t see it though, I was in prison. I just got out two months ago.’ You’re so much more in touch with the world you’re a part of, and you have a greater sense of what it’s going to be like and what you’re actually doing.

With a film like Green Lantern, so much of the movie takes place once my work is done. In the next six months at least half of that movie is going to come together. So the viewing experience will definitely be different, because I don’t know what the heck I’m going to see!

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane