Interview with Renée Felice Smith from Detachment

Photo Credit: Laura Rose – © 2011
March 13th, 2012

Movie Room Reviews recently spoke with Renée Felice Smith who plays Missy in Tony Kaye's new film "Detachment". Renée tells us about "Detachment", her recurring role on NCIS: Los Angeles, and her life off the big screen.

1. Hey Renée, congratulations on the upcoming release of your new movie “Detachment”! Can you tell us a little bit about your role as Missy and how it was working with unbelievable actors like James Caan, Adrien Brody, and Lucy Liu?

- Thanks so much! I play Missy, a little punk of a girl. She's in high school and she's pretty self righteous, pretty foul. She's rebelling hard and we can imagine things are rough at home. We see Missy in her weekly meeting with the school's psychologist (Lucy Lui). The scene is basically Lucy's breakdown in the film. My character's attitude pushes her over the edge and we see her crack wide open. It's pretty raw.

Lucy Liu was absolutely stunning- to watch, react to. Aside from being wickedly talented, she was completely present and supportive. I really enjoyed working with her.

2. How was it working on such a serious film under the direction of Tony Kaye? How did you feel about Adrien Brody’s character as a disconnected substitute teacher?

- Tony Kaye does things his own way and I have complete respect for that. He's probably one of the most pronounced individuals I've ever met. And his signature croc boots are pretty sweet too. As a director, Kaye let's the actor play the scene on instinct but doesn't hesitate to give his own insightful suggestions, delivered with a healthy dose of wit.

I haven't seen the film as of yet but from reading the script, above all of us Adrien Brody's character makes you think. We see this young man who's a substitute teacher by choice. He lives in a world of impermanence. It makes you question why someone would choose that for themselves in life, why someone would refuse connections and lasting relationships with fellow humans. His character definitely grapples with issues of abandonment and it all stems from his childhood. Something in this man's life caused him to become a loner--an interesting story albeit upsetting.

3. Since 2010 fans of unbelievably popular TV series NCIS:Los Angeles will recognize you for your regular role as Intelligence Analyst, Nell Jones. When you do a show for this long does the character become a part of you or can you leave it on the set?

-Oh, I leave all that tech jargon up in the Ops center. Nell is much more present than Renée. Nothing gets by her. Renée is a little more space cadet. In all honesty, I'd probably benefit from taking more of Nell home with me.

4. Not only are you in movies and television, you also are a stage performer and made your debut in Second Stage's "Wildflower". Do movies and TV give you the same rush as when you perform in front of a live audience?

-It's a different sort of rush. It's a more personal experience, I think. When you're on stage there's this conversation with the audience; you can kind of gauge your performance with their reactions. The audience tells you if you're pushing with their silence, they tell you if you're on the money with their laughs. With film and TV, you're kind of on your own. You have your scene partner(s) of course but the audience isn't there to keep you honest. I think you have to find it yourself. A good director helps too.

5. I read somewhere that you are a great tap dancer, is that true?

-Well, that's very kind and yes, I've dabbled. I've been tapping since I was a kid. My teacher growing up had a hoofing style so we never wore heeled tap shoes and I'm so thankful for that. It's a more rooted, percussive style that focuses the energy in the feet rather than the upper body. You tap into the floor rather than on the floor. I always say dance was my first love, especially tap. It taught me to listen. It taught me balance, rhythm, patience. And it's just a really good time. I highly recommend it.

6. I know a lot of people that really love their dogs and you are creating a children’s book series around your dog, Hugo, so my guess is that he has a pretty special place in your heart. What kind of wild adventures are you going to be getting him into? When do you think these will be hitting the shelves?

-Yes! Hugo is a very bright light in my life and I'm super excited to share cartoon Hugo with the world. In each book, Hugo is introduced to a new sort of activity (yoga, skateboarding, kung fu, etc.) which he meets with fair amount of skepticism. Just like real life Hugo, cartoon Hugo is a smarty pants and thinks he's got it all figured out but with each story, we see him learn, grow and eventually come around to the new idea in his own way. I can't wait to hold a hard copy of the first book of the series. Hoping that will happen sometime in the next year.

7. You seem like a incredibly busy young lady, how do you find the time to do all this and still have time to relax and enjoy your success?

-Oh, I like to sleep. I'm not a morning person so most of these ideas happen in the afternoon/evening hours but don't worry, I can definitely kick back. I actually have lots of downtime with NCIS:LA since my character is used mainly when we shoot on stage. I try to be as productive as I can with my creative ideas but everyone needs a Food Network marathon every once in a while.

8. Is there anything coming up for you, besides the release of “Detachment” next week, that our readers should know about?

-I'm actually developing a short film that I wrote and plan to shoot back in NY over my NCIS:LA hiatus. I'm interested to see where it takes me. My hope is to make something I'm proud of.