One of the many takeaways one can make from seeing Kevin Smith’s return to the “View Askewniverse” Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is how much better a role his daughter Harley Quinn Smith has in this movie after 2016’s Yoga Hosers.
In the movie, the younger Smith plays Milly, a willful 18-year-old who insists on tagging along with Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) as they journey to “Chronic-Con” in California to put a stop to a planned “Bluntman and Chronic” reboot movie, directed by Kevin Smith. Oh, yeah, and Milly is also Jay’s illegitimate daughter from his tryst with Shannon Elizabeth’s Justice, and she has a “girl gang” on this trip with them. So Harley Quinn Smith is Kevin Smith’s daughter, but she’s playing Jay/Jason Mewes’ daughter in the movie. Got all that?
Either way, Harley Quinn is quickly transitioning into an actor appearing in plenty of other movies not directed by her father – like Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, for instance – and she’s bound to get even more work once filmmakers see that she can handle everything that’s thrown at her in terms of heavy dialogue sequences and such.
The strange thing though is that Harley Quinn’s Mom is actor Jennifer Schwalbach, who appeared in 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and apparently, baby Harley appeared in that movie, too! That’s whereThe Beat began when we spoke to Ms. Smith last week over the phone for the following interview. In some ways, it was kind of more fun talking about Kevin Smith than talking with him, but she also shared with us an anecdote about working on Tarantino’s film.
THE BEAT: I didn’t realize that you had appeared in the first Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. How did that happen?
Harley Quinn Smith: It was definitely against my will. I was a baby, so I have no recollection of it at all… but I’m in there.
THE BEAT: Have you wanted to act since you were a kid? Were you always around your Dad while he was filming? Did you get the acting bug very early?
Smith: No, not at all. I only wanted to start acting after I did a small scene in my Dad’s movie Tusk. Before that, I had no interest in it, but I’ve been in my Dad’s movies throughout my life, more as a thing that my family can look back on, like an intense scrapbook. I’ve been doing that for forever, but it wasn’t ever because I wanted to act. Then once I did a scene in Tusk, I was like, “Oh my God, wait, this is kind of amazing!” Then after that, I definitely caught the bug, and I started taking classes for about three or four years. I was taking acting classes and studying with my coaches, and so it’s been about maybe five years or so now? It’s not that long.
THE BEAT: How did Tusk come about? Did he just ask you if you wanted a small role in it? How does he approach you about being in one of his movies.
Smith: For Tusk and everything prior to Tusk, it was always like, “Hey, do this” and I was like, “Okay.” (small laugh) It wasn’t an ask, more of an instruction, which is cool, but then after that… well, Yoga Hosers was something entirely different, because one day, he was just like, “Hey, I’ve been writing a movie for you and your friend.” As someone who was very new to acting, I was like, “What?” Obviously, that’s such an amazing gift for someone to just be like, “Yeah, I’ve been writing a movie for you.” That’s huge, but also, I had no idea what I was doing. Yoga Hosers was very much an experience, and it’s been about three or four years since Yoga Hosers. In between then, I’ve taken my classes and studied, so by the time that Jay and Silent Bob came around, it also wasn’t really an ask – it was more of a, “Yeah, you’re gonna do this” sort of thing, but I was much more ready for it, and very excited.
THE BEAT: Did he have to go through your agent for this one?
Smith: Go through my agent? Yeah, I still actually did… no, no, I did not actually. Originally and then halfway through it, my agents were like, “You know, it just does not make sense, and it’s not fair for us to take this money,” and I was like, “Yeah, okay, I respect that.”
THE BEAT: When he mentioned this movie to you, had he already completed the script? Or were you around and knew about the process while he was trying to figure out what to do with Jay and Silent Bob?
Smith: It was while he was writing it, and I was super-stoked. It had many different forms, my character. She took on many different forms before becoming who she ended up being. It wasn’t like he told me about it and had an immediate logline and scriptment for the character. He told me about it, and we kind of formed Milly together.
THE BEAT: You must have known Jason for your entire life, so how did your real father bring up that you’re playing Jay’s daughter? Was that part of the development?
Smith: He’s been wanting to write a father-daughter movie for quite some time. First it was going to be Mallratsand Clerks 3, and then it finally landed on Jay and Silent Bob.I always knew that I was going to be representing a new generation of the View Askew Universe. I didn’t know it was originally going to be Jay, but I’m beyond thrilled that it was. That was absolutely the person I’d want to play father-daughter to most.
THE BEAT: It’s funny that just by the nature of Jay and Silent Bob, Jason gets all the best lines, but your Dad did the same for you, as the two of you have all the best jokes and lines. How strict is he about improvising or going off script? Does he just say “Here’s the script. Do it like this?”
Smith: He’s way more strict than ̛I ever imagined him to be, because whenever I’m doing my lines in a film, I always kind of go all over the place and make it my own. I did do that in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, but there were times when my Dad was like, “No, say this,” and I was like, “What?” Especially with Jay. If Jay didn’t say it the way that he wanted, he would have him say it again, which was always so surprising to me. I always thought he’d be on the chill side, but he was actually not chill at all.
THE BEAT: Jason’s a bit of a force. I spoke to him a few weeks ago, and I honestly can’t remember what we talked about. It was a great interview, and I had a good time talking to him, but he has this way that later on, I couldn’t remember anything we talked about.
Smith: That’s funny, yeah. He’s a wild dude.
THE BEAT: At what age did your Dad let you see some of his other movies, since obviously he’s been making quite few since you were a baby? At a certain point, you must be curious about what movies your Dad makes.
Smith: No, it was very much not that. It was very much that I did not want to watch them, and he made me watch them. And that was about two years ago, probably, when I was 18, maybe 17. I never wanted to watch them, because everyone always tells me they’re really inappropriate, and I’d be really disturbed and scarred by watching them. I just continued with that mindset into adulthood, and then it finally came a time where my Dad started getting really mad and insulted that I hadn’t seen his movies and more or less forced me to watch them. That was recently, but I really did not want to see them because of the inappropriate nature that I don’t care to see my family acting in. It was about two or so years ago when I did start to see them.
THE BEAT: Was Clerks the first movie you watched?
Smith: No, it was Mallrats, the first one, and then it was Jay and Silent Bob, and then I saw Clerk sat “Vulgarthon” on his birthday two years ago, and I got to see it in a room full of people who absolutely love him. That was cool in the sense that I was watching it for the first time in a room with people who had probably seen it like five or more times in their life. It was just a really special experience to see how much he means to people and how much that movie means to people and understand why that movie has stuck with people for so long. That was a really cool experience.
THE BEAT: Bearing in mind that you knew what his stuff was like after seeing those movies, was there anything that he asked you to do or say in this movie where you had to say, “Listen, Dad, that’s just too much.”
Smith: He’s a director at the end of the day, moreso than my Dad, when we’re working together, so I’m not really going to argue with him about his direction, ‘cause I’m lucky to be working with him and lucky to be directed by him. I’m never going to try to use our familial relationship in my advantage. In that sense, no, but there was definitely times where I’d say really inappropriate things, which was unfortunate to have to say in front of my Dad, like talking about Chris Hemsworth and stuff, but for the most part, I just did what I was told.
THE BEAT: It looked like everybody was having fun either way. Something about this movie really captured the magic of his earlier films. You had some other young actresses you were working with, so what was it like bonding with them?
Smith: Well, it’s really awesome, because this movie really does focus on diversity, in the sense that there’s tons of people of color in the movie, but there are also people like Treshelle [Edmond], who are deaf, which is really important to represent as well. There’s LGBTQ representation in the film as well, so the film is very diverse, which is awesome, and that was really important to all of us. In terms of working with the girls, I love them with my whole heart. They really are my family at the end of the day. Aparna Brielle, who plays “Jihad,” is one of my best friends in real life as well, and has been for a few years now. Getting to work with her was just an absolute blast. Treshelle absolutely changed my life. She’s the most incredible human being, and it was really cool, because in the film, I use sign language to speak with her character “Soapy,” and she always had my back when I was signing, making sure that I was doing the best job that I could. So she always had my back in that sense, and I always had her back to make sure she knew what was going on and was totally in the loop. We were always looking out for each other, which is so special to have that relationship, especially on set, a strong female relationship where we’re just looking out for each other was really, really special and kind of unlike anything I’ve ever had. I’m so thankful for that, and Alice [Wen] as well – she’s just an absolute angel. Working with all the girls in the girl gang was such a gift, and they’re all such wonderful people. I feel lucky to have been able to spend that time shooting with them.
THE BEAT: Very cool. You’ve also had the chance to work with Tarantino recently and in one of my favorite parts of that movie in the Spahn Ranch scene. What was that like? Working with him and being in that environment for those scenes?
Smith: Working on the Ranch was an incredible experience. We were there probably for a month, and it was so cool, because we didn’t have our phones, so we were totally immersed in this experience. It felt very real. Even places that the camera didn’t see were totally decorated, so you would go hang out in this room that was never used in the film but was completely decorated for the Ranch, so that was really cool. It really did feel like we were living on Spahn Ranch. We didn’t have our phones, so we were always talking and singing, playing games, stuff like that, reading books, so it really did feel like a camp to an extent, too. It really allowed us to create these beautiful relationships, since we didn’t have our phones and were constantly communicating with each other in person, verbally, how things really should be. We were able to create these really beautiful friendships really quickly, and we really did become like a family while we were there.
THE BEAT: Did your father already know Quentin because I figure they’re peers, having started around the same time, so they knew each other pretty well?
Smith: Yeah, they have been friends. Clerks came out around the same time as Pulp Fiction, and if I remember correctly, I think that my Dad told me that Quentin allowed the Clerks trailer to play before Pulp Fiction at theaters, so they do know each other, but my Dad did not speak to him at all about Once Upon a Time…, like they haven’t spoken in years. That was just something that happened totally separate from me auditioning for it.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot will have a reprise screening on Thursday, November 17 (tonight!) as a double feature with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back through Fathom Events.