After our shoot, photographer Sophie Elgort calls up Chris Briney for a pre-holiday chat. They talk about Chris’s morning routine, who he would interview dead or alive (and it’s the sweetest answer in the world), advice for people who want to be actors, what inspires him, his plans for the Mean Girls premiere, New Year’s resolution and more.
Sophie: Hi Chris!
Chris: How’s it going?
Sophie: Good, how are you? Thanks for taking the time, I’m excited I get to do this as well as doing the shoot.
Chris: Yeah this is a new one, huh? Or do you do this a lot?
Sophie: No, I’ve done it a couple times. It’s kind of fun for me, I love learning about people through the shoot and then if I also get to do an interview, that’s just awesome.
Chris: Well I’m glad you’re doing it!
Sophie: So it’s still the morning, what is your typical morning like?
Chris: Well I try and get up, which is a battle in itself [Laughs]. No, I feel like I’m up when I’m up. Whenever I get up, especially if I hear my roommates up, I actually get up because I can’t just sit in my bed. It bothers me so much, I get anxiety about it.
Sophie: Do you set an alarm?
Chris: If I have something yes, but otherwise I’m usually up by like 9am without one. And then I have to get a coffee within the first hour of being awake. Either I make it or go grab it down the street. That’s a must. And then I guess it just depends on what I have that day. If I can just spend the morning with my girlfriend I will, or my roommates, or if I can go golfing I will. Or if I have work, then I’ll do work obviously.
Sophie: How many roommates do you have?
Chris: I have two roommates right now, both friends from college.
Sophie: That’s cool, are they actors as well?
Chris: Yeah yeah all my friends we all met in our acting program. And we stay in touch, we live together. In our old place we had four of us, but one of them, he moved out.
Sophie: You got your BFA in acting at Pace, right?
Chris: I did, yeah. BFA in acting for Film, Television, Voiceover and Commercial is the technical title.
Sophie: I was reading about your first film, Dalíland - How did the director [Mary Harron] discover you?
Chris: Well it’s funny, she had been trying to make this movie for a decade at least and I think they were about to shoot and their lead dropped out because he booked a tv show from what I understand. And he was maybe late twenties or early thirties and the character is early twenties. So Mary was like, well now that I’ve been forced into this situation, I wanna find someone who is sort of that age and in that world where they are really green and are fresh to experience things. So she watched every showcase, every college showcase alphabetically - I mean I’m sure she had a few other people tape - but she got down to P (for Pace) at the very least, I’m sure she kept going - and came across mine and that’s actually how it started. So she did all that work. That’s a time commitment.
Sophie: That is a serious commitment. I feel like Steven Spielberg works similarly because he likes to work with new actors.
Chris: I think there’s something that I really respect about directors that do that. There’s also something I respect about people who work with the same people over and over, cause I get that, that makes sense to me. But at the same time, thank god some people like to work with fresh people.
Sophie: Well you have to find the fresh people who haven’t done it before somewhere, somebody’s gotta find them. I have major respect for that too.
Sophie: And then you had also already sent in your audition tape for Summer I Turned Pretty.
Chris: The timeline in my head could be a few months off, but it was really close together and then I got a callback for Summer I Turned Pretty maybe two days before I left for Liverpool to shoot Dalíland.
Sophie: So then all of a sudden you had all this work.
Chris: So then all of a sudden I was a working actor and I was like what the fuck is going on.
Sophie: Did you always want to be an actor growing up?
Chris: No, I really didn’t. I didn’t want to be an actor until I sort of discovered it for myself in high school. Before that I wanted to play baseball for a while, I wanted to be a computer programmer for a while, I really wasn’t sure. I wanted to be a cinematographer for a while and eventually I was like, I think I want to start by acting and see where that gets me. What if I actually tried to do this in college..
Sophie: So what did you do to make that happen?
Chris: Well the summer after my junior year of college I did this theater camp at Wesleyan University, they had this summer program, they had a bunch of different majors if you will, and one of them was acting. I had never had any formal acting training, because my high school, they exposed me to it and you sort of do it, but you don’t really know what you’re doing. At least I found it that way - I don’t have any training, I don’t know any technique, I’m just sort of saying words funny. So I was like, if I enjoy this summer program then I think I’ll really do it, and I loved it so much. And then I applied to every good school in the universe and I got rejected by almost every single one of them. And I got waitlisted at Pace and then it worked out.
Sophie: What was the process like of applying to these acting programs? Do you have to send in tapes and stuff?
Chris: Brutal. Some of them had pre-screens and some of them you could just sort of show up to, but I went to Pittsburgh to audition for Carnegie. I went to Boston to audition for Emerson and BU. It was always really demoralizing. I was like, what am I doing here? It’s a tough thing.
Sophie: But I love that you kept going and didn’t settle. You kept going until you found a program.
Chris: Twelve auditions later and I finally got into one.
Sophie: It shows that you had dedication to it.
Chris: Well I will say, it worked out. I don’t know if I would have liked college the same way I did if I went anywhere else.
Sophie: Because Pace and NYC or what?
Chris: Yeah just the right time, right place I think is part of it. The way the program was set up and the mentality that the teachers and the students had was specific and I don’t know if it’s still the same way. I remember walking into the audition room even and I was like, why is it different here? It didn’t have an air of any sort of pretentiousness. It was a new program, we were the fourth class. They were trying to figure it out too, which I feel like is a good thing. When you’re both just sort of putting pieces together until it works.
Sophie: I noticed when we shot both times you were pretty laid back and easy to work with. And maybe it’s because of the program and your training, but I feel like you’re not afraid to be creative on set.
Chris: I feel like you have to be, you know? When you hold onto things too tight, it just gets ridiculous.
Sophie: Are you close with your parents? Were your parents supportive?
Chris: Yeah I always had support, which I appreciate. They met trying to act in NYC in the 80’s. And they moved out of the city when they wanted to start a family because I think it was not as fruitful as they’d want, supporting a family on that income. But they’re very talented actors and so when I sort of came to it, I remember my dad saying to me, look it’s really hard, but I’d be a hypocrite if I told you you couldn't do it, so knock yourself out, kid. I’m paraphrasing, but he was like, of course I support you, but just know it’s hard, it’s brutal.
Sophie: What advice do you have for people who want to be actors who are sort of thinking about it now and maybe they’re in high school or younger or even older?
Chris: I’m just so young in my journey, I think all I can offer to people is like, you have to be ready to take some punches, I mean at all stages of it you’re just getting beat up. When you can’t find representation, you’re like, am I not good enough, does nobody want me? And then then you have representation you can’t get a job and then nobody wants you, and then you get a job and everybody hates you online, so it’s just a vicious cycle of rejection.
Sophie: How do you deal with that type of rejection? I totally feel that as somebody who works project to project, I get rejected all the time.
Chris: I will say I’m at a place now that I’ve been so fortunate that I think some of the rejection hits a little less hard because my rent isn’t depending on it at the moment, which is a really fortunate position to be in and I’m aware of that. But I had a teacher in college that said to us, and I always try to remember this, she was like, 99 percent of jobs are not yours, and that is okay. As an actor, you can knock yourself out working on an audition and you can blow it out of the water and it can just never have been yours for so many reasons. If you’re too tall or you’re a little too old. So many jobs just aren’t yours, and some will be. I feel like the things that I’ve booked were not my best auditions by a long shot. I remember feeling pretty bad about some of them. That’s just not always what it’s about. I think you always have to be trying your best, but it’s not always that a lot of work goes into a lot of booking. That’s not how it works, there’s a lot of other factors.
Sophie: Do you still take acting classes ever?
Chris: I haven’t taken an acting class in way too long, to be honest.
Sophie: Well you haven’t had time, you’ve been acting.
Chris: Well there was a strike, I definitely could have found some time in there.
Sophie: I remember running into Michelle Williams at an event once and she was like, I’m heading to an acting class after this. And I was like, really? And she said yeah I need to work a few things out. And it was around 8pm at night. And I just remember thinking, you’re Michelle Williams and you’re going to an acting class now?
Chris: That’s why she’s the best.
Sophie: It was really cool. And I love that she told me that just super candidly. I gotta work a few things out.
Chris: Don’t we all. I talk to my friends a lot too where I’m like, there’s something really nice about schooling and I think it’s hard to notice that until you’re out of it. About having people hold your hand a little bit, you know? You’re good to fall right here, this is a safe space. You’re on a schedule and there’s something nice about that.
Sophie: I love Masterclass, which sounds so nerdy.
Chris: No it’s so good.
Sophie: It’s just really fun to continue learning. I saw that you for Summer I Turned Pretty you learned some guitar. I actually thought you were pretty good and the singing part too, I know you don’t like to sing, but I thought you did a good job.
Chris: Thank you, I appreciate that a lot. Honestly I worked really hard at it, I was practicing for months. I think there’s something about my hands that I don’t think I’m a musical person.
Sophie: That’s fine. Some people aren’t, but I actually thought the way that you sang. You know how certain singers when you listen to them, it's not that they have the voice that you think is the most beautiful voice in the world, but the reason that they’re famous and that people love listening to them is because it’s unique. I felt like it was a very unique voice that you don’t hear a lot.
Chris: Thank you. I tried to approach it as an actor because I’m not a singer, there’s only one way I can really approach this, that’s trying to create an acting moment.
Sophie: Have you kept playing guitar at all?
Chris: Here and there. I always try and play a song that’s way too difficult for me to play. I’m like let me play something really hard and cool and then it’s impossible, I don’t know how to finger pick. Do you play at all?
Sophie: I do, I grew up playing the piano. And after college I didn’t have a piano anymore when I was living in little apartments so I took up the guitar.
Chris: Did it translate well?
Sophie: Yes and I love it. It’s my favorite hobby and I still take a lesson every other week. So I was enjoying seeing that you took guitar.
Chris: Yeah, always a student. I was working with a coach, it was cool.
Sophie: Did you watch that scene? Do you usually watch your own things?
Chris: No, I’ve been unfortunate enough to see some clips of it. I go through different waves of, I want to watch myself to learn and say, okay that moment wasn’t good or that moment was good, why? But at the same time sometimes I have to trust that it’s out of my hands now.
Sophie: What about screenings? Did you go to the Mean Girls screening yet?
Chris: I didn’t. I’m gonna watch it at the premiere though. I’m not gonna hide in the bathroom.
Sophie: Okay that’s good.
Chris: I’m gonna see it because I’m curious. And also that movie is so not about Aaron Samuels, I’m watching it for the other people. I’m just excited for the movie, I’m a fan.
Sophie: Did you watch the old one?
Chris: Oh yeah, for sure.
Sophie: It’s so good. Had you watched it before you got the part?
Chris: It’s one of those things that I just know that I’ve seen a bunch of times and I can’t remember the first time I saw it and I can’t remember the last time I saw it, but I know it. But yeah I was a fan before I booked this.
Sophie: What was it like working with Tina Fey? I read that one day you weren’t feeling funny and she gave you some ideas to help out.
Chris: She’s the best first of all, she’s so sweet and wildly funny. There was just this one scene, it was the feeling that I sometimes get when something I’m working on moves really quickly - this movie happens in so many bits and pieces and cuts. There’s often not time to build up a scene, so you’re really jumping into these really quick beats and moments and there was one where I was like, I don’t know what this is. And the thing is, I don’t think it’s really a funny moment so in retrospect I’m wondering if Tina was just trying to loosen me up a little bit because I felt so stiff, but she was just throwing out - try it like this and try this- and it was just casual from her - it was comforting I think.
Sophie: I’m sure getting ideas like that from Tina was amazing. What would your dream role be to play? Do you have a certain type of role or a certain character?
Chris: I don’t know to be honest. I think I just want to work first of all. But there are a lot of director’s worlds that I want to live in. I don’t think it’s role specific. For the longest time I wanted to play Leo DiCaprio’s brother or son or something.
Sophie: It’s more about working with directors and certain actors than a certain role.
Chris: Yeah I think that’s what inspires me
Sophie: Are there any specific directors that you want to work with?
Chris: The list goes on and on, it ranges. And a lot of them are foreign. I don’t know who doesn’t want to work with Paul Thomas Anderson, the greats. And Greta Gerwig. But also, Leos Carax is one of my favorite directors. He’s a French director. He did Holy Motors and the Adam Driver one [Annette]. He’s so good and his earlier movies are just so interesting, and I don’t want to say too much about them, but I like the style, the tone - he uses a lot of movement.
Sophie: Ok a few sort of rapid fire questions. Do you have a New Year’s resolution?
Chris: Oh man, I feel like I should probably have one by now, no I don’t. I wanna eat better.
Sophie: I read that you used to work at Trader Joes, speaking of eating. I love Trader Joes, what’s your favorite item there? Mine are the dark chocolate peanut butter cups.
Chris: So good, my roommate has them in the apartment right now. I think my favorite were the Takis. They’re like rolled tortilla chips, but rolled up and a little spicy.
Sophie: Sounds amazing. What was the last song you listened to?
Chris: Let me pull it up so I’m actually correct. “My Little Town” by Simon & Garfunkel.
Sophie: Any holiday plans?
Chris: I’m gonna go see my dad and sister in Connecticut and we’re gonna exchange gifts and probably eat Chinese food.
Sophie: That sounds really nice and simple and lovely. Any great gifts that you got your friends for the holidays? It’s not coming out until January so it won’t be a spoiler.
Chris: There’s a few things I’m excited about. I got my sister new headphones because she always has her headphones on and I think she deserves new ones. I also got my girlfriend a speaker to replace her Amazon, I don’t wanna say *Alexa* [whispered] too loud, because mine will go off, but to replace that. So it’s a speaker with integrated Alexa, but it’s also a good speaker cause she listens to a lot of music. I was stoked on that one, I was happy about that.
Sophie: If you could interview anyone, who would it be?
Chris: Alive or dead? Or just alive?
Sophie: Alive or dead I guess.
Chris: I’m just thinking of all the people now. I’d probably interview, ah fuck. Ikeep thinking of better and better things. I’d interview my dad maybe.
Sophie: You could interview your dad and you should interview your dad! No?
Chris: I’ve done it before, but it was sort of under a specific pretense. But I think if I had to pick anybody, I mean I’d love to talk to some actors, but I think I’d just talk to my dad.
Sophie: I love that, that’s the best answer. Is there a certain question on interviews that you wish you were asked that you haven’t been asked?
Chris: Oh man, I don’t know. I guess I’m trying to think of something kind of funny.
Sophie: If you don’t have one that’s okay, but I was thinking as I was reading through your interviews - I wonder if there’s something he’d want to be asked.
Chris: The truth is, I’m sure there is. Cause I never go into it expecting to be asked something. I liked, what’s the last song you listened to? Things in that world are cool. What’s the last movie you watched? Factual things.
Sophie: You can learn something about a person that way. Ok so last question then. What’s the last movie you watched?
Chris: May December. It was fantastic! I was exhausted and I have to re-watch the last 30 minutes, but it wasn’t because it was boring, it was because it was 2 in the morning, but so good, really really fantastic.
Sophie: Okay I’m putting it on my list. Well that’s all I have for you.
Chris: Well thank you, I appreciate it.
Sophie: No, thank you. I really appreciate it and I’m excited for you to see the pictures, I feel like they came out really well. I sent in an edit yesterday to John [John Tan - the stylist].
Chris: Oh sweet, I’m excited. I mean I love the last one [the shoot in Flaunt that we did together].
Sophie: These are different, but still have that fun cool aspect to it. Well have a great holiday and thank you again for your time.
Chris: Thank you, it was fun to do this with someone you kind of know.
Sophie: Exactly, I appreciate it.
Chris: I appreciate you! Enjoy your weekend and your holidays.
From the film Mean Girls