La Cañada High alum, former Rose Queen takes on gritty acting role

From the time she was 4, La Cañada native Evanne Friedmann was fascinated by the world viewed from behind a camera lens.

There was something about capturing stories on film that intrigued and delighted her, she recalls, and she often made backyard movies with friends.

"I just loved filming. I loved all aspects of storytelling," Friedmann says of her early works.

But it wasn't until her senior year at La Cañada High School, when Friedmann was crowned the Tournament of Roses 2011 Rose Queen, that her curiosity about life in front of the camera began to blossom.

She continued to make and appear in short films and, in 2012, had a bit part in the Nickelodeon show "iCarly." And somewhere, somehow, the acting bug bit.

These days, the 21-year-old USC psychology major balances her course work with acting lessons and has gotten a lot more comfortable being the subject of the story. So comfortable, in fact, that she nabbed a role in the movie "As Night Comes," which premiered last month at the Hollywood Film Festival.

Directed by Richard Zelniker, the gritty high school thriller features Friedmann as Sarah David, a pure heart struggling for the soul of new kid Sean Holloway against a group of misanthropes called "The Misfits."

The film comes to Laemmle's Music Hall 3 Theater in Beverly Hills on Friday, where it runs for a one-week limited theatrical release before becoming available on iTunes and Video on Demand.

Friedmann says she was excited to learn she'd landed the part, for which she'd spent a lot of time and energy preparing.

"I was given a script and I kind of had to figure out for myself who she was," she remembers. "Sarah is honestly a more mature version of myself in high school. She's very open and accepting of people who are struggling."

Because the film centers around the confusion and bullying associated with teen angst and development, Friedmann had to face the more vulnerable aspects of her own high school experience.

"Identifying where you belong in high school/middle school was a main theme for myself," she stated in a release for the film. "I was always trying to put myself in a group. Was I cool? Was I a nerd? An artsy kid? Was it wrong to drink at parties, or was it cool if I did that?"

In an interview Monday, Zelniker said he was impressed with the gravitas Friedmann brought to the role, something crucial to a project that aims to take a serious look at the angels and demons in us all and the crisis of absentee parenting.

"She had an intelligence and a depth of understanding of the psychology of the character," he says. "She seemed to have everything I was looking for."

Since the movie wrapped, Friedmann has begun taking classes with famed acting coach Larry Moss and says she's honing her craft. She wants to work in the industry someday and hopes her psychology degree will bring an added insight to roles she portrays.

Her mother Gayle, who was both thrilled and nervous to see her daughter on the big screen last month, is confident she will succeed at whatever she does.

"Evanne is the kind of person who, if she puts her mind to something, she perseveres and gets through it," Gayle Friedmann says. "I have no doubt if this is what she wants, it will work for her."

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