Starring in the hit rom-com “Tall Girl” and its sequel “Tall Girl 2,” currently available on Netflix worldwide, Luke Eisner stands out as a dedicated actor, musician, model, and human. For his character – Swedish high school heartthrob Stig –, as well as his band, VOILÀ, and his fashion projects, Luke shares an admirable enthusiasm that plays a big part in the success of everything he does; as a result, his “Tall Girl” character is a perfect villain turned dorky lover who can’t but win everyone’s sympathy, his songs are featured in the movies, and he has a soon-to-be-released record titled “The Magic Word.”
Luke opened up with us about his experience on and off the set, his preparation process for the role he had to play, his deep connection with living creatures, and his musical heroes. Bonus point to a very funny anecdote behind the scenes of a certain fashion job…
What’s your first cinema memory?
When I was around 6 years old, I became obsessed with this movie called “Babe”. It’s a feel-good film that tells the story of a farm pig who wants to defy all odds and do the work of a sheepdog. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie, but “kid me” took it a little too far. Apparently, I insisted that every night after my dad came home from work, we had to watch it. Yep, every single night. My mom says she remembers us watching it nightly for at least 5 months straight. It is safe to say I hope I inherit my dad’s patience because it must take a lot to watch a talking pig 130 consecutive times after a long day of work just to make your son happy!
You’re one of the protagonists of “Tall Girl” and “Tall Girl 2,” a very popular romcom saga currently available on Netflix, about the life adventures of Jodi, a high school girl dealing with her extraordinary height. What made you say “yes” to the first project and its sequel?
“Tall Girl” absolutely changed my life overnight and I am beyond thankful for the opportunity. I love being part of a family-friendly movie because I feel comfortable recommending it to anyone who asks what movies I’ve been in. Saying yes to it required absolutely no second thoughts! At risk of sounding cheesy, the joy I get from being a part of a film that aims to help the younger generation feel confident in their own skin is something I treasure.
You play Stig, the very tall Swedish exchange student, who’s also very popular with the girls of the high school, and has an affair with Jodi. What was your first reaction when you read the script of the second chapter and what was the first question you asked the director about it?
The second movie has a great redemption arc for Stig! My first reaction was thankfulness for the writer to allow me to not reprise the role as a villain. I think my first question was, “Does Stig need to wear so many sweaters in this one” because we filmed in 90-degree New Orleans weather.
However, if you’ve seen the movie, you know I did not get my wish! [laughs]
What was your preparation process and your approach to the character like?
I tried to do as much as I could for preparation out of appreciation for the opportunity!
I coached for months with renowned accent coach Erik Singer on the Swedish accent. In the first script, Stig was supposed to be muscular and I was definitely not. Since we had more time for preparation for the second movie, I spent 8 months in the gym with my trainer, Mada, and put on about 20 pounds. I also studied improv comedy at groundlings in LA, since there were lots of opportunities to improvise jokes within the script. There is a lot of singing in the movie so I coached quite a bit on that too. As far as my approach, I didn’t want to play the traditional heartthrob suave character, I thought Stig would be much more likable if he showed his dorkier fun-loving side.
What was the atmosphere like on set? How did you build your relationship on screen with the rest of the cast?
We are all very good friends on and off the set! Ava Michelle (Jodi) and I have worked on music together ever since the first film. I wrote and produced a few of her songs that have come out, she’s very talented and humble! Clara Wilsey (Kimmy) actually came with my band to all our SXSW festival shows, she’s such a kind person. Griffin Gluck (Dunkleman) is one of my best friends in the world so to be able to work with him again was so fun, especially in the midst of quarantine. We improvised almost all our scenes together which was a blast for us and probably a nightmare for the editors.
I have stories with every single member of the cast and I think it’s rare for everyone to get along the way we do. We spent every night playing guitar together and I am so lucky to have been able to make a movie with people I genuinely love with all my heart.
What’s the most relevant evolution and change that your character undergoes in the sequel?
Stig has a lot to prove in this one!
He has to gain the forgiveness of the cast and he goes about it honorably and doesn’t give up. I think the way he apologies not with just words but with actions is something we all can learn from. Stig really embodies his inner golden retriever in this film and I hope to emulate that quality in myself!
“…the way he apologies not with just words but with actions is something we all can learn from.”
How would you describe “Tall Girl 2” in one word?
Relationship, friendship, and internal drama! I think you see a group of very different people going through different problems only to realize they aren’t so different from each other after all.
Music is another passion of yours, alongside acting: you’re part of a pop/rock duo called VOILÀ with Gus Ross. What’s the role of music in your life?
I always wanted to be an author growing up and songwriting is the way I express that. Every song I write is like a tattoo to me. Each tells a personal story and is a part of me I want the world to see. My band VOILA actually had songs in both “Tall Girl” and “Tall Girl 2”. We continue to put out songs every month leading to the release of our record “The Magic Word” this summer. These songs are accompanied by music videos I’ve directed, which has been another joy in my life!
You’re also a model. When and how did your relationship with fashion start and what does fashion represent for you?
I was really lucky to have been brought into the fashion world. I was scouted to do modeling when I first moved to LA while I was getting my haircut. A couple of weeks later, I was shooting a campaign for H&M, and it all went from there. I’m so extremely grateful for modeling because it lets me travel the world and get my start in the industry. Movies only film for a few months, but fashion allows you to be an actor every day of your life.
You can wake up and decide what personality you want to express based on the clothes you wear and how you style them!
What’s a song that describes this very moment of your life?
It’s a very popular song so at risk of sounding cliche, “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. I think the more I’ve chosen to share my life and pursue a career of public exposure, the more I treasure the inside jokes and had-to-be-there stories I have with my friends and loved ones. The lyrics in the song are so beautiful and pure that I wish there was more timeless music out there like it.
If you could play a famous musician in a movie or TV series, who would they be and why?
I love this question, and as someone obsessed with music history I have a few answers always rolling through my head. It would be absolutely critical to get right, but I would be honored to tell Kurt Cobain’s story. “Bleach” was one of the first albums my dad gave me growing up and I remember spending a lot of time trying to decode Kurt’s style of poetry in the lyrics. He was dating this girl, Tracy Marander, at the time and she was insisting that he give up music and get a better job, which is so ironic for what the band ended up becoming and has always been inspiring to me.
I recommend anyone interested to read “Kurt Cobain: Journals”. It is a collection of photocopy scans of his notebooks from when he was a kid through the end of his life. It is super voyeuristic into his mind and the complexity of his sensitivity and disturbances he had with the world. As an actor, resources like that are so precious to get into the mind of a person before the world unhinged it. I hope when they eventually make a film about him, they also focus on the stories of the people around Kurt like Butch Vig, Courtney Love, and of course Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.
A character from a movie or TV show you’d love to be friends with?
I know he is non-fiction, but I would have loved to be friends with Steve Irwin. He was my childhood hero, and the older I get, the more he continues to inspire me in ways I overlooked as a kid. When my family would go fishing, I had a hard time killing the worms on the hook, so I used to sit on the shore and pretend the worms were big snakes in the grass and narrated the events with my best Australian catchphrases (if you haven’t caught on by now, I was a goofy kid). I never outgrew that joy and passion for being up close and personal with all living creatures. Except now, instead of worms, I actually own real pet snakes! [laughs] I hope I am not the only one who was inspired by his passion for conservation because the world needs more people like Steve!
“I never outgrew that joy and passion for being up close and personal with all living creatures.”
What’s the most recent thing you discovered about yourself?
I discovered I have a deep love for horses and the equestrian community! I always rode horses growing up, but it wasn’t until recently I realized how obsessed I am with them. Right after my father passed away, COVID hit. For the first time in my life, I felt really angry and didn’t have work to distract me. I spent most of quarantine on horseback and I am so thankful for how therapeutic working with those animals is. They are so beautiful inside and out! They sense every emotion you have and it forces you to be at peace if you want to have a good ride. Also, you can’t be on your phone when you are out riding which is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself these days.
Have you ever had an epic fail on set, on stage, or on the catwalk?
Yes, yes, and yes. [laughs] I’ve had too many to tell, honestly. I was probably 19, doing a Calvin Klein commercial and the girl in the ad was Margot Robbie. When someone that famous is booked for a job, they usually use a fake name on the call sheet, so if it gets leaked, fans don’t try to get into the set. So, when I was in the hair and makeup chair, I turn to the girl next to me and go, “Has anyone ever told you you look like Margot Robbie?” not knowing she is ACTUALLY Margot Robbie. She just laughed, probably thinking I was trying to make a dumb joke. To which I so stupidly replied something like, “No seriously you look exactly like her!” and she just gave me the weirdest look. She was so polite and kind to me the whole day, so when I found out later it was actually her, I was mortified. That epic fail has woken me up a few times in the middle of the night.
What’s your must-have on set?
I have this Chess app on the phone that I love to play between scenes. Books make me sleepy, but playing chess is kind of like coffee for my brain. It helps me stay sharp and alert even though I’m always losing to some 12-year-old on the other side of the world.
What does it mean to you to feel comfortable in your own skin?
I think it comes from knowing that not only are you the main character in your story, but you are also the narrator. You are not in control of the actions that happen to you, but you are responsible for how you view them.
I also love the concept of don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from. That one has always helped me.
What are you afraid of?
The serious answer is losing my memory. I had a really bad concussion when I was 13 and had to go to cognitive therapy to help get some of my memories back. That was a really scary time and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. My father also had brain cancer and towards the end, his memory began to blur and that was terribly morose to watch.
Without memories, there are no stories and that’s my favorite thing about life.
The lighthearted answer is apes. They are far too smart to be that strong with such big teeth.
Who’s the latest person or thing that made you laugh?
My girlfriend Kirby just sang Post Malone’s “Stay” in falsetto to her cat this morning like some strange sunrise lullaby. I’m not sure there’s a person alive who wouldn’t at least chuckle at that. I also just watched “The Muppet Movie” on the airplane last night and I laughed the whole time. I love that kind of humor.
What’s your happy place?
My bed, silk sheets, cat laying on my chest, “Harry Potter” audiobook on a 30-minute timer. I’m not sure what heaven is going to be like but if it doesn’t have Jim Dale narrating “The Chamber of Secrets”, I’m not going.
Photos by Kirby Johnson.