Meet Vanessa and Laura Marano: The Stars of Saving Zoë
The sisters chat all things books, Saving Zoë, and what reading means to them.
The Saving Zoë movie has officially hit theaters. ICYMI, the film is based on Alyson Noël’s award-winning novel Saving Zoë and stars the uber talented sister-actress duo Vanessa and Laura Marano.
When the Marano sisters—both avid readers—read Saving Zoë about a decade ago, they knew they had to turn it into a movie. Now that their dream has become a reality, we chatted with the stars about the movie, the book, and what role reading plays in their lives (hint: it’s made them better actresses!).
Book of the Month: How did you feel when you read Saving Zoë for the first time? What made you want to make it into a movie?
Laura Marano: Saving Zoë was and still is such a special book. It made us feel so many things while we were reading it. I remember one specific part that affected me so much. It’s where Echo—the character I ended up playing in the movie—breaks down for the first time. In that moment, I knew I wanted to play Echo and be a part of telling this story onscreen.
BOTM: In the movie, you play sisters Echo and Zoë. What’s it like to act together as real-life sisters?
Vanessa Marano: What's great is that we know each other so well. So much of acting is building a relationship with your scene partner. Laura and I obviously already have an existing relationship as sisters but also as friends. That makes it so much easier to work together. That being said, being sisters in real life and having to portray such a dark story about siblings was definitely emotionally taxing; however, that's ultimately what drew us to the book in the first place. It's a tragic story, but it's about the love and connection siblings have for one another.
BOTM: What’s something you love about the character you’re playing? What’s something you really don’t like?
LM: I love how intelligent Echo is. She’s still young, and she makes some mistakes, but she’s quite quick and clever. She’s in this state of numbness that I can identify with, but I don’t really love. She’s not truly dealing with her sister’s death in a healthy way, and she almost falls into the same trap Zoë falls into, which is taking care of situations and dealing with everything by herself, instead of reaching out.
VM: I love Zoë's zest for life and her refusal to stay in the background. She feels like her surroundings are small and unimportant, but that doesn't stop her from knowing that more is out there. I would say the hardest and saddest part of Zoë's story is the fact that she feels alone. She suffers in silence and that is something that breaks my heart.
BOTM: Can you tell us about your favorite moment on the set of Saving Zoë?
VM: It was probably the day that Alyson Noël (the book's author) came to set. We were so nervous and just wanted to make her proud. We were shooting a pretty pivotal scene—a scene we had multiple conversations about with her—and I think it hit all of us in the moment: Wow, we did it. Ten years of trying to get the movie made and here we all are, on set together, finally making it.
LM: We were also so sleep deprived, and there were moments on set when the whole crew and cast would just be laughing. We did this thing where we would sing “Happy Birthday” to a random person, even though it was definitely not their birthday. I personally thought it was hilarious.
BOTM: What role does reading play in your life?
LM: Reading is what I love to do in my free time. It lets me escape into another world. I can feel anything, I can be anywhere, I can meet anyone. It’s really incredibly freeing, and makes me so happy.
VM: As an actress, you're reading every day. Scripts, sides, lines … you name it. It is such a huge part of what we do. Producers, actors, screenwriters, makeup artists, whoever … we all got into the entertainment industry because we love stories. Reading is how we uncover those stories.
BOTM: How have books impacted you as people—and as actresses?
VM: Books take you on journeys. They encompass you into a world different than your own. They entertain. They educate. They can even change your perspective. I think as performers, and producers, our goal is to be a part of projects that hopefully do the same.
LM: I think of reading books and acting in a similar category because I view both as incredible teachers of empathy. You walk in someone else’s shoes when you’re reading their story or playing them.
BOTM: If someone made a movie about your lives, which actresses would you want to portray you?
LM: Keira Knightly, because I would love to be portrayed as a beautiful British woman.
VM: Helen Mirren, because I feel she is my spirit animal.
BOTM: We often hear from members who wish they had more time to read. Any tips for how to make time to read in a busy schedule?
LM: Just do a little bit at a time. I usually read at night before I go to sleep, and you would be surprised how much of a book you’ll get through by staying committed to that. The one thing that it might conflict with is your sleep, especially if you start getting obsessed with the story.
BOTM: Finally, why should BOTM members read Saving Zoë?
LM: Saving Zoë is a book about grief. If you have lost somebody, it’s both a tough read and incredibly cathartic. If you have a sibling, you won’t be able to help yourself getting emotional. Most importantly, it touches on a subject that is more relevant than ever before, but we won't give that away. We’ll let you read it first.
P.S. You can read the book behind the movie by adding Saving Zoë to your next box!