Why Aly Michalka Made Younger Sis AJ Burst Into Tears at "Sequoia" Screening at SXSW

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Aly Michalka recently made her younger sis, AJ, burst into tears. The cause? A screening of her indie film Sequoia, where the 24-year-old plays a cancer patient who seeks to end her life in the national park. "My sister was really sad when she watched it," Aly says, adding that she found her reaction "really sweet."

Pretty heavy stuff for the former Disney star, who also nabbed a recurring role as Amber Tamblyn's lady love on Two and a Half Men. But, she insists, it's not all heart-wrenching drama, thanks to some steamy scenes with 90210 hottie Dustin Milligan. Plus, she lets us in on a little secret: A particularly gruesome shot of the tumor in her mouth was a lot less disgusting than it looks. "The makeup artist actually used melted-down gummy bears mixed with dye to get a tumor effect, which kind of looks like boogers or something. It was funny because we were eating them, and we were all like, 'These are really good,'" she reveals.

Up next for the singer-songwriter-actress: multiple collaborations with AJ, including a film based on their "weird and wonderful and strange and quirky" sisterly bond and an EP with their band 78Violet, due out later this year. "It's going to be really rewarding once we're able to actually share music with the fans. They're so anxious they probably want to kill us at this point, but God bless 'em, they're still there."

Cambio chatted with Aly at South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, where Sequoia premiered.

Q: How do you think your Disney fans will react to you playing such a serious role?
A: It's been 10 years since I started on the [Disney] Channel and six or seven [years] since I've been off. All of those kids are grown up now, and I feel like this movie really brings to light a lot of issues that young people are dealing with, whether it's depression or suicide. I hope that when people walk away, they're able to laugh and cry when they watch this movie, but it's not overly depressing.

Q: You have a lot of make-out scenes with Dustin. How did you two nail that chemistry?
A: If you have that kind of chemistry just off the bat, you don't even have to work on it. It's kind of an energy thing, which I only feel like I had with one or two other male actors that I've worked with. I knew his girlfriend [Jessica Stroup] really well because we shot a movie together, so that was really nice. We didn't have any major contact with our friends or family for those two-and-a-half weeks, so it was good to just get to know each other on a level where we were just by ourselves in this beautiful natural environment. Dustin was actually really nervous on the day [he had to play guitar and sing] because he's not really a singer himself, and he's like, 'I don't think I'm good,' and I was like, 'It's going to be really cute and sweet. And even if you mess up, even better!'

Q: Your character chain-smokes. Was that hard to pull off?
A: We had herbal cigarettes on set. I've never smoked a day in my life, so it was a bit of a struggle. People were like, "You're not really inhaling. Do it again. It needs to be more realistic."

Q: Any memorable fan interactions?
A: I remember this one fan said she would listen to our music when she would go in for her weekly MRIs, which is pretty amazing to know that your music can be that influential on someone. And a fan and her father gave [me and AJ] these really beautiful champagne glasses that were violet that reminded them of us. It was really sweet. We have them in our house.

Q: Who is your favorite person to follow on Twitter?
A: I think Rob Delaney is a genius. He can be incredibly offensive, but in a way where only he can get away with it. He's really funny. I do a lot of retweets of him.

Q: Earlier today, I read that you were pregnant. How do you handle all of the crazy rumors?
A: That's so funny! I think it's one of those things where you can't let it affect you. You have to just live your life. People who are always saying, 'Oh, I hate that the paparazzi are always following me,' those are the people that are 100% loving it. Nancy Wilson from Heart is like an aunt to AJ and me. I've always looked at her and said, "That's exactly what I want." [I want] to be respected, but also be able to live a normal life and have kids and other priorities.
--Jenny Sundel

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Gallery | SXSW 2014

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