Back in 2008, the sisters were young teenagers trying to get their budding careers off the ground. Vanessa was filming the movie adaptation of iconic young adult series The Clique in Rhode Island, where she was accompanied by Laura and her mom. As a writer’s strike loomed, their mother Ellen decided it was time to take their careers into their own hands. So she purchased a handful of young adult books that had teen girls on the covers and handed them out to Laura and Vanessa to read and see if one seemed like movie potential.
Laura emerged with a winner: Saving Zoe by Alyson Noël. On Laura’s recommendation, Vanessa and her mom read the novel — soon, they had purchased the film rights and made it a family project. Then came the inevitable production delays, the workshopping, the filming back a couple of years ago, and then more time waiting for distribution.
Now, on July 12, the Maranos’ movie Saving Zoe is officially available for fans to watch.
“Ten years later, we finally got it made,” Laura tells Teen Vogue. Vanessa adds, “Man, does it feel like super rewarding right now. We kind of went up against all odds and got something made — something that we’re really passionate about, that we feel has a message we really want to share to the world.”
In the film, Vanessa, 26, plays the titular Zoe, a high-schooler and aspiring model who is murdered under mysterious circumstances. Laura, 23, plays her younger sister Echo, a high school freshman trying to find out who she is in the midst of grieving Zoe and trying to uncover the truth around both her death and her life. Over the course of the movie, they come to understand each other through flashbacks and Zoe’s semi-ghostly appearances.
Both Laura and Vanessa made their production debut on Saving Zoe along with their mom. That meant that in addition to acting, they also had a hand in just about every part of making the movie happen, from scheduling stunt doubles to finding hotels for the team. “Literally all three of us were not sleeping,” Laura says. “[We were] working as hard as we possibly could.”
Though Saving Zoe has been a decade-long process, the two sisters have spent the intervening years building their separate careers. Vanessa starred in Freeform’s Switched at Birth from 2011 until its end in 2017, in addition to reprising her role as April in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Meanwhile, Laura starred in Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally from 2011 to 2016, before appearing in the Oscar-nominated Lady Bird and, most recently, starring alongside Noah Centineo in the Netflix rom-com The Perfect Date.
Though they collaborated on Saving Zoe, each woman has enjoyed forging her own acting path. Next up, Laura will star in the Christmas-themed iteration of A Cinderella Story (Gregg Sulkin is playing her love interest) and according to IMDb will be in Pitch Perfect 4. Vanessa, meanwhile, is focused on indie movies, including a forthcoming project with brother duo David Henrie and Lorenzo Henrie and a new thriller Confessional with Paris Berelc and Marcus Scribner.
“We have our own identity within the industry, which is really nice,” Vanessa says. “What’s also great about that is when we do actually team up for a project, we’re that much stronger together.” Laura adds, “It wasn’t really [ever] like, ‘Oh, I’m comparing my career to Vanessa’s or I don’t think Vanessa’s compares to mine.’ We had our own thing. We know there are ups and downs in both.”
In short, their relationship is pretty different from the one between Zoe and Echo, who can’t quite seem to understand or relate to each other while Zoe is still alive.
“Laura and I are very close. Laura and I are very communicative with each other,” Vanessa says. “Echo doesn’t necessarily feel like she knows everything about Zoe and always felt kind of stuck in her shadow. As we dive more into the story though, [they gain] an understanding of ‘Yes, you may not know everything about your sister but you know them.’ That you’re a part of them in some way, just as much as they are a part of you. I think Laura and I can relate to that immensely.”