Emma Roberts is all grown up in Lymelife, where she plays a complicated teen whose family dysfunction is inextricably linked to the family next door. The scion of the Roberts acting clan steps up her game in this indie as Adrianna Bragg, the mercurial love interest of her neighbor Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin). Adrianna has more of an idea of what's troubling their respective families than Scott, but is just as confused when it comes to being a teen and dealing with screwed-up parents. The charismatic young actress holds her own in heavy scenes with Tim Hutton and Cynthia Nixon, who play her parents, and gets a little wilder than Nancy Drew did in a few memorable scenes with Rory Culkin.
What made you relate to your character?
EMMA ROBERTS: Adrianna really is your typical girl. I think everyone knew an Adrianna type of girl growing up, and I could relate to her just because I remember being at her age, like fifteen, sixteen, where you're kind of frustrated because you don't know if you want to be older or if you have to act your age, or if you're supposed to act sexy or cute or what. I could definitely relate to that aspect of her.
Were some of the sexier scenes hard to film, like when you flash Rory's character in the confessional booth or when you two have sex for the first time?
ROBERTS: With my bra? That was funny, yeah. I remember the wardrobe people taped my boobs up for that scene. It was really embarrassing. I was more embarrassed, though, because the whole time I was thinking, "Everyone who's a male who I'm related to is gonna see this movie." I have uncles and a dad and a stepdad, and it's just embarrassing. So I hope they close their eyes!
What inspired you to make such bold maneuvers, career-wise?
ROBERTS: I just really loved the material, and I loved the people that were involved with the script, and I just really wanted to be a part of it. I'm 18 now, so I think that it's appropriate and time to do something more mature.
One of the things that's intriguing to me about your career is that you have a really devoted following of young girls. Was taking on this role a way to say, "Yes, I've done these younger, fun things, but I can do serious movies?"
ROBERTS: Yeah, that was part of it. I had just finished Hotel for Dogs, and I wanted to do something just completely different. So the script [for Lymelife] kind of just came out of nowhere, and I read it and I really liked it. I met Derick and I really, really liked him. For the most part the cast was set, and I thought the cast they had chosen was brilliant. It was something I really wanted to be a part of; when you want to be a part of something like that, you'll do whatever they want you to do.
So there was no hesitation.
ROBERTS: No. I mean, I was kind of nervous, a little bit, but not hesitant.
On the other side of that, is that devoted fan following -- a lot of tweens, a lot of kids -- what do you say to them? What do you say to their parents?
ROBERTS: I don't think the kids who are fans of Nancy Drew and Unfabulous will be seeing this movie, so I don't think I need to worry about answering to their parents. [laughs] I mean, I'm not saying that I'm never gonna do something for that fan base again, but at the same time, I am getting older.
Your scenes with Tim Hutton as your father are really sweet. You can see that even though she's growing up and going through this very teenage stage, she adores her dad.
ROBERTS: That kind of just came out, and it was also in the script that from the beginning Adrianna connects more with her dad than her mom. She doesn't want to be like her mom.
It seems like you have very few scenes with Cynthia Nixon, who plays your mom.
ROBERTS: There weren't that many scenes with her. There was only two or three with her, and I think it's because Adrianna knows what her mom is really doing and what she's really like, and she doesn't want to be a part of it.
Derick said that he was very strong about everybody learning their lines and then letting them go. Have you ever been on a set like that before? Did you like it?
ROBERTS: I really liked it. It was cool because we did a lot of ad-libbing and improvising, and a lot of it made it into the movie and then a lot of the reactions, too, made the movie. One of us would be off-camera and we'd say things different to each other and it would kind of get a different reaction, which could be really cool.
I've read that you are a big fan of independent movies. What's the appeal?
ROBERTS: I just feel like with independent movies… they're really free to do whatever they want. They're not afraid to make a statement about anything, and there's not a huge studio behind them making sure that everything is wholesome and politically correct and all that. In mainstream movies, they want everything to make perfect sense, and in independents, it can be all over the place. People can just have fun with it.
What are some of your favorite independent movies?
ROBERTS: Obviously, I loved Juno and Little Miss Sunshine. I rented Rules of Attraction on Netflix, which is based on a book I really liked by Bret Easton Ellis -- one of my favorite books. The movie was really cool. Just a really weird, but really cool movie.
Is that the sort of direction you see your career going in?
ROBERTS: I have no idea. We'll see. I love doing independents. Studio movies are fun too. I really like Gwyneth Paltrow a lot, as far as her career, because I think she's done a lot of small movies but she's also done great, big movies, and she's a really great actress.
In the movie, you have to figure out your character's feelings for Rory's character, and they're kind of all over the map. In some scenes it looks like you're more than friends; in some scenes it looks like you're friends.
ROBERTS: Well, that was on purpose, too, because I think part of it was when you're that age and you're a girl, some days you think someone likes you so you're super-nice to them, and some days you think they hate you so you're like, "You know what? I hate you too!" It's all over the place…. I like that that really came across in the movie.
I have to ask about the sex scene. We asked Rory, and he was like, "I was very sleepy."
ROBERTS: Did he really say that?
He said it was like six in the morning. Well, that's not completely what he said… What were your recollections of how it happened? Was it nerve-wracking?
ROBERTS: [laughing] "I was really sleepy." That's funny. We all kind of got to set and we knew we were going to have to do that scene and so we were just kind of like, hey, what's up, whatever. The set was closed, so it wasn't a big deal. It was me and Rory and Derick and then the camera guy; we rehearsed it and, yeah, it was awkward, but then by the time we got to doing close-ups and stuff we were already used to the scene and just wanted to get it over with.
Rory said that Derick left you alone in the room first to discuss how you wanted to do the scene.
ROBERTS: Yeah, he left us alone at first, and we were both like, "Okay, so how are we going to do this?" And so we just figured it out and then we were like, "Okay, Derick, you can come watch what we're doing." And Derick came in and we were like, "That's what we were doing, and that's it. So leave us alone now!" [laughs]
It must be really hard to be in the spotlight so much, especially with all the gossip websites and stuff like that.
ROBERTS: It's definitely tough, because it's hard to be just a normal kid. You can't really do the stuff that normal kids do because everyone's like watching. You get criticized for little things or you say something and it's not really how you meant it or you were being sarcastic and all of a sudden everyone thinks that you're being bitchy or something, and that's not the case.
Do you spend a lot of time online?
ROBERTS: Yeah, I'm always on the Internet. I'm not a blogger, really, though. I don't blog or anything like that.
No Twitter for you?
ROBERTS: [laughs] What is Twitter?! I don't know what Twitter is! Everyone keeps inviting me to Twitter and everyone's going on about Twittering and Tweeting and this whole thing, and I just don't understand it. [Someone told me] "Oh, it's a continuous Facebook status," and I said, "Well, I don't want one more way that people can see what I'm doing." And what if I forget to update it and then everyone starts freaking out.
In regards to the GQ photo shoot you did and things like that, does it phase you when people make controversy out of something that you think is really simple?
ROBERTS: I really liked the picture and I thought it was a really cool article and I liked it, but not everyone's gonna like it. And I just feel like, if you really didn't like someone so much, why would you go onto their website and write mean things about them? I would never sign up to be mean to someone. You have to log in and sign up and all this stuff, and I'm just like, no matter how much I didn't like someone, I would never waste my time getting these emails and signing up and logging in to just write, "She's soooooooo ugly!" I really don't need to put that on the Internet to make myself feel better.
What was it like working with Rory?
ROBERTS: Working with Rory was really fun. It's nice to have someone closer to your age when you're on a set with so many adults, but we had fun together.
He mentioned that you two might be working together again really soon on Twelve.
He said that you guys would try and make him uncomfortable all the time. He joked that there was a conspiracy against him on-set.
ROBERTS: Who does?!
Rory, to keep his character off-balance.
ROBERTS: He's flattering himself! [laughs] Derick would always tell me to say things to him or do things to him that would throw him off, because we would know [what would work]. But we told him that. He knew that. Me and Derick would know what to say to him to make him embarrassed or to throw him off or something, and he would try and do it to me and it wouldn't work.