An Exclusive Interview with Emma Roberts Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
January 9, 2009
In her family comedy Hotel for Dogs, Emma Roberts stars as a resourceful orphan named Andi who, along with her younger brother Bruce, fosters a sense of family by renovating an abandoned hotel and taking in the city's homeless dogs. The heart-warming story puts together a positive message about how families come in many different forms, and with its extensive cast of lovable canines, the film has the ability to appeal to viewers of all ages.
We last spoke with Emma nearly three years ago for her film Aquamarine, and a lot has changed for the young actress since then. Her resume and visibility have grown in that time, during which she transitioned from headlining the Nickelodeon TV series Unfabulous to playing the title characters in feature films like Nancy Drew and Wild Child. Turning 18 next month, she has her eye on college, a possible move to New York, and more adult movie roles.
While promoting Hotel for Dogs, Emma graciously took the time to speak to us for this exclusive interview in which we cover a fun mix of random topics, including college, candy, misadventures at the DMV, travels abroad, and future projects. Emma was our first interview of 2009, and the Q&A proved to be a nice start for the new year.
As the interview begins, Emma demonstrates a sweet tooth (also exemplified at the top of another interview with her later in the day) when she--having apparently been informed of the petits fours being served to cast, crew, and press--asks for some dessert, eagerly exclaiming, "I want some treats!" Which directly leads to our first question...
RadioFree.com: Do you have to use the word "treats" because you're promoting a movie about dogs?
EMMA: [laughs] No. I just like treats. I love sweets.
Are you a huge fan of dogs in general, or has working with so many maybe turned you off to the whole thing?
No, I love dogs. I have my own dog named Twiggy and it's a Chihuahua. I think dogs are so cute, and it's just a common interest that I think the majority of people have. Like I don't really know a lot of people that don't like dogs.
Did you bond with any of your canine co-stars in particular?
I really loved Shep, the one that herded everyone. It was such a beautiful dog, and it was so smart, and I always would play with her when we had breaks because I thought she was so cute.
With the holiday season having just ended, did you find it at all difficult to switch gears and get back to work?
You know, it didn't really feel like the holidays this year--I felt like they came so fast. But I had a great, amazing holiday. And then after the new year, I definitely buckled down, and was like, "I gotta start focusing on my schoolwork more, I need to start focusing on work." So I definitely had to like take a minute to get out of the holiday mindset.
We're only about a week into 2009, but how has the new year been treating you so far?
The year has been good, knock on wood. [knocks on table] 2008 was fun, but it was just really hectic, and by the end of it, I was so excited for it to be over. And I think all my friends felt the same way. Like for some reason, towards the end of 2008, it was just like, "Okay, I hate this year, I'm done with it." [laughs] So 2009, I don't know...So far I feel like it's been good, and I'm really excited for everything that's going to happen. Like it's my birthday soon, and I'm going to hopefully be doing some great projects, and I have movies coming out, so I'm excited.
My new year's resolution is to wear a tie for about three months...
To like never take it off, or to wear one every day?
No, just to wear them at interviews. You know, because online press is laid back and we're usually not formal... [Editor's note: Yes folks, I aim high.]
Oh, cool! That's nice.
...So do you have any resolutions of your own for 2009?
Well, one of them was just to be more positive, because I tend to sometimes not be that positive about things. Like I'll be like, "Oh, that's not going to work, that's not going to work!" rather than being more open-minded and positive. So that was one of them. And then to also just try and eat healthier and start a workout kind of regime--like start Pilates or yoga or something, just for my own health. Because I realize I walk up like ten stairs and I'm winded! [laughs] Because I'm really out of shape. So probably just to be healthier in general.
Good for you. Because you don't always think about stuff like that when you're young...
No, that's why I haven't really thought about it. And then I just figured a bunch of my adult friends were starting yoga, and they were like, "You feel really good after." So it's something I want to try out.
Have you nailed down an enjoyable routine that works for you?
Not yet. [laughs] I'm looking. But yeah, I definitely want to try yoga and Pilates.
Your film career has been on the rise since we spoke to you for Aquamarine. In that time, have you become more comfortable with the responsibilities of carrying a movie?
I definitely have gotten used to doing days like this--you know, long press days. On Aquamarine, I did a lot, but not as much as I had to do for Nancy Drew or for this. But yeah, I enjoy it, it's nice. I definitely feel a little bit of pressure just because I'll feel like I'm letting people down if the movie doesn't do well. But at the same time, I enjoy what I do and it's part of the responsibility.
Do you think you've become more press savvy, especially when dealing with interviewers who try to corner you with certain questions?
I always get really uncomfortable when people ask me questions I don't want to answer. Like I'm not very good at deflecting, I guess, or segueing into something else. So usually I just kind of laugh and try and change the subject. But yeah, I'm not an expert on that yet.
What is your favorite black and white animal: panda, penguin, cow, or something else?
Panda. I love pandas...I think pandas are so, so cute, and it makes me really sad that they're endangered. I just think they're the cutest. And my sister has a bunch of panda stuffed animals that I think are really cute.
Since this is an exclusive interview, I should ask another question no one else would ever ask: If you're throwing a party for friends and decide to have a pinata there, what would you fill the pinata with?
I would fill the pinata with...Oh my God, that's such a tough question. [ponders] Uhhh...Candy like Dum Dum lollipops, because those are really good.
I know you're not responsible for marketing and release dates, but what happened with Wild Child? We thought we would see that here in the States last year...
Yeah, that's been crazy! It came out in the UK, and it did really well, and I did a lot of press over there. It's [coming out here] in May...It's one of my favorite movies I've done. Like it's very Mean Girls, and just a really fun teen comedy. And I saw a screening of it and my friends came with me, and they are really tough critics, and they all genuinely liked it, and they were like, "Even if you weren't in it, we would go see that." It's just a really fun movie. And I just had so much fun working on it, too. Like all the girls in it were my age, and British, and we would all hang out on set and off set. So that was great, and I'm really excited for it to come out here finally.
Given how excited you are about it, did you bond with your character in that movie more than with, say, Andi in Hotel for Dogs or Nancy Drew?
I think I definitely could relate to my character in Wild Child more than with my character Nancy Drew and Andi in Hotel for Dogs, purely just because the girl in Wild Child...She's an American getting shipped off to England, and she has to adapt to the culture and make friends. And for me, I'm American and I went over there for the first time and got thrown into this movie, and I didn't know anyone, I didn't know anything about it there, so I had to learn to adapt and figure things out, which definitely was what my character had to do.
What was the most difficult thing to adapt to? The food, maybe?
The food was weird...They just eat really weird combinations of things, and they made fun of me for eating peanut butter and jelly. Like it was the biggest joke. Everyone was like, "Oh my God, that's so gross." Because they don't have that there. So I thought that was weird. But they have really good tea, though, and scones over there. For real. I love tea and scones now. But the culture, though, I love. Like I loved going to visit all the castles and going and looking at all the architecture. And the people there are really amazing, and I have such good friends there.
You must have started driving since Aquamarine, yes?
No, I haven't, actually. I'm a terrible driver. I failed my test, and then my permit expired. So I had to get a new permit. And then I failed my permit test. And I took it again. So now I have my permit, but I have no license.
I scored really high on my first drive test, but then got an automatic fail for not yielding to pedestrians, yadda, yadda, yadda...Was your situation also an automatic fail, or just a low score overall?
Mine was like...They had me go back to the DMV after like ten minutes--no, five minutes--of driving because I almost like killed us. Because I didn't know you had to stop before going right on red. I was like, "Oh cool, we live in California, right on a red!" So I swung around the corner and didn't stop first. And then I didn't know where the defroster was. And then I made a really bad joke about it. The guy was like, "Where's the defroster?" and I said, "I don't know, but luckily we don't need those in California." And he was like, "Actually, you do." And so he got mad. And then, yeah, I just failed.
So it doesn't sound like getting your license is a high priority right now...
I'm just like so discouraged. But I'm almost 18, and I don't need to wait six months after getting my permit--I can just go and get it when I'm 18, so I'll probably do that, because I'm 18 in a month.
Speaking of your 18th birthday, you have college on the horizon. Why are you looking at colleges in New York, as opposed to here in Los Angeles, where you could be closer to work?
Well for starters, I'm just over LA. Like I really want to get out of LA. But I love New York so much, and I just feel like I've grown up in LA, so I think it'd be better to go and do something totally different. And I just love New York--New York City, especially. Like the city is just amazing. And I have a lot of family there and a lot of friends, so I think it would be fun.
Won't you miss our no-defroster-needed weather?
Yeah, I don't do well in the cold, so I think that I would probably stay in my dorm if it got too cold out.
Aside from friends and family, what specifically do you like about New York? What cultural thing do they just kick our butts on?
Well, I just love the way that you can hail a cab and get anywhere. And it's just so much easier to meet up with your friends. Like I don't drive, so living in LA and not driving is almost impossible. And being in New York, you can just put your arm up in the air and [get a] ride.
What upcoming projects of yours should we be looking for, besides Wild Child?
I have two movies at Sundance this year, called The Winning Season and Lymelife. And The Winning Season is with Sam Rockwell and it's about an all-girls basketball team. And Lymelife is with Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon, and Jill Hennessy, and Rory and Kieran Culkin. And it's just very mature and much more edgier. It's much like American Beauty/The Ice Storm. It's really great.
Are you one of the basketball players in The Winning Season?
Yes, I am.
Did you learn the game?
I had to, yeah. It was really hard. It was really difficult. I'm not a basketball player. I play volleyball, not basketball. So it was tough.
How's your jump shot?
Well, I'm sure it'll look good in the movie. Thanks for your time!