Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
February 5, 2011

Over the past several years, Australian native Teresa Palmer has put together a steady resume of diverse roles in film: a suicidal teen in her acclaimed debut 2:37; a mean girl in her first American film, The Grudge 2; a young love opposite Daniel Radcliffe in December Boys; a seductive fugitive in Restraint; a spoiled socialite in the Disney family comedy Bedtime Stories; and a wide-eyed college sweetheart in the Jerry Bruckheimer action adventure The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Now, her visibility continues to soar with a pair of high-profile roles in back-to-back theatrical releases--first in the science fiction thriller I Am Number Four, then in the retro '80s comedy Take Me Home Tonight.

In I Am Number Four, Teresa takes center stage as a kickass action hero goddess. As the enigmatic Number Six, she is one of nine alien survivors from a planet called Lorien who has taken refuge on earth. Doing their best to be inconspicuous, they are ruthlessly hunted by the genocidal Mogadorians, who must kill them in sequential order of their numerical designations. When the first three of their ranks are slain, Number Six abandons her lone wolf game plan to team up with Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) in an effort to take a stand against their enemies. Versed in combat, she shows her fellow Lorien youth that their inherent, still-maturing abilities--known as Legacies, which include telekinesis, invisibility, and the power to control various energies--are enhanced when used in tandem.

I Am Number Four is directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye) and also stars Glee's Dianna Agron as Number Four's love interest Sarah, and Justified's Timothy Olyphant as his guardian Henri. The story boasts intriguing sci-fi mythology and a solid cast, but it's really Teresa who steals the show in the film's climactic battle sequence. It's not a stretch to call Number Six a formidable blend of Sarah Connor and Iron Man--like the former, she exudes a fearless competence and inspires confidence in the trenches; and like the latter, her arrival is a harbinger of doom for the bad guys the moment she gears up. Put bluntly, you know some sh** is about to go down when Number Six arrives.

With I Am Number Four and Take Me Home Tonight opening within mere weeks of each other, we had the good fortune of speaking to Teresa twice in an eight-day span. In this installment of our exclusive interview series with her, she talks about her character of Number Six, then gives us a glimpse of her humanitarian side by filling us in on some interesting non-acting projects in the works. When I first saw I Am Number Four in a theater, the audience cheered when Number Six makes her dramatic entrance at the school, and I was sort of reminded of the first Iron Man movie: she busts in, you know some carnage is about to go down, and she leaves the remnants of dead adversaries in her wake...

TERESA: [laughs] Oh, she does! She's so feisty! But that is an incredible compliment, thank you so much. Because that's the feeling we wanted the audience to get. As soon as she's landed, that was it: all bets are off, these Mogadorians are going down. And I love that she has got a job at hand, and she's so focused on that, and she works her way towards it, and that's exactly what happens.

Science fiction has a history of strong women with numerical designations (Tricia Helfer as Number Six and Grace Park as Number Eight on Battlestar Galactica, Jennifer Connelly as 7 in the animated film 9, Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager). What do you think makes these numbers so apt for kickass chicks?

I think it's because whenever you hear a name, you associate it with something. I mean, you hear the name Helen and you think, "Oh, Helen of Troy, or Helen my neighbor down the road, or that girl at school..." A number, it's like a faceless thing. It's just way more fierce to have a character being represented by a number, because what even is that? That's almost machine-like. And that, to me, is way more intimidating than any other name...To just have a number, that's scary. It's like, "Who is this number? Where did she come from?" [laughs]

What was your favorite of Number Six's Legacy powers?

Her fireproof Legacy looks amazing onscreen, but I don't know when you would ever really use that in day-to-day life. I think the invisibility that she has is an amazing asset. Not only does it look amazing onscreen, it's just a really cool thing to be able to have. You're walking down the street, you want to be invisible all of a sudden...That'd be great. It'd be wonderful for me, because I always put my foot in my mouth. [laughs] And then I could just go and be invisible straight after.

Given that the Lorien survivors have to be killed in the order of their numbers, Six is relatively invincible as long as Four and Five are still around. If you enjoyed that sort of invulnerability for a day, would you be all daredevil about it?

I think so. There's a reason why I haven't jumped out of a plane: It's because I do not want to die! [laughs] And I would probably go to the ocean in Australia and I would swim down with the sharks. I would get right down to the Great Barrier Reef and just swim around and explore the world under the sea. I just think there's something quite magical about snorkeling and diving, but there's such a sense of danger when you do it. And I would probably go and do that in a fearless way. It'd be nice.

The upcoming story that follows I Am Number Four in the series of books upon which this film is based is called The Power of Six, which we're hoping also gets adapted. Does the "Six" in that title refer to your character, or the six remaining Lorien survivors?

I actually thought it referred to my character. [laughs] And so, I believe, in interviews, I've been saying, "I think it's the story of Number Six!" Although I now have a little bit more information, and I think it refers to both Number Six and the six that remain. You definitely get more of an insight into who she is. In this film, she's so mysterious--you don't know if she's one of the good guys or one of the bad guys. But in the second film, there's a bit more of a backstory that's unveiled, and you go on this journey, and they try and find Number Five.

We understand that you're getting behind the camera to direct. What are you working on?

There are two things I'm directing at the moment. One's a documentary. It's on happiness and what it means to different people from around the world. I went to Kenya and I did a little documentary on my flip camera, like guerilla style, and filmed the AIDS orphans and talked to them about their life. And they were so happy...Yes, they're poor in material wealth, but they're so rich in so many other areas, like religion and spirituality and love, and it was very refreshing to see. So I'm directing a documentary on that and the exploration of that. Then a film feature called Track Town, which is about two girls who go on the run in Adelaide in the '90s because they accidentally kill a 17-year-old boy. They give him drugs and he overdoses, and he is the younger brother of an underworld figure, and so they have to deal with the ramifications of that...We just finished writing the first script, and I'm hoping to shoot it next year in Adelaide. So it probably wouldn't come out till 2012, 2013.

And you also have an animal shelter in the works?

Yeah, that's another plan of mine. I want to open up an animal shelter--a no-kill shelter, because we don't have many in Australia, and 250,000 animals get killed every year, euthanized for no other reason than they just can't find homes. They're not aggressive, or they're not injured or unwell. It's just that there's no one there to love them. So I want to set that up in Australia and rehabilitate the animals and make them adoptable.

Continue to Part 2 of our Exclusive I Am Number Four interview with Teresa

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