Just to get it out of the way, yes 20-year old starlet Emma Roberts has connections. As the daughter of Eric Roberts and niece of auntie Julia, it almost seems predestined that Roberts chose the same profession as her famous family members (that and she’s a looker).
After making her name as a child studio darling in such kiddie fare as “Aquamarine” and “Nancy Drew,” Roberts opted for the indie route to make projects more in sync with her evolving sensibilities. These included more adult-orientated films such as “Lymelife,” “The Winning Season,” “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” and Dustin Lance Black’s upcoming directorial debut “What’s Wrong With Virginia? which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.
Her latest indie project, the coming-of-age romantic comedy “The Art of Getting By,” hits select theaters via Fox Searchlight this Friday, June 17. indieWIRE caught up with a bubbly Roberts to discuss her career trajectory and what really got her hooked on acting.
You took a bit of a risk in tackling your first indie feature back in 2008 with “Lymelife.” What made you want to switch gears after mostly appearing in studio family fare?
That was one of those things that I went in for so randomly. I got the script and I just thought it was really interesting and cool. I had done nothing like it so I just thought, why not go for it, even though I wasn’t sure people were ready to see me this way? It was such a fun experience getting to play someone totally different from anything I had done. That’s one of my favorite movies I have done, I think.
You followed it up with a number of indie projects including “Twelve,” “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” and now “The Art of Getting By.” What drew you to those films?
Those were all really interesting to me for many reasons. With “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” I had actually read that book when I was young. I loved it. So when the project came about I was dying to be a part of it. With “Twelve” I really wanted to work with Joel Schumacher. A movie like “The Art of Getting By,” I just read [the script] and fell in love. I felt like it was such an honest look at being young and in love. I wanted to show that story.
That film’s director, Gavin Wiesen, is a first-timer. Were you nervous about working with a newbie?
Gavin wrote the script and wanted to direct it. For me, I fell in love with it and I felt that he just wrote such a beautiful story. I trusted that he would tell it in a personal way and in a way that I thought would be amazing. We sat down and talked…he showed me his vision and I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of it.
How is this balance you’ve managed to find in the business: appearing in both indie and studio fare in pretty much equal measure?
Yeah, I love it. Both are so much fun to do. Studio films are really fun. You have months and months to shoot. With the smaller films you get to be on a much more intimate set and have to get things done quickly. Like, “The Art of Getting By” was just shot in a month, which was crazy. It’s so different, but both are really rewarding which sounds cheesy but it’s true. You take something new and different out of both.
What do you take differently from an indie project?
I think it’s easier to get closer with people. You know, you’re kind of free to do more of what you want to do. I definitely learned a lot about myself as an actor…what I will do and what I won’t do, working on the smaller projects.
So you see yourself straddling between the two worlds in your future career?
Yeah, I think that would be ideal. Getting to do both would be great. It’s really about the material. If I love something, it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small or whatever. If I think it’s going to be good and believe in it, then I want to be a part of it.
You have a unique position in the indie film landscape. Your name alone pretty much guarantees a green light for a small film like “The Art of Getting By” from a first time filmmaker. How does it feel to have that power?
It’s awesome to be able to put your name on something you love and have it also benefit so many other people and make it happen. It’s hard these days for filmmakers. There are so many scripts that I would love to see that need financing. So when you get on to something that they want to finance with you in it, it’s such a dream come true.
In that respect, do you see yourself ever becoming your own producer?
I would love to. Everyone always jokes on movie sets that I think and talk like a producer. That would be really fun. Even for TV… to get to create a show, or create something like that.
What kind of projects would interest you?
It’s one of those things… I just feel I have to read a bunch of stuff and decide what I like. Definitely something that my friends would like, something my friends could be in.
Is it true that you first got into film by watching your aunt on set?
Yeah, she used to take me on set which was really fun. I would become friends with all of the hair, makeup and wardrobe people and see what everyone was doing at all times.
When did the acting bug bite?
I just always wanted to do it. I don’t ever remember not wanting to do it. My family was terrified of when I would finally get on to it. They finally let me go on an audition when I was nine for “Blow” and I actually booked it!
Do you see your family connections as beneficial to your career or as a hindrance?
It’s not something I really think about anymore. I used to think a lot more about it when I was younger. People are always going to say, “She’s only acting because her family’s in the business.” But that’s so silly. Just because my aunt does it, why does it mean I can’t do it on my own?
I don’t think it’s really a hindrance or a help. It’s just is what it is. Most people are respectful of it and see me as my own person which is awesome.
You released an album for the TV series “Unfabulous and More” at what, 13 right?
Good question! Yeah, 13…I think.
Do you see yourself doing any more music in the future?
Well, I’m actually playing a pop star in a movie right now, called “Celeste and Jesse Forever.” The movie stars Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg. It’s a hilarious comedy with a little bit of drama.
How many songs are you singing on the soundtrack?
Know what, I don’t know yet! You’re going to have to wait and see.