It’s safe to say that Emma Roberts is well past her “arrival date” into young Hollywood. Considered acting royalty, the daughter of Eric Roberts, and the niece of Julia Roberts, Emma broke out from any question of nepotism and made an indelible mark as a young actress. In the last few years she’s had a wide range of roles in films like Celeste & Jesse Forever, Scream 4, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Her latest film Adult World had its Tribeca Film Festival debut on Thursday, and sees the young ingénue opposite John Cusack, and American Horror Story’s Evan Peters.
Capturing the bubbly and green disposition her generation is compounded in, Roberts plays Amy, an aspiring poet who completely skips sarcasm 101 and instead walks on legs made out of irony in the quirky comedic film. Showing all of her cards right away, Amy has no plan B and is determined to succeed as a poet, despite being dismissed over and over by her has-been idol Rat Billings (John Cusack). Lacking a true worldly experience, Amy is half firecracker, half lovable “snack pack” of a girl, and is easily the little engine that is worth rooting for even if she could easily give anyone some serious secondhand-embarrassment.
The most enjoyable aspect was Emma’s effervescent quality on screen, which she has in spades off screen as well. It’s the same energy that makes her character believable as a girl stuck between trying to grow up as quickly as possible, while wanting to feel everything at the same time. At 22, Roberts plays to her strengths and doesn’t shy from the youthful idealism of her age, as she leaps into Adult World.
The Inquisitr’sNiki Cruz sat down with Emma Roberts to speak about her generation, artistic expression, and Adult World.
THE INQUISITR: How did you become involved with Adult World?
EMMA ROBERTS: I got sent Adult World, and I read the script. It was one of those scripts that I read and thought it was very special, and different. I met with Scott Coffey, the director, and we just had the best time talking for hours and hours. I know he read a bunch of people and I was shocked that I got the part right off of the meeting, because that rarely happens these days. It was just one of those things that I loved and wanted to be a part of. I couldn’t imagine not having done it. Scott and I made this character and really worked so hard on it. I really put a lot of myself into it, so that was really cool to do with a role.
THE INQUISITR: During the initial meeting, what did Scott ask you?
ROBERTS: He just asked me about the character and the script. I guess we had the same perspective on the story, and we really wanted to tell the same kind of story. We didn’t want it to be a kind of coming of age story that says the same thing. We wanted it to be a coming of age story from a different direction. She fails over, and over, again, and we wanted to show that in an honest way, instead of “Oh she ends up being really famous and successful.”
THE INQUISITR: Your character in the film is incredibly optimistic. What was that like to play?
ROBERTS: It’s funny because when I saw the movie for the first time yesterday, I realized she came across much more optimistic than I intended her to be, but I’m actually glad she did. She’s a little bit ignorant, and I think that’s why she’s optimistic, because I don’t think she realizes she’s failed when the audience has. That’s why you root for her because she’s already messed up so much but she doesn’t see it yet. It’s funny to wait for her to find out.
THE INQUISITR: This film represents a specific generation. Did your character speak to you?
ROBERTS: Yeah, definitely. I relate to [the whole] you have your life planned out for yourself and then all of a sudden you’re at the age where everything is supposed to happen, but it hasn’t and you have to reassess your plan. I think that a lot of people in my generation kind of don’t really have a plan B. That’s what’s so funny about Amy is that she’s kind of like, “Well there is no other plan.” It’s cool to see someone have to figure it out as they go along.
THE INQUISITR: Your character idolizes John Cusack’s Rat Billings. I’m sure that wasn’t difficult to find when acting alongside John Cusack.
ROBERTS: No, I mean I’m such a fan of John Cusack. To get to work and meet him was really cool. He was so fun with the adlibbing he would do, and my reactions would be genuine because I would be thrown off, or laugh, and I would have to listen to him go off on some story but in character. We both did that to each other and it helped a lot.
THE INQUISITR: Are you good at ad-libbing?
ROBERTS: It’s one of those things that if you asked me to do it now, I couldn’t do it, but in the moment with the cameras rolling, it either happens or it doesn’t. Ad-libbing is one of those things where it’s kind of about everyone you’re with as opposed to you, and it either clicks or it doesn’t at all. With this we would go on for seven or eight minutes of ad-libbing and rolling. It was really cool.
THE INQUISITR: Were there any challenges?
ROBERTS: Every part you have something about the character that they like or do, that you don’t. This one I read a lot more poetry. I read a lot of Anne Sexton, which was cool. I thought she was a great female poet to have in the back of my mind as Amy because she’s a feminist, [and into] the art movement. For the record, my character wasn’t an Anne Sexton but some of her stuff is provocative, and it was cool to have some of [Sexton's] thoughts.
THE INQUISITR: How was it filming in Syracuse?
ROBERTS: Syracuse is the coldest place on earth! My nose was red and my lips are blue in the movie, but they decided to keep it. I was shivering the whole movie. Clearly they let me wear no makeup in the movie. My mom saw it and said, “You look really tired.” When I get cold my dark circles just get worse.
THE INQUISITR: Can you discuss your other projects?
ROBERTS: Yeah, this summer I have a movie coming out called We’re The Millers and it’s with Jennifer Aniston. It’s a cool, family road trip comedy. I just did a pilot called Delirium for Fox, which is a one-hour drama based on a young adult trilogy and that’s really cool. I have a bunch of different things, including this one, and a film called Palo Alto that Gia Coppola directed that will probably be at one of the festivals coming up, hopefully.
THE INQUISITR: For Delirium, is it more dystopian or are you trying to create another Hunger Games?
ROBERTS: We definitely play it more real, which is why it came across more creepier. It was our world today, but turned upside down. It wasn’t ethereal and it wasn’t about magic. That to me is really cool when you take the modern world and add a twist to it. In the show when you turn 18 you get cured of delirium, which is love, and your whole life is run by the government. My character ends up falling in love before her cure, and she runs off to start a rebellion. The writer Karyn Usher wrote Prison Break, and she made it much more action-y and mature. It will have a really wide audience.
THE INQUISITR: Did you read Palo Alto before you took the role?
ROBERTS: Yeah. I loved the book, and the movie is really, really, cool. Gia did an amazing job with it, and James [Franco] is actually in the movie, and he plays a teacher. We have a romance.
THE INQUISITR: Is it difficult to move into more adult roles?
ROBERTS: It’s one of those things that kind of just happens naturally and gradually. I’m not opposed to playing young, if the role is great. I’m not one of those people that will turn down a role because it’s a teen character. In Palo Alto I play 15 or 16, and they just made me look really, really, young. If the part is good it doesn’t really matter.
THE INQUISITR: Were you worried at all playing someone that works in an adult shop?
ROBERTS: I think the adult bookstore is a backdrop. The movie isn’t raunchy or over sexualized at all. It’s a backdrop to add to the comedy, as opposed to the drama to it. That part is actually lighthearted, which I don’t think people realize. Going into the shop, I wasn’t embarrassed about that stuff at all but I could definitely relate to my character saying, “What does this mean? What does that mean?” I remember the first day we were shooting there, and everyone was laughing and throwing stuff at each other, and being all “What’s this?” And they were like, “Emma, put that down ! Shut up.”
THE INQUISITR: How was it watching Adult World with the Tribeca audience?
ROBERTS: I was so nervous. I was white knuckling the chair and then people started laughing, and I slowly sat up in my chair and relaxed a little bit. It’s definitely nerve-racking because the things you laugh at, aren’t the things anyone else laughs at, and the things you think are horrible, people are on the floor laughing, so it’s hard as an actor to be objective about it, but I couldn’t ask for a better audience. It’s a cute movie because it’s funny but it also says something, and it’s really current. It captures a generation that hasn’t been captured in movies.
THE INQUISITR: You often play characters that try to communicate through poetry, or singing, do you relate to those characters because of that expression?
ROBERTS: Definitely. I feel like a lot of the younger characters are trying to communicate through poetry, or through singing, or whatever their ambitions are. Young people do try to communicate through that as a way to connect with people. I can definitely relate to Amy with this, because I love to read, and it’s a cool way to connect with people. I think it’s fun as a young woman to play characters that are searching for something whether it’s their identity, or looking for love, or trying to find something they’re passionate about. I’m 22 and still trying to figure myself out in some ways.
ADULT WORLD IS CURRENTLY PLAYING AT THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL.