If you’re a fan of the CW show, Life Unexpected, then you already know Britt Robertson.
I interviewed her at SXSW for her new film, Cherry. The film is about a college student named Aaron. He gets involved with an older woman who has gone back to school to straighten her life out. Things start to get complicated when he meets the woman’s daughter, Beth, who begins to develop feelings for him.
Britt plays Beth and she is perfect in the role. She’s a terrific actress who is definitely doing things right. Check out the interview where she talks about how she got her start, her love of acting and how she goes to her acting coach 4 times a week. Yes, 4 times! How many actors do you know who can honestly say that?
Tell me about your character in Cherry.
My character Beth; she’s a 14-year-old, inappropriate young woman who’s very misunderstood as the movie so pleasantly says. She comes across Aaron Milton (Kyle Gallner) and finds an affinity for him, and becomes attached to him. I think that’s where you get to see her softer side. She has this wall up because of her experiences with her mother and people coming in and out of their lives. I think he brings her into a softer side and you get to see the real 14-year-old whose just chillin’ up in there. She’s a sweet, vulnerable 14-year-old who’s just had a bit of a rough life.
You’ve been in so many great projects already. Where are you from and how did you get started?
I’m from South Carolina originally, a Southern chic. I got started when I did a convention in Hilton Head, South Carolina with an agent who’s in South Carolina. She brought agents from New York and LA down to see us and observe our acting. I did a monologue and a commercial, and the agents from LA were like, ‘You should come out and we’ll represent you.’ I was like “Okay, cool. Sweet.” So, then I moved out there when I was fourteen for pilot season. And I actually meet this kid (Kyle) here during that time.
Did you stay at that Oakwood apartments?
Yup, that’s where I met him. So I did that and I moved out there permanently when I was 16.
What was your first big thing when you got out there?
For an actor, booking a pilot for a TV show is so hard, but it’s a big. It’s a big deal. I did two back to back; neither of them got picked up. But it was still a big deal for me nonetheless. And then I did a film called Dan In Real Life for Disney, and I think that was probably my biggest thing that I did, the biggest opportunity for me. Working with the great actors in that movie was such a standout.
Have you had any roles you really wanted to get but were passed up on?
There were a few. A film with a very well known actor, and I’d be playing the lead actress to him. I wanted that so bad. I felt like my audition was really good. And I thought “Yeah I’m gonna book this!” But there were so many names that were up against me for the part and it actually came down to me and the girl who got it. When I finally got that news, it was the most heartbreaking experience ever. But then I ended up booking the television show I’m on now shortly after so that was nice. But it happens; it’s a reoccurring theme in this business: rejection.
Absolutely. Do you still get nervous before big scenes?
Yes. I find that I work better that way, under a little bit of pressure and nervousness. It’s the strangest thing, when my body gets going and I get those butterflies. I can feel my heart coming out of my chest. I almost feel like there’s some sort of medical problem. And I’m like “Is this normal to be feeling my heart?” But I feel like I feed of that a little bit, and I end up having a better performance because of it. So I welcome the nerves.
Really? When that happens to me my hands shake and I’m like “Arrgh.”
Yeah, but I just like to take it under my wing and use it.
As you said earlier, you’ve worked with some really incredible actors. Do you find that you steal something from them and use it for yourself?
I have. I always say that anything that comes out of me that’s remotely funny is from Steve Carell. He’s responsible for that. His hilariousness is just infectious. Everything he did I was observing from afar like a creepy soccer girl. I feel like every project that I do I try to steal a bit of knowledge to carry on throughout my career.
Do you feel like when you work with someone like Steve Carell it ups your game and you get better?
Yes and no. The first time I worked with Steve, I was so in awe of his whole presence. Because he’s not one of those people who acknowledges the fact that he’s an awesome guy, and really awesome at what he does. So that’s even more overwhelming when you’re like, “But you’re so cool, why aren’t you talking about how cool you are?” So this is when the bad nerves came into play because I couldn’t speak; my words wouldn’t even come out. It was like a higher state of being nervous. Eventually I got over it. I felt like I was a champion almost trying to take over. My acting coach always says there’s a winner in all scenes, and you have to win for your character. It’s not like you can win in the scene for both characters, but you have to win for your character. So I felt like in every scene I did with him, I tried to top him. I think it definitely did up my game a little bit for sure.
You said you have an acting coach. How often do you see that person?
Well I’m a little bit obsessed with him. I go about four times a week.
A little excessive, I know. But, I’m a little crazed.
I know actors who never go to class. They basically see their auditions as …
As practice, sure. For me, I love working, I love acting. I love all facets of it. I just enjoy being in class, and I love to keep working at it as often as I can. And I feel like that that’s my only job right now, so as often as I can get the opportunity to work on it then I should be doing it. It’s different for different people. For me, I want to go as often as I can. And I feel like every time I’m in the class with my coach, he teaches me something new. So, it’s the more the merrier for me.
You’re currently in Life Unexpected. What do you like better: TV, film, or both?
The thing I love about film is you know your characters from point A to point B. You know where you’re going to go and where you have to end up. And you can pretty much gage the middle from A and B, and you get to create within that structure. With television, you’re given a character. It’s thrown at you. You could have a back-story, you’re supposed to create some sort of a back-story. But then they could change that back-story along the way, or completely change where you’re going to go. All of a sudden, you have two kids that are far away you never knew about. You’re constantly being thrown things. What I love about film is you know where you’re going and you can dig deeper within the character because you know who you are. On television, that’s a little more difficult, but you’re able to develop the character more in depth over time. So there are benefits to both.
How do you approach a role?
(Deep sigh) Uggh. It’s a long process for me.
Is it the same for every role?
For me, yeah. Unless there’s some special reason. Usually what I’ll do it I will read it once over. I’ll cold read it for myself. If I’m reading a script, I’ll cold read to myself, all the parts not just mine. Then I’ll break it down into scenes. And each scene has mini-scenes. So then each scene that I’m in I’ll break down into three parts. And then I divide it up into what I call “moments.” Then I go through each moment and find out my objective for that specific moment. There can be up to a thousand moments on a page—each thought, action or idea is a moment. So I divide it up like that and it helps with my understanding. And it helps me to create as much as possible within that small frame. So that’s usually my process. Also there’s the whole “Where am I coming from? Where am I going?,” the back-story, this, that, there’s lots of stuff to it. But that’s the bone.
Do you have any advice to young actors?
My biggest advice is don’t get discouraged. That’s a really common problem in Los Angeles because people expect to go to LA and book a job. Because they’re the best in their city, and they’re the best as far as they know. So they go to LA thinking they’re gonna kick butt and knock em’ out of the water, which could be the case or it could not be. And a lot of people get discouraged when they don’t get a part. But the thing is, with acting, there are so many things that go into it other than just your acting. There’s your look, there’s your this, there’s your that. You’re too much this, you’re too much that. So a lot of it has nothing to do with you. But people get really discouraged. I think rejection should become something you get very good at dealing with. That’s my biggest thing, just keep on trucking no matter who says no, because eventually someone will say yes.