At a mere 16, Emma Roberts has evolved as one of Hollywood’s bright and popular young actresses. After generating buzz as Julia Roberts’ niece and flashing the same familiar, wide smile, Emma Roberts charmed teenage girls across America in the lead role in Nickelodeon’s “Unfabulous”, now in its final season.
The actress is the daughter of Oscar-nominated actor Eric Roberts, who is Julia Roberts’ brother. The young actress grew up with her mother Julia Cunningham. Her parents split shortly after she was born. Although Eric and Julia have been reported to have a distant relationship, Emma Roberts was always described as being very close with her lookalike aunt, making her foray into show business almost inevitable. Roberts’ first role was in the short “BigLove” (2001) playing one of the daughters of Sam Rockwell and Mark McCormack when she was 10 years old. In the movie, her neurotic parents had to go to heroic lengths every morning to help get their children ready for school. Her next role was the same year in “Blow” with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, but her scenes were ultimately deleted.
In 2002, Roberts played the sister of Buddy, a spunky boy with a prize-winning calf in “Grand Champion” (2002) with Joey Lauren Adams. She followed with “Spymate” (2003) with Richard Kind, in which she played the daughter of a former spy. When one of her father’s nemeses kidnapped her, the rusty spy and his chimp sidekick had to get their act together to save her.
The following year, Roberts was tapped for the role of Addie Singer in Nickelodeon’s hit “Unfabulous” where she plays a clumsy but bright teenager who fumbles her way through horrific junior high embarrassments, such as landing head first in a punch bowl. Spending much her time holed up in her room, singing and writing songs, her Addie role was a portent for her budding musical career. Also in her “Unfabulous’ capacity, Roberts became one of the first teen actors to write a blog about making a TV show. On the Nick Web site, Roberts gave fans a primer for Hollywood lingo, such as the definition “wrap party” and describing behind-the-scenes antics.
Roberts broke into the music business with a song on the “Ice Princess” (2005) soundtrack. The movie was a vehicle for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s” Michelle Tractenberg. Chronicling the travails of becoming a champion figure skater, the film was marketed straight to Roberts’ core demographic of female teens. The actress followed up with her first album, “Unfabulous and More: Emma Roberts” (2005) on Columbia Records, but it made few headlines in the U.S.
In Roberts’ latest film she plays the titualar teen detective in “Nancy Drew, prompting the actress to read up on the classic sleuth’s adventures for young readers. She talked exclusively to PAUL FISCHER.
Question: Let me start off by asking you, at your age what the challenges are for you to find something that really appeals to you as a kid and as an actress.
Roberts: Yeah, if I make something appeals to me it’s kind of challenging, but I mean I read the Nancy Drew script and I loved it. I loved the character, and the whole idea.
Question: Was it important for you go back and read any of the books or do you feel that the script stood up pretty much on its own?
Roberts: I read a few of the books.
Question: And how different is the Nancy Drew of the 21st century to the Nancy Drew that was originally created decades ago?
Roberts: Yeah, Nancy Drew was created in like the 30s so she’s very old. But in the movie her character stays basically the same as she was in book, but they just updated the story kind of around her.
Question: Are you a fan of kind of detective stories and that kind of stuff?
Roberts: Yeah, I love mysteries and I love the whole detective idea and I think it’s so fun.
Question: How much of you do you think there is in this Nancy Drew character?
Roberts: Oh I mean we’re both ambitious and determined and also very curious but I mean she’s much more of a neat freak than I am.
Question: So are you very messy?
Roberts: My room is always a mess because I always just like throw my clothes everywhere.
Question: Which must make your parents really thrilled.
Question: Why did you decide that you wanted to be an actress? What was it about acting that really appealed to you?
Roberts: I just always loved being on sets. I loved the whole idea of getting to play different characters and getting to tell different stories. I just loved it and had so much fun with it. So ever since I was younger visiting my aunt’s set and my dad’s set I’ve always wanted to be an actress.
Question: Did you have a wild imagination when you were a lot younger?
Roberts: Yeah I would always be playing like dress up and doing shows and, you know, just always like ‘acting’ I guess.
Question: How old are you now?
Roberts: I’m sixteen.
Question: So do you see yourself as doing this for the next twenty or thirty years or do you have other ambitions besides acting.
Roberts: Well, well see I’m really interested in photography and fashion and I love to go to college for either of those and maybe political science.
Question: Why political science?
Roberts: I just recently got interested in politics and I want to be First Lady, so I think that’d be fun.
Question: In order for you to be First Lady though you have to marry the President. Do you have somebody in mind?
Roberts: No, not yet.
Question: Tell me about your TV show. Is that still happening and how much more have you to go?
Roberts: Yeah we finished the third season and it’s going to end September and that’s the last season.
Question: Was it sad to say goodbye?
Roberts: Yeah it was sad but I had a really good three years on it and now I’m kind of ready for other things.
Question: So what else are you looking for at the moment. I mean what kind of other things are you signing on – have you signed on for anything else?
Roberts: Yeah I’m going to England on Monday to start shooting a movie called Wild Child which is the working title.
Question: Who else is in that?
Roberts: They’re kind of getting all of that together right now.
Question: What kind of character will you be playing?
Roberts: I’m playing a bad, mean girl who’s at a boarding school in England.
Question: Are you looking forward to doing that?
Roberts: Yeah I’m so excited. Because I’ve never done it before so it’s going to be really fun.
Question: Is it going to be a real stretch for you to play that or do you think there’s a bit of a mean streak somewhere in any of us sometimes?
Roberts: Well the character is very sassy and I can sometimes get sassy a little bit.
Question: How excited are you about working in England?
Roberts: Oh I’m so excited, I love England and I get to go over two and a half months
Question: So you’ve been before?
Roberts: I went for like a couple weeks ago but only for a few days so I’m excited to get to go there for a long time.
Question: What do you think Nancy Drew is going to say to young girls who come and see it because obviously that’s the type of audience? What do you hope they get out of it?
Roberts: I mean I hope the character is very genuine, and is not afraid to be herself and I hope that young girls can take that away from the movie.