Emma is the cover star for the November issue of Teen Vogue! Check out preview of shoot/article below! Also a funny horror 101 video demonstrated by Emma!
Emma Roberts can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be an actress. “I’m in costume giving ‘blue steel’ in all the photos of me when I was younger,” she says. “I would go to school in a feather boa and do impersonations when I was in first grade.” In 2007, as she was building her acting cred, a 16-year-old Emma told Teen Vogue that she had her sights set on playing a mean girl. “I’m always the normal girl, or the shy girl, or the girl next door,” the eager ingenue said at the time. Fast-forward to 2015, and Emma has landed the mother lode of all mean-girl roles: the deliciously nasty Chanel Oberlin in the much-anticipated dark coed TV comedy on Fox, Scream Queens, from the creators of Glee and American Horror Story.
“I put it out in the universe and it came back to me,” the petite leading lady tells me when we meet in her industrial-chic New Orleans neighborhood on a sweltering (the kind of hot where even your eyeballs seem to be sweating) July afternoon. This is a reunion of sorts: The starlet and I forged a friendship back in the fall of 2008 that has included our frequenting many Met galas, rock concerts, and fashion shows together.
Emma, wearing a long A.L.C. dress that’s too black to be boho and too flowy not to be, has always been a bit of a contradiction. Her wee stature, demure doe eyes, and big grin are bolstered by a personality with enough bite to separate her from Young Hollywood’s army of saccharine beauty bots. At times she is a fearlessly confident force to be reckoned with — a Miu Miu-clad life of the party who doles out devilish quips. But more often than not, she’s the reticent bookworm in the corner of a coffeehouse wearing a T-shirt and cutoffs.
At only 24 years old, she has already amassed an impressive melting pot of a résumé — teetering between nuanced performances in art house films like Palo Alto and Celeste and Jesse Forever, and commercial hits like We’re the Millers and Valentine’s Day. And let’s not forget her teenybopper beginnings starring in Nancy Drew, Hotel for Dogs, and Nickelodeon’s Unfabulous. “I’ve never really said, ‘Oh, I want to do a small movie or a big movie,’” the actress tells me as she sips iced tea. “To me it’s about the material. I love to read, so when I see something that gets me excited, I don’t care if it’s big or small — I want to be a part of it.”
Many of her peers are desperate to break out from playing teen roles, but Emma uses her youthful appearance to her advantage. “Everyone thinks I’m 17! I’m not someone who needs to prove my age to anyone, because I prefer to let people think what they want,” she says. “As an actress, it’s great to portray all of these ages. I don’t think I would have been able to do Palo Alto if I were 17. I was 21 or 22, so I had the perfect amount of perspective on what it was like to be that age.”
To play producer Ryan Murphy’s latest complex, sharp-to-the-point-of-cutting (figuratively and most likely literally) antiheroine, the actress taps into her multifaceted nature and gives a tour-de-force portrayal so cunningly clever she makes Regina George and Blair Waldorf seem warm and fuzzy. “Ryan has written Chanel to be very articulate, clever, and fierce. I actually called him and was like, ‘Is she too mean? Are people going to hate her?’ And he said, ‘No, they’re going to love to hate her,’” says Emma, who previously collaborated with Murphy in two installments of American Horror Story. “Chanel is a mean girl and says things that I definitely don’t agree with, but I like that there’s a layer of smartness to her, so I try to come from a place of understanding. Still, there are definitely times when I’m apologizing to all of the girls when we say ‘cut.’”
Emma’s real-life collegiate experience, nearly a semester at Sarah Lawrence College, wasn’t exactly normal — she recalls seeing one of her movie posters displayed on school grounds. (“I needed to go to know that it wasn’t right for me,” she says.) But in Scream Queens — a modern mix of Heathers, Jawbreaker, and Halloween‚ — things get downright crazy: Ariana Grande, Lea Michele, Keke Palmer, Billie Lourd, and Abigail Breslin play Emma’s sorority sisters, whose lives are turned askew after a series of murders on campus. As we sit down for a proper Southern seafood meal, Emma spills some behind-the-scenes secrets. “Shooting down here is like summer camp with all of us,” she says. “I’m the camp counselor because I know all of the spots to eat and where to go, because this is my third year being here after American Horror Story. We’re always texting each other; we pick each other up for work; we go get pizza or coffee together. It doesn’t feel like I’m just going to work every morning.” At that, I roll my eyes — there’s no way that many egos on one set wouldn’t be the ultimate bitchfest — but Emma exclaims, “No, we all really love each other! The other day we were saying, ‘If nobody got along, that would be so bad!’”
The camaraderie is even more impressive considering Murphy’s creative process. “None of us know how the show ends. We don’t know who the killer is; we don’t even know who’s going to live and who’s going to die. Apparently only four people will go on to season two,” she explains. “It’s fun. I think everyone secretly thinks they’re the killer, so they are kind of playing it like that.”
Thanks to her roles in 2011’s Scream 4 and the upcoming thriller Nerve, Emma is no stranger to simulated terror and sticky fake blood — but offscreen she’s pretty squeamish. “I’m the biggest scaredy-cat of them all,” she admits. “My friends don’t even want me to see scary movies with them, because they know that they’ll have to sleep over after or that I’ll be calling them all night thinking that a ghost is in the house.” Yep, unlike her catty Scream Queens character, Emma loves some good old-fashioned female bonding. “I’m such a girl’s girl. I’m finally at a point in my life where I feel like I have the group of friends that I always dreamed of having that I know I can support and trust and that make me feel confident,” she shares. Things weren’t always so easy, though.
“When I was a teenager I was surrounding myself with friends who were talking behind everyone’s back and starting drama. People do get competitive and fake, and it didn’t make me feel good,” she recalls. “Sadly, I’ve had to let some friendships go over the last few years. I think it’s hard for any girl growing up — you definitely find out who your friends are.”
Another sign of Emma’s newfound confidence is her campaign for Aerie Real, in which she appears completely unretouched. “I thought it was important to show that this is me. When I’m not working I don’t wear makeup, heels, or cocktail dresses. I don’t spend time getting ready. I literally pull clothes off the floor and brush my teeth and wear sunscreen,” she explains as we make our way through the streets of the storied French Quarter. “I wanted to do the shoot because with social media there’s such pressure to look or act a certain way or be cool, and I felt I could show girls — just be who you are…. That message gets lost with Facetuning and filters and Photoshop.”
The campaign’s laid-back approach aligns perfectly with Emma’s current style. “I see old pictures of me and am like, ‘Why are you wearing heels in the middle of the day?’” she says while clicking the heels of her white Converse. “I am definitely more casual now. I love denim shorts, and I’ll never not.” On the red carpet, she’s been opting for smaller, cooler labels like Tanya Taylor, Kempner, Line & Dot, and Awaveawake, yet she isn’t afraid of a high-fashion splurge every now and then: “My latest gift to myself when I started taping the show was a Balenciaga fanny pack,” she reveals. “It’s made me happier than I want to admit.”
Pick up our November issue, on newsstands October 27th.