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If the lofty expectations implicit in the ShoWest Female Star of Tomorrow honoree are putting a heavy burden on this year’s recipient, Emma Roberts, she isn’t showing it. But, then, as the daughter of Oscar-nominated actor Eric Roberts and the niece of top female boxoffice star (and Oscar winner) Julia Roberts, she’s been carrying that kind of baggage since she first stepped in front of the cameras at age 10 to play Johnny Depp’s daughter in 2001’s “Blow.” In the years since, she’s proved herself to be a preternaturally poised young leading lady with a three-year stint starring in the hit Nickelodeon comedy series “Unfabulous” and a co-starring role in the 2006 feature “Aquamarine.” But when the 16-year-old actress spoke recently with Todd Longwell for The Hollywood Reporter, she did admit to feeling a bit concerned about taking on the role of the titular teen sleuth in Warner Bros. Pictures’ upcoming “Nancy Drew,” an update of the 77-year-old mystery series that has sold more than 200 million books in 14 languages. “I was kind of nervous,” Roberts admits. “Everyone has their own perception of the character from reading the books, so I don’t know if they’ll like the way I play her.”
The Hollywood Reporter: Did you read any of the books before filming began?
Emma Roberts: I hadn’t read them before, but I’m reading a bunch right now because everybody keeps giving them to me. (Laughs) The only reason I didn’t read the books is because I didn’t want it to change the way I planned on playing her. I just wanted to read the script and use that. But after the movie and a little bit during, I read a little bit of a bunch of them.
THR: How did you land the role of Nancy Drew?
Roberts: Well, I just went on a general meeting with Warner Bros., and they were looking at projects they were doing and they mentioned it, and that kind of stuck with me for some reason. I thought it was a really cool idea, and I wondered why nobody had made a big motion picture of “Nancy Drew.” You’d think they’d have done it already. So, I kept talking to my manager about it, and I was like, “I really, really want to do that movie. Can you follow that and see what happens?” And so then I did a screen test, and I didn’t hear for a little bit, and then I found out I got the part. I was really surprised and happy because the other girls who screen-tested were much older than I am.
THR: Have you watched any episodes of the TV series from the 1970s starring Pamela Sue Martin?
Roberts: I have, actually. They were on TV a couple of weeks ago, and I was watching them and thought it was really funny. They were sort of old-fashioned.
THR: The film is very modern, though.
Roberts: Well, yes, they updated the story, basically. But the really cool thing is that they kept Nancy Drew’s character the same, for the most part. They made her more old-fashioned (than the other characters) and also just more like the kind of person she is in the books.
THR: Do you identify with Nancy?
Roberts: I do, but not completely. She’s kind of the opposite of me because she’s a complete, complete perfectionist. I mean, I’m a perfectionist with some things, but not to the point she is. And she’s much more proper and well-mannered, I guess you could say. (Laughs)
THR: How do you approach acting? Are you just someone who memorizes the lines and does it, or do you have some complicated, intellectualized process?
Roberts: I wish I could say that I have some cool, complicated process, but I just study the script, I talk to the director and I go on the set and just become the character. I think that’s really the best way. But, I don’t know … whatever works for everybody.
THR: Have you gotten any career advice from your father or your aunt?
Roberts: I really haven’t. I think people assume that just because we’re all in the business, we talk about it all the time. But I never really talk about it with them. I think the best advice you can get is what you learn yourself when you’re on the set and (from what) you observe. I’ve learned from experience.
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