Emma Roberts Talks To R29 About Nerve, New York City & Her Private Tumblr Account

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.
Emma Roberts' new movie Nerve is full of scenes that feel half-dreamy and half-nightmarish: Kissing a random (but hot) boy in a diner, having a new friend pick your next tattoo, running through Bergdorf Goodman in your bra and underwear. When bringing young adult books to the big screen, it's challenging not to constantly deal with clichés that cast girls as damsels and boys as action heroes. Nerve doesn't fall into these gendered tropes; in a daring game that's supposed to be as ubiquitous as Pokémon Go, everything is on the line for its lead character Vee, played by Roberts.

Roberts, 25, talked to us about bringing book characters to life in film, the green sequined dress her character dons in a pivotal scene, and the Tumblr account you'd never guess was hers.
Many of your recent movies — 2013's Palo Alto, 2010's It's Kind of a Funny Story — are based on books. What is it like working on those characters with a director?
"I read Palo Alto the day it came out and I got to be in the movie. It’s one of my favorite books. For Nerve I hadn’t read the book beforehand, but I read it after I read the script, and I thought the concept was so original and also so current. It doesn’t feel far-fetched for a game like that to exist with how obsessed everyone is with social media.

"But the movie is much different than the book, because it went through so many different kinds of transformations once the whole cast got assembled. I remember reading the script and the book and thinking that the only person who could play Ian was Dave Franco, and I’d known him for a while so I was like, ‘He has to do this movie, please please please’, and I think I sent him a text message when they were talking to him. He said yes and I was really happy about that."

"Shooting on Park Avenue at 4 a.m. on the back of a motorcycle is definitely a once in a lifetime experience."

Emma Roberts
How did you originally get attached to this project?
"When I read this script, I instantly fell in love with Vee, and fell in love with the world that she lives in. [The directors and I were] all on the same page with the vision of the movie. They showed this look book and little video of what they wanted the movie to look like, and I remember thinking it was going to be an amazing movie and also just a really fun movie to make.

"I think people forget watching movies in the theater that it takes months and months and months to make a movie. This was one of those shoots that we didn’t want to end. It was so fun getting to kind of run wild around New York City with such an amazing group of people."

So what was it like to run around New York for a few weeks?
"I was born in New York, but I was raised in L.A. and my family lives in New York. I hadn’t spent months at a time here in years, so I got an apartment and kind of just moved my life here for two and a half months. I got to see a different side of the city, because we were shooting from like, 5 p.m. till 6 a.m. everyday, and it added to the energy of the movie for sure.

"Shooting on Park Avenue at 4 a.m. on the back of a motorcycle is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. New York just has that magic that you see in movies and on TV shows."
Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
What about that green dress at Bergdorf’s? Did you have a hand in picking out the dress? It was a big moment for your character.
"All these images were pulled of what the [green] dress would look like. We found this amazing inspiration photo, and the dress was actually created just for the movie, and they made three or four of them. I wish that I had kept one, but by the end of it I was so sick of wearing it that I didn’t even think to keep it. I was always freezing, so they would put heating pads all over the inside of the dress when I had to be outside, because I was always shivering [laughs].

"I just have my own little Tumblr with ten followers on it."

Emma Roberts
"Everybody was really collaborative with the wardrobe on the movie, which was fun. The red sweatshirt I wear at the end of the movie is actually Rel, the director’s sweatshirt, because we couldn’t find the perfect worn-in sweatshirt. He was wearing it and I was like, 'Can we just grab that one? It’s perfect' and so I ended up wearing that. I picked out all the jeans and the Adidas, the boys were like, 'we love Adidas, we want her to be in Adidas.'"

What kind of role does social media play in your life? Obviously a lot of fans follow you, but is there a more intimate role it plays?
"Being on a television show like Scream Queens, it’s so fun every week to see what everyone is thinking about the show. It kind of helps me with what’s working, what’s not working. Also, just stuff that I don’t necessarily think is funny, because I’m in it, and then you get to see what everyone else thinks is funny, objectively, so I love that.

"I love Instagram for photo inspiration, for fashion, for home decoration and stuff like that. I’m big on Tumblr. I don’t have a Tumblr under my name, I just have my own little Tumblr with ten followers on it. It’s just a random name and I just reblog things that I like."
Since Nerve is about being daring and risky, what’s something you’ve done recently that would take someone by surprise?
"I’ll give you a more specific example but in a broader sense just coming into this year, my New Year’s resolution is to say ‘yes’ more and just go with the flow more, so I’ve been doing that. It’s been leading me to travel a lot more and hang out with new people.

"Most recently, though, one of my best friends and I — on a whim — got tattoos in New York. That was a pretty unexpected night!"
This summer, we're celebrating the biggest movie season of the year with a new series called Blockbust-HER. We'll be looking at everything film-related from the female perspective, interviewing major players in the industry and discussing where Hollywood is doing right by women and where (all too often) it is failing them. And now...let's go to the movies!

More from Movies