You grew up in Los Angeles with parents in the business. What was your biggest takeaway or what stands out the most from growing up that way?
"I went to school normally — or as normal as it was for me. I don't really know what a normal high school experience is, I think it's individual for each person. But, what I took away from it is that I kind of gathered information that I didn't know was helpful for me until I started acting professionally. For instance, on set for Vampire Academy, [director] Mark Waters would let us literally sit in his director's chair and watch playback and that is a very rare thing. Most of the time you would get fired for even asking. I, via osmosis, had picked up this information growing up. And, I feel very fortunate that I was exposed to that world. But, my parents were very normal. We barely have a TV, we don't watch too many movies, we're very food-family-animal oriented and a classic loud, Jewish family."
Mark Waters, the director, is also the man who gave us Mean Girls. Were you a super fan?
"Hugely. That was the first thing, when they sent me the information on the project, I knew I wanted to do it. I love Mark Waters. I later fell in love with the story, but initially it was the Mean Girls thing that caught my eye. We had a great relationship on the movie, too. I'm actually just realizing now that he intentionally kept me super high-strung on set. It was not normal — I would work 17-days with training during lunch and I was still super hyper. I think he was purposefully doing that…"
Vampires are taking over the world right now.
"They always have, and they keep evolving and changing depending on what society is encompassing at the time."
Did you read the Vampire Academy books before the movie or were you a fan of the vampire genre?
"It was funny, right when I got this role my dad became a producer and director of True Blood so it was like vampire central at my house. But, no, I was drawn to the character and her relationships more than the vampire aspect. That comes secondary to who she is and what she stands for and her relationship with the characters."
Did you find yourself siding with any particular character?
"Rose 100%. Actually, initially they sent me the information for Lissa and I did not want to play that character. I had no interest. And, then they showed me Rose and I liked her. But, I also like that she's wrong some of the times. She's the heroine, she's the narrator, she's the strong female lead, but she makes mistakes and I find strength in that vulnerability. A lot of these women are so strong but at the end of the day they're passive. Rose gets what she needs to get done in order to have the end results she wants."
What was filming like on this? Were you doing your own stunts?
"It's funny because I make so many awkward and ridiculous jokes all the time that things on the movie — like all the sucking on necks — don't end up being awkward to me. I pretty much deal with it with a sense of humor and a grain of salt. The fighting stuff was more awkward for me, just because I wanted to impress these stunt guys. I wanted to do all of the stunts, but they can't make you a liability for the insurance company. But, the stunt guys were so badass and I didn't ever want to complain or f*ck up and that to me was the most nerve-racking."
Were you ever worried during the fighting scenes that you would actually end up hurting someone?
"The stunt guys would always tell me that even if I actually punched them I wouldn't hurt them if I tried. It was true, but it also hurt my feelings that they thought I was weak, so it made me want to try harder."
There are some gory scenes in the movie — does any of that get to you?
"No, I'm a Scorpio. None of that stuff scares me. I was worried that there wasn't enough blood in the film, and someone told me the other day that there was too much and I was surprised. It's funny because I actually don't like horror movies — but that's because most of the time it's the girl running around in a bikini yelling 'Save me!' and as a self-proclaimed feminist, I find it wildly offensive."
The friendships between the women in Vampire Academy are pretty fascinating — do you take on roles because of how women interact with each other?
"Well, what I really liked is that I can relate to the idea of making a boy a priority. In middle school when I liked a boy, I would make him a priority over my friends and that's not right. Rose Hathaway never does that — Lissa is her everything. She makes her her number one and that is always so clear, which I thought was a wonderful message to send to young girls."
If you yourself were a vampire, do you think you would be the "good" kind or the "dark" vampire?
"Well, in this there are good vampires, bad vampires, and the ones that protect the good from the bad. I think I would be the kind my character is, simply because it would be fun to protect the good vampires and kick some ass and take some names."
Your character has an affair of sorts with her teacher in this movie — what's your own personal opinion of relationships of that kind?
"I think I get the controversial aspect of it and I also understand why it's sexy. But, to me, the relationship and the connection goes beyond 'You want what you can't have' or 'It's wrong so it feels so right.' I think the point is that these two people actually really love each other and care about one another, so I feel like it's not wrong."
What is the biggest change you've noticed in your life since your career has launched?
"I just go out a lot less. I just want to be home and cook with my family and boyfriend. I value my home life and dogs so much more [laughs]. When you're traveling you realize the little things — like, your own bed is so comfortable!"
How do you cope with the craziness?
"I just try to sleep. You know, last night I got home from traveling at 2:30 in the morning and I woke up at 7:00 for this press day, so I'm just adjusting to the schedule. I've just convinced myself that I don't believe in jet lag. People tell me that I'm insane, but it works for me. I know myself — I can convince myself of anything. If i'm not tired, then I'm not tired. I have a very strong-willed mindset."
What is dating like in Hollywood versus regular life?
"It is funny, because specifically right now my boyfriend is working a lot and I am too, so we have these joking business exchanges on the phone. I'll have my calendar out and we can schedule visits — we'll be at LAX at the same time so we can get coffee. Obviously, that's a wild exaggeration, but it's the only difference. It's so great to be with someone who you've had time to build a foundation so that fame and the business doesn't make it hard to be together."
Do you have any celebrity crushes — platonically, of course.
"As far as my career, I'd love to have a career like Sandra Bullock or Drew Barrymore. I love them. And, of course, I would be sued by the actor's community if I didn't say Meryl Streep. Otherwise, Ryan Gosling and Anton Yelchin."