What were you like in high
I was a very ambitious high
schooler. I was a die-hard dancer. All I wanted to do was move to
LA and become a professional dancer. Every weekend I was at dance
competitions, dance conventions, trying to win as many scholarships
and awards as I could. I was just a very passionate child and
passionate teenager. At the same time, I was involved in
cheerleading and had a lot of good friends. I grew up in a small
town in Texas, so I had a real Varsity Blues high school
experience. I kind of had the best of both worlds, to be honest. I
had a wonderful high school I went to with really good friends and
football games and very interested in clean fun. Then I also had my
passion that I was working towards 24/7.
Did you go back to your high
I didn't get to go. I was
working. I was filming a movie, so I completely missed it.
The last time I spoke with you,
you were just making Step Up. I believe this is the first
time you’ve worked with your husband since then, and obviously your
relationship has changed substantially since that performance. What
was it like acting with him again?
Really fun. It was really fun and
really easy. There is a natural ease between Channing and I. Also
as these characters, they had been together for a long time. They
really love each other. We just sort of injected a little drama in
there, just to give something different and something not as
expected and different from Step Up. So when Rosario
[Dawson] plays his high school sweetheart, we made a conscious
choice to make it not all roses. To have some drama and see that
unfold on the screen. As for working with Chan, it was pretty easy
and wonderful. We'd laugh in between takes. We had a lot of fun.
A lot of it was improv. It was a really good time.
Was it different working
together now that you have so much life experience than it was the
first time around?
Yeah, I think there is a little
bit more maturity due to our relationship. I think there is a lot
more trust. The rest of the day we're married, we see each other
all the time, so we didn't have to work at building any chemistry.
It's already there. In Step Up, it was getting to know each
other and that excitement of who is this person? In this one it was
the ease and joy of being able to be around the person you love
every single day. It's a different energy.
10 Years has an amazing
ensemble cast of some of terrific actors – obviously you and
Channing, but also Justin Long, Rosario Dawson, Kate Mara, Chris
Pratt, Lynn Collins, Ari Graynor, Audrey Plaza and many others. Was
it comfortable right away to work with such a star-studded cast?
Definitely it was a fun group of
actors. Everybody was excited to be there and play. It
was not a serious job. Everybody was excited to be there and
have a reason to play. That was the whole thing of this movie.
One where the actors made the characters their own and really had a
lot of fun. We really enjoyed what we were doing. They
gave us a lot of input on what we wanted to say, what we wanted to
do. For an actor, that's like a dream. So everybody
signed on to do it right away, because they could have a really
great, free time.
One thing I really liked about
10 Years is the fact that while they all are trying to be
crazy and live out the past, most of the characters are very
grounded and actually pretty mature about life – undoubtedly more
than I was at 28. What was it about Jamie Linden’s script that
I love these movies. I'm a
personal fan of The Big Chill and throwbacks to early
Eighties movies and the Nineties. Movies that had big ensemble
casts. Lots of stories that intertwined. I love those movies,
personally, so to me it was a no-brainer. I wanted to do it
immediately. I think that Jamie is a really smart writer. I was
excited to work with him, because I thought that he would give us
the confidence and the freedom to improvise a lot. He really did.
Channing had worked with Jamie
before, and beyond acting in 10 Years, he was also very
involved in the development of the film. Did that make it even more
special as an actress to be a part of?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It was
definitely. That was a big difference to be working with him now
vs. Step Up, because he was a producer on this one, so he had
a lot of say in the way things were looking. There's also a lot
more pressure. There's a lot more going on. You're not just there
saying your lines and doing your job, you have to think about so
many other things as a producer. Even though I wasn't technically a
producer on this one, I was supporting him through his producing
process. (laughs) So that brings in... you learn a lot. You
learn how to work with people. You learn how to work with actors.
You learn how to work with directors in a different way. It was a
really big learning experience.
Jess was sort of an outsider to
the group, having not gone to the school or known these people
before that day. Did that make the character an interesting
tightrope to walk? Have you ever been in that kind of situation
where you were catching up on everyone else’s in jokes and
Yes. It was an interesting
dynamic, especially because I have done that before. I have
definitely gone and accompanied somebody I've been with or a friend
of mine somewhere I didn't know anyone. I moved around a lot as a
kid. I moved every two or three years to a new city. So I'm very
familiar with the feeling of not knowing anyone and having to go in
and make friends.
The film is obviously strongly
about nostalgia for the past. What kind of things make you feel
Ooh. I feel nostalgic when I hear
certain songs that remind me of my dance competitions when I was a
kid. Cheesy Nineties songs. You know, like Black Box and C&C Music
Factory. Stuff like that makes me immediately go back to dance
competitions. When I walk through the MGM Grand in Vegas, it
reminds me of our national dance competitions. We were always
there when I was a kid. Every year. Little things like that.
Little memories. Smells sometimes can bring me back. There was a
perfume called "Beautiful" by Estee Lauder that I used to wear, that
my first boyfriend gave me. That will bring me back immediately.
Obviously Channing’s character
was truly in love with yours, but he had some unresolved issues to
work out with Rosario Dawson’s character. In real life, do you
think you’d be so confident to step back and let him figure it out
like your character did?
Yeah. Yeah. You know what, that
was a big input I had, as far as my character Jess, because I
wanted... You know, we filmed it chronologically so we knew that
that moment was coming up. We weren't sure, we debated back and
forth whether we wanted her to stay or leave or what would be the
right course of action. When we got there, I just felt that it was
a stronger choice. Trust in their relationship. Trust in the love
that they have for each other. Sometimes, love isn't perfect.
Sometimes, you do need to revisit something to learn about
yourself. That's what I tell him. He needed to resolve, not so
much feelings with Rosario as it was some aspect of himself that he
was unsure about, that he needed to come to a conclusion about so
that he could move forward with Jess. That was the most mature, and
I think the most watchable version of what we could do at that
Obviously, Step Up was
an important movie for you because you met your husband, but it was
also your biggest hit to date. What was the movie like to make?
It's so special. I grew up with
movies like Dirty Dancing, that was my favorite movie ever.
I can watch it over and over and over. People come up to me and
say, "Oh my God, I've seen Step Up 700 times" and "I watch it
every other day" and "it's my favorite movie." That's what we all
dream of. That's what actors dream of. We want to be a part of
something that can affect people on a mass level and can be guilty
pleasure for them. That is like a huge, huge accomplishment to me.
And of course, you know, I met my husband. (laughs) That is
the prime reason that I think that movie happened. It will
always be a special memory to me.
They recently released a fourth
Step Up movie. Have you been surprised by the series’
Oh, yes. It is shocking to me.
We had no idea when we were filming the first Step Up that it
would ever one day become a huge series or even a franchise. It's
wild. It's exciting and super flattering.
You obviously started out as a
dancer, would you like to do more movies like Step Up and
Take the Lead that take advantage of that, like a musical?
I would love to do a musical.
That's one of my biggest dreams in life, to do either a film musical
or do something on Broadway. I would love to do it. I would love
to dance again. I miss dancing. It will always be my first
passion. I would love to bring it back in my life again.
You took your first TV series
last year with The Playboy Club. Unfortunately it didn’t
last very long – I actually liked the pilot a lot.
How was it different working on
a series than a film? Would you like to do more TV?
Yeah. I like both. I love
acting. I want to be doing this forever. Whether it's film or TV,
I just look for good role. Honestly, I look for things that I feel
that I can connect in with and then I just have fun doing it. And
that doesn't mean it has to be a funny role, it means it has to be
something that lights you up from within. A lot of times it doesn't
look like what everyone else thinks it might look like. I read
scripts and everyone in the world is like, "this is the best script
I've ever read," and it's good, but it doesn't really light me up.
Then I'll read things that other people are like, "I don't know if
this story is for you," and I'm like, "Oh, I love this. I think I
could have a lot of fun doing this." So, a part of me just sort of
goes off my gut. The Playboy Club was such a fun
experience. I would absolutely be open to doing more TV.
What else do you have coming
I have American Horror Story,
the second season, starting October 17th. I play opposite Adam
Levine [of Maroon 5]. We play newlyweds. And there you go.
(laughs) That's about all I can say because I'm sworn to