Hubert Burda Media

Cover Story: Abigail Breslin

Oscar-nominated actress Abigail Breslin talks to us about doing the laundry, playing Cards Against Humanity and running away from Ryan Gosling.

By all appearances, compared to the majority of other child stars of her generation, Abigail Breslin has her act together. There have been no unfortunate DUIs (Justin Bieber and Amanda Bynes), public meltdowns (Bynes and Britney Spears), incidents of disorderly conduct (Bieber and Shia La Boeuf) or drug habits (Drew Barrymore and Macaulay Culkin).

In fact, for someone who ricocheted to fame at the age of 10, winning an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for her work in Little Miss Sunshine, Breslin has been refreshingly free of scandal. She has worked alongside some of the best in the business, including M Night Shyamalan and Mel Gibson in Signs, and is currently a regular on the breakout new TV series, Scream Queens, where she plays a character known as Chanel Number Five.

She was also recently tapped to play the iconic part of Baby in the upcoming reboot of Dirty Dancing – although she’s the first to admit that she’s a pretty unlikely contender, given her inexperience with any type of dancing, dirty or otherwise. In 2015, she also launched her first book, This May Sound Crazy, a collection of non-fiction essays based on her popular Tumblr blog.

On a recent Sunday afternoon in her home state of New York, Breslin, 19, was about to head off to rehearsals for Dirty Dancing – but not before settling down to chat about the inevitable travails of young adulthood – including figuring out how to use the washing machine in her new apartment.

Being in a TV series is a new experience for you. Do you like the relative security and regularity of the schedule of a television actress?

I’d never done television before, so working for nine months on the same character was new for me, and a really good experience. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m lucky that everybody I’ve worked with, all the cast and crew, are so great, and we’ve become a family afterwards. [Co-stars] Emma Roberts and Billie Lourd have become my best friends – they’re like my sisters, and I go to them for advice all the time. We’d be on set and talking in group text messages about what was going on on set.

How are you feeling about the upcoming Dirty Dancing?

I haven’t had a lot of dance experience and we’re in the very beginning stages of training, so it’s been interesting. I think it will be crazy when we get into the choreography. I haven’t really danced much other than when I’m with my friends, but Baby, my character, was not super into dancing in the beginning either, so hopefully I can play to that. But I’m down to become a good dancer.

Did you like the original?

I’ve always loved it – and it’s also been one of my mom’s favourite movies. So it was insane when this came around, because I’ve always been such a huge fan of the first one and I’ve watched it so many times. And now I get to play such an iconic character, someone that I’ve loved. And the music, of course, is amazing.

Speaking of music, you’ve been singing and recording as well. What are some of your musical influences?

I listen to a wide variety of things. I like Halsey, The Vaccines, Odessa, The Temper Trap. My tastes run to more pop and dance electronica. And I love Justin Bieber’s great new album. My friends and I are always checking out new music. We’ll get into an Uber and play each other new songs we’ve heard, or if I’m in a store or at the gym and I hear something I like, I’ll immediately Shazam it and find out what it is.

Given that you’ve grown up in the entertainment industry, do you find that most of your friends are also actors?

It’s a mix. I have a lot of friends who aren’t in the business at all, people I grew up with in New York, as well as others I’ve met on movies or through work.

Are you careful whom you let into your circle, wanting to make sure that they’re genuine and not wanting to hang out with you for the wrong reasons?

I used to be more so, wondering if people were sincere or not. But if you think that way, you’ll never have a lot of friends. I have to give people the benefit of the doubt. If I look at most people who are trying to befriend me – what are they getting from it anyway? It’s not like I’m a multi-billionaire, like if you’re my friend I’ll get you a car. But sure, there are definitely people – and you can tell immediately – who are maybe just trying to get press. You can usually find out pretty quickly and weed them out early on.

Looking back, what do you think of your Little Miss Sunshine time? All that acclaim and attention, and you were just 10 years old. Do you feel you missed out on any part of your childhood?

It was a very interesting time – and no, I don’t think I missed out on anything, probably because I grew up here in New York. Things are a little bit more normal here, and the business is not as in your face as it is in Los Angeles. Maybe I missed a friend’s birthday party here or there, but none of the major life milestones.

There are a lot of potential pitfalls to being a child star, yet you seem to have circumvented them. How have you done that?

My family has definitely kept me grounded. And my friends. Although my friends and I, we’re not quite 20, we’re sort of still a mess. I just moved into my first apartment and in my first few months of living alone I realised that you actually have to wash dishes. I thought it was something that just happened, that dishes always just cleaned themselves. So when I have people over, I give them plastic cups, because I’m too lazy to wash up afterwards. I find myself calling my mom every day asking her questions about the washing machine. I haven’t quite figured out a lot about what it’s like to be an adult. I still like sitting on my couch all day and watching TV.

Are you a binge TV-watcher? What are some of your guilty pleasures?

I love Orange is the New Black. And I’m a little bit obsessed with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The theme from it is my ring tone. I’ll spend eight hours in my apartment just sitting and watching it and drinking coffee, which gets me all hyped up for no reason. So when I finally go outside, I’m immediately thinking that everyone is a criminal. I got into the elevator and there was a woman just standing there and I screamed. I had to remind myself that this is New York City, there will be people in elevators.

I need to stop watching that show. But I love it, because each episode has such a twist and I love getting into it and trying to figure it out. I love old movies too – a lot of the old Bette Davis films, and Christmas movies. And I watch so much reality TV that it’s actually horrible – shows like Teen Mom and True Life, bad stuff like that. It’s so much more interesting than dealing with my own life. All I do is work out or play Cards Against Humanity all night with my friends, so that’s why I need to watch these horrible dramatic shows, so I can start trying to create drama in my own life!

Did you ever feel that making it as an actress was a struggle, or have things come fairly easily for you?

I know to people on the outside it can seem like things have been really easy. And yes, I was lucky in that there were some things that came along that gave me really good opportunities. But at the same time, any actor knows that nothing about this business is a constant. I’m like everybody else – there are times that I really want a particular role and I’m told no, that I’m not right for it. A lot of the time you never know why, and there’s no explanation, and that’s definitely frustrating. I’ve been lucky in a lot of ways. But I wouldn’t say that it’s been particularly easy.

So when people ask you for advice about breaking into and making it in this business, what do you tell them?

Just to keep going at it. You need to go out on as many auditions as you can. Eventually something will break. Before anything, you have to be fully accepting of the reality of rejection. You have to keep going, even when it’s hard, which it is a lot of the time. You have to be ready to hear no.

How do you handle the downsides of fame, like the lack of privacy, or people wanting to take your photo?

I never usually mind when someone wants to take a photo with me. I think it’s really cool, and it’s always nice to hear when somebody says they’ve seen something you’ve done. But what I don’t like is when people try and take secret pictures, or to photograph you slyly. Then I’m like, “All right, come on, either say something or don’t do it at all.” Yesterday I was at a pizza place and there were two girls Googling me while they were standing right in front of me, like I couldn’t hear. People try and mask it by pretending they’re looking at their phone, but nobody holds up a phone five inches from their face. I want to say to them, “If you want a photo, just ask me, don’t do it while I’m taking a bite of something.”

Do you ever get star-struck yourself?

You would think that because I’m in this industry, I’d be more comfortable around famous people. But I’m really awkward around them. I have literally run away from celebrities, even if they say hi to me. The first time I met Zac Efron, when we were on the same movie [New Year’s Eve], he said, “Hey Abigail,” and I literally turned around and sprinted away from him. And then another time I was at Disneyland and I saw Ryan Gosling, and he didn’t see me, because I’m so not on his radar, but I was terrified and ran away too. It’s really weird. But there are some celebrities I would like to meet some day. I love Michelle Williams, I think she’s so good. And Darren Aronofsky at some point.

Are you a big travel person? Do you like to travel for pleasure?

Most of the travel I do now is for work. When I have the opportunity to be in New York, I really just like to try and stay home. But there are some places I’d love to visit. I saw The Fault in Our Stars, and I’d love to go to Amsterdam. And I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska – it’s the only state I’ve never been to. I love cold weather, and I feel I’d really like it there, maybe take one of those cruises where you can see sea life. I’ve spent a lot of time in London, which is such a fun city. And I love Tokyo; I feel I could live there. I’ve been wanting to go to China and Hong Kong. I was talking to my friend who is going to China for two weeks, and I wanted to go so badly. Asia is one part of the world I’ve not spent a lot of time in, which is unfortunate.

Do you consider yourself a fashion person?

Not at all. It’s nice to do a photo shoot, but otherwise I’m not good at figuring out what I should wear. If I could, I’d wear leggings and boots and a Christmas sweater all the time. I find that the older I get, the more uncomfortable clothing becomes. When I was younger, I could wear something cute with high heels and wear it all night. I’m short, so I do love heels. Now that I’m living alone, I don’t want to be walking back from Whole Foods carrying groceries in high, uncomfortable shoes.

What else do you want to accomplish?

As long as I keep doing what I’m doing – making movies I like, writing, recording music – that will make me happy. At some point I’d like to figure out how to use the washing machine as well.