Why do you like About.com?
Its an accurate representation of whatever it is I need.
What do you look up?
Im a homework obsessive/fanatic about when I play a part doing an excessive amount of research. I mean, that just happens to be the website that I defer to a lot. Ill search anything, any topic that I need academically to understand for any field Im doing. Its so all-encompassing.
What did you look up for this role?
To tell you the truth, I relied on a lot of personal experience for "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton" as I am from the south where the first Piggly Wiggly was born. We actually have a Piggly Wiggly museum. Ive had films where Ive had to do much more homework, things that I didnt understand so much, [like] the 1950s for "Mona Lisa Smile", or prison life for a film Im about to do. So "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton" was much more about personal experience.
I guess I actually did a lot of research on Marilyn Monroe. For some reason, [she] inspired me as someone that my character thought that she was like, even though shes clearly not. She was sort of a role model for my character. So thats someone who I did a lot of research on.
Are people as innocent as these characters or are we jaded?
Well, I think that certainly I know where I come from, there is still this innocence, absolutely. And I would have believed that if I had won a date with the biggest movie star in the world, I don't think I would have had any inhibitions coming from Memphis, Tennessee as far as that goes.
Who would you like to win a date with?
"I would like to win a date with Paul Newman" sounds totally strange. Id pick Paul Newman.
Tell us about "Mona Lisa Smile?"
I play Connie Baker, a mousy, breakable punching bag of a bird of a girl who carries the baggage for all of her friends and smiles in the face of conflicts, but has a lot thrown at her. It was a beautiful, magical experience working with those women [on] my first film. It could not have been a more fulfilling experience.
Is it a female "Dead Poets Society?"
Absolutely. I hope we can live up to that film.
Did you give Josh any advice for playing a teen heartthrob?
No, I don't think I have any of the problems, the wonderful problems that this character had. I didnt talk to him about this role, but I did talk to him about what its like to have a huge burst of luck that, all of a sudden [to] just be thrown out on the scene. He had a television show starting this year so I did feel like, even though hes older than me, [I could] give him a little bit of advice as to how to basically deal with all you people.
I hate using words like stay normal and that bulls**t, but actually you want to basically know what matters and what doesnt, and this truly doesnt matter. You may think youre going to change a lot, and then you really dont have to. Some people do just because they think they have to. He is such a mellow guy. Ive worked with him all summer. He doesnt need any advice from me.
Will we know that Rosalie eventually ends up with you in the end?
Well, youve gotta pay to find out. Look, I believe one way or another, there are two very obvious choices. Its not like at the end she writes a book and drowns herself. Its either one vote or the other. Its all been done before, but to me its about, regardless how it ends, these movies are more about the craftsmanship of the entire film, as opposed to trying to avoid predictability. I think sometimes when people try to avoid predictability, they wind up making a movie where the ending really changes what happened.
Would you ever auction yourself off?
Does this character represent your comic sensibility?
I mean, I definitely have an awareness that people who see "That '70s Show" are going to see this, unlike when I did "Traffic" where it was completely opposite audiences. But I think thats an awful reason not to do something. Thats actually a great reason to do something. But the character is different. Hes more cynical and theres more of a growth.