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4321, Emma Roberts

Interview by Rob Carnevale

EMMA Roberts and Shanika Warren-Markland talk about some of their experiences of shooting Noel Clarke’s *43.2.1., a UK variation on Go, as well as handling celebrity and their hopes for the future…

Emma also talks about some of her forthcoming projects, including It’s Kind of A Funny Story and why she still gets star-struck occasionally in spite of her family connections!

Q. How did you get involved with Noel Clarke’s 4321?
Shanika Warren-Markland: Noel had written the script so I just got a phone call one day and he said he was going to send it to me, with a view to looking at the part of Kerrys and seeing what I thought. I read it, loved it, fell in love with the script straight away, so went and met Noel and Mark Davis [co-director]. We spoke about it a little bit, I said I could do it, and that was it really.

Emma Roberts: I thought it was really original and interesting when I first read it. I liked my part because I got to play an American and it was in London. I asked my friends in London about Noel and they all said he was really cool, so it just seemed like a fun job to do and it turned out to be.

Q. So, Emma, what was Noel like to work for?
Emma Roberts: He’s has an amazing energy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 5am or 5pm, he’s always energetic and he really keeps you feeling motivated to do your best. You want him to be happy with your performance.

Q. And Shanika, what was it like being reunited with him for the first time since Adulthood?
Shanika Warren-Markland: I love working with Noel. Especially with Adulthood and now 4321, it’s kind of like a family environment and everyone kind of stays in touch afterwards because we get on really well. But he’s a really good director, and I enjoy working for him.

Q. Is he collaborative as well? Can you bring your own ideas to the script?
Emma Roberts: None of us were too adamant about bringing in things that weren’t already there, but I think once we all got together it just clicked in terms of our body language and the way we inter-acted with each other. As far as the words, none of us were really too into changing anything. On the occasions that we were, he was always open to it.

Q. Noel said he wrote 4321 as a reaction to being criticised for not being able to write about women in Kidulthood
Shanika Warren-Markland: I read that. But he’s written four really strong female characters, which is very rare in a British film.

Q. How close to your characters are you?
Emma Roberts: I’m so not my character. She’s really passive aggressive and kind of a pushover. But I’m really aggressive and confrontational, I guess. But at the same time, I really care about my friends and I think I’m kind of the person who would be rounding up all the friends. I’m always getting everyone together.

Q. And Shanika?
Shanika Warren-Markland: Kerrys is a bit like Emma [laughs] in that she’s more confrontational and aggressive than I am. But I still know how to stand up for myself. Some people might say I can be rude and a bit mouthy sometimes, so similar in some ways but different in others, which made it a nice challenge.

Q. Kerrys’ outfits are among some of the more skimpy in the film. How was it to dress down, I guess?
Shanika Warren-Markland: [Laughs] Everyone was so used to seeing me in those clothes that by the end of it, when I had a pair of jeans on one day, they told me to go and get dressed! But I said: “I am dressed!” They were so used to seeing skin out all the time, he actually didn’t think I was in my costume. I also had fake tattoos on. There was one nice one… which said ‘imagine’. She’s just an out there character, so her outfits are just an extension of that.

Q. How long did you all get to bond?
Emma Roberts: We had dinner together and then we did the first day of shooting and it was so easy and fun. Everyone was switching numbers and wanted to hang out, so…

Q. And Shanika?
Shanika Warren-Markland: It’s true but odd… in normal life you don’t usually meet people and spend a couple of hours with them and get on so well straight away. But it was a stroke of luck that we did get on so well so soon after meeting each other because it comes across on-screen.

Q. One of the inspirations for this film is clearly Go, as well as an American style of filmmaking. Was that part of what attracted you… the idea that it could play in America just as easily and therefore raise your profile as an actress?
Shanika Warren-Markland: We didn’t really think about it on that level. We were just thinking about the project as it was and getting released in the UK.

Q. And Emma, did you like the fact you got to work in the UK again on a film that has a very American sensibility?
Emma Roberts: I’ve done so many American films that I was more excited about the British aspect of it. I liked the idea of having more exposure here. Wild Child came out here and did really well and I was hoping to do something else for that audience.

Q. Do you like filming in the UK?
Emma Roberts: I love it. I love London. I think it’s my favourite city. I have so many friends here. I love the shopping, I love the nightlife. It’s really unique. I can’t think of anywhere else like it… people say it’s like New York but it’s not at all. It’s totally its own city.


Q. In career terms, how do you think 4321 will help to raise your profile, Shanika?
Shanika Warren-Markland: Well, I can only hope that it will raise my profile and lead to more opportunities. It was just a great opportunity to have this part as my first leading role, and I really enjoyed the experience of doing it.

Q. Do you read reviews, or pay attention to box office?
Shanika Warren-Markland: People have told me not to do that! Everyone says don’t read the reviews. I probably will have a peek.

Q. And Emma, you seem to be taking on more edgy roles. This is one of them, but you’ve done a film for Dustin Lance Black [What’s Wrong With Virginia]?
Emma Roberts: I met Lance… well, first of all I fell in love with him during the Oscars speech [for his screenplay for Milk]. I thought it was so amazing and so heartfelt, and I had such a crush on him too [laughs]. I met him and I was so in awe… he was so smart and cute. But I got cast in the movie after meeting him and it was one of those things where I couldn’t believe it! I took the meeting to meet him, and if I got the part it was a bonus. But I then had such an amazing time shooting the movie… Jennifer Connelly is in it, Ed Harris… it’s just a really wonky film and really emotional. Lance is a great writer-director. But it’s funny now because I keep running into him at Starbucks all the time! I saw him in New York two or three times, which was really random, but… I tried to convince him to marry me but he just wouldn’t [laughs]!

Q. Coming from an acting background with Eric [her father] and Julia [her aunt] Roberts, how are you on film sets when you get to star opposite a Jennifer Connelly or Ed Harris. Do you get star-struck? Or are you used to that level of celebrity?
Emma Roberts: I definitely get kind of awkward… not uncomfortable. I always feel dumb being like: “Oh, I love your stuff!” I shouldn’t, though, because when people say that to me it means a lot. So, I feel like to them it’s probably still really sweet, but it still feels a little dorky. But meeting Jennifer Connelly I was so nervous, but she’s so nice and so good in the movie. But the good thing about my job is that I get to keep meeting so many different kinds of people – sometimes it’s people you’ve never heard of but end up becoming close with, or who you know are going to be big.

Q. Has it been easier or harder to establish your own career because of your family background?
Emma Roberts: I don’t think it’s hindered… at this point it’s really just about me and how I handle myself in public, or how I do in auditions, how I do in meetings. At this point, it’s kind of up to me whether or not I’m going to be successful or whatever. When I was younger, everyone thought that people were giving me parts because I was related to Julia or whatever. But the bottom line is that as much as people might like my aunt, another person might dislike her, so a lot of the time if someone didn’t get along with my dad, or whatever, it would reflect on me. So, it was a bit of both. There were definitely some people who loved my aunt, who said: “Oh, we want to meet Emma!” And likewise, there were people who just didn’t want to meet me. And that was a bummer.

4321, Noel Clarke

Q. Have they been supportive?
Emma Roberts: Definitely. We don’t really talk about our careers when we get together but she’s doing a movie right now and I’m going to go and visit her when I get back, and my dad sent me flowers on the opening day of my movie, which is really sweet, with a nice card. So, yeah, they’re supportive. My mum is the most supportive. She shows everyone magazines that I’m on and stuff like that. She’s one of my biggest supporters.

Q. Did you visit the set of The Expendables?
Emma Roberts: I didn’t even know he was doing that until someone sent me an email saying my dad was doing this movie with Mickey Rourke and Sylvester Stallone and they were like: “It looks so good! Can you get me on set?” I have actually met Mickey Rourke at an Oscar after-party. I was kind of star-struck but he was really sweet. Everyone had cleared a path for him to come through… it was for The Wrestler. But that was a really funny experience.

Q. When it comes to celebrity, are you prepared for everything that comes with it? Shanika, are you ready for it?
Shanika Warren-Markland: Well, I don’t really know about all that stuff, so will have to wait and see. I’ve not really had a taste of it yet so we’ll see how it goes. But I think the friends and family I have around me would never let my head get too big [laughs]. They’d be slapping it right down.

Q. Would you find yourself looking at Emma to see how she handles her success?
Shanika Warren-Markland: Well, we don’t really talk about it in that kind of detail. But just from general conversations that we have, I know that she’s really serious about her career and the other girls… we’re all really focused on what we’re doing. We’re not about magazines, or this award show, or that party.

Q. What’s next for you?
Shanika Warren-Markland: I’m off to South Africa to work with a theatre company doing a show that we did last year.

Emma Roberts: I have What’s Wrong With Virginia and I’ve also just finished a movie with Freddie Highmore called Homework, which is a really great independent movie. It’s very much like (500) Days of Summer in the way that it explores a relationship. It’s very honest sand he’s so sweet and cute and amazing. We had the best time. At the end of the year, I then have a movie called It’s Kind of A Funny Story coming out, which is based on one of my favourite books.

Q. Is that with Zach Galifianakis, from The Hangover?
Emma Roberts: Yes and Viola Davis, who was nominated for Doubt. It’s the new film from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who did Half Nelson and Sugar. They’re great. I’m so excited to see the movie. I play a cutter in the movie, so I had like prosthetic scars on my face. It’s a really interesting role. I read the book when I was 13 and wanted to make it a movie. And then I forgot all about it, until I was 18, and someone said there was this random script that sounds amazing, which has amazing directors. I was like: “No way! I read it when I was 13 and loved it!” So, I was really excited when I got the part. They’re so talented. I would work with Ryan and Anna again in a second.

Q. They’re similar to Noel Clarke in that they do it their own way and often write their own material…
Emma Roberts: Yeah, they have their people, their ideas and they just do it. They don’t rely on other people… like, they totally bounce off each other and do their thing.

4321 is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday, October 4, thanks to Universal.