The Verge: Odette Yustman

2010_you_again_006.jpgPeople often like to compare Odette Yustman to Megan Fox, and on the one hand, you can see their point. Both actresses are knockout brunettes, and when Yustman plays the former high school mean girl tormenting the nerdy Kristen Bell in You Again, it's almost as though she's doing a less supernatural take on Fox's haughty Jennifer Body's performance. The key difference is that Yustman has a more expansive range and a more extroverted nature, especially in person, when she practically leaps from her seat while answering questions. The super-sweet 25-year-old told Movieline how good it is to be bad, what's behind the world domination of her You Again costar Betty White, and what auteur she plans to stalk.

You have to be sweet and sympathetic for a good chunk of this movie, but you also get to be bad. Is that more fun?

Oh yeah! I feel like Joanna is the first time that I was actually able to play a character, because previously, I've played people who were more like me that I could relate to. Joanna is really layered, so I had a lot of fun drawing from memories of a couple girls who were... [she makes a face]. So I thought, this is my opportunity to channel this sort of person I used to know, and it was so much fun, but it was also challenging to make the audience feel bad for her. It's difficult because she was such a mean girl, and if she could just apologize [to Kristen Bell's character], it'd be great and done.

Is there a limit to how mean you can make her, or does the audience enjoy that? You watch a movie like Mean Girls, and it's almost like the audience prefers the bad behavior.

They're ready for it! Absolutely. There were a couple of times where I thought, "Wow, I seem like such a bitch, and I'd better be careful -- I'll walk away from this movie and people are going to hate me!" But then I thought exactly what you just said, that this is what they're expecting and you just have to let everything else go, because it'll make it even more worthwhile when you have to be sympathetic at the end. Hopefully, it works.

You mentioned channeling some mean girls in school, and you did a little bit of acting when you were growing up -- you even appeared in Kindergarten Cop. Did that affect how your classmates treated you?

Yes. Kids are horrible! They can be so mean, and I never really experienced it until I was in high school. I went to a really small school with a class of 67 kids...

Wait, you grew up in Riverside, right? They have classes that small in California?

Crazy, right? And everybody knew each other, so it almost made it worse, because you were this big family, but like in every school, you had your bullies. Of course, I was really lanky and pretty awkward, and this one girl did not like me so much. So yeah, those memories stuck out and it was easy to draw inspiration from that, because I've been there. I know how those girls treated me, so it was easy to pretend to be them.

You initially pursued a totally different career in college. Did you have second thoughts about acting?

Well, here's the deal. I did grow up doing it, but I really wanted to focus on school and have a normal childhood. Growing up about an hour and a half away from Los Angeles, the commute was really brutal, as you know.

I hate that drive to Riverside.

It's ridiculous. It's not fun, especially when you're seven years old and all you want to do is play with your girlfriends, but you're in a car for two hours to go to an audition that you don't even know if you'll book. So it was a little difficult, but I really did enjoy acting, and it wasn't my parents pushing me. They're not stage parents at all -- they said, "Do whatever you want to do, but maybe go to [college] for a year." So I went to a community college for a year and a half and then I thought about going to Loyola Marymount for business finance, but I thought, "You know what? That's not what I want to do. What am I going to do with business finance? That's a joke. I want to act, and I'm not going to half-ass it and go to school at the same time. If I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it." So I moved out to Los Angeles at 19 and that's when I took it seriously and said, "Parents, friends, everybody: This is my goal, and I'm going to do it. And if I don't, I can fall back on school and have a back-up plan."

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