Shenae Grimes on Scream 4, Franchise Fatigue and the Lack of Good Female Roles in Hollywood
Whatever you think you know about 90210 star Shenae Grimes probably doesn't tell the whole story. The 21-year-old actress -- who rose to fame in Canada as star of Degrassi: The Next Generation before being cast on The CW teen drama -- is more concerned with finding something that stimulates her intelligence than just the next paycheck role. That means she'll cameo in Scream 4, but balance that bit of mainstream pop with the indie film Sugar, about homeless kids in Los Angeles. That is, if she's not planning to direct her next short film or coming up with documentary ideas.
The outspoken Grimes -- who is sworn to secrecy about her role in Scream 4 -- rang up Movieline on the way home from the set of 90210 to discuss why Hollywood is too obsessed with franchises, what types of movies she'd like to see the industry tackle, and the alarming lack of positive female roles available to actresses today.
Let's start with 90210. Your character Annie has really gone through the emotional wringer during the last three seasons. Do you enjoy getting to play with all that angst?
Not particularly. I went through all that many years ago. So it's just dredging up old 14-year-old drama that I don't really care about or find relevant to my life at all, but it's what teens want to see, right?
I guess. Much has been made recently about teen shows like Skins pushing the boundaries of what the genre can allow to a point of no return. On 90210, though, you guys stay edgy without going over the top. How does the show strike that balance?
I don't know -- I've never seen Skins myself, I've only heard rave reviews. I think you make impacts by taking risks. I'm not sure that anyone is learning life lessons from 90210, but I don't think that's why anyone tunes in to watch the show either. It keeps it entertaining. It's like a soap at night with a bunch of hot teens. Who wouldn't want to tune in? It's very fun.
Do you have fun? It's been three years. Are you kinda over it or is it still fun for you?
I feel very fortunate to have the job that I have, and I enjoy going to work every day, but I think we've all been ready for the next chapter for some time. And for me that doesn't mean the next acting chapter. I'm just itching to have some time to go to school again and do other things with my time.
Obviously one of the things you're doing is Scream 4. I would imagine that you aren't really allowed to say anything about your role though.
Yes, I have been sworn to complete secrecy by Mr. Bob Weinstein. He warns me not to open my mouth, and I have not since the day we spoke. The first day on set basically, he literally before -- it was not even my shooting day, I was just going to meet everyone -- and the first thing he said was like, "No, it's great, I'm so glad you're a fan of the originals! But: If you tell anybody what happens, you're dead." I was like, "All right, I will stay quiet."
How did Scream 4 come about? Were you looking to star in something like this?
I had no intent on doing a project like that. I don't really know -- I basically got a magical phone call one day that was like, "Hey, do you want a part in Scream 4? Cause they offered it to you." Which never happens. I've auditioned for like hundreds of projects that I've never even called back for before. To get a straight offer was crazy, but it's a very tiny cameo. It's not like Emma Roberts role or anything like that; those girls were there for months and months.
But yeah, you know, a horror film and another remake and all the rest was just like, "That can't be the first major step for me." So I could never audition for the lead role -- when those auditions were taking place -- but I know a lot of people did. I just didn't think it was the right step for me. But a cameo in one of my favorite movies of all-time? I was like a kid on Christmas. The original Scream is one of those classic things, but it totally pokes fun at itself too. It's never taking itself too seriously, which is why I think it's such a cult classic.
And breaking even further away from 90210, you've got the indie film Sugar.
That is my baby. I'm super excited about it. I auditioned for this director [Rotimi Rainwater] for another one of his projects over hiatus last year, and he wasn't interested. "Who is this girl? Get her out of here." I was like uber-determined to not take no for an answer. So over the weekend, I took self portraits of me being a trashy whore. It was supposed to be a weathered and aged prostitute. I took a few pictures, and I'm not very good at coming off trashy -- so I don't know if I did a good job -- but because I was so crazy about it, and so passionate, the director was like, I owe this chick a coffee at least. And then we had dinner, and started talking about the types of movies we like, and three hours later we were like, "OK, we need to work together eventually." We met for dinner again a couple of weeks later, and the name Sugar came up, and this idea of a film about homeless kids. And it developed over the past eight months and it finally got made last month. It was the most exciting thing in the world for me.
You definitely sound excited. What's the endgame for Sugar? Are you hoping it gets into some festivals this year?
Oh, no! I don't think in terms of that when I do things. If I did, I would have done a lot of crap by now. I don't know where it will go, but I pray to God that people see this film, if for nothing else than to expand their minds and perceptions and stuff. It's a crucial, real epidemic that's going on right next store. Everyone focuses on charitable causes in all these different countries, and sometimes we lose sight of -- or pay no regard to -- what's going on right next door in our own homes. For me, I grew up in a house doing charity work for homeless people, and my parents had a lot of homeless friends. We were always taught to not discriminate and not judge. I think America has developed in so many ways -- with racism and homophobia and this and that -- but it's just another major source of discrimination that people completely overlook. So I hope people see it for that.
You're obviously really passionate about this project. Is finding that kind of passion for the material tough to balance with being a working actress?
I don't define myself as an actor at all. Nor is that my greatest passion in life by any stretch of the imagination. I am happy to have time on my hands to do other things, like write and think and be creative and not be someone's pawn all the time. Unless a project with an acting role allows me to be creative, to have control, to really feel motivated and challenged and feel stimulated, then I have no interest in doing it because it's really just not the most stimulating job out there. Very few roles that are out there for young girls, particularly, really make an impact, in my opinion. I don't want to waste my time doing something just so i can look pretty on camera in front of millions of people. I'd rather write an article for a magazine that 20 people will read, if I'm passionate about what I'm writing about.
So then would you want to write a great role for yourself?
I have no idea. I would never act in something that I wrote, or was directing. Because I can't imagine truly being unbiased in directing myself. I can't even imagine. You have to be able to look at it objectively as the general audience when you're directing, because those are the people you're trying to provoke. I feel like you're far too subjective and far too invested in your character's perspective as an actor -- or at least you should be. I find it so brilliant when I see actors -- like Ben Affleck in The Town. It just blows my mind; I can't imagine having to juggle those two worlds at once. So I would never do that. Writing screenplays, I don't know. That's a greater challenge for someone else who went to school for that. But I would love to find good material and direct it.
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