Aimee Teegarden: From Friday Night Lights to Prom to Producing and Beyond
Aimee Teegarden first caught Hollywood's eye as Julie Taylor, the coach's daughter on the critically acclaimed series Friday Night Lights, but in the five years since the show premiered she's done a lot of growing up -- and smartly so. This week Teegarden steps into her first starring film role by leading a cast of fresh-scrubbed high schoolers in Disney's Prom, but as she looks toward a burgeoning career as producer and carefully plots her acting choices (including a teen action series for Warner Bros. opposite Twilight's Jackson Rathbone) it's clear this teen idol has a long-term strategy in mind.
For a relative youngster known best for youth-oriented fare (she appeared on Hannah Montana prior to Friday Night Lights' debut and did a stint on The CW's 90210), Teegarden presents herself as a budding businesswoman. CEO of her own company at just 21, she speaks in industry terms, talking about "the business," "shopping" projects around town, and her newfound passion, producing.
As we spoke, two hair and make-up personnel prepped her to present at an awards show, though she hardly needed much help in either department. Through the fuss Teegarden remained on message -- a self-possessed business-savvy old soul in Teen Vogue-ready couture.
"Prom is not your typical High School Musical type of movie," she said, explaining what drew her to the Disney project. "It's really like a classic John Hughes type of '80s movie. Hopefully we'll stand the test of time and in 20 years it will still be relatable."
In the film, directed by Joe Nussbaum, Teegarden plays Nova Prescott, the bright, over-achieving class president who volunteers to put together the perfect senior prom and finds herself falling for the school bad boy (Verge designee and one to watch, Thomas McDonell) -- naturally.
"I think everybody knew that girl in school who was so obsessed with getting the perfect grades and getting into a good college that she didn't maybe even spend enough time in high school appreciating it for what it was," said Teegarden, "and sort of regrets not being able to go back and really open her eyes and enjoy high school, because you only have one chance and then it's done."
Teegarden herself graduated early and "didn't really have a typical high school experience." And although she did make it to prom in real life, by the time most of her classmates were celebrating the typical rites of passage of teenagedom, she was landing her big break on Peter Berg's Friday Night Lights.
Prom highlights a new chapter in Teegarden's budding career; it's her first lead role and she's by far the most well-known member of the sprawling cast. But another recent film is just as significant, in a way: A cameo in Wes Craven's Scream 4 "kind of just came about," and days after auditioning with a 12-page script she was flying to the Michigan set. She only appears in the film's smart-alecky, meta-textual prologue, sharing a scene with Britt Robertson, but the cameo provides more edgy material, and of the splashy zeitgeist-capturing variety, to her recent teen-friendly resume.
"I think as a businesswoman in this industry you really have to diversify your roles and always keep it changing," Teegarden explained. "Also as an actor, that's kind of what attracted me to the business -- every day I get to put on a different hat and play a different role. One day I could be a doctor and the next day I could be a famous jazz singer."
But while Teegarden's just getting started establishing herself beyond the teen scene, she's already thinking practically about career longevity. "I love acting and it will always be my first passion, but as an actor, especially with the business and how it's changed, sometimes you have to create your own work," she said. "Being involved in the creative side, I love it -- I love producing and getting a creative say, whether it's casting choices or locations or scripts, whatever it is."
"Producing is something you can do as long as you want," continued Teegarden, who recently earned her first associate producing credits on the upcoming surf drama Beautiful Wave and the thriller Beneath the Darkness, both of which she also stars in. "It's not something that's fleeting or something that's going to change based on your looks."
Next up for Teegarden is Aim High, a multi-platform action series in her wheelhouse that she shot with Jackson Rathbone. "Aim High is this cool new media project for Warner Bros. and supposedly next month they should be announcing what they're going to do with it," she said. "They were shopping around a couple of options."
"It's one big movie that's chopped up into individual series episodes. It's this kind of fun, comic book-type of movie about this kid who's a government assassin by night and a high school kid by day. And I play [Rathbone's] love interest, named Amanda, who has her own rock band. She's super cool, she has her own YouTube videos. She's a bit of a badass. She's got some really cool costuming and kind of gives boys what for, doesn't let them get away with anything."