Casting Emma Roberts: A Shrewd Choice

This Nancy has acting in her blood. Dad is Eric Roberts; Julia's an aunt.
This Nancy has acting in her blood. Dad is Eric Roberts; Julia's an aunt. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sometimes it takes a mom to put things into perspective.

Emma Roberts, the young star of the Nancy Drew film that opens Friday, is apparently so likable, so professional, so wholesome that even a makeup artist she works with throughout an entire day can't help raving about her. Her directors use terms like "one of a kind" and talk about how she knows the names of all the crew members on her various sets -- plus the names of their kids.

By the time the creator of the Nickelodeon tween series "Unfabulous" -- Emma's breakout vehicle -- mentions that Roberts sang the goody-good "Hopelessly Devoted to You" from "Grease" at her audition, a reporter's sweet-o-meter is headed off the charts.

"She just twinkled," says Nickelodeon's Sue Rose.

Sure enough, when 16-year-old Emma rolls into town to promote her turn in "Nancy Drew" -- in which she's all Peter Pan collars and penny loafers and healthy lunches packed in a metal lunch pail, even though the film is set in modern-day Los Angeles -- it's hard not to fall for her. She settles in for an interview at the Four Seasons in worn ballet flats, black jeans, a T-shirt and a tiny cardigan sweater. Her eyes are huge, her smile natural, her demeanor unfailingly polite.

All anyone seems to hear about these days are the bad girls of Hollywood: Lohan and Spears and Hilton, rehab and jail, DUIs and drugs and unfortunately revealing wardrobe choices. The age-old image of the Hollywood princess -- think Emma's aunt Julia Roberts -- has been dwarfed by the drumbeat of girls gone wild.

Heck, even Emma's next project is tentatively titled "Wild Child," which she describes: Spoiled Malibu teenager is so out of control that she gets packed off to boarding school in England.

Any vestiges of yourself in that character?

She giggles.

"There are certain aspects I can relate myself to in that character," she says.

Really? Like what?

"She's really sassy and has an attitude and stuff."

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