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Q&A: 'Friday Night Lights' star Aimee Teegarden headlines her first movie, 'Prom,' shrieks in 'Scream 4'

First, to clarify: Actress Aimee Teegarden is not the same person as her character Julie Taylor on the phenomenal TV series “Friday Night Lights.”

“I’ll be at the grocery store and then people will come up and be like, ‘You’re not very nice to your mom! You need to watch your tone. You’re being bratty lately,’” says Teegarden, 21. “I’m like, ‘It’s a show; it’s a job.’ Since the characters are so relatable, I think people think that they’re real people.”

Viewers will have to get used to seeing Teegarden as someone other than Julie. After co-starring in “Scream 4,” the native Californian stars as Michigan high school overachiever Nova Prescott in “Prom,” opening April 29. Nova’s head of the prom committee, and she eventually must recreate all of the decorations with help from the obnoxious class troublemaker (Thomas McDonnell). Think of the horror for a girly-girl class president!  

The Disney movie’s mostly what you expect, with a few interesting wrinkles about the uncertainty of youth.  By phone from Miami, a bubbly Teegarden (who doesn’t eat meat and is allergic to gluten) explained why an awful prom is more memorable than a good one, how she accidentally puts herself into Julie Taylor and why Nova Prescott is not related to “Scream” heroine Sidney Prescott.

President Obama is outside Tribune Tower right now. You are taking precedence over a very important person.
Whoa! I feel pretty special. Thanks!

What’s the most extreme/shocking prom story you’ve ever heard?
Ooh, I think probably the worst prom story I’ve heard so far is somebody who got dumped at prom and then got left by her limo. That seems pretty awful and harsh. Right?

What about the most incredibly perfect story?
Incredibly perfect. You know, I feel like people always kind of end up talking about their crazy stories as opposed to the really great moments. I feel like I’ve heard more of the crazy, off-the-wall things than anything.

What memories last longer: an awesome prom or a painful prom?
I think a painful prom. I think it’s like anything. Like if you go to a restaurant and you have an amazing experience you’re not very likely to write a review about it. But if you go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, that’s like the first thing you do when you get home is write a bad review.

Do you write those very often?
Do I? No. I’m really trying to … I’m a Yelper; I love Yelp, so I’m really trying to make it a point … My new year’s resolution was if I read about a restaurant and ended up going there that I would either take a picture of the food or write a little tidbit about it. So I typically don’t write bad reviews unless I’ve had [a really awful experience] and then maybe [I will].

In “Scream 4,” the Ghostface killer hunts Sidney Prescott. In “Prom” you play Nova Prescott. How worried were you that Ghostface would come out of nowhere at prom and try to slice you, another Prescott?
[Laughs.] You know, it hadn’t even crossed my mind at that moment. I should have thought about that though. That’s interesting, Sidney Prescott and Nova Prescott. That never even rang a bell in my little mind. But I wasn’t too afraid. We didn’t have very many night scenes.

So they are not distant relatives?
Maybe in some universe I’m sure they’re probably some kind of distant relatives, but not within the “Prom” and “Scream” [worlds], no.

It’s like “Prom” would be the parallel universe of “Scream,” where a different Prescott is going through something difficult but maybe not quite as scary. Or is it equally scary?
I think there’s so much pressure put on prom and teenagers, not only to get asked to prom but to have the right date and have this amazing experience, and there’s so much hype put into it that I kind of in a certain way—it’s definitely not as scary as a crazy murderer coming after you with a knife but…

But a close second?
Maybe like fourth or fifth. But something in there.

You said in the past that a goal of yours was to be killed in a horror movie. Why was that something you wanted to do so badly?
As an actor there’s so many different roles that I want to take on, and that’s I think what’s amazing about the business is you get to constantly keep changing and reinventing yourself. But I think any actor at some point would love to be able to be in a horror film and be killed just because it’s one of those bucket list sort of things.

What else falls on that list?
There’s a lot of things. Recently I’ve kind of been looking into doing a lot more producing and that kind of thing. But I think also being like an action hero, like an Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft kind of character. I think that would be way fun.

What would be your action hero’s choice of weapon or primary catchphrase?
I don’t know if I’d have a catchphrase. It’s a little cheesy. But maybe, I don’t know, I just think going through like months of training of getting super-buff and ripped and maybe some crazy karate skills [would be fun].

You didn’t do that for “Prom”?
No, sadly, no. I didn’t get to get super-buff and crazy.

The last season of “Friday Night Lights” starts tonight on NBC. What went through your head as filming for the show was coming to an end?
It was a bit bittersweet. I grew up on the show, and working on it for five years the audience got to know those characters and grow with them and see them change and evolve. But it was sad; it was coming to an end and not just for a job but really saying goodbye to the cast and crew and living in Austin, Texas. But I think the writers did a phenomenal job on the final episode and I think it really does the show justice and I think the fans will really enjoy it.

What mannerisms or habits do you feel like you unintentionally picked up from Julie Taylor?
[Laughs.] Unintentionally? I don’t know. I think a lot of mannerisms and that kind of thing you don’t notice but your friends and family do, so they’d probably be a better person to ask about that.

Has anyone pointed out something to you like, “Oh, after playing Julie for 5 years now I see you do this”?
My dad every now and then, he’ll watch the show or something and he’ll be like, “I saw you do that, that’s such an Aimee thing to do.”

Like what?
Certain ways I say things or words I use or just shrugs or eye rolls or something like that. Everybody has their own specific traits that they do unintentionally, and I think there’s a bit of every actor within certain characters.

We asked readers for ideas of what I should ask you and Nicole James wanted to know: Do you also get a little depressed when you remember that Coach Taylor and Tami are not real people?
[Laughs.] That’s funny! It’s so interesting that from a viewer standpoint you see them and this family dynamic as my parents and stuff, but off set they’re my co-workers. But Kyle [Chandler] is such a phenomenal guy. He is so giving as an actor and just funny and really down to earth, and Connie [Britton] as well.

Have you met anyone that didn’t like the show? I can’t imagine that.
I’ve never actually met anyone who didn’t like the show. I feel like we either run into fans who are die-hard and love it or you run into people who have never seen it. The only gripe I’ve ever gotten was from my grandma who, during the first season, she said that she had to watch it in bits ‘cause of the way the camera shakes she would get sick to her stomach. [Laughs.]

Forget your favorite scary movie. What’s your least favorite?
I think the worst one I’ve ever seen, not because it was a bad movie, but just like that “Saw” genre of that human-mutilation-torturing kind of thing is just not my cup of tea.

How many have you seen?
One. [Laughs.] That was enough.

You saw the original and stopped there?
I don’t even know if it was the original. I was at Jesse Plemons’, who plays Landry Clark. I was at his house and we were hanging out and he just had it on and it was something about this guy who is either going to have his head chopped off or had to rip out his eyeball to pull the key that’s in his socket that they put in. It was just really disgusting. I was like, “Whoa, OK, that was too much.”

Plus:
How she reacted when finding out she got to have her own trying-on-dresses-montage in “Prom”: “[Laughs.] I was actually really excited. It was fun. It was so much fun working on the film. The montage was super-fun. It was a good day.”
A lesson she learned from her “Friday Night Lights” character Julie Taylor: “Ooh. I would say the biggest thing, you know, I think it’s really important for viewers and people [who] can identify and relate with Julie [that] at the end of 5 seasons [of] the whole Matt-and-Julie storyline and with her parents, she always kind of stuck to her guns and is still going to college and is still doing her own thing and chasing her dream and didn’t give up for anything.”
What goes through her head when people talk about Chicago: “When people talk about Chicago, ooh. I would say food and art museums and that kind of thing. Zachary’s from Chicago, so, Zach Gilford. I’ve never been to Chicago.”
On her iPod right now: “I just bought the Britney Spears CD. I’m a bit addicted. I love me some Brit-Brit. I love Brit no matter what. She could go do whatever she wants; as long as she keeps making music, I will be in line buying CDs.”

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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