When Brittany Snow and I last spoke, she was an earnest 16-year-old shouldering an impossible task: headlining NBC's ambitious '60s-set series, American Dreams.
Now, as the Tampa native prepares to star in a buzzed-about episode of Gossip Girl on Monday, the 23-year-old carries herself as a self-assured Hollywood veteran.
Ask about her 2007 revelation that she suffered from anorexia while starring on the soap opera Guiding Light as a young teen, and she politely declines to discuss it. Wonder if she wouldn't help her Hollywood profile if she landed on a few tabloid newspaper covers and she insists, "I want people to know me for my talent. That's why I'm an actress and not a reality TV star."
Clearly, this Gaither High School grad has grown a bit since we talked in 2002 about her crush on then-MTV hunk Carson Daly.
Now, starring in a flashback episode as a young version of Gossip Girl matriarch Lily van der Wooden, Snow faces rumors that the CW network won't make a series based on the concept, though the project was developed as a spinoff (official word is that the network has not made a final decision).
As all these rumors swirled late last week, Snow and I got reacquainted over the telephone, marveling at how a girl who started as a toddler model in a Burdines ad could land in movies opposite John Travolta and Vin Diesel before topping one of the most anticipated TV episodes this month.
You've appeared in movies like Hairspray and The Pacifier; why go back to TV?
"It was definitely one of the biggest decisions I'd made in a long time. I do love movies and I was doing pretty well. But I felt like this was a really great opportunity to do something that could put me on the next level."
You went from playing a good girl on American Dreams to playing villains and white supremacists and hookers. Are you still fighting that good girl image?
"This is the type of character who is actually both — she starts out really sweet and naive, and gets lost in this whole underground punk rock scene in the 1980s, becomes very rebellious and eventually becomes very controlled and uptight. It's the best of both worlds: I get to play the sweet character that I did on American Dreams and get to become someone who's maybe not the best person in the world."
You were born in 1986; is it odd playing another role set before your time?
"Between American Dreams and Hairspray and this, I never get to be in present. The wardrobe was something that was a little scary. The shoulder pads, the polka dots, the fishnets: I can't believe people wore this. But the '80s are definitely coming back. People my age are intrigued by this time period that they don't know anything about."
If you could tap that 16-year-old starting American Dreams on the shoulder and tell her something, what would it be?
"I would just tell myself to enjoy every minute of it. I was so young and so confused as to what was going on, I didn't get a chance to be really grateful and just relax. I was so concerned about wanting be really good on the show, I didn't have that many friends and I worked every day for 18 hours. I had this whole world that was just work. I wish that I could have enjoyed it a little more. I was also 16 years old. I don't think I really knew what taking time to smell the roses really was."