Dreama Walker is an actress you probably recognize, regardless of your demographic. You might have seen her as Gossip Girl baddie Hazel Williams, opposite Julianna Margulies on The Good Wife, or even as the granddaughter of a particularly prejudiced Clint Eastwood in 2008's Gran Torino. But with two new projects in the pipeline—the ABC comedy Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, in which she stars alongside Krysten Ritter and James Van Der Beek as earnest roommate June, who is forced to endure (and strategically outdo) the deceit of Ritter's menacing but loyal character Chloe, and Compliance, a film following the chilling true story of a prank caller's power over a fast food restaurant manager—the 25-year-old talent will attempt to take her budding career to a new level.
Interview spoke to the blue-eyed beauty about the importance of range, the process of getting her new show on the air, and getting heckled at Sundance.
ALEX CHAPMAN: Hi Dreama, how are you?
DREAMA WALKER: I'm good, Alex. And you?
CHAPMAN: I'm good, thanks. Congratulations on the show! Tell me about how you got involved.
WALKER: It was over a year ago in January. I was in LA randomly—I lived in New York at the time—and I went in for the audition. It was with the producers, and it went really well and felt like a super perfect fit. When I get nervous, I get word vomit, and it was particularly bad that day, so after we were finished I was giving them a little anecdote about driving in LA and how I didn't want to offend anyone, and they were cracking up. I was like, "I am June! I'm absolutely her and she is me and this makes perfect sense." Then I kinda chuckled, walked out, and didn't think anything of it. But I ended up getting the part.
CHAPMAN: You mentioned the audition was over a year ago. What has that wait been like?
WALKER: Oh my gosh, the wait has been excruciating. Nothing's worse than telling your family you got a pilot, hearing the pilot got picked up, and then finding out it's not in the fall lineup. But I think that's actually really great, because now that we're airing in the spring, we don't have to compete with like 50 other brand-new shows. I feel like the network is totally behind the show, and it's so great to have it coming to fruition.
CHAPMAN: Do you think that time was helpful to the progression of the show? Even the commercials seem different now than they did in May.
WALKER: Absolutely. I feel like we totally found it—we found a groove, we found who are characters are and how they work, and the writers are amazing. We found this really happy, funny place, and we're excited to show it to the world.
CHAPMAN: The show centers around a really awful roommate. Have you ever had any bad living experiences that the show's writing reminds you of?
WALKER: I lived in New York for seven years, and I moved there after graduating high school. The first place that I lived in had a bunch of roommates—there were like seven of us, three rooms and one and a half bathrooms, and I had to move into this room that was connected to the toilet. It was kind of a disaster, because everyone always wanted to go in there and do silly things, and I had to be like, "C'mon guys! This is attached to my room, and it's a basement room and there's no windows."
CHAPMAN: That's rough.
WALKER: Yeah. Then later on, I had an experience living with a girl who was actually wonderful, but she asked me to watch her birds while she was out of town. I just happened to be terrified of birds, and one of her birds—she had two parakeets—died while in my care. I had to go in the cage and remove the dead bird's body with a plastic bag, and as soon as I stuck my hand in there, the other bird was trying to attack me. I was quivering and crying and it was terrible.
CHAPMAN: Sounds awful—I despise birds. Switching gears, you played a supporting character on Gossip Girl. Do you think having a recurring role on a big-time show like that helped prepare you for Don't Trust The B----?
WALKER: Don't Trust The B---- is the kind of show I've dreamed of being a part of since I started working in this business. I knew I wanted to be in a comedy, and I knew I wanted it to be fun, fresh, and edgy, and with really talented people, and I got my wishes. Working on Gossip Girl was a fantastic experience. It was my first real gig and I'm thankful for it—I got to learn a lot. I'm glad I got to explore getting comfortable in my own shoes in the background on a show like Gossip Girl, as opposed to a show like Don't Trust The B----, which is in front of America!
CHAPMAN: Your role on the new show is also obviously more demanding.
WALKER: I've never had caffeine before, because I was like "I don't need it, I'm fun and I have plenty of energy!" By week two, I was dragging ass, and I became totally addicted to coffee—two or three cups a day. But I was happy that I had the energy to give 100 takes that were completely different and a lot of fun.
CHAPMAN: A movie like Compliance is a huge contrast from a show like Gossip Girl, which one could argue is a huge contrast from Apartment 23. Is the distinction in your roles intentional?
WALKER: I can totally count my lucky stars that Compliance and this show are going to be released in the same year, because I feel so lucky to have gotten two projects that I'm really passionate about, but are completely separate. Something that can happen when you enter the world of being an actress is that people see you one way and have a really hard time using their imaginations to see you any other way. I would be completely satisfied if I could go the rest of my life without being super-huge and super pigeonholed—I would love to play different characters the rest of my life.
CHAPMAN: And that's more important to you than the byproduct of fame.
WALKER: As long as I can feed my dogs and go shopping, I'll be fine.
CHAPMAN: In that respect, Compliance seems like a movie most actors who love acting would die to take part in.
WALKER: I still feel very privileged to have gotten that part. I was up against a lot of great theater actresses and women I respect, so I never really knew if that part was going to be mine. I was in The Sitter, in a scene that tragically got cut—it'll be in the director's cut—but David Gordon Green was directing, and he told me my name was in an e-mail list of names being considered for a little film he was working on. He told me it was really dark and messed up, and at that point my heart was racing and my adrenaline was pumping. I was like, "I can do dark! I can totally do dark!" Then I got a chance to read the script and thought it was unbelievable—I remember the real incident specifically, and it had an impact on me then. I went in for the audition, and then we started having meetings, and at that point, I knew it was down to me and like two other girls. I decided to bring beer into the mix, and I was like [to writer-director Craig Zobel], "Cool, let's go to a bar and talk, because that's how I make people fall in love me!" So we did, and he was saying "It's between you and two other girls," and I was like, "We have to keep drinking!" And then eventually it was my part. [laughs] I totally won it over with good beer.
CHAPMAN: Very tactical. When the movie premiered at Sundance, you guys got heckled, which it seems was a reaction the movie was searching for. What was that like?
WALKER: The piece was powerful enough that it prompted very emotional, guttural reactions. I don't think it was a terrible thing—it kinda sucked at the moment, being yelled at.
CHAPMAN: Were you able to grasp the positive in the negative at that exact moment?
WALKER: I absolutely wanted to cry and go into a dark room. Unfortunately, the night before I had this horrible stomach flu, and I had no idea people were going to freak out like that. I'm actually so grateful I wasn't there by myself! I pretty much shut down—I couldn't take it.
CHAPMAN: I doubt you'll be facing that intense of a reaction with Don't Trust the B----.
WALKER: Well, that's the nice thing about the show being a comedy!
DON'T TRUST THE B---- IN APARTMENT 23 PREMIERES TONIGHT AT 9:30 PM ON ABC.