Nicola Peltz grew up in Westchester County, New York. Her father, Nelson, is a self-made billionaire and non-executive chairman of the Wendy's Company who, for a while, took a helicopter to work in the city. In this summer's Transformers: Age of Extinction, Peltz's film father, played by Mark Wahlberg, is an inventor with a similar affinity for powerful machinery—though his toys can turn into gumball-colored alien robots. In the first two seasons of Bates Motel, Peltz, who is now 19, played the bewitching Bradley, the kind of girl Norman would have followed right up to the edge of sanity. And it is that sort of doomed charisma she brings to the poor little rich girl Kate in this July's Affluenza—a Bret Easton Ellis-y tale of kids on drugs in love triangles on Long Island. But even as the age of summer blockbusters approaches, to transform her into a global star, Peltz remains cool and unaffected. We met at a restaurant in SoHo recently—she didn't seem to notice people staring.
CHRIS WALLACE: These Transformers movies are a giant, global phenomenon. Is this a childhood dream come true?
NICOLA PELTZ: I have six brothers and one sister. I grew up playing ice hockey, a total tomboy, and that's what I thought I was going to do—be an ice-hockey player.
WALLACE: Well, you're built for it.
PELTZ: Clearly. [laughs] But then I did an acting class at my school and really liked it. When I was 12, I got a manager, but my mom was against it. It took a lot of convincing. But when I got a job at Manhattan Theatre Club, I think she saw how passionate I was about it and that I worked really hard—and now she's super supportive.
WALLACE: Six brothers. Were they very protective of you over boys?
PELTZ: Oh my God, ridiculously protective. Some brothers more than the others, but I definitely go to them for advice. I'll always be the baby in the family. I'm the youngest sister, but growing up with so many boys, it makes you tough. You get teased. There's no tiptoeing around each other. You say it the way it is; you're honest.
WALLACE: The previous female Transformers stars are, shall we say, very pinup-y. Are you comfortable with sex-symbol-dom?
PELTZ: I play a daughter, so this one is different. She is younger than the other Transformers girls. Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley, star of Transformers: Dark of the Moon] was about 24, and I play 16 or 17. My character is still in high school. She's not allowed to have a boyfriend. It's a father-daughter story.
WALLACE: You are playing these daughters who are on a cusp—they're awakening. Kate, for example, the girl in Affluenza, is she a man-eater or a lost little girl?
PELTZ: You look at her and you think, "Oh my God, she should be the happiest girl in the world." She has everything she wants but she's so unhappy. I guess I am most attracted to a character-driven role that's different from me. Kate and Bradley, from Bates Motel—you think they should be happy and put together, and you see them go home and see how broken they are inside. In the second season of Bates, Bradley goes to the mental hospital and goes off the wall. I filmed that while we were shooting Transformers, so it was fun to go back and forth, from Vancouver to Chicago, running from robots one day, and then, "Okay, now I'm going to kill myself."
WALLACE: Affluenza is sort of a modern Gatsby story on Long Island. Is it at all similar to the world where you grew up in upstate New York?
PELTZ: You can definitely relate. You see people, you judge. It's just the human thing to do—good or bad, it's a fact. Like when you get a coffee at Starbucks and the person is rude to you. My mom always says, "Yeah, but you don't know what kind of day they're having." You don't know the backstory, and that's why it's so fun to be an actor and to get into the backstory.
WALLACE: Kate is sort of dating two guys—actually, I don't know what she's doing.
PELTZ: I don't know what she's doing either. Crazy Kate. [laughs]
WALLACE: So it's not like you disapprove, but you're not for dating two guys?
PELTZ: Personally? No guys. I'm not dating anyone.
WALLACE: Really? On purpose?
PELTZ: I'm too busy right now. There's too much drama involved in all of that. Can you imagine dating two guys?
WALLACE: Well, Vancouver and Chicago. It happens—set romances.
PELTZ: [laughs] Exactly. My friends ask me for advice about guys, because I have so many brothers and I see what guys go through. And there's just this stage in a guy's life where they need to be free and have fun and just be independent and enjoy their life. And, no offense, boys are more immature than girls. Knowing that and not wanting any BS in my life—not having time for it—you just have to be smart about it. Obviously, if you're really attracted to someone and you're in love with them, that's fine. But I see all my brothers and how they act and ... to be picky is good.
WALLACE: Do you like the process of auditioning?
PELTZ: There are good and bad things to it. You have to get used to the word no. I hear no all the time. When I was going into acting, my mom said, "You can't let that faze you. And if it does faze you, if you start getting upset if people say no, that's it—pull the plug."
WALLACE: Did you ever lie on your acting résumé?
PELTZ: Not exactly but, when I was 12, I had the résumé with the picture on the back, and mine had such weird things. For talents, my mom wrote "bungee jumping" because I did it at a mall once.
WALLACE: That counts.
PELTZ: I remember going into the audition, and they were like, "Oh wow, you bungee jump professionally?" I was like, "No, I just did it in a mall." And they kind of got offended. "Sorry!" It also said I played tennis. I had played tennis once in my life.
WALLACE: Do you go to parties and stuff?
PELTZ: Yeah! I'm still a 19-year-old girl. I have friends, and being with them is enough for me. I don't need to do something crazy.
WALLACE: Are you envious of friends your age? Do you wish you were doing more normal things?
PELTZ: My best friend is in her first year of college, and she always tells me, "Oh, I wish you could be at the same school with me." But when you have your passion, you never even think about other things. It's tunnel vision. You go until you get it. Or maybe that's just me.
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