Discovery: Melissa Ordway

On the new show Hollywood Heights, actress Melissa Ordway plays a variation on a familiar Hollywood archetype: the ambitious schemer who’ll stop at nothing to reach the heights of fame—and who lost her moral compass something along the way. (Her character, Chloe, also finds herself caught in an enviable love triangle, between sensitive rocker Eddie Duran [Cody Longo] and tempestuous actor Tyler Rorke [Justin Wilczynski]).

In reality, Ordway couldn’t be less like Chloe—she’s bubbly and sweet, with an infectious giggle. After eight years in Los Angeles—where she moved to compete on MTV’s comedic reality-competition series The Assistant, which she won—Ordway’s star is on the rise. In addition to her role on Hollywood Heights, she plays Mila Kunis’s confidante in Ted (out Friday) and has five upcoming projects, including Odd Thomas opposite Anton Yelchin and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone with Jim Carrey and Steve Carell.

AGE: 29

HOMETOWN: Melville, GA


BEGINNINGS: I wrote a lot of plays when I was little, and I made everyone in the neighborhood perform them with me. [laughs] I was probably a really annoying friend to have when I was little. I was always the star of the play, which was the more annoying [part]. We had a big staircase, and so the drama in the plays would always be someone falling down the staircase, like some sort of tragedy would happen. But my character, in the end, would always be okay.

THE MOVE TO LA: When I was in college, I loved the show The Newlyweds on MTV, with Jessica Simpson. I was oddly obsessed with that show. And I went on, and I saw this posting, they were trying to cast a reality show about people who wanted to make it in the entertainment industry. I sent in a tape—I didn’t tell anyone, and I never thought that anyone would ever see this tape. So then six months later, I’m pretty sure I was sitting in climate class in college. I got a call from New York, and I was like, “What is this number? I have no idea what is going on.” And I picked it up and they’re like, “We saw your tape and we want to fly you to LA to do an interview for this reality show, it’s called The Assistant.” And they flew me to LA, and I interviewed, and I had never been to Los Angeles or Hollywood or anything, so I was so excited. It was the craziest thing that had ever happened to me. It was with Andy Dick. And I ended up winning the show, which was really crazy. I won a car and a job at MTV, so I ended up making the big move from Atlanta to LA.

FAVORITE HOLLYWOOD SHOW: Oh gosh, I always loved 90210 growing up. It was one of my favorites—the old-school 90210. And I still watch it on SOAPnet sometimes.

17 AGAIN: It was the first time that I ever saw a movie being filmed that was that big of a budget. The cast, we all got along so well, Zac Efron was so nice. And I became friends with just everyone. Burr Stears, who was the director, was just awesome. We really became a family, and I worked on that for like a month, so we felt really close really fast.

WHAT SHE HAS IN COMMON WITH HER HOLLYWOOD HEIGHTS CHARACTER: When I first got cast, I was really struggling to find how I could put myself in her shoes, because she’s such a terrible person. And I was trying to relate to her. I mean, one thing I do have in common with Chloe is that she has big, big dreams and a lot of times, I know growing up it seemed impossible that you could ever follow them. And Chloe comes from Fresno, which is kind of in the middle of nowhere, and I’m from Melville, [GA] which is in the middle of nowhere. And so I guess what we have in common is just having the drive and the determination to make our dreams come true. I would think that it kind of ends there. [laughs]

AND WHAT SHE DOESN’T: We are unlike in every other way. She has no moral code, she would stomp on whoever she would have to to get what she wants, where I would never backstab or hurt people to follow my dreams, but she would. She’s a horrible, horrible person. [laughs]

PLAYING UP THE CONTRAST: Some little girls came to set and they’d seen the first five episodes of the show and they were like, “Oh my gosh, you’re actually really, really nice, we didn’t know.” So I think I might seem nicer just because on the show I’m so mean. [laughs] I think people are pleasantly surprised.

GOOD GUYS VS. BAD BOYS: In real life, I have mostly gone for nice guys. I definitely had a phase where I was like, “Oh, the bad guy is really cool.” It’s fun to be bad for a while and then that ended really terribly—one piece of advice I’ll give to people is your mom is always right.