In the Twilight movies, Ashley Greene plays the saga’s resident good-girl vampire, Alice Cullen—all pixie haircut and motherly touch, not a hint of bloodlust in her earnest high-school demeanor. Greene’s career—and her life—has changed dramatically since she was cast in the blockbuster series. For one thing, teenage girls shake uncontrollably and burst into tears when they see her on the street. For another, it was just a couple of years ago that the 22-year-old Greene was struggling to land guest spots with no dialogue, and almost had to leave Los Angeles and return to her hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, where she’d originally planned to study psychology and law. But now, she’s booking movies faster than she can make them—including her first big lead, in the upcoming supernatural thriller, The Apparition. Michael Sheen, Greene’s co-star in Twilight and New Moon, recently caught up with the actress.
MICHAEL SHEEN: Okay. This is my first question. This is the only really serious one, and then the rest are quite funny. The first one is: As an elf, raised by humans, have you found a lot of discrimination against the fairy folk here in Hollywood?
ASHLEY GREENE: Well, I think they’re just jealous that I sparkle and speak elfin and have cute little pointy ears.
SHEEN: It’s true.
GREENE: So, yes, there’s discrimination. But I really don’t care.
SHEEN: You do get described as pixie-like a lot. In my younger days, I used to get described as sort of elf-like. I think it’s probably a lot easier to deal with that if you’re a pretty girl, rather than a sort of average-looking boy.
GREENE: I’m sorry about your adolescence.
SHEEN: Thank you. Well, look, let’s take a second and go back to the beginning, Ashley Greene. You grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. Is that correct?
GREENE: That is correct.
SHEEN: Now tell me about Jacksonville. What’s it like? And could you please sprinkle it with some alligator stories?
GREENE: I’ve only eaten fried alligator tail once.
SHEEN: How was it growing up there? Was school good? Or was it a bit of a trial?
GREENE: It was great. I mean, it was great until I realized that there was more out there. I went to a public high school with a magnet program for law and psychology. But right before my junior year, I decided that I wanted to leave and become an actress, so I graduated early and moved out to L.A. Now that I’m here, I can’t imagine living there.
SHEEN: What happened? You were doing law and psychology?
GREENE: Yeah. And I loved the classes. Everything was kind of set up to go on this course, which my parents absolutely loved; they were like, “Our daughter’s going to go to law school or become a psychologist!” And then out of nowhere, I pulled the acting card on them.
SHEEN: Was it out of nowhere? What was it that started you thinking along those lines?
GREENE: I just, for lack of a better term, fell into it—which I’m sure everyone’s going to hate me for saying. SHEEN: School plays?
GREENE: No, not even. I always liked performing. I always liked being in front of people. That’s one of the things I loved about law; we had mock trials, and I got to go up and state my case. But I took an acting class, and after my first class, I was hooked. By the time I finished the class, I had a manager, and then I went on a trip to New York City and got an agent, at which point my manager and agent told my mom, “She needs to move to L.A.” I think they were crazy for saying that but I’m so glad that they did.
SHEEN: Well, to go from Jacksonville, Florida, to L.A. at 17 . . . That’s very young. Was that not a scary thing? Were your mum and dad concerned about that?
GREENE: It was more frightening for my mother and father than it was for me. I have a certain way of thinking where I see something, and I know that I want it and I make up my mind—and that’s pretty much all there is to it. It was like, This is what I want to do, and I’m going, and everything’s going to work out. I’m going to be an actress. There was no way around it. My parents, on the other hand . . . Obviously, they had a lot of long talks and sleepless nights. I was always a good kid, so they went out on a limb. But they did say, “If you go out to L.A. and start becoming this wild child, then you have to come back home and go to college.”
SHEEN: And they haven’t called you back yet?
GREENE: Well, there was a time or two where they were like, “You probably need to come back to Florida.” But it just so happened that every time they told me to come home I would coincidentally book some type of role. I don’t know if it was fate or luck, and it was just happening at the right time, or if it was that they would say, “You are coming home,” and I would immediately go into survival-of-the-fittest mode and book something. But, whatever the case, it happened. And I did struggle. I definitely struggled. And I’m always grateful to my parents for letting me struggle, because you really don’t appreciate it as much, I don’t think, if you don’t realize what you’re gaining. But they paid my rent for the first year.
SHEEN: So, you turn up in L.A. with your bus ticket in your hand and a year’s rent in your pocket, and then what happened? What were the first auditions like?
GREENE: The first audition I went on was Days of Our Lives.
SHEEN: Did you see Joey Tribbiani on there?
GREENE: No, unfortunately not.
SHEEN: Dr. Drake Ramoray?
GREENE: I auditioned five times for it, and I met the producers—it was that thing where the first audition just went really well. I mean, I had a manager in Florida and I got my agent before I moved to California—I came out to L.A. all set up, and then I did extremely well in my first audition, so I had this kind of false hope in my mind. You know, everyone says it’s really hard, but then you come out and do extremely well the first go. And then reality hits, and it’s like nothing, nothing, nothing for a long time. Of course, I didn’t actually get the part on Days of Our Lives. They just toyed with me for a little bit.
SHEEN: How did Twilight come about? Do you remember how it all went down?
GREENE: It was just another audition. My managers were like, “You’re going into a great casting office. They cast great projects. They’re sticklers. If you suck, they won’t call you back in.” So I was like, Okay, I’ll pay extra attention. Then I figured out there wasn’t a script or a breakdown, but there was a book. So I got the series and fell in love with it. Then that determination kicked in and I was like, Okay, I’m going to book this part is what’s going to happen. I worked my butt off for it.
SHEEN: Now there’s so much more to this whole Twilight thing than just the films, isn’t there? There’s everything that goes with it—it’s a huge sort of phenomenon. What’s it like being right at the epicenter of that whole thing?
GREENE: [sighs] It’s a really hard thing to wrap your head around. I was working at a restaurant, I booked the role in Twilight, put in my two weeks’ notice, got fitted, flew to Portland, filmed, and then it started getting hype. That helped me get my foot into certain doors before the movie even came out. I did four independent films during the break between Twilight  and New Moon. I haven’t even really had time to sit back and process it all. But when you do finally sit back and think about it, it’s incredible.
SHEEN: You’re what, 22?
It’s a really hard thing to wrap your head around. I was working at a restaurant, I booked the role in Twilight, put in my two weeks’ notice, got fitted, flew to Portland, filmed, and then it started getting hype. Ashley Greene
SHEEN: I’ve been in L.A. and around Hollywood for maybe six or seven years off and on, and that’s as sort of an older guy. I don’t know how I would’ve coped if I had the kind of success you’ve had at your age, because people do react to you incredibly differently if success is associated with you. How do you cope with that?
GREENE: I think if it was fame for another reason, then it would be a little different. But, with this film in particular, people have become very passionate about it—about my character, but also about me, really relating to me and wanting to be my best friend. And so they cry, and they get so nervous.
SHEEN: Do people actually cry in front of you?
GREENE: Yes. Oh, yes. Fans shake and cry. You kind of don’t know what to do. I give them a hug or whatever. People ask if I get annoyed, but you can’t really get annoyed at something like that.
SHEEN: Are you sure they’re not crying after you hug them? Maybe they don’t want to be hugged.
GREENE: I will look at it the way that I want to, even if it’s not true. I’m an actor.
SHEEN: All right.
GREENE: But, you know, most of my fans are really respectful and great. It’s too early for me to be jaded. Ask me in 10 years or something. . . . I just booked a lead in a Warner Brothers film, and probably part of it was because they know that there are all these fans. I mean, hopefully it’s because of my talent, too.
SHEEN: This is The Apparition?
GREENE: Yeah. The great thing about this film is that it’s really serious. It’s more of a thriller. And, for once, I got cast first. They consulted me on the lead male, and we’re talking back and forth about this character, so it’s sort of a new stepping stone in my career.
SHEEN: When I was on the set of the Twilight films, I could see that Kristen [Stewart] and Rob [Pattinson] have a lot of clout. They have a lot of power within the franchise now, it seems—and rightfully so. They’re asked their opinion, and for actors who are so young, they seemed to have a lot of say in what was going on. You say that now, with this film, you’re getting to be more involved. Is that something that you relish? Or is that responsibility quite frightening as well?
GREENE: For whatever reason, I relish it. Part of it might be that I did get to work so closely with these people, and see close up how they handle things. But I’m really excited. One of the coolest feelings was when I was reading with people for a part, and this guy came in, and I was just like, That’s the guy. You just know.
SHEEN: That’s not just because you fancied him?
GREENE: No. I actually know his girlfriend.
SHEEN: I’ve heard that you are very attracted to pretty boys.
GREENE: Oh . . . um, no . . . He’s not a . . . I mean, all guys in Hollywood are kind of pretty.
SHEEN: Well, you’ve seen me, so you know that’s not true. This is just a fairly random question: When you met Adam Lambert, who was wearing more makeup, you or him?
GREENE: I think that he was, actually.
SHEEN: Yeah, I’ve seen the pictures. Twilight has obviously opened quite a few doors. Did I not see you as a fashion correspondent on the VMAs this year?
I was kind of having this mini-breakdown because it was all new . . . and I was going, “Why are people reporting on this? Why do people care what I’m wearing . . . and looking down on me because I’m not wearing high heels?” That’s the downside to being in the public eye.Ashley Greene
GREENE: I was, yeah.
SHEEN: So obviously you’ve developed an interest in fashion since the last time I saw you.
GREENE: You’re a jerk.
SHEEN: [laughs] Don’t say that. I’m the interviewer, and you can’t call the person who’s interviewing you a jerk. That’s the reason why I agreed to do this: I can do whatever I want. So tell me about fashion. Do you feel pressure every time you go out because you know that there’s a high chance that someone’s going to take a picture of you walking down the street? Do you feel a pressure to not dress in jean shorts and flip-flops?
GREENE: There was a moment in time where I was kind of having this mini-breakdown because it was all very new, and it was all being thrown at me really quickly, and I was going, “Why are people reporting on this? Why do people care what I’m wearing or what I’m eating, and why are people looking down on me because I’m not wearing high heels?” That’s the downside to being in the public eye. When girls come up and say, “You’re my role model,” it’s really flattering, but it’s also really scary because I’m not perfect and I’m going to make mistakes. I’ve just decided that I have to continue to live my life and do what I do. Hopefully, people love me because of who I am, not who I pretend to be.
SHEEN: Is it true that you always ask for a male body double because you have both sets of sexual organs?
GREENE: I might ask for a male body double because I have broad shoulders, but definitely not because I have two sets of organs, no.
SHEEN: Is it true that your Twitter name is HotForRob23?
GREENE: That’s absolutely not true.
SHEEN: Okay, last question: In exactly 10 years’ time, what would you like to be doing?
GREENE: I’ll be 32. Maybe having a baby?
SHEEN: You’d like to be in hideous pain on this day in 10 years’ time?
GREENE: I have a high tolerance for pain. No, I think something along the lines of doing a really incredible, inspiring film with a strong female character. I think when I’m around 32, I’ll be up for things like that.
SHEEN: What are a couple of female performances in films that you watched that have inspired you?
GREENE: Charlize Theron in Monster . She’s one of the most incredibly beautiful people alive, and when I was watching that movie, she scared the shit out of me. I thought she did a fantastic job.
SHEEN: I watched 500 Days of Summer  the other day. I thought Zooey Deschanel was fantastic.
GREENE: She’s the queen of indies. And, Joseph Gordon-Levitt transitioned really well, too.
SHEEN: You make it sound like he’s an alien. “He transitions.”
GREENE: No, I’m just saying that I might have a mini-crush on him. That’s all I’m saying.
SHEEN: Well, this is an interview, not a dating agency. I’m not here to hook you up. But, on that note, I think we’ve taken up enough of your time. You can get back to your much more important life that you’ve got going on in the background.
GREENE: Like eating dinner.
SHEEN: By the way, you got the answer to the 10 years’ time question wrong. The correct answer is: working with me.
GREENE: Oh, of course. Doing a fantastic film with Michael Sheen. Where he plays an elf.
Michael Sheen is a Welsh actor best known for his memorable performances as David Frost in Frost/Nixon and Lucian in Underworld. Sheen is set to play the White Rabbit in the much-anticipated Tim Burton film Alice in Wonderland and will also appear inHBO’s The Special Relationship.