ABOVE: BRITT ROBERTSON. PHOTO COURTESY OF JSQUARED PHOTOGRAPHY
An invisible force field descends, very suddenly, from the sky. Splicing through cows, tractors, and some unfortunate people, the hemisphere-shaped field is just large enough to cover the rural, East Coast town of Chester’s Mill. Residents dining at Denny’s that day are safely on the outside of the dome; residents working at the hospital, the police station, or the local diner are isolated within it. Among the trapped are Angie McAlister, a frustrated teenager with an unhinged lover played by Britt Robertson, and her younger brother. Their mother had lunch plans at Denny’s.
Based on the 2009 novel by Stephen King, produced by Steven Spielberg, and helmed by former Lost writer Brian K. Vaughn, Under the Dome has the right sort of credentials for our “golden age” of television. It is not Britt Robertson’s first television role—acting since the age of 10, Robertson has appeared in a multitude of shows, from Freddie Prinze Jr.’s ill-fated Freddie, to Law & Order and the teen drama The Secret Circle—but it is certainly her most promising. We spoke with Robertson before the first of the show’s 13 episodes airs tonight.
HOME STATE: South Carolina
CURRENT LOCATION: Wilmington, North Carolina
FIRST IN THE FAMILY: I am the oldest of seven. Do my siblings think I’m super cool? I wish they thought I was super cool! A lot of them are pretty young, so they don’t really get to watch a lot of the television and films that I’ve been in. The older ones, I think, think I’m pretty cool. Not because I’m an actor, because I’m an awesome big sister.
INTRODUCTION TO ACTING: I first got involved [in acting] when I was home-schooled and I was doing local theater as a way for my mom to socialize me. I liked it a lot; I wasn’t very good at it, and I never got cast as any main parts or anything, but I loved it. I think my grandmother believed in me or cared that I was acting—I don’t know what it was—but she decided it was something that I should pursue if I wanted to. Then I found an agent in L.A. who wanted to represent me, and it all kind of fell into my hands. I’ve just been trying to succeed at it ever since.
THE CHILD ACTOR EXPERIENCE: I think it was pretty typical. I moved to L.A. and I lived in the Oakland Apartments, which is this notorious hub for actor children and their stage moms. For the first few years that I lived there, Hilary Duff and Frankie Muniz frequented the apartments. I was much younger than them at the time. I would follow them around and try to be their friends and they would have no interest in me whatsoever. I was just such a big fan of theirs. I wouldn’t consider them really friends, but I definitely saw them and would stalk them like a weirdo.
I don’t remember ever feeling like it was a big deal; it was just kind of like what happened to me. I think it was pretty traditional child acting experience, but different in some ways because my grandmother was awesome. She came out with me for a few pilot seasons and was my guardian—I had so many brothers and sisters we didn’t want to uproot the entire family. She brought me out to L.A. from, like, a six stop light town. I think her confidence in me bred some confidence in [myself].
FAVORITE STEPHEN KING ADAPTATION: The Shining, for sure. It was one of the first Steven King [stories] I had ever even experienced. I was in Maryland at the time. I was doing a film and we all had to stay in this house during a tornado warning—we put off production. The producers were like, “I know, we should watch The Shining!” I was never a huge fan of those things, or had never really experienced them, or had access. We watched The Shining, and it changed my life. Not only was it such a surreal experience because it’s The Shining and it’s so incredible, [but] it’s so beautifully written and so artistic—so scary and intriguing and mind-provoking.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND CHARACTER STUDIES: I haven’t found out what the dome is yet, but we’re only on episode nine, so there is a lot more to explore in the season. A lot of my theories come from the book, which are probably a little off-base because I can’t imagine that we are sticking straight to the book—I know that we’re not. They could turn it into anything.
My character actually dies in the first two chapters of the book. Some people didn’t want to read it because they thought it would influence their characters when it shouldn’t be influencing their characters. But I had the luxury of reading the book without any of that.
NOT GETTING KILLED OFF: I was on my best behavior, no doubt. When I signed up for the show, I had only signed up to do 10 episodes, so I kind of assumed they were going to kill me off in episode 10. Then, because I was on my best behavior they asked me to do more episodes. They could kill me off at the end of those, but hopefully not. I try to not think in terms of future as far as shows go—it’s a “take it one day at a time” kind of mentality.
THE KING: I’ve had some really cool interactions with Stephen King. He came to our first table read, which is really cool, and he was there for our first day of shooting, which was so nerve-wracking. I just love listening to him, he is so interesting, and he always has very strange things to say. I love being in his presence. My character is pretty much deadzies from day one, so I don’t know if he’ll have a lot of thoughts on my character—although when we did the table read he still had so many ideas about who Angie is and her personality. He kept saying, in reference to Angie and being a candy-striper, “That so doesn’t fit her.” He didn’t write that much for Angie in the book, but conceptually, he still knows exactly who she is. I’m sure that if I picked his brain, he would have a few good words to say.
THE PRINZE: My mom is a really chill chick—”Cool, my daughter’s an actor, whatever”—but there are two actors that she is really into. At the time, it was Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew McConaughey. So when I got Freddie, I was so excited: “Mom, I’m going to meet Freddie Prinze Jr.!” It was more for my mom than myself; it was the only time that she would be completely starstruck by someone that I’ve worked with.
THE GUILTY PLEASURE: I like really bad TV; it’s a problem. Love me some reality. Would I ever be on a reality show? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That would not be for me. My mom used to think it would be funny if I had a reality show: “It would be cute, we could call it Being B,” because my family calls me “B.” We’re not doing that. We’re not the Kardashians. I also love the Kardashians.
UNDER THE DOME PREMIERES TONIGHT, JUNE 24, ON CBS.