Emma Roberts and Jen Statsky on Aliens, Influencers, and Self-Doubt

Emma Roberts

Jacket, Shorts, and Shoes Gucci.

Earlier this year, Emma Roberts was recruited into NASA’s ultra-competitive astronaut program, not in real life, but as Rex Simpson, the Floridian party-girl-turned space explorer in a new feature film, Space Cadet. The actress, mother of one, and founder of the online book club “Belletrist” has always had an affinity for outer space and alien life, and couldn’t turn down a chance to get off this planet, even if it was just for the camera. Ahead of the movie’s release, Roberts got on a call with Jen Statsky, the writer of her favorite show Hacks, to talk perusing Reddit, spoilers, self doubt, and why she could never actually pack light enough to make it as an astronaut. 


STATSKY: I liked that when I clicked in, it said “Roberts with Jenny Statsky.” Do you think I should go by Jenny?

ROBERTS: Did it say Jenny?

STATSKY: Yeah. No one calls me Jenny, but I’m thinking about it now.

ROBERTS: Maybe I’ll call you Jenny now. [Laughs] Well, thank you for taking time away from the writers room to do this. I had to take time away from catching up on Hacks to do this interview. I was late to the party, so I’m only on season two and I’ve had to literally leave group chats because people are trying to spoil it for me

STATSKY: What’s your relationship with spoilers? Do you freak out if someone ruins a book or show for you?

ROBERTS: I know how good it feels to spoil sometimes. So if the person needs to spoil, I’m like, “Okay, spoil.” 

STATSKY: That’s kind of you. So, Emma. What was your relationship with space before this movie? How much did you think about it, were you like a space kid? Did you go to Space camp?

ROBERTS: I begged to go to Space Camp, but I didn’t get to go. I remember when I met the director and writer of Space Cadet, Liz Garcia, I was like, “I’m obsessed with space.” Then I was like, “I sound so dumb.”

STATSKY: Well, you were in character.

Emma Roberts

Dress and Shoes Miu Miu.

ROBERTS: But I mean, I am obsessed with space. When you start thinking about it too much, you can really just freak yourself out. Space to me is like hope. It’s kind of unknowing and knowing at the same time. My son looked up at the stars the other night and said, “I want to go back to the tunnel.” And I was like, “Excuse me? What are you talking about?” It’s just obviously things kids say, but there is his kind of magic feeling with space that everyone can relate to. 

STATSKY: So if tomorrow I was like, “You can go to space,” would you go?

ROBERTS: Oh, I’m not going. I’m too scared to fly.

STATSKY: That’s what I was thinking too watching the movies, like I’m such a nervous flyer and I was like, “No fucking way are you getting me on a spaceship.”

ROBERTS: Yeah, no. I’m just too claustrophobic and too nervous. But I definitely have the intention of metaphorically wanting to go to space. 

STATSKY: Did you read a lot about astronauts and how people prepare to go to space for this?

ROBERTS: Enough to know that I couldn’t handle it. It’s funny because obviously you have to pass a physical test, but then there’s mental stuff too. I think I would only pass with enthusiasm, not with any other qualifications. Even just down to how to pack for space, it’s so minimal, and I can barely pack for a two-day trip, so I don’t know how I would pack for a space mission.

STATSKY: Yeah, what do you even get to bring to space? I imagine there’s not a lot of room in the–

ROBERTS: No, there can’t even be liquid, so everything’s powdered, including the food. I always thought they ate Dippin’ Dots in space, but actually the food is really gross. So I have a lot of admiration for astronauts. I don’t think I’d be cut out for it. What I love about this movie thought is that Rex Simpson, my character, really makes you feel like you could go to space. You don’t meet kids anymore that say, “I want to be an astronaut.” 

Emma Roberts

Shirt, Bag, and Shoes Tod’s.

STATSKY: They’re like, “I want to be a YouTube influencer.”

ROBERTS: [Laughs] Exactly. And so when I come across people I hear saying that I’m like, “Yes! Do it for us, for the people that are scared to go.”

STATSKY: Right. Does your son say that? I guess he’s too young to be saying what he wants to be.

ROBERTS: I know he wants to go back to the tunnel, which I’m like, “Are we okay?”

STATSKY: We got to talk to him. I think he knows something.

ROBERTS: But yeah, the other day I was thinking, I hope there’s enough people that want to be lawyers and doctors and nurses that can take care of me when I’m old. Because right now, everybody just wants to be famous or on the internet.

STATSKY: It’s tough. As a writer, often I’ll be engaging with someone, like a boxing instructor or a dentist, and then a few weeks in they will be like, “I do have a script.” Which you probably get also, and it is like, “Oh no—”

ROBERTS: Okay, that is hilarious. I haven’t had someone slip me a script in a while. 

STATSKY: Do you believe in aliens?

ROBERTS: Very much so.

STATSKY: I figured.

ROBERTS: I’ll take that as a compliment.

STATSKY: No shade, but I think it’s crazy to say you don’t believe in them.

ROBERTS: Well, I’m more scared if there aren’t any. Because if we really are the only ones here–

Emma Roberts

Cape, Dress, Sunglasses, Necklace, and Shoes Celine by Hedi Slimane.

STATSKY: Really bad. Yeah. Also like, if you say you don’t, and if they’re not benevolent, I want to be on record as saying I believed in them, so I’m not on their shit list.

ROBERTS: Totally. I have a lot of friends that really do and really don’t and I’ve seen them get into convos about it. And actually both sides are equally interesting to me. But I myself am a believer. I want to know what they look like. I want to know what they’re into. I mean, my favorite space movie slash alien movie is Arrival.

STATSKY: It’s the best.

ROBERTS: I used to watch that movie so often, it was my safe movie. And Interstellar rocked me to my core. So I was happy to get to throw in a comedy space movie into the mix with Space Cadet, and  spoiler alert, there are no aliens in this movie. 

STATSKY: When you’re producing a movie, because you produce so much now, how do you switch between your actor brain and your producer brain?

ROBERTS: Actually, since I’ve produced, it’s hard to go back to just being an actor, because when things are starting to go wrong, you’re aware of it. 

STATSKY: Totally. People don’t give actors enough credit because there’s this incredible lack of control when you’re an actor. You’re meant to just sit around and wait, and you don’t really know what’s going on. 

ROBERTS: And it’s always something that is detrimental to finishing work for the day, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s always solvable. But there were days where I was blissfully unaware of all the kinds of departments, and what it really takes to make a TV show happen. 

STATSKY: To keep the train on the tracks, yeah.

ROBERTS: Obviously it’s good to see how everything works and be grateful of everyone’s part in it, but then there are times where it’s hard then to focus on acting when you’re thinking about everything else that’s going on.

STATSKY: I know, I give you so much credit, and I say this to my co-creators on Hacks all the time because they direct and act as well in the show. It’s hard enough for me to write and produce. 

Emma Roberts

Jacket, Shorts, and Shoes Gucci.

ROBERTS: Well, I don’t know how people direct and act, because I’m really interested in directing, but I don’t want to act in what I direct. Not even because I can’t mentally juggle it, which I probably couldn’t, but more so I can’t imagine anything worse than being in hair and makeup, and running around directing, and then being in front of the camera.

STATSKY: Right. Like I don’t know how you could be in the scene thinking of notes for your scene partner. Like how could you be present?

ROBERTS: Yeah. I don’t know how.

STATSKY: We’ve got to get Bradley Cooper on this Zoom.

ROBERTS: I know. [Laughs]

STATSKY: When I’m in the writer’s room, I can’t read fiction because I get worried about it meshing with what I’m writing. When you’re shooting something like this or American Horror Story, because you’re such a voracious reader, does the stuff you read ever seep into the work?

ROBERTS: I like this question because it’s a real thing for me. I have to stay in the same tone as what I’m doing. When I’m doing horror stories, I have to be reading horror or sad stuff. I remember when we were shooting, I was reading My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler, and I was dying laughing in my chair. And then everyone’s just looking at me and I’m like, “I should probably read something not so laugh-out-loud while working crying scenes, and a blood gag.” But when I’m doing comedy, I try to read lighter stuff. Because I think what you’re reading definitely seeps into your thoughts and your subconscious. 

STATSKY: Yeah. I also don’t really watch comedies. I think it’s important to know what other people are doing, but I get very worried about stealing a joke by osmosis. 

ROBERTS: I actually have that fear sometimes, because we consume so much news so quickly Sometimes I’m saying something and I’m like, “Did I make this up? Or did I actually see this somewhere?” 

STATSKY: Right. You see a meme or a tweet, and then you say it as if it’s your thought. You’re like, “That’s not my thought, that was a person on the internet’s thought.”

Emma Roberts

Jacket, Skirt, and Shoes McQueen by Seán McGirr.

ROBERTS: Well that must be hard for comedy because now it’s like there’s so many trends and jokes online. 

STATSKY: It’s super hard. I always say that the funniest people in the world are on Reddit.

ROBERTS: I love Reddit.

STATSKY: They’re not working in comedy in Hollywood.

ROBERTS: That’s so true.

STATSKY: They’re on Reddit. It’s like, you just can’t outpace the internet. It’s always ahead of you. It’s always funnier than you.

ROBERTS: As a writer, I can’t imagine that. I mean for me as an actor, I have that feeling where I just look online and I’m like, “There are so many insanely talented people on the internet.”

STATSKY: I know. Well, when I was watching this movie, it’s such a relatable story of an underdog . And I love stories like that and I think about self-doubt a lot. I find that big dreams are always accompanied by big doubt, if you’re trying to do something extraordinary. You’ve done so much in your career, and I was curious about your relationship with self-doubt. 

ROBERTS: I feel like I’ve had more self-doubt now in my thirties than I ever had. When I was nine years old I would literally go into an audition and be like, “Mom, please don’t embarrass me.”I envy that confidence I had before. I feel like this is twofold where it’s like you get older and you get more aware, but also back then there wasn’t the internet in the way it is now, so you didn’t have this constant feedback loop. You wouldn’t instantaneously know if everybody hated something about you. I feel like I’ve had the reverse experience where I was living my dream and now I have a lot of doubt that I have to reckon with. It’s weird. 

STATSKY: I think that’s common, actually.

Emma Roberts

Top, Skirt, Sunglasses, and Shoes Celine By Hedi Slimane.


STATSKY: I used to think when I wanted to be a writer, as soon as I get my first paid job, as soon as I’m doing it professionally, that doubt goes away. 

ROBERTS: Totally.

STATSKY: And I’ve never been more insecure. It’s a wild thing to reckon with as a creative person, the realization that it never goes away.

ROBERTS: It’s like you do make these milestones for yourself, and then you realize there will always be another mountain to climb. So I try to at least lean into that and use that then for certain roles, because it is good to have some self-doubt. You never want to think you’re the best in the room because if you do, then you’re probably not. 

STATSKY: Or you’re a sociopath maybe, yeah.

ROBERTS: Yeah. But I think there’s healthy self-doubt and unhealthy self-doubt and I’m still figuring out what that is. 

STATSKY: Yeah, totally. Do you read reviews?

Emma Roberts

Jacket and Skirt McQueen by Seán McGirr.

ROBERTS: I don’t. And people don’t believe me when I say it, but I don’t even read comments on Instagram.

STATSKY: I need you to teach me how to do that.

ROBERTS: Are we in the comments?

STATSKY: We’re in the comments. We’re on Twitter, we’re reading, we’re absolutely everywhere, Emma. If I could hack people’s phones, I would.

ROBERTS: Okay, I’ll allow Reddit, because the people who are talking on Reddit are committed to what they’re talking about. But I will not let you go in the comments of Instagram.

STATSKY: Oh, the comments.

ROBERTS: People know what to send me and what not to. Like I love when it’s just a true fan saying something so funny and actually getting a joke. Someone said about Space Cadet, “this is so Wild Child coded.” Wild Child was a movie I did when I was 16, and this movie does remind me of that, so I was happy. But other than that—I mean, I read stuff that was said about me when I was 17, 20, 24, that truly almost sent me to a mental hospital. Where you’re just like, “I’m a young girl and my frontal lobe isn’t developed. Can you cut me a little slack?”

STATSKY: No, the human brain is not meant to handle that amount of attention and criticism.

ROBERTS: No. I’m like, people should have to put their license numbers into their social media accounts, because otherwise it’s just a free for all.If I say something, I’m held accountable, so why does everyone else live in a lawless land?

STATSKY: I don’t know if you feel this way about ongoing series where it’s like, “Okay, I can react to that criticism in real time,,” but that’s also kind of bad because it’s messing with your own creative instinct.

Emma Roberts

Jacket, Dress, Shorts, and Shoes Prada.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. What’s also so upsetting is that people spend years and years and years and years of their life working on stuff, and it can be torn apart in literally two seconds. It’s like they didn’t even spell the words correctly and I’m crying about it.

STATSKY: Yeah, yeah.

ROBERTS: Like “U R badd,” spelled the letter U and the letter R. B-A-D-D. And you’re like, “What?”

STATSKY: Totally. All right, I have two quick questions.


STATSKY: You do karaoke in this movie?


STATSKY: Do you like karaoke?

ROBERTS: Great question. So yes, I sing Counting Crows in this movie. I also sang Shania Twain, and it got cut out. I try not to take it personally, but I love karaoke, like, once every two years.

STATSKY: That’s a great amount for karaoke.


STATSKY: Absolutely right.

Emma Roberts

Dress and Shoes Miu Miu.

ROBERTS: Do you have a song?

STATSKY: I’m tone-deaf. So I go to “Semi-Charmed Life,” because it’s mostly talking.

ROBERTS: Totally.

STATSKY: But the problem is, at the very end you’ve got a solid 60 seconds of “Do, do, do, do.”

ROBERTS: That’s the first thing I thought. 

STATSKY: You’re just up there going “Do, do, do, do.” It’s really not good. Someone took me on a second date to karaoke with his friends once and it didn’t go well.

ROBERTS: Mine is “Before He Cheats,” by Carrie Underwood. I like anything Country, because you can get away with it if you kill it, but if you don’t, you still kill it.

STATSKY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

ROBERTS: I want to be a country singer in my next life. I feel like that was a missed calling for me. 

STATSKY: Can we go do karaoke sometime?

ROBERTS: We absolutely must.

STATSKY: If you’re in the two-year window, I’m down.


Hair: Gonn Kinoshita using Balmain Hair at The Wall Group

Makeup: Ana Marie using 111Skin at The Wall Group

Nails: Nori using Chanel Le Vernis at See Management

Photography Assistants: Chase Elliott and Katie Park

Fashion Assistant: Nicholson Baird

Fashion Intern: Sofia Garcia-Pena 

Location: WSA

Special Thanks: Root Studios