"I don't really relate to that many people who are my age, especially in this business."
The first thing you notice about 18-year-old Amanda Bynes is that she's wise beyond her years. Ask about her acting influences and she starts dropping black-and-white movie names; bring up the latest albums by her peers, and she proudly announces that she's keeping her voice on the screen. Nobody knows who she's dating, where she's partying, or what the name of her dog is — and Bynes wouldn't have it any other way. (Click here to see an MTV exclusive clip from "Robots".)
"I don't want to have my face on everything. ... I just don't want to be some young brat who is everywhere," she said. "It sickens me."
You know the usual suspects — Lindsay, Britney, Hilary, Jessica, Paris — but when the name Amanda Bynes comes up, all that comes to mind is one thing: the work. Years of teen-pleasing comedic performances on "All That" and "The Amanda Show," a movie debut in "Big Fat Liar," the star vehicle of "What a Girl Wants," and three seasons on the WB sitcom "What I Like About You."
While the competition was busy filling up the tabloids, Bynes took on her biggest role yet, voicing a character in this weekend's "Robots" alongside names like Mel Brooks, Halle Berry and Robin Williams. As the first teen actress to land a lead role in CGI animation, Bynes is setting the stage to still be successful when her age catches up to her mindset.
She might not have been on the path, though, were it not for Buncha Crunch candy.
"I remember when I did that commercial," she said, recalling her on-camera debut at age 7. "It was my first commercial and I was so excited. There was this little boy who was in the commercial with me, and the first thing he said to me was, 'How many commercials have you done?' I said it was my first one, and he said, 'Well, I've done two'. He had such an attitude about it, and was like, I'm so much better than you."
"Right off the bat, that was my first lesson," Bynes laughed, "that you have to have thick skin and not care about what other people try to say to knock you down. It instilled in me this attitude of believing in myself and not needing anyone else's positive reinforcement or negative, as long as I'm happy with myself and doing the best I can do."
Pushy kid actors aside, Bynes remembers a supportive childhood that had her mother driving her to auditions and her father offering up continuous inspiration. "My Dad is a big movie buff," she insists. "He's seen every movie known to man, and that's where my love for movies and TV came from. He'd always say, 'Amanda, come here,' and me and my sister would come over and watch different things he wanted to show us."
One such time, Bynes ended up being captivated by a comedy legend who would influence the many pratfalls and silly faces that Bynes later served up to Nickelodeon kids who'd never even heard the name Lucille Ball. "I always loved 'I Love Lucy,' " Bynes said. "I loved watching stuff that made me laugh and feel good, and made my family laugh."
When movies like "Shrek" and "Finding Nemo" exploded, Bynes saw the opportunity to look back on that beloved family entertainment and pay it forward. Still, it wasn't until the futuristic tale of Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) came along that she found the right role. "I read the script and I knew I wanted to do this one," she said.
"My character, Piper, is the tomboy of the group," she said proudly. "She's the only girl, and she has to be rough in order to be with all the guys. She meets Rodney for the first time and falls in love with him and has a little bit of a crush on him, but he is actually in love with Cappy, which is Halle Berry's character."
So, let the other young actresses deal with reality shows and music videos. Bynes is spending her days alongside Oscar winners, picking up tools that should help her to build a lengthy career. "I'm not an old soul, but I'd much prefer to be watching movies or spending time with my friends. Everything else is so unfulfilling. I'm so lucky to be able to do this, and I hope to do it for as long as I can. Hopefully I will."
As those who love robots so often must do, Bynes is content to dream about the future.
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