Ryan Gosling. Rachel McAdams. Liam Hemsworth. To think, you may have never known their names if it weren’t for one of the weepy romances by Nicholas Sparks, the writer behind “The Notebook,” “The Last Song,” “Dear John” and more. And as we ring in a new year of cinema, we find yet another actress toying with the lever on Sparks’ star-making machine: Massachusetts native Taylor Schilling. Fans of NBC’s short-lived medical drama “Mercy” may recognize the 27-year-old as nurse Veronica Flanagan Callahan, though she’s since hung up her scrubs, making the transition from TV to film in earnest this year with roles in the Sparks adaptation “The Lucky One” and Ben Affleck’s “Argo.” We chatted with the actress about her breakout 2012 and whether making out underwater is as hard as it looks.
MTV News: Does this year feel like a particularly big one for you?
Taylor Schilling: Last year felt like a big year. This year feels just kind of like riding the wave. I did some fun work last year, so I’m excited to see how it shakes down.
MTV: Has transitioning from TV to film been an intentional career move for you, or were those simply the roles that were coming your way?
Schilling: When I audition, I take the parts that I get that I like. I feel so grateful that those have been these kind of amazing film roles. And I have to say that there is a big difference [between TV and film]. On a film set, for me, there’s so much more time to process what’s going on than there is on a television set. There’s more wiggle room to try things and fail and try again and get to the heart of what’s going on in the scene, which is really fun for me. It’s what I like to do.
MTV: First up for you this year is “The Lucky One,” co-starring Zac Efron. Let’s cut to the obvious question: Is kissing Zac as amazing as one might imagine?
Schilling: Oh my gosh. I’m not going to let you down. It’s not a bad way to make a paycheck.
MTV: My favorite Nicholas Sparks movie motif is the rain-drenched makeout scene. From the trailer, it appears you and Zac share a steamy smooch under a showerhead, which is a bit of a twist.
What I’m wondering, technically speaking, is if there’s any special choreography to ensure you don’t drown with all that water falling on you?
Schilling: [Laughs] No, there didn’t seem to be a problem.
MTV: Well, you’re clearly a talented, well-trained actress. Do you have a favorite Nicholas Sparks movie?
Schilling: I love “The Notebook.” I think that’s my favorite one. It really is a classic now. I don’t know if I could say. I haven’t seen all of them yet, to be honest. I think I need to do some research before I can honestly answer that question. They’re just such nice stories. They’re so romantic. You get lost in them. It’s such a beautiful fantasy. It’s not real life. It’s this precious world where things kind of fall into place.
MTV: You also have “Argo” coming out this year. What is Ben Affleck like as a director?
Schilling: It was one of the easiest experiences I’ve ever had on a set, and it was one of the happiest sets I’ve ever been on. He’s incredibly smart, and he kind of made me as an actor — I never felt left behind. It’s like he knows what it’s like and he’s there with you every step of the way. It’s pretty incredible, that whole experience.
MTV: I have to imagine some of that comes from his background as an actor.
Schilling: Absolutely. Absolutely. He just really knew how to articulate what he wanted, and then I felt really safe and free because I think that when a director has been an actor, he really understands the vulnerability of sort of being in front of the camera and has the ability to make the set very safe. He completely understands what that process is like. So that’s rare.
MTV: What challenges does your character Christine face in “Argo”?
Schilling: Christine is holding down the fort while her husband [played by Affleck] is off kind of doing some big adventurous things. She’s doing the best she can to maintain her home and her relationship, to do right by her child. She’s trying to negotiate what the best plan of action is for her as a woman and to take care of her son and where her relationship fits into that.
MTV: So you’ve got both Ben Affleck and Zac Efron as leading men this year. How are you going to top that? Is Brad Pitt next?
Schilling: I don’t know. I don’t know where it goes from here. Brad Pitt, bring it.
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