Q&A: Emma Roberts & Freddie Highmore Are More Than Just 'Getting By'

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When the niece of one of the biggest actresses in the world and the protégé of one of the biggest actors in the world come together, you can expect they'll do more than just get by.

Of course, in "The Art of Getting By" (on DVD and Blu-ray this week), Emma Roberts and Freddie Highmore do just that, but it's kind of the point.

Julia Roberts' relative and Johnny Depp's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" co-star play slackers and high school seniors trying to graduate by the skin of their teeth. When loner George meets Sally, he's inspired to broaden his horizons beyond skipping school and drawing all over test papers. He even goes to a party! With people there!

Of course all of his newfound social skills don't give him the nerve to make a move, even when Sally propositions him.

Such awkwardness was hardly evident when we sat down with Roberts and Highmore recently in New York City.

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This movie follows a pair of friends who start out platonic and eventually evolve. Have you ever been in a similar situation?

Freddie Highmore: I haven't.

Emma Roberts: I have actually. I was friends with someone for a while and then started dating him. But it’s a weird thing. It’s only happened to me once but I have a lot of friends who it happens to all the time. I’ve also been in the reverse where you think you really like someone and then you’re like, "Oh. Friends."

Are or were you guys slackers in school at all like George and Sally?

FH: I wasn’t a big slacker really.

ER: Oh, he’s not a slacker at all.

I would imagine neither of you are slackers.

ER: Oh, I was.

FH: I started at Cambridge in October and completed my first year on Friday.

Yeah, you're not a slacker. Did you do any of the painting or drawing in the movie? Can you draw?

FH: No, unfortunately. I wish I could draw. I would look at artists doing it and even [writer/director] Gavin [Wiesen], who is pretty good himself. He’d show me a couple of techniques but no, I really can't draw.

ER: I used to paint when I was younger and do pottery, but, as you get older, you become more self-conscious about that kind of stuff so I stopped doing it and now I’m rusty. Sometimes stuff with canvas but I don’t draw. I just do random stuff and put pieces from magazines and stuff on it and do some decoupage-type thing. I could never paint a person. I always wish I could. I’m so envious of people that can do that.

Music plays such a big role in this film – were there any artists you discovered while making it that you're loving now?

ER: For me, the whole soundtrack is like a playlist I would have bought whether it was in the movie I was in or not.  It’s such an expressive playlist of the movie and being young. I want to listen to it and walk around New York City, you know?

We know you're pretty into music because of that great Supervideo you did. Are there any artists you would want to do music videos for?

ER: I don’t know if I’d do another one, but my favorite band is — I just discovered — Foster the People.  I’m pretty obsessed with them right now.

FH: I'm pretty into The National right now.

You guys have both grown up in the Hollywood spotlight and yet we only really hear about your career as opposed to your personal life. How did you do that?

FH: I think in some ways I’m quite lucky to be living in London, there’s this certain separation from the movie business. In that way, it’s been quite easy to separate acting and going back to a normal life.

ER: I just never have really been the kind of person that’s out in public being inappropriate, I guess.  I like to have fun as much as the next person but I tend to do it in private and just hang out with close friends. If I’m going to go out, I’ll just do it with my really good friends. I also have a great family and I’m so scared of my mother, that I would never, ever do anything really bad because I’d be scared she would kill me.

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Speaking of your family, would you ever do a remake of any of your aunt's movies?

ER: I don’t know if I would do a remake of it, but "My Best Friend’s Wedding" is my favorite movie of hers. I could watch that all the time. I know every word to it. [Turns and grabs Freddie's hand, laughing] We could do a remake of "Notting Hill!"

For the most part, we always see you both playing pretty normal humans. Would either of you ever do a superhero movie?

ER: I would like to do a live-action of "The Powerpuff Girls" – Does that count?

FH: I don't know – I've never really thought about it.

ER: You can be in the "Powerpuff Girls" with me.

FH: Yeah, I'd join in. As an evil bad guy disguised as a Powerpuff  Girl.

Originally published June 16, 2011.