Interviews: Christina Millian on Love Don’t Cost a Thing

ON talked to Christina Millian, who stars as Paris Morgan in the new romantic comedy Love Don’t Cost a Thing, a modern update of the classic 1987 teen comedy Can’t Buy Me Love, opening Friday. Nick Cannon plays high-school senior Alvin Johnson, a brilliant, likable outcast who has come to regret the years of intellectual endeavors that prevented him and his un-hip friends from socializing, getting girlfriends and hanging out with the super-cool “Elite” kids. When queen of the Elites, Paris Morgan wrecks her mother’s car, Alvin steps in and mortgages his future to help her out. The catch: In exchange for $1500 in car parts and Alvin’s automotive expertise, Paris agrees to “fake a front” with him to convince the school that they’re dating.

Most performers say they don’t know the person who’s on stage because it’s so far removed from their life. Was that that the case for you in choosing this role?

As far as being on stage as an artist, as a singer, I do become, I think it’s just a freer part of me. I mean during the day I’m such an energetic person, I’m very positive, I like to have fun, I’m always talking to people, but when I’m up on that stage, it’s just I get to let everything out. Like no matter what was happening that day, if I had a bad day, being on stage and seeing all those people singing your song and being into it, even if they don’t know the music, and I’m just up there doing my own music, it’s just a great music. So I do become a different person when I’m on stage, but it’s still a part of me. It’s not somebody totally different.

So it wasn’t work for this role?

Oh yeah, no it doesn’t feel like work at all. None of what I do in this industry feels like work, even what I’m doing right now, I actually enjoy it. People always tell me all the time, “Wow, you’re such a pleasure. You’ve been doing interviews all day.” I’m like, you know, I talk a lot, so I don’t mind it. And it’s fun to me, so, this is something I’ve been wanting to do my whole entire life, so it’s not a job to me at all. But yeah, for Paris, my character, it is work for her. That’s the whole part of the movie, being part of the elite crowd, being the popular one it takes work. She has to have the right clothes, she has to keep up all of the ego, everything. It all comes along with it and it’s just too much. You should be comfortable with yourself, you shouldn’t have to work.

Was it a challenge having to create this ego for your character and then having to elicit sympathy at the same time?

It was definitely a challenge, which I loved. I wouldn’t take any character if it wasn’t a challenge. I think, I had a lot of fun doing it. Let me think, gosh it was so long ago when I did it. I did it a year ago, it was fun. It was a challenge to do it, but I enjoyed it. It wasn’t hard because I took parts of my own life from when I was in high school. The character was very similar to me, not the part that’s egotistical. And even Paris, she’s not that egotistical, she’s just a popular girl. She has the car, she has it going on but, and she knows it but she really doesn’t put it out like that. It wasn’t too hard, I enjoyed doing it. I got into the character, I took my time, I paid attention, I read the script several times. Troy Beyer, which was the director, she helped me get into any type of mood that I couldn’t really understand. She was great about it.

Do you base that egotistical person on anybody you know?

Oh yeah. When I was in high school I got in quite a few little fights, and there were characters. There was this one girl, her name was Latasha. My first week of high school I got in a fight. I didn’t even know her. But she was the popular cheerleader, everybody knew Latasha, and one day she just decided to pick on me. So I really did base part of my character on this girl because her attitude was very similar.

They didn’t have cheerleaders like this when I was young.

What’s great about this movie, so often with my music, I’m always performing and dancing, and I was so excited when I read she was a cheerleader in the script, and then they put us together with the choreographer. It was so great. I wanted to be a cheerleader when I was in high school but I never got to because I was always working. It was a great opportunity to finally totally get into it. It looks really hot in the movie, too. I had fun doing all the routines.

Did you have an actual cheerleader coach?

We actually had dance choreographers teach us stuff for this movie. We used dancers and I think they did a lot of studying. They studied a lot of cheerleading routines. They took it from there.

In the film, the kids were going on these shopping sprees spending hundreds of dollars at a time?

I didn’t do that. All the friends in school, they were wearing all the Guess clothes and the Tommy Hilfiger and stuff like that. I was like, “Oh, I wanna get those Adidas shell toes.” And I took my parents to the mall to go get the shoes, and I remember the Adidas were three stripes the first time when I wanted them really bad. They were like $75 bucks. My parents were like, “No, let’s go look at Payless. They have them just like it.” I didn’t realize the Payless ones had four stripes. I wore the Payless ones to school. Everyone was like, “Are those the ones from Payless?” I was like, “No, these are Adidas.” Next thing you know, next day everyone was wearing the Payless shoe ones. So it doesn’t mean you have to have money to be popular. Everyone liked it and they kinda went with it.

Paris is dressing a little more sexual than I thought teenagers would be able to get away with during the daytime. Maybe night is a little different. Were there ever any discussions about her wardrobe?

Yeah, there were discussions on Paris’ wardrobe in the movie. I actually find a lot of the clothing, kids admire a lot of the clothing I wear. When I had a show on MTV called “Wannabes,” kids were always asking me, “What were you wearing on Wannabes, I wanna get those clothes, those are so cute.” We wanna make sure that Paris looked cute, she definitely had to stick out, especially from her friends, but we made sure that everything wasn’t too overly sexy. Originally we had a stylist that was trying to put us in gold lame shorts, and little cut up t-shirts this small as our cheerleading outfits. And we said no, that’s not gonna go. We’re not gonna make that happen. I can’t look like that. I can’t look like I’m doing a music video or something like that for a movie. So I actually had my mother style me for the movie. She ended up putting all my clothes on in the movie. I felt that they were cute, and they were sexy in a stylish way, but not overdone.

How difficult is it to kiss on screen with the crew around?

It is weird. You know what was so funny? It was so awkward that day because Nick’s family decided to visit for the first time that day. So Nick’s grandma, his mother, his father, his grandfather, everybody was there that day and they’re all watching this kissing scene. And it was so embarrassing, I was really nervous because I was like, “Does it have to be a real kiss?” In the script it said, “And they share a nice kiss.” So I was like, “Well, okay, it’s gonna be a nice kiss. A long tap. And she’s like, “No, you really gotta kiss.” I was like, “Serious?” She’s like yeah, I want it to be real. So I went with it. It was nerve-wracking. At first I was like, “Oh gosh, what if he doesn’t think I’m a good kisser, let me make sure my breath smells good, but we both made a joke out of it and we actually had fun. And after that we were like, “I don’t ever wanna kiss anybody again, because we were on the set for like 6 hours. We actually shot it once, and then they wanted to reshoot it because they wanted the kiss longer. So that was like 6 hours of kissing. Not bad because Nick’s cute.

What’s the role in “Cheer Up?”

My role in “Cheer Up,” ha-ha, you’re gonna laugh. I’m a cheerleader. This time with “Cheer Up,” I’m actually, we were trained by real cheerleaders. They’re UT cheerleaders and they actually had to teach us stunts, we’ve been doing routines, this is the real deal cheerleading because UT, the University, they won’t let you represent them unless it looks like the real thing. We actually did three weeks of training in Texas with the trainers over there, working out, doing all the stunts and all this crazy stuff. It’s crazy.

Is it like Bring It On?

It’s not like Bring It On. Actually, it’s an action comedy. It’s with Tommy Lee Jones, and what it is is five cheerleaders, they witness a murder, he’s a Texas Ranger, and they put us into witness protection, so he has to stay with us in our dorm. I promise you it’s hilarious. We were just shooting last night. I just flew in this morning. It’s gonna be so funny.

Have you been working with Tommy Lee Jones?

We’ve been working with him for the last month, yeah.

He’s a cheery guy, isn’t he?

You know what? You’d be so surprised. Me and the girls, there’s four other girls in the movie. We were so nervous, because I mean look at the movies he’s done, when you see him in interviews, he’s got like this dry sarcasm to him. But he’s actually very funny, like, even in person, I think we’ve all gotten to him. We’re like his little daughters.

What are the other girls’ names?

The other girls’ names are Paula Garses, Vanessa Furlito, Kelly Garner and Monica Keena.

Judging from your size, I’d guess you were the one being thrown into the air.

Between Monica Keena and I, we’re both very petite and very short. The other girls are tired. They always try to throw us up, basket tosses and stuff. I won’t do that. I’m like don’t throw me up in the air it’s not worth it. I have to do a music video in a couple of months. I’m like get a double for that. I’d do all the other stunts, I just don’t like to be thrown up in the air.

You also have Torque?

Yes, I have Torque coming out in January, that’s also from Warner Bros. In that movie I play Nina, she’s one of the good guys girlfriends and she kinda meets them along the way. That was the first movie I’d done ever since I’d been in music. So that was a smaller role. I got that through Joseph Khan and I had auditioned and everything and they asked me to do it, which was cool. It was a great opportunity. I got to have a lot of fun and ride a motorcycle and everything.