Erika Christensen stars in the new Paramount crime comedy The Perfect Score, which centers on a group of six high school students who band together and develop a plan to heist the SAT exam in order to prevent the test from unfairly defining who they’ll become. Christensen plays Anna, who desires to meet her parents’ standard of excellence but is badly in need of some excitement.
Erika says that she hasn’t had to worry about the SAT in real life. “Well you know what, I started acting when I was 12. I was working right through that little period and so I haven’t taken the SAT. Although now, because, you’re right, everyone’s asked me about it, I kind of want to try it and just see how well I’ll do, you know. Just for fun, but without studying. Just go and take the test. So that if I do do really well, then I can brag about it.” She’s pretty confident about how she would do too. “Recently, an I.Q. test popped on my computer, you know one of those pop up things and I took the test and I did pretty well. So I was really excited.”
While the teens are able to team up nicely in the film, they do set a bad example, something that people in real life shouldn’t consider. Christensen says that in the film “everybody comes in with their certain reasons that they want to steal it and everybody comes out with a different view point. Just the experience of doing something and dedicating yourself whole heartedly to something and getting together with a group and making a decision completely on your own, all that kind of stuff, just comes together to really empower these people. I think that’s what they all learn from it. That’s what we should all try and learn from it.”
Films like The Breakfast Club were an inspiration to the cast. “Absolutely. That’s the thing, you know these people are all so different. They come from such different backgrounds and then you throw them together and see what happens. And see what they can learn from each other. See how much fun and how much trouble they can get into and all that kind of good stuff. John Hughes movies are classics, so it was definitely an attempt to make a good, fun one to stand up to that.”
So is Erika anything like her character? “I’m thought of more as a darker person and I’m not. I am more of a good girl. I love those roles and I will continue to play them but it was nice to balance things out with a sweeter personality. The more vulnerable, well not that I haven’t had vulnerability but, you know, a girl like this.”
This was probably the youngest cast that Erika has worked with in a film. “I thought it was fun working with adults until I got onto this set, and we were already buddies by the time we got there because of the rehearsal and we had a few weeks to really get to know each other. We really got to know each other, you know. We would really sit down at dinners and talk and argue. It was so fun. And it was interesting to feel like, ‘Ah yeah, I’ve been around.’ But so have they. Everybody puts in their time.”
She was previously seen singing in MTV’s Wuthering Heights. “Yeah, I think a lot of people were surprised and I hope so. I have been singing from a young age and I hope to do a lot more of it. That was a great experience.” She would also love to do a musical. “I would, I got to sing in ‘Wuthering Heights’ but I’d love to do more and I’d love to dance. Singing and dancing, it’s like the height of emotion and so it’s a great marriage between film and music.”
After winning awards for her role in Traffic, a lot of scripts started coming her way. “I had a lot of really dark material coming at me. Which is awesome and I love it. And often, a quote, unquote dark material tackles really important issues and I think that’s part of the responsibility of having so many people listen to what you have to say, you know, with a movie like ‘Traffic.’ But it’s definitely diversifying, as evidenced by ‘The Perfect Score’ which was fun. I’m going to do more of just being all over the map and just keeping all the doors open.”
Christensen next stars in Mike Binder’s The Upside of Anger, along with Kevin Costner, Joan Allen, Evan Rachel Wood, Kerri Russell and Alicia Witt. “It will be a pretty intense movie,” she says. “There’s a lot of comedy in that as well. You know, [Mike’s] got a great mind for comedy as well as real life. So we’ll see, we’ll see. I mean I keep trying to say it’s a very funny drama or it’s a very dramatic comedy. I don’t what it is. But it’s going to be good, I know that.”
The film, which she shot in London, is about a mother (Allen) and her four strong-willed daughters (Christensen, Witt, Russell and Wood) who must suddenly deal with life without a husband and father. Costner plays a former baseball player who is a friend of the family. “What I love about [my character] is that she doesn’t have any illusions about who she is. She knows who she is and she’s fine with it, and she’s ambitious. She’s kind of sassy and wants to drive her mother nuts, which she succeeds in doing.”
The Perfect Score opens nationwide on Friday, January 30.