The more down-to-earth ambition suits her role: in the film, Robertson plays Tulsa, a high school student who makes online contact with Gardner (Asa Butterfield), a teenage boy who, through a twist of fate, was born and raised on a space exploration outpost on Mars, and their emotional connection is tested when Gardner finally makes his way to Earth and the two embark on a journey for him to see as many of the planet's wonders as possible.
The actress also gets a little more earthbound in her next project, "Girlboss," the Netflix sitcom based on young, self-made entrepreneur Sophie Amoruso's bestselling autobiography, written by "Pitch Perfect" screenwriter Kay Cannon and produced by Charlize Theron, debuting in April. Robertson tells Moviefone about taking charge of her own career -- and knowing when to let the stuntwoman come in.
Moviefone: Were you ever, or are you currently, a space exploration nerd? Were you fascinated with any of that world at any point?
Britt Robertson: No -- never. A lot of people talk to me about space and sci-fi, just because of some of the films that I've been in, and I'm always like, "What's happening? I don't even know." I've retained a lot of the information, but much like my early childhood years, I've dropped all of it out and don't remember a thing.
It's cool, I'm interested. If people want to talk to me about it, I love to get more knowledge. But I'm not so intrigued that I'm, like, going out and trying to get everybody on a SpaceX jet and travel up to Mars.
What was the thing about this that did catch your eye as an actress?
I think it's a really well-written script. I was a big fan of the story, and I love the characters of Gardner and Tulsa, and their relationship, and where that goes, and what it brings out of both of the characters.
Then I also love the idea of the whole Gardner story and trying to find his father, and then finding family within the love that he has around him. Just the journeys that we all take on this Earth, and what they bring to us, and what they bring out of us. That is what fascinates me about these types of stories.
Did you try to convince them to let you fly the biplane?
No. I tried to convince them not to let me ride a motorcycle. Other than that, there was no convincing.
How do those stunts hit you? Is it like, "Oh, I think I can try to do that?" Or are you like, "Is there someone else ready to step in here?"
You always think it's going to be much simpler than it is. When they were like, we want you to actually drive the motorcycle, I was like, what? Why? Then I was like, OK fine. People do it all the time. I see motorcyclists everywhere. I could do this. Then you get there and you're like, this thing is heavier than I am, it's like three times my size. My feet don't even touch the ground. It's almost impossible for me to drive that thing. You've just got to do it over and over and over again. You figure it out.
What was fun about creating the right chemistry with Asa?
What was fun? What's most fun about it is that he's a nice guy, and he's one of the most peaceful people I've ever been around in my life. He's so calm. I enjoyed being around him. I remember being on set every day and was just like ... Asa is such a dream. He really is. He's a dream.
That inspired me. It inspired me to be better at being an actor, and also work harder, and to make the chemistry come alive that much more. I wanted to do it for him, I wanted to do it for the movie, and ultimately myself. You get comfortable with someone and then you act.
Your characters' energies are very different, and it seems like, as actors, you kind of come at things in a different way, too. Did you find that?
Yes! Asa and I are truly opposites. We've done interviews before, like the "would you rather?" interviews, and almost every time we have the opposite answers, to everything. But there's something really awesome about that, like complimenting each other in that way. Yeah, it's cool to see the opposite sides of things.
Are you still absorbing stuff from the more mature actors, like somebody as legendary as Gary Oldman? Are you still watching them with one eye and asking, "What can I learn from this guy?"
I love Gary Oldman. I love watching him. He's just the most delightful. Down to just the science of being an actor and taking control over a set. He would never take control over the set, but if he needed something and he realized that things were falling apart, or we were losing time -- you get to these points where it can be really challenging; you've got like 150 people all trying to do the same thing -- the way he would go about being the leader was really impressive, and so sweet.
He's a really compassionate guy. He cares about everybody. He would never hurt anyone or break them down. He's always building people up. So I think he's just a really good guy, and he also happens to be a phenomenal actor. So I'll take tips from him any day.
Tell me about "Girlboss," because that sounds like a pretty exciting project.
It's so exciting! It's really fun. I'm so excited about it. It was the coolest shoot ever. We did 13 episodes, half-hour comedy, about this disaster of a chick who's, like, jumping into garbage dumpsters so she can get food and bagels, and she can't pay her rent, and she doesn't want to commit to anything, she doesn't want a nine-to-five job, but she feels really entitled to have all of these things in life.
Then she stumbles on this idea to resell this badass jacket that she found, and she becomes very successful to the point where she builds her own website, and then it becomes an online empire, and she ends up making billions of dollars. But it's just a really cool journey to go on.
And, also, I had the coolest boss ever: Kay Cannon's so funny, and she writes the best stuff, and it was just so much fun to play. I had such a ball on that set. It's hard. It was really hard, but it's so fun.
Tell me about going from this level of production, or something like this film or "Tomorrowland," where it's often you, a lot of special effects, and a lot of technical things to you playing a character were the effects are funny lines?
Oh God, is it refreshing. But I never even thought I could do it necessarily. I've done television, like that sort of style of production, which is the "Girlboss" format, but I'd never done really a comedy in film or TV. I've done some, but never to this extent. So I didn't think that I was capable of it, until I read the script and I was like, "Oh God -- this is so funny. I could do this really funny take on this. I know this girl. I can play this girl."
I went into the audition. I kind of thought it was good, but then, when they called me and told me that I got the role, I was just like, "What?! No way!" I didn't even think they wanted to see me for this thing. It's gratifying to know that you can bounce around and do it all if you want, if you try hard.
The book was huge. I'm sure you read it.
Aside from the little character notes that you took for yourself, what was the interesting thing that you got out of the book? Was there some element of it that really appealed to you?
Yeah, I think the whole idea of just taking ownership of your life, and being your own boss, like in the world. Not just as an employee, but to really own what you have to offer this world, and offer it to people, and make something out of it. She's really big into capitalizing on the success that makes you happy and thrive. So I thought that was an important takeaway.
How much of your own girlboss do you want to be? Are you going to be that actor who segues into producing, and directing, and writing, and developing? Or are you primarily the actor that shows up and says, "Give me a part and I'm going to nail it?"
I don't know. I'm into, "Give me a part and I will try to nail it." I'm into that. But also, I think it would be cool to direct, but I don't think that I deserve it. I think there's a lot of people who would be better, and deserve it more, and have worked harder. Maybe producing I could dabble in a little bit. For the most part, I just like to be good at what I know, and those are the things I don't know very well.