Hollywood’s Next Big Thing: Skyler Samuels Goes From Stanford to ‘Scream Queens’

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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Skyler Samuels grew up so close to Hollywood that when her mother, an Access Hollywood producer, needed someone to cover a Harry Potter junket, she sent her 7-year-old daughter.Scream Queens, the Ryan Murphy-helmed horror-comedy series that revolves around the (fictional) Kappa sorority at Wallace University, looks like one of fall TV’s best offerings.There’s a very good chance that Scream Queens is going to lose a chunk of its viewers just a few minutes into the show’s two-hour opener, when vile sorority queen Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) excoriates the house maid. “That obese specimen of human filth scrubbing bulimia vomit out of the carpet is Ms.Tuesday nights are about to get a whole lot spookier — in a good way — starting Sept. 22 thanks to Fox’s slasher comedy Scream Queens, from Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy.

Her stylists bustle up and down the stairs and racks of clothing creep into the living room of the Hancock Park apartment where Emma Roberts has come to be dressed for an evening event.Agent Carter fans who have been wondering how large of a role Chad Michael Murray will have when the show returns to ABC in January will be able to see the actor on screen a little sooner than that. In a subpar season where so many new shows feel so familiar, and you may think you’ve already seen the second episode before you finish the first, standing out ranks as an accomplishment. Between her strong indie presence in festival hits like Palo Alto, Justin Kelly’s melodramatic biopic I Am Michael, upcoming rom-com Ashby, and her soon-to-premiere horror comedy series Scream Queens, the actress is not only wittily avoiding typecasting, but stealthily building a solid career foundation.

OG scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis appearing as the dean is reason enough to watch, but there are also some talented young bloods who round out the cast including sorority queen Emma Roberts, Glee alum Lea Michele, Skyler Samuels, Glen Powell, Abigail Breslin and Mexican hunk Diego Boneta. The 24-year-old actor and singer first won over Latin fans as Rocco in the teen telenovela Rebelde a decade ago, but since then he’s smoothly transitioned to Hollywood with roles on hit TV shows like 90210 and Pretty Little Liars, as well as the big-screen adaptation of Rock of Ages. Roberts is the first celebrity to star in the Aerie Real advertising campaign, which launched last year featuring un-retouched images “to help promote body positivity and encourage the celebration of reality over fantasy,” according to Aerie President Jennifer Foyle.

He said, “I know you’re super type-A and you love Stanford and you’re a brainiac, but you’re Grace Gardner now and if you let me, please take a chance when I ask you to stay on Scream Queens for a second. Roberts’ ads for the campaign began Sept. 3, and while some might consider it easier for a thin, fit star such as herself to appear sans Photoshopping, the actress acknowledges that the campaign triggered self-doubts. “The first outfit was just the bralette and underwear, and I walked on set wearing a robe,” she says. “I got really nervous when I was about to take it off. Honestly, if a college can’t tell if its students are demons (see: Buffy’s roommate, Kathy Newman – the 3,000-year-old Mok’tagar demon who disguised herself as a human), then we’re talking about a combination of both negligence and incompetence on a massive scale. Was it the moment where two hunky fraternity members — one played by Nick Jonas, an eye locked on his next gay club appearance fee — debated the possibility of one (gay) touching the other’s (straight) weiner during an impromptu cuddle session? (Maybe this was supposed to be some kind of hat-tip toward pernicious homosocial anxiety, but it ends up making the gay character look like a pitiful, closeted quasi-predator.) Or was it the scene where Roberts greets Keke Palmer’s Zayday, the sorority’s lone black pledge, by sweetly cooing, “Hello, hoodrat.

But basically all my best friends were at the shoot: My hair and makeup people and my stylists [Brit and Kara Smith, also co-designers of L.A.-based fashion label Elkin]. Premiering this Tuesday on FOX is Scream Queens, Ryan Murphy’s latest camp horror endeavor following the sorority sisters of Kappa House at the fictional Wallace University. Issues with sororities and private clubs aside, it’s not completely the school’s fault that after sorority sisters accidentally kill one of their members, another sister’s boyfriend ends up killing the guilty parties. Because the pictures were going to look like me, which I think is the point of this whole campaign.” “We live in a world of social media, of Instagram and Twitter, and everyone’s constantly posting photos of the best versions of themselves and adding filters and Facetuning and creating this image and this life that may not be real,” Roberts continues. “I think it’s important to show your real self, for me at least. It’ll be fun going back to school in January and moving back into my sorority house and going to class again after having lived in this fake sorority.

It’s pitched somewhere between the latter two: what studio head wouldn’t greenlight a fusion of Glee’s razor-sharp barbs, rapid pace, and chokehold on the zeitgeist with AHS’s low-grade scares and anthology format? Lo and behold, however, a masked killer named Red Devil is out for anyone associated with Kappa and begins to pick off pledges one by one, seeking revenge for a hazing gone wrong twenty years ago. But elsewhere, this blend of horror and comedy is a fairly typical mishmash of styles and tones that wavers between not doing enough and not leaving well enough alone. It has the veneer of a bold move — a commitment to camp and full-bore silliness by a post-Empire Fox — but its underpinnings are conventional: Glee was a borderline sensation during its first few seasons, and AHS is a critically respected show with a loyal fan base and a thwack of Emmy nominations. In between shooting for the show, he’s been busy putting the finishing touches on a new bilingual EP, to be released later this year via Sony Music Latin.

First, Veronica begins college by investigating a serial rapist who targets victims through a safe ride program (it’s an incredibly upsetting storyline that reflects far too many issues with campus safety in real life). And it really isn’t hard to imagine it becoming the kind of sensation Murphy & co. are no doubt imagining: the plot is brisk, the action is pulpy, and the performances are as juicy as anything this side of Cookie Lyon’s manicure. Even when I’m dressed up, I try to be comfortable and hold on to my California roots.” Her favorite street uniform lately has been a T-shirt paired with vintage Levi’s cut-offs and Charlotte Olympia’s Kitty flats, embroidered with cat faces. Bring in the mini-Chanels of Kappa (played by Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourde, and Ariana Grande), whose current college curricular revolves around finding ways to please Miss Oberlin, who’s the embodiment of the anti-Elle Woods. There’s no word on whether Murray and Schwarzenegger will appear in more than one episode, but we do know that Buffy The Vampire Slayer favorite Charisma Carpenter will also be guest starring on the show as Ariana Grande’s mother.

And someone dressed in the school’s red devil mascot outfit wants to kill the girls off, along with other random victims whose randomness is one of the two-hour pilot’s more puzzling aspects. Though Roberts has poignantly enacted the role of introvert in the past as Noelle in mental health dramedy It’s Kind of a Funny Story, as April in Gia Coppola’s debut Palo Alto, and as vulnerable Amy in Adult World, the actress completely comes out of her shell and forces us audiences members to pay attention when cast as the not-to-be-trusted femme fatale, which we got a taste of in Murphy’s American Horror Story: Coven and Freak Show.

Granted, Yale’s Skull and Bones society is real, but the 2000 fictionalised version of the club covers up the murder by trying to kill another student/potential Skulls member who’s determined to uncover the truth behind the secretive group. She has also been reaching for pieces by Zimmerman, Jenni Kayne, Maiyet (for evening), Isabel Marant (for standout jackets) and Jennifer Meyer (for jewelry); a preferred shop is Madison in Beverly Grove. Roberts ability to weave in and out of indie film, big-budget comedies (We’re the Millers wasn’t that bad, you guys), and Ryan Murphy-led anthology series has given her a unique edge in a large pool of Hollywood’s emerging talent. And no, merely having Dean Munsch acknowledge the problem (“Out in the real world people just don’t talk that way to other people”) does not solve it, just as being willing to cast women who are not conventionally pretty does not give one free reign to mock their looks and disabilities. An avid handbag collector, Roberts is carrying Max Mara’s burgundy leather Whitney tote, a collaboration with Italian architect Renzo Piano, who recently designed the new Whitney Museum of American Art building in Manhattan.

What sets Roberts even further apart from her contemporaries, however, is her ability to believably portray both the demure girl next door and the unnerving villain. Palmer and Skyler Samuels give the show something like a heart, albeit one that feels about an inch away from being ripped out and eaten at any given moment. And she dubs a new Balenciaga fanny pack her “favorite purchase of the past five years.” Why? “It’s nice to have your hands free,” she says. “You can dance!

Given her eclectic track record, it’s tough to determine where we’ll see the tireless talent after Scream Queens and Nerve (out next year), but regardless of which direction she takes, we’ll definitely be watching. Instead of the film’s protagonist (Sara) bunking with a demon a la Buffy, she meets Rebecca, an obsessive stalker who kills a kitten (seriously) in the dorm’s laundry room to make sure she doesn’t have to share Sara with anyone. But in addition to the university’s failed security measures, it keeps professor Roberts (played by Billy Zane) on its payroll – a man with a penchant for fedoras, scarves, and hooking up with students. Follow Decider on Facebook and Twitter to join the conversation, and sign up for our email newsletters to be the first to know about streaming movies and TV news!

Yet despite all its flaws, vulgarities and miscues, and for all the justifiable fear that, like many shows from this team, it will go screaming off the quality cliff, there is an energy to Scream most other new shows are missing. This is simple: not only is the campus the site of an alleged 1973 massacre, it’s home to a serial killer who goes after students in the spirit of infamous urban legends, leaving their bodies on campus. Murphy’s camera tracks Roberts and her lackeys stomping down a hallway and turns her into a lioness on the hunt; Ariana Grande, serviceable and completely perfunctory, has a flirty text back-and-forth with her soon-to-be killer while they stand in front of each other, a great bit of tomfoolery.

To make matters worse, the killer is never apprehended, and is left to return to another campus where the killer begins telling the tale to a group of unsuspecting students/victims of the previous murder spree. Falchuk navigates a porny Nick Jonas workout sequence with licked lips, and it says more about lust and vanity and menacing sexuality than the rest of the show combined.

And that’s the main problem with Scream Queens: the show puts all of its energy into punchlines, and once it gets there it doesn’t have anything to say. There are entire conversations and voice-overs devoted to exposition that exist solely to tee up spiteful one-liners for Roberts or her doofus frat boyfriend. I always got positive feed back on all the roles that I didn’t get —“She’s really great; she’s not quite right for this, but she’s right for something” — he said that for years. But even more negligent than the lax security measures taken by the school is its refusal to protect students from the feral press who are taking the “if it bleeds, it leads” maxim to heart. There’s a version of this show somewhere that’s closer to lemonade, one that retains Roberts’ spark and its creators’ imagination but directs it at something other than a string of poison-tipped barbs.

Ryan [Murphy] thought it would be cool to make my character second-generation Mexican and I was like, “Hell yeah, man, let’s do it.” His culture will come through mainly in his passion and how romantic he is — that’s very close to who I am in real life. There’s something sinister about Murphy and friends’ insistence that it’s okay to dive into the reprehensible because we’re all supposed to know they don’t mean it.

For her forthcoming role as high school senior Vee in the 2016 film “Nerve,” a thriller about an online game of Truth or Dare with actor Dave Franco, Roberts selected her own wardrobe (mostly T-shirts, jeans, hoodies and Adidas sneakers, aside from one custom-made emerald sequined dress). Horrible things happen in the various American Horror Stories, but they’re working in service of larger thematic interests: discrimination, control, infidelity. She ‘fesses up to buying more than 30 magazines a month and ripping out inspirational clips, stashed in an old pink Miu Miu shoe box and decorating the inside of her front door, in the hopes that another fitting fashion collaboration might come along — Roberts created jewelry for BaubleBar in September 2014. When Roberts’ character states that she can get away with anything because she’s white, pretty, and rich, it’s lazy writing masquerading as even lazier social commentary. Ryan had it in mind a long time back because there were little nuances in the pilot about Grace going to college that felt familiar to when I went to college.

It’s modern beats and modern choruses but the verses and some of the guitars and instruments have a bit of a rock n roll throwback, along the lines of Little Richard and Elvis, while other parts are more ’80s-sounding. Grace is really the eyes and ears of the audience when coming to college and joining a sorority and trying to date boys when you never really dated before and making friends and living with people.

I’m a fan of the horror genre but what happened is that I watched so many scary movies as a kid that I got sort of traumatized and couldn’t sleep.

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