You may have first seen Taryn Manning when she played Britney's BFF in the coming-of-age dramedy "Crossroads," but you probably know her best for the edgier roles that came later (and seemed to suit her better) in films like "Hustle & Flow" and "8 Mile."
Over the last decade, Manning has proven her staying power, transitioning from teen queen to leading lady with ease. These days she's prepping for the release of her film "The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll," in which she plays a determined, if somewhat misguided, manager trying to save the career of a rock star (played by a guyliner-wearing Kevin Zegers) who's on the brink of losing it all. And trust us, it's not going to be easy to keep this ship from sinking.
We got the lowdown on what draws Manning toward music-centered stories, how she navigated from "It" girl to thespian and why every actor needs to have at least one "serious hobby."
You've come a long way from belting out "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" with Britney, but was it music that drew you to this role?
Well, I definitely gravitate towards anything musical, probably because I'm a musician myself. But for this particular film, for "The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll," what really grabbed me was the character. When I first read the script I just really liked it. I found Rose to be very strong and motivated, and to really care about this artist, Spyder. She's in it to win it. She's not some manager hanging around for the money. She's in the trenches the entire time, and that really grabbed me.
Was the role given to you straight away, or did you have to audition?
It came through as an audition and I read the script and knew I really liked it, but then I was in the waiting room with all the other actresses who I'm always up against -- you know, it's like the same group of people every time -- and I auditioned like usual, and this time I got it! [laughs] I know that sounds like, whatever, but when you really want the role, you really want to get it. I knew I could nail this part, so I was happy other people agreed.
This story is about a rock star, but you've really carved a niche in the hip-hop movie scene too. Are there any other hip-hop films in the works?
You know, if some other hip-hop film comes up and it's got great writing, I'm definitely not opposed to it, but I've been severely typecast and so now I'm trying to break out of that. To do that, I think my goal now is really to find a comedy. I'm a pretty big goofball actress but like, no one knows that! I'm like, "I'm funny! I swear!"
You sound a little frustrated with being typecast. Is your career where you want it to be?
Well, yes and no. I think I survived the shift from the teen stuff into the bigger roles by, I don't know, by the grace of God, I guess. I honestly do think that I'm here to stay and I feel that I have a long career ahead of me. For me, it's a marathon, not a sprint. You know, slow and steady wins the race. God, I can't believe I just said that.
So, of course I am right where I'm supposed to be, but that doesn't mean I'm exactly where I ultimately want to be. My dream role is to get something written that's my own vehicle where I can sing, dance and act -- something like "Chicago" or "Moulin Rouge," but, you know, with me in it.
It's clear that music is one of your passions. What's up with your DJ career?
I DJ because I love to just always be doing something and I love music. Some of my friends that only act struggle because when they're not acting, they're bored. And it's hard right now; it's rough out there. There's no guarantee you're always going to have work.
So if you don't have something else to do, and you don't have acting work, you just sit around all day being busy "not acting" and end up freaking out instead. So when my friends stress to me, I'm just like, "You guys go knit some sweaters!" That's why I always tell actors to have a serious hobby. Seriously.