INTERVIEW How much do you really know about your roommate?

Leighton Meester talks about playing a delusional college student in The Roommate

The Roommate

Directed by Christian E. Christiansen

Starring Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet

Rated PG-13, now playing

How much does he or she know about you? Relationships between two people who know each other tend to become fragile and volatile when they begin living together. What happens when you have to live with a complete stranger in the strange new land that is college? Suddenly everything is a crapshoot. In theatres nationwide today, The Roommate explores the budding relationship between two strangers, including one who happens to cross the line.

The Roommate tells the story of Sara (Minka Kelly) and Rebecca (Leighton Meester), two young women randomly assigned to be roommates in college. As their friendship grows, so does Rebecca’s disturbing obsession with her roommate. Widely known for her role as the conniving Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl, Meester branches out to play the delusional Rebecca. In the following extract from a college teleconference interview, Meester talks about becoming someone who clearly wants more from her roommate than just clothes to share.

What attracted you to this particular script?

Leighton Meester: Well, the character. I love to break down and see where I can relate to somebody and find the humanity in them, and I want to care about my character and love my character. It was not easy with Rebecca to say the least, but I think that if you track how she is, if you track her actions they’re always motivated by something internal and obviously not based in reality at all.

How was this role similar and or different from your role as Blair (Gossip Girl)?

LM: It couldn’t have been more different. The entire experience altogether was different, but the character is from a different place. She has a different background, different parents. Rebecca has a history of having a mental disorder. It’s not at all the same as what I play day to day on my show, which is a pleasure to break from that and do something different, but it’s also so incredibly different from who I am as a person as well, of course. She’s not making any decisions based on reality. She doesn’t find pleasure in pleasurable things. She only does anything, including interactions with anybody physically or verbally, to gain something for herself, and she uses her intelligence, her sexuality to gain control of other people. Meanwhile she doesn’t have any control of her own mind, so obviously it’s a very far cry from what I do on the show.

How did you prepare for your role in The Roommate?

LM: Well I was really lucky. I had the opportunity to really prepare for this, and got a lot of great psychology books and information on delusion, mental disorder, especially in women, and I had the chance to speak with different psychiatrists about the disorder, and get all kinds of information. Of course I watched different movies, and this movie’s very much like Fatal Attraction or Single White Female, a woman under the influence. I think it’s a very interesting subject, a woman who sort of loses a real grip on reality. And the psychiatrists I spoke to I think were the most helpful because they would describe in gross detail different cases that they’d worked on defending their patients who had been convicted of crimes. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s definitely dark in the mind of someone who’s living like this, and it was interesting for me because I have what I believe is a firm grip on reality. I’m weird and crazy like anybody else but this person really doesn’t have control of her mind whatsoever, and the decisions she makes are not based on rational thinking. So it was interesting and somewhat uncomfortable at the same time.

What kind of an impact did playing Rebecca have on you?

LM: Watching it years after you made it is really interesting because you do remember certain times and certain days that you filmed different scenes, but this movie is strange for me because I feel I have a bit of amnesia about it. I can’t say it wasn’t fun, it was but it was also intense I think for everyone. … It was extremely difficult for me to [understand her motives] because of how she unravels. From the outside she seems like a really good friend, good person. She’s understanding, she’s artistic, she’s trustworthy but then eventually she just completely loses that. So during filming … I was really lucky because all I had to do was work on this movie every day. I didn’t have any other obligations at the time so I got to be really involved and focused, which really was a pleasure. But — some of the things that I had to do were really disturbing for me. Particularly a scene involving a kitchen, so it was an intense experience. I’ll say that.

What would you be looking for in the perfect roommate?

LM: Well, I actually love living alone. I used to have roommates all the time when I first moved into my own place. It’s a challenge to live with people. I mean obviously the best thing about a roommate in a good situation is if you know them, if you’re friends. If you don’t, you have no idea what their habits might be. You’re kind of taking on their friend and their life as well into your home. But I don’t know — someone who’s clean, I guess. I lived with all different roommates and there were always parties going on whenever I came home and you’re expected to socialize all the time, even when you don’t want to. And of course, good roommates are really fun and for the most part I was pretty lucky, but I have had some not so good experiences with roommates who eat all your food and take all your clothes.

Why do you think people should see this movie even if they may be scared of scary movies?

LM: I’m such a wimp too, and trust me, I saw it and I was in the movie and I was scared. It’s definitely jarring and disturbing at points, but I think it’s also exciting and it is fun, and it’s a ride and it’s very sexy. I think it’s a story about two young woman that are thrown into a situation together — they don’t know each other at all and I think a lot of people can relate to that. You move out of the house. You go across the country. You go to college. You don’t know your roommate. They could be either incredible lifelong friends or they can be Rebecca. You never know who you’ll be paired with, so I think to me that’s an interesting point of view for the movie. And I know that I’ve had my share of roommates and I can totally relate and I think everyone can relate — maybe to a friend that’s a little too needy and nosy and in your business all the time.

Delusions, obsession, and a kitchen scene — live your worst nightmare, college edition, in The Roommate, in theatres today.