You probably know Sara Paxton from the memorable and hilarious characters she played in Aquamarine, Sleepover, and Darcy’s Wild Life. Now that Sara has graduated from high school, she’s growing up on screen too. In Lifetime Television’s The Party Never Stops, she plays a college freshman who learns some hard lessons about “binge drinking.” Sara talked to IML about her latest movie, along with some reflections on where she’s been and where’s she’s going!
IML: Tell us a little about “The Party Never Stops” -- it sounds like a really great story.
Sara: I play a girl named Jesse, who’s just graduated high school. In high school she had all straight A’s and was the star of the track team, and now she’s going off to her first year in college. She kind of falls in with the wrong crowd and slowly becomes this different person, a crazy party girl. She gets thrown into this peer pressure situation and all of a sudden, she’s failing her classes. She doesn’t make the track team because she’s so tired she can’t run anymore. Her whole life is just falling apart and her mom is like, “What’s going on?” and tries to whip her back into shape. She finally reaches rock bottom and realizes, “Wow, I need to turn my life around.” And she does.
IML: This is a real departure for you. What was it about this project that made you want to be involved?
Sara: I was looking for something different to do. I started getting the feeling that people always expected me to play the funny girl, and I love doing that, but I want people to know I can do other stuff. So I got this script and thought it would be a challenge and a great opportunity to show people I can do something more dramatic. And what a good topic! I thought it was a great way to bring this knowledge to young people and parents because when we were filming it, I was also just graduating high school, and I was like, wow, I had no idea of the statistics, that this kind of thing actually happened.
IML: What did you personally learn about alcohol and binge drinking during your experiences on the film?
Sara: I didn’t even realize that this was such a big problem. I knew about the stereotype of kids going off to college and going crazy and stuff, but it didn’t actually register in my brain that kids die every year from this kind of behavior. While we were filming on set -- we filmed at a real college -- we were going up to the dorm one day and one of the girls who lived there told us that that morning, a girl was taken to the hospital because she wasn’t breathing, because she was binge drinking all night. Talk about life imitating art! You know it’s a problem when what you’re filming is actually happening.
IML: What do you think are the biggest myths about alcohol that young people buy into?
Sara: I think it’s a problem that there are all these celebrities getting into trouble with alcohol and drugs, and nothing is happening to them. There’s no legal action, they’re not in jail. So kids may think, “Oh, it’s cool. I’m invincible. They get away with it, why can’t I?” That is not a good message to be sending to young people. They get into a situation like college where they have a little more freedom and they think they can go crazy. And I think the biggest myth is that you can’t die from alcohol, but you can. You can actually drink yourself to death from too much alcohol, but there are also so many accidents that happen in school from drinking. One of my mom’s patients had to rush to her son’s college because he had been drinking and he fell out of a window. Kids just see movies and the media and don’t think anything bad can happen to them.
IML: Did you find that as a teen actor, you were faced with a lot of temptation to try things like drinking and smoking?
Sara: I think that no matter what you’re doing as a teenager, you’re going to be presented with peer pressure. I went through normal school my whole life, and I hung around with kids who weren’t involved in the movie business at all, and I was still presented with those issues. And I still had to say no. I just think that when you’re thrown into the whole Hollywood scene, it makes things a little bit worse because you have more freedom than regular teenagers do.
IML: It can be really hard to resist peer pressure. What worked for you?
Sara: I’m an only child so I was really close with my parents growing up, and we were very open about that stuff. I didn’t really have a problem saying no to people. I switched schools in the middle of high school, and meeting a lot of new people made other kids ask me to do new things. And I really just didn’t have a problem. I think that really helped me in the end because it made me realize who my real friends were.
IML: Tell us a little about your next movie, Sydney White!
Sara: The movie is a modernized version of Snow White and Amanda Bynes plays the Snow White character…and I play the Wicked Witch! It’s been really fun. I’m excited about this role because even though I’ve played the mean girl before, this is a different kind of mean girl. You don’t hate her. She’s mean, but she’s funny, and in a way you don’t hate her. The whole cast is really nice. It’s kind of unusual when an entire ensemble cast gets along, and we do. It’s been really fun. Amanda is super nice and very professional, and very funny in real life.
IML: You’re also working on a CD, right? Do you have a favorite song on it?
Sara: Yeah, I’m still working on that, but some of the songs are available. My first single is out right now and it’s called “Here We Go Again”, and it’s one of my favorites.
IML: How does acting compare with singing as an art form, for you?
Sara: Singing is a little bit different because it’s all you. I helped write the songs on my CD so every single story line is based on real experience. With acting, it’s you, but you’re playing somebody else. Singing is a little bit more personal. I would actually love to combine the two and do a big movie musical!
IML: Most IML’ers are in middle school. Can you tell us what were you like in middle school?
Sara: Oh, I had probably the best time in middle school! I’d say that I enjoyed middle school ten times more than I did high school. I didn’t feel the pressure to be cool yet. I didn’t feel the pressure to wear makeup or wear anything fashionable. I wasn’t interested in boys. And I just had a really good time with my best friend Stephanie, who’s still my best friend to this day. I went to school every day with no makeup on and my baggy sweatshirt, and we were just the biggest goofballs. And I got to focus on school more because there were no distractions with boys and makeup and hair and everything. I loved it. I just thought it was the best time ever. Then all of a sudden high school kicked in…and girls got catty and boys were weird…everything got strange!
IML: It’s great that you’ve been able to keep your BFF relationship strong as you get older. How do you make that work?
Sara: I think that number one, Stephanie and I talk every day, no matter how busy we are. And I’m always there for her no matter what. I think that’s the most important thing: I always make time for her. Even if she’s going through a hard time. I think girls should realize that they need to stick together and not fight. It’s such a problem right now, girls can be so mean. But we’re all in the same boat and we should all help each other. I think that confuses a lot of girls. Stephanie and I never let a guy or a rumor or anything like that tear us apart.
IML: That sounds like a great recipe for friendship! Thanks for talking with us, Sara, and good luck!
Sara: Thank you!
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