There’s a dense history of teen stars scaling the depths of Nickelodeon evening programming: plunging into a sexed-up campaign or photo shoot; participating in some heavy-handed scandal; and then escaping out the other side, hopefully relatively unscathed—or at the very least an adult actor ready for a harried Lars von Trier close-up.
In comparison, 21-year-old Halston Sage’s journey so far has been, well, relatively easy. Her breakout television role—as Grace King on How To Rock—came with the character designation of “Lieutenant Perf,” the “Perf” hilariously short for perfect. And yet you don’t hate her for it. You can’t. Her energy’s fresh and hopeful, her smile—a mile wide and blinding—rolls open easily, equal parts seraphic and discerning. You get the feeling those qualities are the currency paying for all of these new experiences. That the actor who starred opposite Zac Efron in Nicholas Stoller’s 2014 film Neighbors; made an appearances in Sofia Coppola’s 2013 The Bling Ring; and currently has three films—Goosebumps, Paper Towns, and Scouts vs. Zombies—in post-production, will find wind on her back, sun on her face, prospects held tight in her palm.
On getting her start as an actor:
Acting was something that I always wanted to do and it was a passion of mine.
I think growing up in L.A. my parents were very cautious. They wanted to know: Was it something that I really loved, or was it something that I was just surrounded by. I started auditioning and then when I was 18, the same day college letters came out, I found out my pilot got picked up and it kind of made the decision for me. I’ve been going and having fun ever since.
On living away from home for the first time:
It was fun because it felt like college. I got lucky; I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I have my job (acting) and then I always joke around with people when they ask about school and I’m at the age where all my friends are graduating. I take online college courses when I’m not working so I always feel like I had that aspect of college—and then I have Neighbors. It’s just a little bit of a different college experience.
On filming Paper Towns:
We filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina. That was amazing because all the cast was staying in the same apartment building. We’d walk to breakfast on the weekends and spend the rest of the day together and end up at a diner around the corner from where we were staying at midnight. It was so much fun. Charlotte’s a great city.
On shooting in Chicago, North Carolina, and Atlanta all in one year:
I was shooting Scouts vs. Zombies and Goosebumps at the same time so I was between Atlanta and Los Angeles this summer and then I was in Charlotte the past three months. It was crazy, starting the year in Chicago [then going] to L.A., Atlanta, and North Carolina—at this time last year I would’ve never guessed that.
On being back home in Los Angeles:
It’s been nice because everything gets really quiet [in L.A.] around the holidays so I got to spend time with my family. That’s really important to me. I just got back to L.A. and it’s funny because something about Paper Towns: I’m so grateful for the friendships I walked away from it with. Nat [Wolff] just flew into Los Angeles. Cara [Delevingne] is here. I was with most of the cast on Monday and Tuesday. We’re even having this little reunion. We’ve only been away from each other for two weeks, but we all miss each other so much. It’s nice to have a little break but I’m ready to work again. I love working.
On her character Lacey Pemberton in Paper Towns:
[She’s a] quirky girl who’s going to Dartmouth, not just the standard popular girl, which is what I really liked about the character and I think that’s part of what’s so great about John Green’s projects. He writes these dynamic characters. In the book there’s a line in the play from a poem that says, “I contain multitudes.” And it’s true no person is one-dimensional and is one thing or one way. There’s little parts of people that make you fall in love with them and some are kind of weird and some we might not like but that’s what makes them real and not just a stereotype.
On what’s next:
I’d love to go to Italy—whether it’s work or vacation. I have to go. I’ve never been and it’s my dream spot. In terms of work I’m just looking for a great character. Whether that comes from TV or film, who knows? What I’m looking for is another great role and hopefully she lives in Italy, but if she lives in L.A.—that’s cool. If she lives in Atlanta—that’s great. If she lives in Canada—amazing.