In the horror comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, out October 30, Halston Sage plays Kendall, a popular girl with a heart of gold who is described as having “clearly won the genetic lottery.” It’s a glib assessment that Sage, 22, has had to fight since she came to attention in 2014’s hit comedy Neighbors, in no small part due to an onscreen snog with costar Rose Byrne. The scene earned Sage an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Kiss. “I’m proud of that!” Sage, who grew up in Los Angeles, says with a disarmingly nerdy chortle. “Getting to kiss Rose was a privilege. I still have a crush on her.”
Sage has been working to add substance to her bombshell roles—a struggle she has in common with Lacey Pemberton, the character she plays in the recent young-adult drama Paper Towns. Lacey, the not-so-clueless BFF of Cara Delevingne’s Margo, can’t seem to shed her ditzy reputation, despite the fact that she’s bound for the Ivy League. Sage’s surprisingly layered performance will no doubt lead to meatier roles for the actress, but for now she is donning the scream-queen crown, starring alongside Jack Black in an upcoming film adaptation of the YA Goosebumps horror books. “I’m ready to walk the streets like in Pretty Woman or get locked up in the loony bin Girl, Interrupted-style,” she insists. “I just have to be patient.”
Halston Sage does not hold back on spilling secrets about her Paper Towns castmates. “We used to sing ‘Blank Space’ on set all the time,” she says of working on the road-trip adventure, the newest film adaptation of a beloved John Green novel. “John and Nat [Wolff] would kill me for saying that!” she adds with a laugh.
The bubbly 22-year-old is still recovering from the regular Taylor Swift sing-alongs and “pure fun” that came with playing Cara Delevingne’s on-screen BFF, Lacey Pemberton. Halston’s role in last year’s Neighbors (with then-rumored boyfriend Zac Efron) let her represent crazy college life; Paper Towns (shot in Charlotte, North Carolina), on the other hand, allowed her to relive high school. “The cast was together 24/7,” says the Los Angeles native. “I went to an all-girls school when I was younger, so being able to hang out with kids my age, live in an apartment building with them, and go to work with these people every day was really cool.”
From water-park antics to late-night milk shakes and sundaes at the diner, the experiences this crew shared formed a connection that’s sure to last—especially Halston’s relationship with a certain top model. “I know Cara and I are going to be lifelong friends,” she says. “Making a movie is like an accelerated version of growing up with someone. You spend so many hours a day with each other, and you’re putting your heart into this same effort.”
The best part of her performance? Bringing John Green’s words to life. “I would do a million more movies with John. He’s the coolest person I’ve ever met,” she says. We’re sure the feeling is mutual.