While real college freshmen labor to fit in and go with the flow, Sara Paxton is just pretending to struggle with classes, hangovers and peer pressure in The Party Never Stops: Diary of a Binge Drinker (premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET, on Lifetime). The 18-year-old star of Aquamarine didn't have to stretch her acting too far from her own self, knowing what it's like to feel clueless about the fatal dangers of drinking. Researching the statistics only made her want to spread the devastating facts even more. Paxton spoke with TVGuide.com about the challenge she wanted to face with this role, the Hollywood club scene and talented celebrities who party too much.
TVGuide.com: What made you decide to do this Lifetime movie?
Sara Paxton: I thought it was really important to get the [binge drinking] issue out there. I feel like parents worry, but I don't think they realize how serious it can be. Colleges don't really report when there's binge drinking on campus, because they don't want the bad press. Also, I've been doing a lot of comedy and I wanted to do something different, more dramatic. I was getting the feeling that people thought I couldn't do that, so it was a challenge for me.
TVGuide.com: As a recent high-school graduate, have you been in situations where people were binge drinking?
Paxton: Not really. I haven't started college yet — though I've wanted to — because I did The Party Never Stops, and now I'm filming another movie, and it keeps getting pushed aside. I haven't really had that problem because I still live with my parents and all my friends who chose to go to school in L.A. also still live with their parents. When kids go to college and they have that feeling like, "I'm free! I can do whatever I want," that's when they go crazy.
TVGuide.com: Have you experienced the Hollywood party scene, though?
Paxton: No, I haven't. I've been to network [parties], like if the CW has a party and stuff like that....
TVGuide.com: But you're not out clubbing?
Paxton: No, I don't consider myself in the scene. Like maybe I'll go to a restaurant with my friends and we'll see a celebrity and go, "Oh, my gosh, a celebrity!"
TVGuide.com: This movie is extremely timely with celebrities such as Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan in and out of rehab, and others in the news for partying too hard. What do you think about all of that?
Paxton: I think it's unfortunate. I hope whoever is going through that sort of thing gets better, and Britney and Lindsay are really talented, so it's sad. Britney's going through a hard time, but I think Lindsay's doing better.... I don't know. I think Lindsay is such a good actress, and maybe she'll wow us all with some Academy Award-winning performance and no one will remember her crazy teenage years. Everyone has their rebellious stage; it's just that it's publicized so much for them, so it's hard.
TVGuide.com: Were you aware of binge-drinking statistics before you signed on for this movie?
Paxton: No, I had no idea. Everyone knows the stereotype — the college kid goes to [school] and goes crazy — but honestly, I didn't even think dying from alcohol was really an issue. I had never really heard of that, or thought about it.
TVGuide.com: I think when I first heard about that extreme, it was when I was in college.
Paxton: Exactly, which is kind of weird, don't you think? That when you're graduating high school they wouldn't let you know the danger?
TVGuide.com: That's what's great about this movie's message.
Paxton: That's why I did it. I was like, "If only everyone knew this.... "
TVGuide.com: Without giving too much away, several serious issues and consequences are addressed throughout the film. How did you prepare for such an adult role?
Paxton: Well, luckily my character, Jesse, was the naive one — everything was a new experience for her — so I didn't really have to prepare for anything, because everything was a new experience for me, too. Walking into a scene, I wanted it to be awkward, like I didn't know what I was doing, not like, "Yeah, I've done this before, I'm totally confident." That's not who my character was.
TVGuide.com: Well, that definitely came across. Jesse is the odd one out.
Paxton: Yeah, everyone else seemed like they were cool with [drinking] and knew what they were doing, which would have been more of a challenge for me [to play].
TVGuide.com: You've definitely broadened your range of acting. Is there a type of character you're hoping to play that you haven't?
Paxton: I look for something like [this role] in every script that gets sent to me. I try not to fall into the whole stereotype of the "dumb girl" or the "mean girl," because those are usually the parts that seem to come my way. I'll read a script and I'm like, "Oh, the lead awkward girl, right?" and they're like, "No, no, no — the dumb friend." I'm like, "Nooo!" I really don't want to fall into that sort of thing. I would love to do something like Nicole Kidman did [in The Hours] and put on a fake nose.
TVGuide.com: Really transform yourself?
Paxton: Yeah, totally, so I'd be an entirely different person.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about Sydney White, which is hitting theaters this summer.
Paxton: It's loosely based on Snow White, but it's about modern college kids. Amanda Bynes plays the Snow White character and I play the Wicked Witch. [Laughs] I'm having a lot of fun. When you read [the script], you might think, "Hey, what about avoiding stereotypes? She's the mean girl." But it's different, because she's actually really funny and mean, so when you're watching it, you can't hate her. It's like Rachel McAdams' character in Mean Girls. Matt Long (Jack & Bobby) plays Prince Charming, and, of course, there are the Seven Dorks instead of the Seven Dwarfs.
TVGuide.com: That sounds fun. And you have a single out, too?
Paxton: I have a single, "Here We Go Again," out on iTunes, and I think you can also buy some songs I did on TV shows, like a duet I did with Jesse McCartney and the theme song I did for Aquamarine.
TVGuide.com: Do you think you can tackle it all, or will you focus on one specific area of entertainment?
Paxton: I started acting and singing when I was little, although acting just took off sooner. I would love to do a big movie musical and combine the two.
TVGuide.com: Sort of like High School Musical?
Paxton: Yeah, that type of thing.
TVGuide.com: But acting is your priority.
Paxton: I'll definitely continue acting, but any time a singing opportunity comes my way, I love to do it.
Send your comments on this Q&A to email@example.com.