Brought in to stir things up for those kids on The O.C., bad girl Taylor Townsend left Summer and Marissa shaking in their Chanel after scheming to take the reins as the school's social chair and keeping a secret romance with Dean Hess under wraps. For Autumn Reeser, that type of Mean Girls drama was just the challenge she was looking for when she joined the Fox series (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET). Speaking with TVGuide.com, Newport's new girl shared some scoop on the new season, recalling her very first acting gig and offering up a fun plot twist she hopes O.C. writers will consider.
TVGuide.com: As much as I love Summer and Marissa, it's so great to see Taylor shaking things up in Newport!
Autumn Reeser: [Laughs] I've been told that a lot, actually. I really expected that people wouldn't like her. I got worried at one point that people would, like, throw stuff at me from their car windows!
TVGuide.com: And has that happened?
Reeser: No. [Laughs] People really like her. They're happy to see a character like her on the show. It's kind of like on [Beverly Hills] 90210, with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen [playing] the bad girl. People like a good rivalry.
TVGuide.com: I hear that you've started filming scenes with Ben McKenzie. Any chance Taylor will scheme her way into stealing Ryan from Marissa?
Reeser: Taylor would have to try really, really hard [to win Ryan over]. That's a tough challenge, even for Taylor.
TVGuide.com: Who do you think Taylor would choose, had she the option of Ryan or Seth?
Reeser: From her pattern so far, maybe she'd choose Sandy! She would go for whomever she could use to her greatest advantage.
TVGuide.com: Are you able to offer feedback to the writers about your character's direction?
Reeser: [I made a suggestion that] we should find out that Taylor is Julie Cooper's long-lost daughter whom she gave up for adoption when Taylor was 1 year old. [Taylor and Julie] both have this manipulative streak, it's too coincidental. How awful would it be for Marissa to find out that she's Taylor's half sister?
TVGuide.com: Now that would be some story line! Were you a fan of the show before you were cast this season?
Reeser: I didn't watch it, no.
TVGuide.com: Do you happen to watch any reality TV?
Reeser: Being an actor, I probably watch more than I should. I watched So You Think You Can Dance and became kind of addicted to that show. I saw the winner [Nick Lazzarini] at The Grove before he won and I was starstruck! It's never like that with actors for me — maybe because we're peers — but for some reason, I get so excited when I see random reality-show people.
TVGuide.com: Looking back on your early TV career, I see you appeared on Star Trek: Voyager with fellow O.C. newcomer Jeri Ryan. Have you had a chance to "reunite" now that you're both in Newport?
Reeser: That was my first job! My whole story line [on Voyager] was with Jeri. [On The O.C.] we have totally different story lines, but I've seen her a couple of times on set. I think she remembered me, but she might have just been being nice. I run into her in the makeup trailer occasionally. She's beautiful in person, just stunning!
TVGuide.com: Sounds like a fun first acting gig.
Reeser: It was only about four years ago, but I felt so young. The amount of money I made on Voyager I hadn't even made as a waitress by that point, and I had been waitressing for six months!
TVGuide.com: I'm guessing once you got that part, you said good-bye to waiting tables!
Reeser: I was a really bad waitress, which is why they stuck me on the midnight shift. I had never waitressed [before] in my life.
TVGuide.com: Could you play a TV waitress?
Reeser: I don't know if I could play a good waitress. I was always bad at carrying the plates — they were always too heavy.
TVGuide.com: You've guested on such current series as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and CSI. Any chance we'll see you pop up elsewhere this season?
Reeser: [The O.C.] is keeping me really busy! My auditions have gone down because I can't guest-star in anything else [at the same time]. Sunny was the last show I did before The O.C.; I would love for them to bring my character back.
TVGuide.com: Your hobbies include "dancing, cooking, painting and throwing parties." Which — if any! — of those do you see coming in handy as you play Taylor?
Reeser: Taylor doesn't have time to do anything other than her schoolwork and planning, organizing and manipulating people!
TVGuide.com: So deep down, Taylor's really a good girl?
Reeser: She's a good girl. She wants to do really well in life but doesn't know how to go about it in a nice way. If you're mean, you can get what you want by doing the things she does — manipulating people, sleeping her way to the top. It's just not going to win you any friends. If there's another way to go about things, it doesn't occur to her.
TVGuide.com: Is that something you'd like fans to know about Taylor? She's really earned quite the reputation already!
Reeser: She's not going out there screwing people over for fun. It's totally for her own gain, and the idea that she's going to get something out of it is at the forefront of her mind at all times. [She thinks she's] going to go somewhere fantastic in her life by doing this. She doesn't have awareness of other people's feelings. She just doesn't care yet.
TVGuide.com: You were attending UCLA when your acting schedule got too hectic to juggle with classes. Have you since finished your degree?
Reeser: Two years ago, I went back and did three classes, [but] I missed all my finals because I booked jobs.
TVGuide.com: Wow, that's one heck of an excuse note if I ever heard one.
Reeser: I know — "Sorry, I've got to go work professionally!" Every time I've tried to go back, that's what happens. This fall, I was signed up again, then The O.C. happened. I have three classes left and fully intend to go back.
TVGuide.com: You certainly seem like you're keeping busy. Do you have any other projects lined up?
Reeser: I finished an independent film, Americanese, over a year ago. My role is the same "student involved with the teacher" thing; it's so bad that I'm making a habit out of this. I guess I play student-teacher relationships really well!