In The Perfect Score — now in theaters — Erika Christensen stars as Anna, a high schooler under pressure from her folks to get top marks on the SAT, get admitted to Brown, and live out their fantasy of a perfect life. Happily, the budding actress — best known for her work in Traffic and Swimfan — can't relate much to that whole hassle.

Unlike Anna's demanding 'rents, Christensen's mom and dad sound downright cool, especially when it comes to her chosen career. "When I was 5, they put me in acting," she tells TV Guide Online. "They didn't know that I wanted to do it and they became paranoid that they were being those 'pushy parents.' So they just stopped. Then, when I was about 12, I realized that I did want to [act], and they gave me a little trial period. I did really well and started making money, and they figured, 'Alright, this is a good deal. We can do this.'

"I am fortunate enough to have been raised without ever having felt like I was treated like a child," she continues, "or [told] that I wasn't able to make my own decisions. My parents are really cool people. They raised me to really trust myself and have self-confidence, and to know it is OK if I don't know something because I can learn it."

When cast in Score, Christensen was glad for the chance to just play a straight-laced teen. Anna's nothing like Swimfan's Madison Bell, who was like a junior Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction! "I liked that she was a nice person," the 21-year-old admits. "I haven't always played nice people, and I haven't always played somebody that has what appears to be such an ordinary sort of life. I liked her struggle. I think it is really important to ask yourself what you want if you are going to be happy."

The focused starlet knows exactly what would make her happy: A chance to put her singing and dancing ability to good use. "Musicals are back, and I want to do one or two or however many," she says enthusiastically. "I just did Wuthering Heights, a modern adaptation [for MTV] which had musical elements in it. But it is a tragic love story. I want to do something [fun].

"I'd love to do an action movie," Christensen goes on. "I just got a little taste of it in The Perfect Score. I'd like to do a movie where [the director] says, 'Go to the gym, get ripped and come back looking like Linda Hamilton.' I'd be like, 'OK. Give me a couple of months!'"