SL: And you've described yourself as being obsessed with music. The show features some really cool, progressive music from emerging artists — what would we find on your iPod?
TB: Oh, you can always find — my favorite artist since I was in seventh grade still is Conor Oberst.
SL: What a songwriter.
TB: Yeah, and I mean, talk about being a poet and everything having a story. I believe he's our generation's Dylan. So you can always find anything by Conor. Jack White, also. Nobody really in our generation used the guitar like a lyrical instrument. He makes it sing in a way that Hendrix did. I'm going to go see the Dead Weather concert. I'm so excited! So, anything by Jack White. And I loved Elliott Smith.
SL: That was so sad. He was so talented.
TB: So talented! And just the other day, I had on Pandora Radio on the Conor Oberst channel, and I heard [the Elliott Smith song] "Miss Misery," and I was listening to it in the background as I was cleaning up my house. And all of a sudden I started realizing that the lyrics were different. So I went down and sat in front of my radio and looked at it and saw that it was part of the New Moon album, which they released posthumously, and I guess he re-recorded it. And then my boyfriend came in and found me sitting on the floor in tears because I had never heard those lyrics before. It was a totally different version, and it was so powerful. Just completely overwhelming. It's a really cool recording.
SL: It's just so emotional, with music like that — I feel this way about Bright Eyes, too. Listening to it has to be the activity? It's not something that I can just put on while I'm hanging out. I need to be fully engaged with it to have that intense emotional experience.
TB: I totally agree. And that's why I love my record player and I try whenever I buy albums not to buy the digital version of them so that I don't have the opportunity so just listen to them on a whim or to pick out songs. I actually have to listen to the album as the artist intended, all the way through, which has such a different quality. I was with my boyfriend and we were cooking and [the record] stopped, and he turned to me and said, "Oh my God, I forgot that you have to turn it over." It was just that one act of engaging back with the music and not just using it as atmosphere in the back of your brain buzzing a hundred miles an hour.
SL: Absolutely. So, I have a couple of questions for you that were submitted by Facebook. Samantha wanted to know, "What was it like auditioning for your role as Spencer?"
TB: I had a blast! My original scene had me bumming cigarettes and flirting insanely with Wren outside of a dinner party, and I just had so much fun with that scene, and working with props in it. Everybody in the room was so great to me and really liked what I was doing so they just encouraged me to be really free with it. And because I never thought in a million years that anybody would want to cast me on ABC Family, I really had this freedom, like, "This is probably the only time they're going to let me do it so I might as well just do it how I'm gonna do it," and I think they liked that a lot.
SL: That must have been really liberating. Now, Jennifer would like to know, "What's the most exciting part about being an actress?"
TB: Getting to do things that I wouldn't normally get to do. Just for Spencer, I had to learn field hockey. I'd never played field hockey in my life, because I'm from the West Coast and we don't really have it out here. But I love learning new things. I hadn't played tennis since I was a little kid and they were like, "We have you playing tennis, so let's go get you some tennis lessons again!" and it's so nice to have all of these opportunities to be somebody else every day. That's why I do it.
SL: I like that. And then Jeffrey wanted to know, "If you were a writer, where would you want Spencer's storyline to go this season?" I know that's hard because you already know where her storyline is going that season.
TB: I don't know if I can answer that. I mean, I hope it goes somewhere exciting. But I would like it to just stick to the books. Where Sara points Spencer is really cool. I was reading one of the books early on in the process on set and I got so mad at something that Spencer did I literally had to put down the book. I mean, I was angry at myself or the fact that I was going to have to do that in the future. I won't say what it was but I almost threw the book across the floor. Like, "I can't keep reading this!" I was so upset.
SL: That's intense. You know, something I'm really curious about is, how far in advance do you know what's happening? How early do you get the scripts between seeing what's going to occur and then actually shooting the episode, or, how guarded are the secrets of the show?
TB: So insanely guarded, it's frightening. One time we didn't get the script until 1 a.m. the day before we were going to start shooting. But, I mean, that's TV. They're working on stuff, they're sending it to the network, they're improving it, and we're really the last people who get it. You know, the hair and makeup people get it before us because they have to start planning, if they need to give a character a certain hairdo or a makeup thing like a black eye. And props gets it way before, too. So there's a production draft that everybody gets, and the actors are the last people to get it, which is really insane-making for me, because I like to have the most time I possibly can with it. So, I actually let it slip that I was stealing the hair and makeup's scripts, because sometimes we'll come in a day or two before the next episode will start, and there'll be a hair and makeup draft, and the girls and I will look at each other and be like, "Oh my God, who's going to steal it?" And I said that as a joke in passing, because I thought the producers would find it funny, but then the girl who does my makeup who's really wonderful, she was like, "You got me in serious trouble the other day."
SL: Oh no! That's funny, though. I can't believe you don't have more advance warning. That must be a challenge for you, if you don't have a lot of prep time to think about how you're going to play it. Does that keep you on your toes?
TB: It does, but it's also fun. You know, I love theater, and the cycle with theater is, you get the text, you read it at the reading, and that's probably the best you're going to do it, when you first read it fresh. You're just in it every moment, and then you break it down, and then it becomes stale, and then it becomes old, and then you find something new and then it becomes old again, and then you go through all of this rehearsal and bring in an audience and it doesn't work and then it does work, and then, if you're lucky, it becomes effortless again. Almost to the point where you first got it. But you do it over and over again, and there's this freedom in it. So you almost have to just get the script, do as much work as you can, make choices, get it in your body, and then forget about it. It's like doing those three months condensed in one night before you shoot the scene.
SL: I can identify with that as a writer, because sometimes after doing revisions I return to the first thing I wrote, and think, This is great, this is so raw and so fresh.
TB: You just have to walk away sometimes.
Thanks to Troian and her management.