Credit: ABC Family

Emily Osment isn’t your average young Hollywood starlet. The former Disney Channel star rose to fame with the likes of her Hannah Montana co-star Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez — arguably the best crop of young talent the network has produced since its ‘90s Mickey Mouse Club reboot. But somewhere along the way, risque photo scandals, downward spirals, and dating rumors (Niley forever, right guys?) became tabloid fodder, and Emily just didn’t fit in with Disney’s “In” crowd anymore.  

But that didn’t stop her hustle. After the end of Hannah Montana, Emily pursued music full-time, releasing her debut album Fight or Flight in 2010 and launching a side project called Ramshackle with a college friend in 2012. Now, at 22, Emily is returning to television in ABC Family’s Young and Hungry, a comedy she says has that same Hannah Montana magic.

In it, Emily plays Gabi, an ambitious young blogger hired as the personal chef to a young San Francisco tech entrepreneur. Not your typical celebrity chef, Gabi is blunt, klutzy and has a totally outrageous sense of style. Basically, Lilly Truscott is all grown up and trying to make it in the cutthroat culinary industry.

Wetpaint Entertainment chatted with Emily about her new role, returning to TV, and behind-the-scenes culinary mishaps.

Credit: ABC Family

Wetpaint Entertainment: You spent your formative years growing up on camera, and after Hannah Montana wrapped, it seemed like you took a break from TV. Are you happy you took some time off?

Emily Osment: I don’t feel like I took any time off! [Laughs] When we finished Hannah Montana, I was just graduating high school. I think I had my prom night on the same night our last episode was being shot, and it was a very interesting the way that my school life and my set life completely paralleled. When I finished the show and I finished school, I pursued music for a while, and I applied to college. I ended up deferring for a year so I could travel and play music and access that part of my creativity that I was missing. After that, I went to college for a few years, and did a couple movies while I was in college. And when this opportunity to do TV again came up during pilot season, it was definitely a choice i had to make. I sat myself down and was like, “OK. I guess we’re back!” I have that part of my life that I had for so long back, and I get to do this crazy schedule again, and this is something that I really want to be doing right now. I made a really good choice. But I don’t know if you can call anything that I’ve done a break. I’m exhausted!

Why do you think Young and Hungry was a really good choice? What is it about the show that makes it so special?

It feels a lot like Hannah Montana did in the beginning where there’s just this spark where you just know that this is going to be such a good show. And everybody is just so lovely and everyone gets along. I’ve been so incredibly lucky. I can’t believe it. I came from this one amazing show and now I’m apart of something else that feels so special.

I’m sure you read so many pilots during pilot season, but what was it about Young and Hungry that made you want to fight for this role?

Uh, they liked me? I think that was a big part of it. [Laughs] It’s hard when you’re a female in this industry and you’re at an awkward age. You would think that 14 and 15 and 16 would be the awkward ages of being a woman, but when you get to be my age and you’re in your young twenties, it’s hard for casting sometimes. I still look very young, but I act older. I am 22, but a lot of times, casting agents either need someone much younger or they need someone much older. I’m at this very strange sandwich period right now, and I got so lucky that this project was looking for an honest 22-year-old. That’s actually rare these days. A lot of pilots that I read were looking for teenagers, and I tested for a bunch of different shows and got close to booking other roles but they were never sure what age I looked. It makes perfect sense! I get that I look younger than I am, but when I read Young and Hungry and fell in love with the character, I knew I had to have it. I was so impressed with the drive that [creator] David Holden had. This show is his baby and to get the chance to live inside somebody else’s dream is pretty cool.

Credit: ABC Family

I love that your character is so ambitious. The rhetoric in modern culture is that millennials are aloof and lazy, but this girl is a hustler.

Yeah, I think it’s so important to see a young woman go after her dreams on TV. Listen, I know because I’m playing the age that I am. It’s not that much of a stretch for me to play someone who is ambitious and wants to set herself apart from all the other girls in the world — who wants to be the best at something, and is so courageous and fearless and is thrown into a situation that she’s not prepared for but goes with it anyway because this is her career. It’s miraculous to see how close to home some of the scripts are, and these scenes with Aimee Carrero, who plays my best friend on the show, hit so close to home. I feel like a part of me is just playing a character that I know so well, but I’m also finding out things about myself because of Gabi.

She also makes some mistakes and is unapologetic about it. Obviously, she makes a very questionable decision in the pilot episode when she sleeps with her new boss…  

I think that was a very smart and funny move by the writers, to have the two main characters sleep together in the pilot episode. And then the rest of the season becomes them trying to figure out what the heck it meant. It’s brilliant because when you write a love story, and you write a memorable love story like they did on Friends with Ross and Rachel, the audience wants to see the romance build. They want to see the first kiss and all of the tender moments that come with being in a relationship. And when you show two characters just waking up in bed together, the audience thinks it’s funny but it’s not that romance that they’re expecting. So for the rest of the season, there’s this push and pull between the two characters. They have to figure it out. Are they meant to be together? Are they doing something wrong? There are a lot of feelings there. That’s what the audience likes to see, and that’s why the writers are just right on target with writing this love story because that’s what this is between Gabi and Josh — it’s a love story.

Catch the premiere of Young and Hungry on Wednesday, June 25 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family.

Crystal Bell is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident fangirl for all things Pretty Little Liars. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!