Emily Osment On Being “Pretty Smart,” Career Advice From Michael Douglas & Kissing Gregg Sulkin

Emily OsmentPhoto Credit: John Mark

Emily Osment, get this, is pretty smart. No, really. And she’s also funny, and honest and kind. Also, she’s starring in a new Netflix series called Pretty Smart alongside the very handsome Gregg Sulkin, so there’s that. The show, which debuted on Netflix earlier this week, revolves around a gal named Chelsea (Osment), a high-brow, Harvard-educated intellectual and aspiring novelist who gets unexpectedly dumped by her boyfriend and is forced to move in with her bubbly, carefree, not-so-intellectual West Coast sister, Claire (Olivia Macklin), and her three lovably eccentric, not-so-intellectual roommates: Grant (Gregg Sulkin), a distractingly handsome personal trainer, Solana (Cinthya Carmon), a former lawyer turned healer, and Jayden (Michael Hsu Rosen), a social media influencer. But Chelsea’s tough, sometimes judgmental exterior starts to soften as she gets to know her new friends, and they begin to form an unlikely found family. We sat down with Osment to talk about kissing scenes during Covid, her real-life living nightmare situations and, yes, that inevitable Hannah Montana question. Read on to find out what it was.

Emily OsmentPhoto Credit: John Mark

Tell us about your character, Chelsea. She’s very different from one’s you’ve played in the past. What attracted you to this role and ultimately had you signing onto the project?

I was immediately intrigued by sort of the reverse Big Bang Theory plot of this show. I loved the opportunity to play an intelligent character after playing a ditsy character for five years. I really love the idea of being in an ensemble cast again. When that’s done well, it’s just so rewarding. It makes you feel like a team player, I love the camaraderie and the friendships you build doing something like that. I was really excited to work with Jack and Doug of How I Met Your Mother and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It kind of just came together at the right time for me. I was excited to slowly come out of quarantine doing something that was so joyful and funny.

What sets this apart from other multi-cams? I feel like you get little bits of things, like you said Big Bang Theory in the trailer. But is there stuff that makes it it’s own and differentiates it?

A lot of it comes down to our creators. I think they do such a wonderful job of balancing real emotion and real feeling with this outlandish, over the top comedy at times. But you come away every episode I think learning something. It’s such an inclusive, current show. There’s so many episodes where we talk about exclusivity and inclusivity, and I think we’re representing a lot of different people with this show and a lot of different lifestyles. I think that’s really important right now.

The show centers ultimately around family and friendship. How does this element of the show align with your own life?

I don’t have any family or friends (she’s joking!). So that’s sort of a reach. I definitely have a community of people around me. My brother, my family, is one of my best friends. I don’t have a sister, never had a sister. So that was an interesting element for me and working with Cynthia and Olivia at this point. They both feel like sisters. They’re just so wonderful and I really enjoyed getting to know them. And being in such a welcoming, caring community. Acting is such a transparent, naked experience and to do what I love to do in front of people that are right there to catch you at the end of the day is really nice.

It looks like there is some chemistry between you and Gregg. What can you tease about Chelsea and Grant? Just a professional journalist question for you right now.

What can I tease? I’m very lucky to say that I’ve known Gregg Sulkin for many years. Gregg Sulkin doesn’t have a middle name. He’s got three G’s in his first name and no middle name. Maybe his middle name is just a silent G. I was very happy to work with him on this. Of course there’s going to be chemistry after you know someone for so long. I feel like I have to take away my own credit. I feel like anybody can have chemistry with Greg. He’s just so wonderful, he’s an open book. He’s just so genuine. We would be on set and someone would just mention that they were hungry. He would run off and get them a snack, or a coffee. He’s a team player. He’s such a good guy. We all really enjoy working with him. I’m excited to see where this goes, we were left on a little bit of a cliff hanger of season 1. I think that will be an interesting avenue, Chelsea and Grant. They’re so different but they bring out really good sides to each other. In my own personal life, I found opposites attract and sometimes it’s more fun. It doesn’t get stale when you have something to learn from the other person.

What about the kissing scenes between the two of you when you’ve known each other for so long?

That’s so funny. Everybody thinks that any romantic scene that you have in television or on film is going to be electric and uncomfortable and sexy, if only you saw all the 150 crew that we had wearing masks and shields and pulling focus on your dumb face kissing another face. You would see how unromantic it is. On the other side of that, Greg and I have known each other for so long and this is not our first on screen kiss. We had a very funny kiss scene in a Lifetime movie a few years ago. It’s hilarious. If anything, it’s more comfortable because you know the person. We were lucky to have an intimacy coordinator on set which made everything better and of course, our Covid protocol team telling us to rinse our mouth out every five minutes. Everybody’s breath smelled very fresh.

Your character moves in with her sister and comedy ensues when she walks in the door and has all of these new roommates. Have you ever had a similar experience in your life that you can draw parallels from?

Yeah, I’ve had a roommate in the past very briefly where you think it’s going to be a good idea and one weekend you’re like, ‘Oh no, this was a really bad idea.’ Other than that I’ve been very fortunate, when there was an actor by the name of Mallory Jensen, who was on Young and Hungry season 1. She played Caroline, Josh’s love interest and Mel and I hit it off immediately. She’s Australian and she had a difficult living situation at the time. And she sent out an email and was like, ‘If anyone needs a roommate, I need a play to go.’ I was like, ‘Me, me, me, you can live with me!’ And Mallory and I lived together for a year and a half. We were like a married couple. I’ve been living alone for a very long time, and I really like it. Mallory was my only really real roommate and she was so fabulous and I’m really grateful for that. I don’t know how I would do with four roommates. That sounds insane. That sounds like a television show.

I think a lot of viewers will connect to Chelsea because of what she’s going through with her life—leaving college, building this career and struggling with that. Do you think it’s that that will make her really relatable to characters or do you think there’s other stuff that will have her resonating with viewers?

I think all the characters are relatable in their own way. I think people are going to see side’s of themselves in every aspect of these characters whether you want to or not. I think Michael’s character Jaden is a heightened alter reality version of the way we are all on our phones all the time. After working with Michael and seeing him portray this character all the time. I just want to throw my phone away. The anchor of the cell phone and Instagram is too much to be hold. There’s definitely a lot of connection in real life of drawing experience. I think Chelsea’s relatable. I can’t wait for people watch her take this journey of slowly loosening up and becoming more accepting of others.

Last two. Here’s the Hannah Montana question.

There it is.

How did Hannah Montana properly prepare you for the career as it is today and what was your biggest take away from working on that particular show?

A lot of media training. It taught me responsibility and professionalism. I was 13 years old, and getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning and doing an hour of homework and then driving to Hollywood and going to work. And doing a run through with the network. And then doing homework again and then coming home and having dinner and doing homework again. And then going to work again. It taught me how to keep my head down and focus on what was important. I don’t mean for that to sound like I didn’t have a boat load of fun. Because I did. If I wasn’t at school it would have been easier to slip into all of the benefits that that show gave us. I tried to step back and focus on what was important. I learned how to be an adult from a very young age. For that I feel very lucky for. The guest stars we had on Hannah Montana. I mean, we had Dolly Parton, we had — I can’t think of enough it’s been 15 years. I remember every week my dad freaking out, like, ‘Oh my god Jerry Seinfield’s gonna be on—Ray Romano!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah cool, I’m gonna go hang out with my friends at Pinkberry.’ It was such a strange environment to grow up in. I’m very grateful for it lasting the length that it did and ending when it did. It ended when I was 18. My high school graduation was the same night as the final episode of Hannah Montana, so I thought that was pretty funny.

What is the best career advice another actor has given you and who was it? If you are comfortable saying.

I recently worked with Michael Douglas who is just salt of the Earth, the most wonderful person. I know you know. I will forever be grateful to just sit next to. When I was working on the Kominsky Method, I pulled a really funny move, working in the acting studio. They were like, ‘OK, Michael, your seat’s going to be here in the acting studio.’ I just went up and sat right next to him and they were like, ‘OK, Theresa, this will be Theresa’s seat.’ And I’m like,  ‘Yes.’ I got to sit next to Michael Douglas for three years and shared a lot of interesting stories with him and learned a lot from him. I remember on the last day he was like, ‘Why didn’t you ask me more questions about my life?’ I was like, ‘We can ask you questions about your life! You’re Michael Douglas are we allowed to do that?”’And he left us with a sense of ‘If you’re sitting in the presence of gold—use it. Ask.’ And of course, they’ll tell you if they don’t want to talk about it. Or if they don’t want to talk to you. But there’s no harm in saying, ‘Hey what would you do here?’ or ‘How was it like shooting Romancing the Stone.’  I remember being like, ‘Man, I should’ve asked more questions,’ because you’re not going to learn until you ask. He was such a joy to work with. What a lovely guy. Betty White [ was awesome] too. Betty White said something like, ‘Always be friends with the DP.’ Man, what a snarky lady she is. I love her. She’s the best.

Emily OsmentPhoto Credit: John Mark