During a recent scene in the Louisiana woods, Roberts says, she broke out into a poison ivy induced rash. That same day, a wrangler found a rattlesnake next to her. A rogue alligator also happened to wander onto set.
“From shooting this new season I have bruises and bug bites,” she says. “I also have hairy knees.”
Ten years ago, when Roberts starred on Nickelodeon’s Unfabulous, she was probably most known as “Julia Roberts’ niece.” But now she’s a movie star in her own right. Roberts spent this past summer “working, working, working.” Along with filming Ryan Murphy’s Emmy-nominated show, she shot two movies—Ashby, starring Mickey Rourke, and Michael with James Franco—with whom she also recently worked on Palo Alto.
As for American Horror Story, she remembers watching the pilot and falling in love with it. Her dream, she says, was to be on the show, but she thought she’d never get the chance. During the same week she found out about a separate dropped pilot, her landline started ringing off the hook. She didn’t pick up—she was too upset to talk. Finally, though, she answered. Ryan Murphy, creator of American Horror Story, was on the other line.
On Coven, the show’s third season, Roberts lived out a childhood dream. “A very large part of me used to think I was a young witch,” she says. “When my mom left the house I would lift up my hands to try to move things.” Producers shot Coven on-site in New Orleans at locations like an abandoned mental hospital. The young witches recited incantations in Latin. Weird things started to happen—Taissa Farmiga woke up every night at the witching hour. Roberts decided to leave an offering of tequila and salt for the spirits. For the duration of shooting, she felt protected.
Her character Madison Montgomery is often viewed as “the bitchy witch with the best shoes,” but Roberts says people—especially young guys—often come up to her and say that Madison is “their spirit animal.”
Thinking about her pre-AHS dropped pilot, Roberts says rejection is part of life, and that it can lead to new experiences—such as living in New Orleans, a place where she’s looking to live a few months out of the year because she feels like she can be herself away from paparazzi lenses. “Everything works out in this poetic way,” she says, “but you can’t really see it until you’re happy.”
“I just read the best book,” says Roberts, picking walnuts off a slice of walnut cake. “It’s called Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates, and it’s like True Detective meets Gone Girl.”
On her Instagram, which has over two million followers, there’s a photo of Carthage next to a picture with James Franco.
From her red paisley tote, she pulls out the Tom Robbins book Another Roadside Attraction, which she has started reading to help her get ready for Freak Show, this season’s carnival-esque storyline. In one of her more recent scenes, a psychotic killer chases her, and she almost falls because she hates being chased. It’s set in the 1950s and Roberts describes her costumes as “red lipstick and hair all done like Veronica Lake.”
“I don’t know how women wore so many layers back then,” she says, “I would have just ripped them off. It’s too hot here for layers.”
This past April, her house flooded so she put a lot of her clothing in storage. She took one suitcase of key pieces and four pairs of shoes—two of which are sneakers, one pair of heels. For the fall, she says she’s looking at accessories like rings, bracelets, and earrings. Also: she loves a colorful pair of socks.
Paired with her black dress in the New Orleans heat, she wears yellow RAEN sunglasses, sheer polka dot socks, and burgundy velvet Charlotte Olympia kitty slippers, the cat’s smiling face trimmed in gold. She describes her look as very “Coven-y.”
“Emma always has the best style,” says American Horror Story’s Lou Eyrich, a four-time Emmy-nominated costume designer. Jewelry company Baublebar seems to agree with Eyrich, as they contacted Roberts about doing a collaboration. The pieces—out September 23rd—are inspired by the looks she and her friends like to wear. The collection ranges from dainty necklaces to big bib necklaces— “rainbow with stones all over it.” One of the signature pieces, a phases of the moon cuff, is partially inspired by Stevie Nicks. When the rock icon guest starred on an episode of Coven, she gave Roberts a half-moon necklace, and, Roberts says, half-moons have followed her throughout her life.
“The collection is very me,” she says, “but there’s also stuff for my girlfriends and my little sister.”
After the recent nude photo-leak scandal involving Jennifer Lawrence and other Hollywood actresses, Roberts became more hyper-aware of privacy issues. Privacy, she says, is something people need to discuss more.
“Invasion of privacy is so much worse for young actresses than actors,” she says. “I feel so bad for those girls, and it should never happen to any woman.”
When she goes out with people—as she recently did near the French Quarter with her American Horror Story cast mates—she often leaves her phone at home. Along with her privacy concerns, she also says that she doesn’t want to get distracted from having fun with her friends.
“I want there to be a no-phone bar where everyone has to check their phone,” she says. “Everyone’s Instagramming and Tweeting and no one’s just hanging out.”
Roberts says camera phones make stuff like karaoke nights less fun, because people post the video on the Internet then make rude comments. As a child, she wouldn’t let herself believe she wasn’t great at something—a confidence she attributes to learning from her single mother. In her late teens and early twenties, though, she started to feel the pressures of criticism. With big movies and fashion collaborations on the way, she’s trying not to put as much weight into what other people think. Or, as some people in New Orleans might say, their bad juju.
Photographer: Stevie & Mada for ArtMixCreative.com. Stylist: Annina Mislin. Hair: Shlomi Mor for ateliermanagement.com. Makeup: Kate Lee for starworksartists.com. Manicure: Karen Gutierrez for NailingHollywood.com. Set Designer: Morris Reina. Producer: Samantha Rockman at RockmanPro.com. Production Coordinator: Anahit Isayan. Photography Assistant: Michael Preman, Andrew Echeverria, and Joseph Mitchell. Styling Assistant: Fiona Park, Katie Balis, and Raina Silberstein.
Beauty Notes: Le Blanc Brightening Moisture Lotion, Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner in Noir Intense, and Ligne Graphique de Chanel in Noir by Chanel and Blush in Orgasm and Sex Appeal by Nars.