“I want to look like I’m getting off a motorcycle at all times,” says actress Aubrey Peeples. “People will probably be surprised by that because of the roles I’ve played on television and film, but I’m really not girly at all.”
I have to admit that’s exactly what I expected from the 20-year-old rising star based on her portryal of Layla Grant, the country-pop singing sensation she plays in the deliciously addictive Nashville, as well as the news that she’ll star as the title character in Jem and the Holograms, a live-action musical based on the cult classic ‘80s cartoon, due out in 2016.
But a conversation with Peeples reveals all sorts of surprising facts: She was accepted to Harvard but deferred twice. She buys combat boots on Etsy. She’s been a classically-trained singer for 11 years. She wore a black vintage lace dress from the ‘40s to her prom. Her favorite genre of music is the blues. She still wears yellow low-top Converses with ladybugs that her mom gave her when she was 13. The audition song she chose for Jem was Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”
Don’t peg her as just one-trick actress either. In her new movie, Rage, which opens today, Peeples gets to show off her serious dramatic chops as a girl who disappears from her home, sending her father (played by Nicholas Cage) into a dangerous search.
Peeples describes Cage as a complete professional and committed family man who nevertheless has a goofy side. Her proof that the dramatic action star and Oscar winner is actually silly? He anonymously bought a phone case on Ebay that features a collage of his own face from all his different movies, including The Wicker Man and National Treasure. “He totally knows why it was made and he’s like why not? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” she says. “He got it for five bucks and whoever sold it to him has no idea who they sold it to.”
Next month, Peeples will head back to work for the upcoming season of Nashville, which has fans dying to see what will become of her marriage to country star Will Lexington. “I can honestly tell you I have no clue what the writers are going to do. It’s a big cliffhanger and I’m just as excited as the fans of the show to find out what happens.”
Peeples is also tight-lipped when it comes to Jem and the Holograms. Directed by Jon Chu (G.I. Joe, Step Up 2) and produced by Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s manager), the movie is a “huge throwback to the ’80s even though it takes place in modern day,” she says. “I think Jon’s vision of it is going to make a lot of people really happy.”
Jem’s signature look in the cartoon was her pink hair, but Peeples is resistant to talk about her character’s style. “I can’t say exactly what’s going on with our looks yet, but there’s definitely a lot of pink involved.” Not to mention tons of vintage fabrics. “A lot of the pieces were handmade from scratch vintage of the ‘70s and 80’s. There are so many amazing costumes.”
Aubrey is no stranger to vintage clothing, and names Wasteland and Shareen Vintage in LA and Savant Vintage in Nashville as some of her favorite shops. But she also loves NastyGal and a boutique from her hometown in Florida called Sophie & Trey.
Her closet is full of t-shirts, leather jackets (her favorite, though it’s too thick for the summer, is a vintage U.S. Air Force bomber from Vietnam), combat boots and Converses that are as worn in as possible (“My mom is always trying to get me new ones.”)
In a world where young actresses often try to peg themselves into a marketable type, Aubrey is refreshing for resisting all of that. It makes sense, then, that her fashion and career icon is the talented and always surprising Juliette Lewis, who also stars in Jem and has become a friend.
And if she ever decides to head to college, she cites another role model of uncommon choices. “I would love to go to Harvard, but it’s something I put on hold for good reason. Who knows, I could James-Franco-it in years to come.”