Growing up as the youngest of seven children, Taissa Farmiga had little interest in becoming an actress. But in 2011, after her older sister Vera (Up in the Air, The Conjuring) managed to convince Taissa to appear in her directorial debut Higher Ground as—who else?—the younger version of her own character, the New Jersey teenager fell in love with the craft. She went on to nab a role in the FX series American Horror Story (third season Coven will come to an end on January 29) along with a part in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring last summer. You can currently catch her in the indie drama Jamesy Boy, in which she plays a kindhearted convenience store cashier trying to help a young criminal turn his life around.
I recently caught up with the 19-year-old actress on the phone, just days after she’d wrapped AHS: Coven in New Orleans. Read on to learn why she still turns to big sister Vera for career (and style!) advice, how filming The Bling Ring taught her how to walk in heels and why it’s always a good idea to trust Emma Roberts’ fashion advice.
Lucky: Let’s start by discussing The Bling Ring, which I’m pretty sure every editor here at Lucky loved. What was it like working with a visionary director like Sofia—and how did you get into character as a troublemaking teen from L.A.?
Taissa Farmiga: The Bling Ring was an amazing project for many reasons, and I changed so much over the course of shooting it. I actually called Sofia right after they offered me the part, though, because I was so nervous and wasn’t sure whether to take the role! I didn’t know if it had what it takes to play a character like that—someone who’s so the opposite of me. Sofia was so supportive, though, and really convinced me that I could do it. The first thing she told me to do, actually, was to watch the E! reality show Pretty Wild—it stars the girls who were involved in the story the movie’s based on. That was sort of my way of jumping headfirst into the pool.
The circa-2008 clothes and accessories play a big part in the movie. Any favorite looks?
Part of what made The Bling Ring such a fun, freeing experience was that we got to wear these really over-the-top clothes we’d never pick in real life—like for the nightclub scenes, we’d have on these really short, really tight dresses. But you know what—I actually learned how to walk in heels on that set!
In keeping with the general theme of The Bling Ring, if you could "steal" anyone’s wardrobe, whose would you choose and why?
That’s such a hard question! I have to say, I just finished filming American Horror Story with Emma Roberts, and she just has the best style, the best eye. She’ll drop by my trailer with a jacket and say, "Hey, this doesn’t fit me—want it?" She’s the sweetest. Whenever I have a premiere or an event, I’ll text her for suggestions on what to wear.
Speaking of AHS, I have to ask—have you always been a fan of the horror genre?
Absolutely not! I don’t really like watching horror movies—they’re too scary for me. But it actually works out well when it comes to filming our show, because it’s easier to act scared when you actually are scared!
Tell me a bit about your wardrobe on the series.
I love the clothes I get to wear on AHS—our costume designer Lou [Eyrich] is incredible. She’s really into the idea of building a complete identity for each character on the show based on his or her wardrobe. And in fact, a lot of what my character Zoe wears is actually from Lou’s own closet. I’ll see her walking around the set and be like, "Hey, isn’t that the sweater I was wearing the other day…?"
Do you have a specific favorite piece you’ve gotten to wear onscreen?
Definitely this incredible velvet Yves Saint Laurent dress of Lou’s that I got to wear in the witch-burning episode. I wanted to keep it so badly!
Your current project, Jamesy Boy, like The Bling Ring, deals with breaking the law—but this time, you play the good girl. Do you find it easier to inhabit characters who are more innately similar to yourself?
It’s easier for sure. I definitely grew up as a "good girl" myself, so it’s less challenging than playing someone wild and crazy. But at the same time, I like being able to tackle tougher characters sometimes. Violet Harmon [from American Horror Story's first season] was a favorite of mine, actually, because of her quick wit and her snappiness. I loved getting into that character.
Your sister Vera is obviously quite famous in her own right. What’s your relationship with her like?
We’re extremely close—and actually, we’ve gotten even closer now that we work in the same industry. She’s got amazing style—whenever she has a premiere coming up, we’ll go shopping in L.A. together and try on dresses. It’s great having her to lean on when it comes to my work, too—sometimes I’ll get sent scripts that just seem so not me, and I’ll call her and be like, "How am I ever going to do this?" And she always knows exactly what to tell me. She’s good with the words of wisdom.