Nikki Reed, Cover Story

It wasn’t my plan. i knew I was on an unusually short 30-minute clock watch to catch up with twilight’s emotionally distant vampire Rosalie, played by the even-more-stunning in-person Nikki Reed, and despite the panic desperately vying to take me captive, I was determined to hurtle through my pages and pages of questions before she abandoned me for a fitting at Alice & Olivia across the street. Once she sat down for a green tea sip at West L.A.’s trendy Cuvee Café on Robertson though, all prepared questions flew off my radar in exchange for a conversation I could never have anticipated. My allotted 30 minutes turned into an hour as I listened to her perspective on family. A perspective doused in wisdom and yet so simplistically straightforward that it stirred an impulse to let go of any fears that have in turn fractured my own familial relationships.

Reed’s family has always been a vital part of both her life and career. She is, after all, the girl that at 13-years-old co-penned and starred in the controversial indie hit Thirteen that had parents everywhere shocked at what young teen girls were up to when they weren’t being watched. Promoted as a semi-autobiographical film, Reed was instantly identified as an undisciplined wild child with dysfunctional parents. It’s 11 years later and that girl thought to be so corrupt is now blissfully married, has a fiercely close relationship with her family, and has given tabloids the opportunity to write only about her work.

Reed and her work will soon pop up everywhere. Her chic style has recently been stamped onto her paternal grandmother-inspired jewelry line Mattlin Era, her voice will be heard on the November release of the EP she recorded with her husband (American Idol season 10 contestant Paul McDonald), and those acting chops will of course show up in the last Twilight installment Breaking Dawn: Part II in November as well as in four other films slated for release in 2013 including comedy Empire State which she stars opposite Liam Hemsworth.

Regardless of her booming career, it’s obvious that above all Reed treasures her collection of family memories. A collection she wouldn’t be adding to if it weren’t for her bold and compassionate honesty with those she loves. The conversation I originally planned would never have been so enlightening, and it had me questioning if perhaps I was actually talking with a vampire rather than a 24-year-old Nikki Reed. Let’s be honest here. To be as self-aware and wise as she, wouldn’t there have to be hundreds of years behind her?

I must tell you I really love your blog. It’s insightful, thought provoking, and nostalgic. [smiles] Did you read my last post?

Where you sang with that band of kids outside the bookstore? Yeah! Wasn’t that cute how Paul pulled me up there? He’s so good about taking time to notice what others would just disregard. Singing with them reminded me of growing up on the promenade in Santa Monica watching kids perform.

What was it like growing up in Los Angeles? Well, it’s all I knew. I had very encouraging parents that let my older brother and I explore who we were. It was never about, “No you can’t do that” or “You’re too this and not enough that.” When I was 11, my friend Brenda was over spending the night and we painted my entire room purple. My Mom came in the next morning and said, “Looks cool.” She was very easy going in letting us do our thing. My Dad was great too…when I was 6 he took me on a donkey ride through the Grand Canyon.

This is polar opposite from the family you portrayed in Thirteen. I have tons of regrets with that. Thirteen was really hard on my family. I wrote this movie about them and their flaws and imperfections and what it was like growing up. It was from one kid’s perspective and not a well rounded one. You get older and it’s like, how dare I portray my father as being a totally vacant careless schmuck? As a kid I sometimes saw my Dad like that, but now that I’m older I wonder how I could have done that to him and be swept up on this promo tour sitting in these interviews not realizing how hurtful it was when I said, “This is autobiographical.” No! Parts were autobiographical, but everything was exaggerated. That’s not my Dad. My Dad is a man that for as long as I can remember has kept a book of favorite things his kids say. The other night we were all around the dinner table and my brother was in this really bad mood. He looked up and said, “Dad! I just feel like you’re being really violent with your utensils.” Dad said, “Well, that’s going in the book.”

You have a blog post where you talk about walking around Chicago hand-in-hand with your Dad as he shared the architectural facts of each building. Seems like you’re incredibly close now. We weren’t close growing up and I guess it was both of our faults. He was waiting for me to come around and I was bitter about him divorcing Mom. As a kid, you don’t have the mental capacity to understand why adults make the decisions they make and sometimes you hang on to that. I was shooting a movie in Sacramento and I called my Dad and said, “We need to have a real talk.” We went to Islands and I told him all these things that he had no idea I wanted. I said, “I want you to call me everyday and maybe five times a day and even if I say I’m fine I want you to say you don’t sound fine. I need you to dig deeper and tell me you love me every time you hang up the phone.” There were all these things he didn’t understand about me. Things I wanted and needed and the amazing thing is there weren’t any questions asked on any demand. It was just, “Okay.” From that day on my Dad did what I needed and he wasn’t awkward about it. He just got up the next morning and called me. I had been so hard on him and he’s just a person who didn’t know what I wanted.

You being so upfront is really inspiring. Fears of not being worthy of such attention or not getting the desired reaction often keep people like me from expressing their needs. Then resentment develops because needs were never clearly communicated. Exactly. After my conversation with my Dad, I started to make…not perfect choices in men, but better. The bar was raised. Girls need their Dads. It gives them a sense of validation. I had a really horrible break-up a few years ago and I moved in with him afterward. I was already way past the age when you’re supposed to be living with your parents, but I told him, “I have enough money to live by myself, but I would like to live with you for a little while. It would make me feel more complete coming home and making dinner together instead of being alone in my apartment and eventually rushing to fill a void.” My Dad is my best friend now.

Did Paul get your Dad’s approval right away? Actually my Dad was my date to the premiere where I met Paul. I got stuck in L.A. because my flight to Vancouver was cancelled, so Catherine Hardwicke [director of “Thirteen“] invited me to the premiere of “Red Riding Hood.” It was 4pm, I had to find a dress, I was tired, hadn’t washed my hair and had to be there at 6. I wanted to support her so I went with unwashed hair. [laughs] All the guys ended up being there from “American Idol” and my Dad said, “Go say hi to that guy.” I walked over to Paul and knew I was in love within one second of saying hi. It was the craziest thing that has ever happened to me in my life.

What made him different from other guys? He’s the kind of person I didn’t have to sell to anyone. You know when you’re dating a guy that kind of sucks and you have to be like, “He’s got a great job, he was such a precocious kid or you should really see the artwork in his house.” You’re always trying to come up with these weird things to make him seem better than he is. With Paul, I just said, “You’re going to love him.” That’s all I have to say because it’s true. I love being married to him because the person you’re married to represents you and he’s so well loved. I also think we have this awesome way of balancing each other out. He would be fine living in a pop-up tent and eating ramen every day and I tend to be very ambitious. Once I met him I thought, “How about we live in a pop-up tent and eat ramen on the weekends and then we could be productive during the week?”

Will you spend Christmas in a pop-up tent? [laughs] No, we’ll be with family. Decorating the tree and buying ornaments is huge in Paul’s family, so we’ll have a tree decorating party. My Mom is super crafty so last year she made ornaments out of pipe cleaners and wood and she glued things here and there.

Does she make your gifts too? Sometimes. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, so everything (even socks) were wrapped separately so we felt like we had a lot of stuff under the tree. It’s still like that with my family at Christmas. I’ve never opened anything crazy expensive. For me it’s just about being with family and appreciating who they are.

Subscribe to Zooey Magazine for $19.99/year! Interviewed by Lecia Doss Photographs by Derek Wood