Hilary Duff Gets Down To Business In “Beauty”

Just because she’s now officially lucky in love, recently engaged star Hilary Duff says she isn’t about to stop playing the girl searching for her soul mate.

In Beauty & the Briefcase, which premieres April 18 on ABC Family, Duff plays Lane Daniels, an ambitious New York fashion writer who gets a crack at the big time when she successfully pitches a cover story to Cosmopolitan. Her assignment is to go undercover in the business world — which is overrun with eligible men in suits — and find true love.

Lane is looking for the perfect man for her, someone who fulfills all 10 points on her checklist (e.g., must be spontaneous, speak with a sexy accent). But trouble brews when a good candidate arises outside the business world. And what about the guy who might be the right one, even though he’s the complete opposite of her fantasy?

Duff spoke with me about her new movie, and breaking out of the nice-girl roles she’s known for while still making time for romantic comedies.

I’m always interested when an actor plays a journalist. You’ve been interviewed hundreds of times, so what it was like being on the other side, trying to get information for a story?

It was really fun. I have a best friend who is not a journalist but interviews people on TV for a living, so I got to talk to her a lot. A few times actually when I was on tour, they would want me to do different stuff for music channels or something. They would want me to interview someone else. I was always so nervous. It’s hard to ask people questions and kind of ask them questions they haven’t been asked a million times before. It’s definitely a hard job and it was fun for me, but the movie was about so many other things.

There’s also a Sex and the City vibe here, and I’m wondering if that’s part of what appealed to you about it.

Definitely. The fashion was really fun. Every girl can relate to clothes and stuff like that. Also, living in New York and feeling independent — being young, but trying to prove yourself and finding your place in the world. Every girl can relate to that. And guy, I guess, for that matter, but I’m assuming this movie’s a little more targeted to women and females. But I think that was a big draw for me to see how appealing it was and how relatable the storyline is.

You’re known for being into fashion. So that had to be fun to get into that world with Cosmo.

I feel really lucky in that I probably wouldn’t have the same tastes that I have now [if not for my job]. I’ve gotten to meet lots of people and work with great people. I think I know what looks good on me and what I’m drawn to. They let me have a really big part of her style. When I met with the producers … just talking about the project, each time I walked in they’re like, “Yeah, this is the character. This is exactly how we see her. Just like your style.” It was really flattering to me, and fun that I got to be part of that side of it. Instead of just showing up as an actor, I got to create her all the way around, including her wardrobe. It was fun because it wasn’t exactly how I dress. I don’t wear little business suits, and I don’t wear that much color, but I got to have big-time say, which was fun.

In your Cosmo scenes, you’re playing off Jaime Pressly, who makes for a rather intimidating editor. How was she to work with?

I loved working with her. She’s so funny. It’s hard to even get through a scene. I found myself biting a hole in my cheek trying not to laugh around her. She’s so beautiful. She’s just funny, but she snaps into character really fast, and she could be intimidating, because she’s a tiny little thing, and she gets those eyes going at you, and you’re like, “Oh, OK, I get it.”

Your character has a checklist of things she wants in a man, including his being spontaneous, having a sexy accent, etc. Do you think that’s a healthy way to approach relationships?

She does have high standards. Everyone makes a list in their heads, not everyone actually applies it. I really like that she wears her heart on her sleeve and she knows what she wants and she’s really open for love. I think it’s really hard to be that way, and it’s motivating. She’s not afraid to get burned before she gets what she really wants, and I think more people should be like that.

You have a voice-over, which is something you’ve done a lot of in the past. Is that something you like in a project, or did it just kind of work out that way?

It’s just kind of happened that way. It hasn’t been something that I’ve gone out and looked for. I think that it can be very endearing when a character talks to the viewer and they get to see a different side of them. It makes it more personal. With Lizzie McGuire especially, and this one, it was a way to get inside the girl’s head. You get to her sense of humor a little more. She says the things that she can’t say out loud, and I think that makes the project a little funnier. It’s become second nature to me.

There are three love interests that come at your character, and it’s not apparent right away which one she’s going to end up with. Were you fooled reading the script, or did you know right away who Lane would end up with?

I did not know, and I liked that. There’s some parts of the movie that are predictable, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s a really heartwarming, heartfelt, sweet movie, and that’s what drew me to it. I didn’t know until maybe a little more than halfway through that she was going to end up with [spoiler], and that was a nice surprise.

There’s also a lot of physical comedy involved. Is that something that comes naturally to you?

It comes pretty naturally, but it depends on what you’re doing. There’s a scene when I’m spinning around in a chair. That did not come naturally to me, I could not find a way to make it funny or cute. Finally, I think I got it, but it took awhile. Then there’s the scene when I’m walking on the streets of New York, and everyone’s all freaking out, and I said, “Just let me do it,” and I did it the first time and that’s the one they used. It’s like everything else, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. [But] I loved that it was very physical. I started off doing that with Lizzie McGuire, and I hadn’t done it in a long time. … It always makes everybody laugh.

Lane seems very much in awe of getting into the big time. Have you felt that way in your career, maybe when you’re in a big-budget movie or working with a big-time actor, like a John Cusack from War, Inc.?

Of course. There’s definitely been a few times, and still are. … I just did an episode of [Law & Order] SVU last year, and that was real intimidating, and pretty scary for me. I’ve been lucky to work with amazing people that have been very generous and kind to me. Especially John. He was fantastic and just really gave us room to play on set. He wasn’t one of those “Hurry, hurry, we’ve got to get it done now” types. He’s a big believer in going into it until it feels right. It was a great all-around experience and also acting-wise I’d never worked like that before. And also we worked with Ben Kingsley in that movie, which was fantastic. I only had one scene with him, but it’s hard to take your eyes off him. He’s so talented. The other thing that’s made it easy for me is going on tour so many times and having to sing in front of people. You don’t have a second to hold back. You have to step on the stage at that moment. It prepares you for throwing yourself into something fast and not thinking too much about it before you do it. And that goes for getting ready to start a really challenging scene or working with someone who might intimidate you.

With movies like War, Inc., What Goes Up and the upcoming Bonnie and Clyde movie, you’re taking on roles that are edgier or darker than what people might perceive to be your comfort zone.

I wouldn’t say it’s my comfort zone. Sometimes people don’t think I can do the movies that maybe I could. I still fight for projects, and I don’t get everything that I want. It’s tough to convince people that I’m other things than just making people laugh. But I love romantic comedies, I would love to do more. They’re not always easy. They are some of my favorite movies.