Q&A: Emma Roberts talks ‘Space Cadet,’ her love of books, ‘Tell Me Lies’ and Kim Kardashian

Emma Roberts Q&A
This image released by Amazon shows Emma Roberts in a scene from “Space Cadet.” (Eric Liebowitz/Prime Video via AP)

As one of Ryan Murphy’s go-to actors for his “American Horror Story” franchise, Emma Roberts has been sawed in half, played a ruthless witch and a final girl facing off against a serial killer. Most recently she was a pregnant actor targeted by a cult.

When the opportunity to play a college dropout-turned-NASA trainee in the rom-com “Space Cadet” came along, she jumped at the change in tone.

“This movie kind of feels nostalgic, kind of early 2000s in a way, but also fresh and fun,” said Roberts in an interview.

Roberts executive produces and stars in the movie premiering Thursday on Prime Video. She’s Rex, a young woman who had big dreams growing up of becoming an astronaut but whose adult reality has taken a different path. Rex is working as a bartender when she gets accepted to a NASA trainee program. The movie co-stars Tom Hopper, Poppy Liu of “Hacks” and Gabrielle Union.

The script reminded Roberts of “Private Benjamin” and “Legally Blonde,” and she was excited to play “the underestimated female character who ends up surprising people in unexpected ways.”

It was her past work in “American Horror Story” that made writer, director Liz W. Garcia confident that Roberts could play Rex.

“The genre itself might be horror, but she’s always got a wink,” said Garcia. “This is Hollywood blonde stuff and playing with that archetype. Emma was really into the idea of having a Goldie Hawn moment for herself by leaning into physical comedy and something a little more heightened. She was really, as it turns out, brilliant.”

In a Q&A, Roberts spoke more about “Space Cadet,” and other topics including being a boy mom, producing and her book club. Answers are edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: With box office numbers down and an overall cut in new TV shows, have you noticed it’s a rough time getting things going in Hollywood?

ROBERTS: Yeah, I feel like we’re feeling the effects of the strikes more so now than we did even last year, which is ironic. Between the strikes and COVID, we’ve just been living in such unprecedented, weird times. I’m so grateful for the TV show I executive produce, “Tell Me Lies,” which just wrapped filming its second season. With “Space Cadet,” I’m excited to put something out there that I think will make people smile and laugh and hopefully feel a little inspired.

AP: What can you say about Season 2 of “Tell Me Lies.” The premise is based on a book by Carola Lovering. Does the show stay close to that plot?

ROBERTS: I’m so excited for people to see Season 2. It’s more unexpected than people think. Our showrunner, Meaghan Oppenheimer, is incredible. She really took this show to just a new level. With TV shows, it’s fun, especially in a second season — to turn everything on its head. I think we definitely did that and I can’t wait to see people’s reactions.

AP: You have a young son. Is he into space?

ROBERTS: We love space. Our thing is he gets his pajamas on and then we’ll go outside and look at the stars before he goes to bed, and he’s like, “There’s so many stars.” There’s this childlike wonder about space at any age, but I don’t hear a lot of young girls saying they want to be astronauts. I would love to hear more young girls, or even just young people in general, say that.

AP: You grew up in a household with your mom and sister. What’s it like being a boy mom?

ROBERTS: My mom has a sister. I have a sister. Like, we’re all like sisters, mothers, daughters. There’s so many girls around. I was convinced I was having a girl. I was like, “I know it. It’s intuition. I’m having a girl.” They said it was a boy, and I was like, “Huh?” but I love it. I’ve definitely had to brush up on my basketball and soccer skills. I was a little rusty, so I’m trying to dig in. I will say I’ve saved a lot of money on clothes being a boy mom, because you just throw them in whatever. I see little girl stuff and I’m like, “Oh my God.” I’d be broke if I had a daughter because everything is so cute.

AP: You recently co-starred with Kim Kardashian in “American Horror Story: Delicate” and she got positive reviews. Were you surprised by her acting skills?

ROBERTS: I was really impressed by her. I’m still impressed by her. I mean, everything she does is impressive. She’s a mom. She’s a businesswoman and now an actress. She also has “The Kardashians,” which I watch. My bodysuit under my dress is SKIMS, actually, if we’re being honest. I just love her. We’re making a show called “Calabasas” with (“Pretty Little Liars” creator) I. Marlene King, and we’re all executive producing. We’re both from Calabasas (California), which is so funny. She’s so fun. She’s game for anything, I’m really excited to get to work on something else with her.

AP: You’re one of the regular actors that Ryan Murphy taps for his projects. How does that work?

ROBERTS: It’s funny. You never know when he’s going to ask you to do something — which I love about him — and then you see his name pop up on your phone and you’re like, ‘OK, what are we doing?’ It’s always a yes for Ryan. His stuff is always so inspired and the worlds he builds are so singularly his.

AP: You also have an online book club called Belletrist. As an avid reader, it must feel good to recommend books and engage with followers.

ROBERTS: It’s been seven years now, and it’s been so amazing to see the community grow. It really makes me so happy when people stop me on the street and they’re like, “Emma!” And I think, like, “What are they going to say?” And they’re like, “What should I read?” I love curating, even for my friends, especially in the summer or when they’re going on long trips. I’m like, “OK, where are you going? What’s your vibe? How long is the flight? I’m going to recommend you three books to take.” It brings me so much joy.

AP: Would you ever write a book?

ROBERTS: You know, I would. I’ve thought about, like, maybe short stories or something. Maybe when I’m like 70, and don’t care what people think, I’ll write a memoir (laughs.) Yeah, I would love to do something. I want to write children’s books. My mom and I have talked about doing that together, and I think that would be really, really fun, especially now that I have a son who loves to read.

AP: In the age of screen time, it’s so great that he appreciates books.

ROBERTS: He can read “Goodnight Moon” cover to cover, and I’m so proud. My biggest accomplishment thus far is he likes to read. That makes me happy.