We met 17-year-old actress Victoria Justice, who stars as Tori Vega Nickelodeon TV show on “Victorious,” while she was at her Nickelodeon offices in Manhattan recently.
When did you realize you love to act?
I think I really realized it when I was 12 and I came out to L.A. for the first time. My and mom and sister moved out here. We packed up our house in Florida, and then I think that’s when I really realized that I could actually make my dream come true and do this. I started auditioning a lot, and I booked “Zoey 101.” That was like the most exciting thing ever for me, and I could not wait to start working on that show and start filming it. And I loved the character I played — Lola. I think that whole experience was when I really realized that that was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What was your first big break, and how did you get it?
My first big break was technically an Ovaltine commercial I did in Florida. I remember that line from the commercial. “Ovaltine does what Nesquik powder doesn’t.” Ovaltine is like this chocolately drink, and you mix it in milk, and it’s like chocolate milk. That was like my claim to fame. I started doing that, and I think “Zoey 101” is when people really started to be able to watch me and recognize me, and I became more of a teen person.
Who was your favorite character you played and why?
I love my character Tori. She’s a lot like me. My character Tori is kind of based off me. . . when I first came out to LA, I went to middle school. So we’re very similar in that way. And Tori’s very laid back. She’s not high maintenance, she’s a real loyal friend, and she’s very good to her friends, and she’s always looking for a new adventure. And she loves singing and dancing like I do. So I think Tori’s probably been one of my favorite characters to play so far. Because I can really relate to her.
Are there more responsibilities having your own show?
There are definitely more responsibilities. On “Zoey 101,” I had a lot of time off in between scenes, so I would go back to my trailer and hang out, listen to music and hang out with friends, and talk on the phone. Now, on “Victorious,” I’m in pretty much every scene. So I have zero time off. Usually I get five minutes off every day, work, sit and relax and stuff. It’s been really fun because I like being busy and having loads of stuff to do. I get to say really funny lines and perform, and I love doing it. So it’s been really cool.
In your show, you mix your talents of acting, dancing and singing. How does having these qualities help you prosper in your career?
I don’t know how they help me prosper, but I just love doing them all. I’m just so grateful to have the opportunity to be on a TV show where not only can I act, but also sing and dance and show people that I can do that, too. And the songs I get to sing are really great and really catchy. I hope you guys like them. I can’t wait for you guys to hear them. And the performances I get to do are so much fun, and it’s a really great time.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love hanging out with my friends. We go to the movies a lot. I love eating, so I’m always trying to find new restaurants. I love really good food. I love KFC. That’s my weakness. I have two puppies. They’re names are Sophie and Sammy, and I love taking them for walks and playing with my dogs because they’re adorable. I have a 13-year-old sister. So we hang out a lot, and we go shopping together. We go to Urban Outfitters. I ride my bike in my neighborhood. I make YouTube videos for my friends for fun.
Being an actress, there are certain roles you get and don’t get. How do you handle rejection?
In this business, there’s tons of rejection, and there’s always rejection in life as well. There were times where I would audition for something, and I wouldn’t get a call back; I would get really far, and I wouldn’t get the part. It would be disappointing. You work so hard, and you really, really wanted it. It’s just really upsetting when it goes to someone else, and you don’t get the job. You keep wondering like ‘what’s wrong with me?’ I don’t think you can really do that to yourself. There are a million different reasons why you didn’t get it. You can’t take it personally. I think the best way to handle it is to say to yourself that there will be tons of other opportunities.
What advice would you give to kids who love to sing and act but are shy onstage.
I’d say you just have to face your fear. Work really hard, and if you love singing, dancing and acting, work really hard and become really good at it. Face your fear. You just have to do it. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it, and the more experience you’ll have.
How do you feel being a role model for so many children?
I’m going to try to do the best job that I can. I’m 17, and obviously I’m going to make mistakes, and there are things I’m going to go through . . . My parents have raised me pretty well. I’m pretty grounded and responsible and want to do the best job that I can.
How have your family and friends supported you during your acting and singing career?
They’ve been with me from the beginning. They’ve been telling me that they totally believe in me. They think that I could do this. It says a lot that my Mom, when I was like 10 years old, I told her that I wanted to do this, and she was like, ‘OK, well then lets try it.’ Most moms would be like, ‘OK let’s think about this.’ Maybe they would be hesitant or say like, ‘no, this isn’t really possible, I don’t think this is going to happen.’ But my Mom was totally up for it and never wanted me to look back and say, ‘well what if I did do it; what would have happened if I did try it.’ So she didn’t want me to have that experience of not going for it. My family’s been supporting me 100 percent all the way, and they’re my number one fans always. Whenever I do a new guest part on a show, or when the show premieres, we’re going to be TIVOing and watching it altogether, we’re going to be like so happy together. My family has been supporting me the entire time. They’re the best support system ever.
You pursued a career of acting and modeling at a very young age. Did you ever feel unsure or lonely being around so many adults and people much older than yourself?
Everyone’s always tells me that I’ve kind of been like an old soul, I guess. So I’ve always felt comfortable around adults. I never felt like, you know, the kid that couldn’t talk to parents. When I would go over my friend’s house, I remember being like 12 or 13, whenever I go to my friends house I would always become best friends with the parents, too. I would sit and talk to them for an hour and then go hang out with my friend. I’ve always been comfortable around adults. So, no. I think the key to life is just being confident in yourself. And as long as you can tell yourself you can do something . . . Everyone is always going to have insecurities; you just can’t let them bring you down. You just have to rise above it. It usually works out.
How did guest-starring and starring on shows help you get your own show?
I had amazing experiences on all of them. I got to learn a lot from each of them. Different things from each of them. Like “Zoey 101” — that was my first big break. So that was where I kind of learned everything on a TV show set, how the cameras work. I had to learn how to memorize my lines all the time, always be professional. So I learned a lot there. And then when I did “Spectacular,” which was a Nickelodeon musical movie that I did, that’s the first time I ever had to perform in front of a camera: singing, dancing and acting at the same time. So that kind of prepared me for the role in “Victorious.” Because that was like the first time that I actually got to do that in front of the camera. All jobs bring different things to the table that I’ve learned.
Do you think your role of Tori Vega describes your personality?
Yeah. I think we’re very similar. Like I said: we’re not really girlie girls. We’re both pretty laid back when it comes to that kind of stuff. When I went to high school, I wasn’t like the girl that would dress up everyday and would wear tons of makeup. I would wear sweatpants and put my hair in a bun. Because I wanted to be comfortable. That was my number one priority. So we’re similar in that way; and I also went to a performing arts middle school, and she goes to a performing arts middle school. And we each have a sister. Her sister Trina is older than her, and I have a younger sister.
How different is “Zoey 101” and “Victorious”?
“Zoey 101” is different from “Victorious” because obviously for the fact that it’s a completely new character, new scenario, and I’m not playing Lola. My character is not related to Lola at all, which is cool to play like a new character. And “Zoey 101” did not have like any music elements to it. We never got to really sing or do any of that. I think that’s pretty much how it’s different. And the school that we went to on “Zoey 101” PCA was by the water, and it was a really beautiful school; but Hollywood Arts, the school we go to on “Victorious,” is different because it’s also a really, really cool school because the school hallway has graffiti all over it. It’s a really colorful school. All the kids get to customize their lockers. There’s one locker that is customized to look like a refrigerator door . . . there’s so many cool ones. There’s one that looks like a car door, too. That one is really cool. Then, there’s one baby bottle like things — I don’t know how to really describe it, but it’s really weird. It’s really like an arts creative school. The set is really, really awesome.
How do you balance your acting career and your schoolwork? Is it easy to do so?
I actually just recently graduated from high school. I’m 17, but I graduated early. So I took this test where, I studied really hard for a really long time because I wanted to pass it. And so I passed it and graduated high school. When I was in regular school when I was acting, it was kind of hard to juggle both because I went to this high school where I had a lot of writing assignments. Math was getting harder and harder. Math wasn’t really my strong suit. It’s not my best subject. So it was really hard to go film for 10 hours and then also have to do homework and projects and stuff. It got really hard. So I had to dedicate a lot of extra time, and a lot of extra hard work to get it all done. Also, I don’t want to slack off on my schoolwork. School is very, very important to me, and my education is really, really important. I love acting, and it normally controls my life, but education comes first. But I think I got through it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new show?
My new show is called “Victorious,” and I play a girl named Tori Vega, who’s kind of your everyday girl. She’s not like a super star or anything. She’s a normal girl who goes to school and stuff. She has an older sister named Trina, who thinks she’s like the coolest girl ever and is always singing and wants to be a super star, and she thinks that she has all this potential, but really she’s not a good as she thinks she is in her head. My character is kind of forced to perform onstage because her sister has an allergic reaction and so she can’t sing the song at the big showcase, so my character goes on for her. And then my character is then accepted into this performing arts high school called Hollywood Arts. And from there, it’s about my character just figuring out, discovering herself, and trying to fit in and then learning more about music, singing and dancing. That’s kind of what it’s about.