Shortly before she turned 25 last month, Rachel Bilson talked to reporters about playing a teenage temptress in her new film, "The Last Kiss."
"I'm not an old 24-year-old," she says with a giggle, as if to prove her point. "Like, I still carry some of the young mannerisms, very animated, stuff like that. But you definitely know what it's like to be a little bit more naive. At 19, you're kinda more carefree and it's a lot of fun to let loose completely."
In "The Last Kiss," Bilson plays Kim, a Wisconsin college student who causes stable architect Michael (Zach Braff) to doubt the direction of his life, offering him the chance to stray from his pregnant fiancee (Jacinda Barrett). Bilson, best known for her work as the tart, flirty Summer Roberts on FOX's "The O.C.," doesn't view the character as a predator, just as confused about the difference between sex and love.
"Well, she is 19," Bilson says. "I think at that age, you kinda don't really know the difference. You don't really know love, even. You know infatuation maybe, and I think that that's what she's just, you know... enthralled by him... that and the whole aspect of an older man."
As if to make the difference clear to viewers, the movie contains at least one steamy sex scene, which was a change of pace for Bilson, whose previous on-screen romantic moments have included dressing up as Wonder Woman to win a man's heart.
"It's definitely weird," she acknowledges. "It's not normal to totally make out with a guy in front of 10 other guys on camera. Well maybe not for some people. But it's not really that bad. You just do it. You can't really think about it too much or you might get a little too nervous. Lord knows what would happen."
Fortunately, Bilson also had a secret weapon.
"Pasties," she announced. "Good old pasties. So you think you are seeing everything, but really you're not. You know, for my first project especially, I was not cool with showing any nudity."
Although "The O.C." will start its third season this November, this is, indeed, Bilson's first major film role, her first chance to capitalize on a TV show that has attracted consistent buzz, if not ratings.
"I wanted to really just like the film, I really waited for the right thing and really worked at getting it and I'm happy that I did," she says. "I got to work with these people. I think it's important as an actress to pick roles that you believe in. Do small parts and projects and build up to that instead of just jumping into the lead of a genre film that you don't believe that."
That's why you won't be seeing Bilson follow so many of her contemporaries into the next gory horror film.
"I won't be getting slashed or running from monsters or anything," she confirms.
She certainly has role models, actors who got their start on "O.C."-esque teen soaps, but made the transition to more mature roles.
"One I like to use an example is Michelle Williams because she went from 'Dawson's Creek' and just did roles she believed in for the most part anyway and really was patient," Bilson says. "And then she was nominated for an Oscar down the line because I think she was really smart."
"The Last Kiss" opens everywhere on Friday, Sept. 15.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times