1 of 5 | Victoria Justice's "The Tutor" is released on video-on-demand platforms Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
NEW YORK, May 9 (UPI) -- Zoey 101 and Victorious alum Victoria Justice says she was drawn to the thriller The Tutor because it allowed her to portray a pregnant woman faced with a mystery when she is at her most vulnerable.
"I've never played a pregnant character before, and so I loved all the layers that came with it, especially in this genre. The stakes are so high," the actress told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"She is going through all of this while her hormones are raging and she is emotional. She's very innocent and just loves Ethan and wants to start a life with him and start a family with him."
Directed by Jordan Ross and available to stream via video-on-demand platforms Tuesday, the film casts Tulsa King's Garrett Hedlund, 38, as Ethan, the title character whose world is turned-upside down when his teen client Jackson, a billionaire's disturbed son (Noah Schnapp, 18, from Stranger Things), starts to take a dangerous interest in his personal life.
"Annie is a teacher. Ethan is a tutor. We, obviously, are in a place where we have a new child coming and, financially, need all the help we can get," Justice said.
"Ethan, being a tutor, gets an offer that he can't refuse from a wealthy student, and then from there it just seems like a normal Tuesday for him, until he meets Jackson, and he's really not just your average student," she added. "Things take a turn and Jackson has a bit of a dark obsession with Ethan."
The 30-year-old is a fan of thrillers, so this acting job was an easy sell for her.
"There's lots of twists and turns. You never know what's around the corner. Who's innocent? Who's guilty? What's happening? What's the truth?" she said. "It really keeps you at the edge of your seat."
As the psychological warfare between Jackson and Ethan escalates, Annie often is the voice of reason.
"She is really trying to keep Ethan grounded, keep his head on straight. She's doing her best, but, man, is it challenging," Justice laughed.
Ross had a clear vision about how he wanted the action to unfold, presenting a finished product that is visually pleasing with interesting transitions from scene to scene and performances that "hook you in," she added.
"He was so collaborative and easy to work with," the actress said of her director.
"Being on set with people like that, who are clearly so talented and there for the right reason and just want to work hard and do the best they can and serve the story right was just wonderful. Even though the material was very intense a lot of the time, it really was just a lovely set to work on."
Although the story is set in New York, it was filmed in Alabama.
Justice enjoyed her time there, praising the local film crews as "down-to-earth, nice people."
"And Birmingham has, surprisingly, a really great food scene," she said. "There were all of these amazing restaurants, so, in our down time, I was just eating a lot of food and going to restaurants. It was great."
The fast nature of the shoot and because most of Justice's scenes were with Hedlund meant she didn't get to impart much professional wisdom to her fellow former child star Schnapp about transitioning from kid parts to more mature roles.
"We didn't have a ton of scenes together, but I loved when I was able to work with him and hang out," Justice said.
"We didn't talk too much about the child actor aspect of it all. The funny thing is I've actually never seen Stranger Things. I'm probably the only person on the planet who hasn't seen the show."
The actress and singer -- whose other credits include Eye Candy, Trust, Fun Size, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Spectacular! -- is looking for projects that challenge her to grow as an artist.
"It all comes down to the script. Is the script good? Is the character interesting?" she asked rhetorically.
"Who are the people that are attached? I want to work with people who are going to also push me and make me better. At the end of the day, as an actor, I don't just want to play the same things over and over again. I want to mix it up."
Meanwhile, she said she continues to feel overwhelmed by the love from her Victorious fandom, even though the sitcom wrapped a decade ago.
"I'm so proud of that show and I feel so proud that people love it that much. It's really sweet," she said.
"On a daily basis, I will have at least one person come up to me and say: 'You were my childhood!' Or, 'This show helped me get through ....' It's really wonderful to know the show had this impact on people and to this day they still want to watch it. There is a nostalgia factor. It's a really beautiful thing."