Ashley Greene is on NYC time during our phoner; she’s just in Canada shooting the TV series “Rogue,” on which she’s recently become a series regular. “She’s quite a character,” Greene tells us. “I feel like I always gravitate towards these crazy characters.” As it happens, she’s talking to us about “Burying the Ex,” where the crazy character is Evelyn, a 20-something accidentally killed then inexplicably revived as a zombie who plagues Max, her ex-boyfriend (Anton Yelchin). It’s the latest from Joe Dante, the horror-comedy god of “The Howling,” “Gremlins” and best of all “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” and it’s also a showcase for the “Twilight” alum to go over the top — though not too over the top.
What draws you to crazy characters?
I don’t know. I think it’s opposites attract. I hope. It may be because it throws you into that realm of being able to lose yourself in a role and not really worry about coming off as crazy. Because it’s so far from who I am it just takes the pressure off. It’s almost like having a split personality.
You basically play a series of characters: Evelyn before the accident, then the various stages of decay as she gradually becomes a classic flesh-eater.
I had to make her as realistic as possible through her transition. I looked up bipolar disorder and issues surrounding that, because she has these severe mood swings. One minute she’s in la-la land and completely bubbly and happy; the next she’s enraged and can’t control her temper. I had to make her mood swings real to me.
She’s the villain, but whether she’s annoying Max before her death or eating people she’s not purely hissable.
I wanted people to be able to relate to her in some sense. I don’t want her to be this controlling, unlikable, horrible human being. I didn’t want to condone her behavior, but I wanted to understand her reasons for doing what she’s doing. A lot of that comes from the insecurity of losing Max and her not realizing that they’re just not right for each other. When I spoke with Joe and Alan [Trezza, the screenwriter] I wanted people to understand her. With any villain that’s very important. Villains aren’t generally villains, just for the sake of being evil. Generally there’s something that got them there, some underlying issue not being dealt with.
Because she’s slowly turning into a zombie, you have many stages of makeup. How horrible was that for you?
I probably wore six different contacts, sometimes two on top of each other. I’m no stranger to contacts, because of “Twilight.” This was definitely more intense; I’d never had to wear two contacts on top of each other. I don’t necessarily enjoy getting up at 4 in the morning, but I do enjoy getting to set completely transformed. You move differently and you speak differently. It’s very helpful. Taking [the makeup] off was not fun. You work 14 hours and at the end of the day you have to sit there for an hour so they can remove the prosthetics from your face. On the other hand, I have a billion pictures, because I thought it was so cool what they were able to do with prosthetics.
Joe Dante is a giant movie buff. How much did he inundate you with movie recommendations?
[Laughs] I felt like my head was spinning listening to he and Anton geeking out. Anton could not get enough of these old throwback horror films. I just listened to them and wrote down all these movies I should probably watch.
Have you watched them?
Not yet. They’re still on my list. I have made a habit of sitting down to watch more television and more film. When I grew up there was music in my house. We were only allowed to watch maybe an hour of TV a day. I’m not really programmed to sit down for long periods of time and watch back-to-back films. I’ve been trying to do it more because, obviously, it’s in my best interest. [Laughs] One of my favorite things about being on location is the time to watch and do all the things you say you’re going to do. I don’t remember what the lightbulb moment was, but I realized, instead of wasting all my energy being upset because I’m sitting for hours twiddling my thumbs, I can learn another language or watch movies I’ve never watched. You know I’ve never seen “Body Heat”? I just watched that. I have a movie called “Bound” I’ve never seen.
This is a zombie movie, but do you tend to get a ton of supernatural-themed scripts because of “Twilight”? Do you avoid those?
I do try and stay away from those unless they really intrigue me. We’ve spent such a long time only being known for those films. Of course, it’s a huge part of my life. I gravitate towards independent films because I get different subject matter than the mainstream stuff, which is really stuff you’ve done before. The goal is to flex my acting chops and show people something they haven’t seen before. You get to do something different every day and you get to pick up these random skill sets you didn’t have before. That’s what’s fun to me. It’s always something new.