From the brightly colored, sunshiny Hollywood seen in Nickelodeon’s Victorious to the gritty, dimly lit streets of New York in her new show Eye Candy, Victoria Justice has made a huge career leap.
In MTV’s new hour-long drama, Justice portrays Lindy, a 21-year-old tech genius with a keen distrust of the police force who let her sister’s kidnapping go unsolved years before we meet her in the pilot.
Loosely based on a series of books by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine, Eye Candy follows Lindy as she helps other people find their missing loved ones using her hacking skills, which have landed her in trouble with the NYPD more than once.
Following some relationship drama, her friend and roommate Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) convinces her to get back into the dating pool using a smartphone app similar to Tinder. However, when she discovers that a dangerous stalker has taken to using the app to kill his dates, she becomes a vigilante of sorts, intent on stopping the murderer with the help of her friends. Despite her good heart, casualties are drawn into the crossfire as the stalker becomes obsessed with Lindy and seems one step ahead of her at all times.
The first two episodes are darker than anything MTV has ever produced. Unlike Teen Wolf, Eye Candy doesn’t have the benefit of a supernatural universe to suspend it from reality – the thrilling suspense found in Eye Candy is as real as it gets.
We sat down with Justice to discuss all things Eye Candy, her first-ever sex scene and the Goosebumps character that utterly tormented her as a child.
Given the younger fan base you’ve cultivated from your years on Nickelodeon, was there a worry you might alienate your younger fans?
No, I don’t think I was really worried about distancing myself from the younger fan base. I started off with Nickelodeon when I was 12 years old on Zoey 101, and then when I was 16 I got my own show, Victorious, and that ended when I was 19. I feel like a lot of the people that were watching me kind of grew up with me. This is the next step, you know? I’m 21 years old now, so I think it’s appropriate for me to play my own age and to be playing around with more mature content and that’s definitely what we’re doing at Eye Candy.
There are definitely more mature themes in the show, and I think people are going to be surprised. It’s very dark and creepy and kind of twisted at times, but I think that’s what makes it also really suspenseful. So, no, I’m not worried about distancing myself from a younger audience. I mean, I would not recommend the show to, like, 6- or 7- or 8-year-olds, necessarily, but I think that the people who have grown with me, hopefully, are really going to like this.
What was it like filming your first love scene? Is it awkward?
It actually really wasn’t that awkward. I had a little jitteriness happening beforehand and I was a little bit nervous, but when I’m in character and when I’m in it and filming the scene, you kind of just get lost in that world. The other actor I was working with – Daniel Lissing [who plays Ben] – he’s a great actor. He’s also a gentleman and was super nice about everything. … It was a closed set because there’s some skin being shown – not too much. It was fun to do and the way it’s shot is really beautiful and really tastefully done. We have the whole New York backdrop in the background with the [Williamsburg] bridge and all the twinkling lights, so it’s really, really beautiful.
What are the set dynamics like on such a serious show?
Because the show is pretty dark and my character, Lindy, is serious a lot of the times because she has a lot weighing on her mind and she’s had a very tragic past, we’re constantly laughing when we have downtime. When we’re about to do a really serious scene, it’s kind of hard to tell a joke and get into that place, so you kind of have to stay grounded before we do a take, but so many of my castmates are hilarious.
Harvey Guillen, who plays George on the show and is the Robin to my Batman, does so many impressions. He does a hilarious impression of Marilyn Monroe, and he’s just, like, the life of the party. He’s so much fun to be around, and I love him dearly. Then there’s Casey Jon Diedrick, who plays officer Tommy Callaghan – we’re constantly at odds [on the show] in a way. I love Casey. He’s a super-grounded, down-to-earth guy. He’s constantly breaking out into song – he loves Ace of Base. It’s so random. He’s constantly [singing] “All that she wants is another baby!” We’re always snapping along to it on set. And Kiersey is hilarious – really bombastic.
Why has Lindy decided to take it upon herself to become a vigilante?
She has a really brilliant mind, and she’s this amazing computer hacker, and she wants to use these skills to help other people. She has a tragic past. Something really awful has happened in her family and, because of that, she’s constantly searching for an answer. But, in the meantime, she doesn’t really trust the police and feels like she can get things done on her own and access this information [to] really help people. She has a really big heart and she’s very determined and committed to her cause. She’s a really strong, independent woman.
How does it feel to break new ground for MTV in this new thriller?
It’s so exciting. I think it’s totally different than anything else they have on their network. Teen Wolf is the only other show that’s kind of similar in the way that it’s kind of suspenseful and has thriller aspects, but Eye Candy is a lot more grounded [in reality] and doesn’t have any fantastical elements and is very real. The things that happen on the show – I think part of what makes it so creepy, is that it could happen in real life.
Did you ever read any Goosebumps?
Yeah, I’m a huge R.L. Stine fan! I personally loved Night of the Living Dummy, and my stepdad would always scare me and my sister. He has the dummy laugh down to a tee! [Does a spooky laugh]. I can’t really do it, that was an awful impression. When I was younger, it would really freak me out to the core. I was so afraid I was going to see the dummy in my room somehow or that one of my dolls was going to come to life! [Stine] visited the set recently, and, for a man who writes really creepy horror stories, he’s like the sweetest person – he’s so gentle and kind and was so excited for the show.
Why should people tune in?
I’m probably a little biased, but taking myself out of the equation, I really do think it’s a really well-done show. I think the writing is great, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, you’re not going to see things coming, and there are twists and turns you’re not going to expect. I think you will definitely be creeped out at a lot of moments, and we go to some really dark places but there’s also romance and love intertwined.
Eye Candy premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET on MTV.
Stay tuned for video from PEOPLE’s interview with Justice!