Nina Dobrev on Her Role in 'Flatliners' & How She Ended up Hitchhiking at Julianne Hough's Wedding

By Jared Shapiro | August 28, 2017 | People Feature

Actress, activist, and bona fide starlet Nina Dobrev leaves the past behind and ushers in a new era of films, advocacy, and adventure.

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Jacket, $4,820, top, $780, and skirt, $2,390, all at Prada, Miami Design District.

Flying back and forth from Canada to NYC to LA, shooting TV shows, feature films and magazine covers, working out (she recently signed on as an ambassador for Reebok and Les Mills), saving sharks, and squeezing in an occasional night out, the living, breathing world for Nina Dobrev is hardly as carefree and glamorous as it seems. “I have been jet-setting like a maniac the last few months. It’s hard to keep track anymore,” says the 28-year-old actress. Later this month she stars in Flatliners, a sci-fi thriller about medical students who, intrigued by what lies beyond life, experiment by stopping their hearts, triggering near-death experiences. “I had so much fun playing this character and kind of playing my first adult role in a professional sense.” It is a departure of sorts, after breaking onto the scene in cult-classic school drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, followed by the supernatural Vampire Diaries, which catapulted her to TV stardom. But today, Dobrev continually proves there’s no role (in acting or real life) that she can’t conquer.

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Merlot jersey bodysuit with crystal embroidery, $2,995, and Merlot jersey pants with crystal embroidery, $4,995, by Michael Kors Collection at Michael Kors, Bal Harbour Shops. All jewelry, Dobrev’s own.

You’re taking improv classes at the UCB—for fun or career?
I’ve always loved improv and I do it day to day and in my work, but I haven’t done formal classes since I was in theater school. I wanted to brush up on it, both professionally and personally, to be on my toes and keep flexing that muscle, because if you stop using it, it atrophies.

Your dog Maverick is a “doctor-certified emotional support animal.” She seems so important in your life.
She is a bundle of joy and her resting position looks like she’s smiling and it makes me so happy to have that energy around me all the time. She’s cuddly, cute, fun, and makes my heart happy. I can barely remember life without her. I did have another bundle. My cat, who passed away a couple months ago, was the other light in my life and I miss her every single day. I guess I need to always have a furry friend.

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Red viscose silk sable longsleeved dress, $2,150, at Versace, Bal Harbour Shops.

Let’s go way back. When you were young, you trained 4 hours a day, 6 days a week as a gymnast, but made the choice instead to be an actress.
I was getting to that age where it was the point of no return. I knew I wasn’t going to go to the Olympics and that level of competitiveness, so I had to make the choice. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was definitely great training for the path that I did choose [because of] the regimen, determination, and persistence that you have to have. It prepared me for the rejection, and [taught me] to keep going further and working hard, to not take no for an answer. I grew thick skin in gymnastics and even thicker skin as an actress.

Were you able to do any crazy gymnastics poses?
If I was on my knees, I’d be able to roll onto my stomach and then my feet would go over my head and in front of my eyes and I could keep my feet in front of my eyes and do split leaps and all these crazy things. You have so much flexibility because your limbs and your bones are Jell-O at a young age.

How did your humble Canadian upbringing influence you?
I moved around a lot. My parents grew up in Bulgaria, and I was born and lived there for a very short amount of time before we moved to Canada. Every summer we’d go back to Bulgaria and do a lot of road trips to Turkey and Romania and all the neighboring countries, so I definitely got the travel bug young. I didn’t have a privileged life, but I had the privilege of experiencing many cultures and meeting people from all walks of life.

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LEFT: Printed cotton overcoat, $3,995, Printed tulle ruched dress, $3,775, Silk bra, $545, Silk panty, $345, and Lace Maryjane heel, $975, all at Dolce & Gabbana, Bal Harbour Shops. RIGHT: Wool dress with embroidery, price on request, at Dolce & Gabbana, Bal Harbour Shops; Douce du Desert crepe satin pumps in flamenco, $895, at Christian Louboutin, Miami Design District.

As an immigrant to Canada who has now come to America, how do you feel about the current political climate?
I keep expecting to wake up and find out that it’s not real. It’s a very unstable political climate at the moment and it scares me to see the negative repercussions that will come as a result of all of the work that’s been done—especially with the environment, the way it is in its fragile state, seeing the direction that it’s going in, and the decisions that are being made in the White House. The decisions that the administration makes at the moment affect the world, not just this country.

Are you a dual citizen here?
No, I have a green card. I cannot vote. I did not have the option to make an impact on this election other than with my voice and the platforms that I have access to.

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Jumpsuit with bead embroidered top and ostrich feather cuffs, price upon request, by Elie Saab at Saks Fifth Avenue, Brickell City Centre.

You’re on People’s Most Beautiful list, and constantly get named on Maxim and FHM’s lists. But you stand for so much more than just external beauty…
It’s so not real—that’s the scariest part. And now we have apps that can Photoshop anything and everything, which puts out an image that’s not realistic. Young girls see this image and think that’s what they should be and that’s how they should wake up. That was one of the main reasons that I wanted to be a part of that issue [People’s Most Beautiful] and especially proud to represent the section [with no makeup on]. I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis. I try to reflect that on my social media, too. When I do Instagram stories, I’m not all dolled up and glamorous, it’s a peek into my day-to-day life, which is kind of normal and average. I get pimples and zits all the time and I deal with them just like anybody else, with zit cream. Sometimes I walk out of the house with the zit cream and forget about it. And that’s just life, it’s unpredictable and awkward and we all feel insecure all the time but that’s completely normal and okay and everybody has good days and bad days. It’s especially important now to show young girls that and to make them aware that they are perfect exactly the way they are.

“THE FILM EXPLORES DIFFERENT THEMES OF LIFE AND DEATH AND MORAL COMPASSES. IF YOU DON’T DO THE RIGHT THING, DOES IT WEIGH HEAVY ON YOU? WILL YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT OR WILL YOU JUST TURN A BLIND EYE?”

Is there something that you’re insecure about?
I’m very busy and on the go and I don’t sleep that much. I have terrible dark circles under my eyes as a result of that, so I’m constantly aware of covering up my dark circles and trying to look like I’ve slept 10 hours when I’ve only slept 3.

How do you handle the online critics?
The online world can be beautiful but also vicious, and it’s very much like high school in the real world. After you graduate, you’re still a student and you still get bullied and have good and bad experiences. The thing about the online world is that it’s almost worse because they can hide behind a screen and say what they want without face-to-face confrontations. So as a result, they end up saying worse things because it’s harder to say something mean to someone’s face. I just try to ignore it. I don’t read comments often if I can avoid it. I try to practice what I preach, and if I put good vibes out there I hope that they’ll come back to me and karma will bite them in the bum.

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Jacket, $4,820, top, $780, skirt, $2,390, and belt, price on request, all at Prada, Miami Design District; Atletika colorblock cross-strap sandal, $1,045, at Christian Louboutin, Miami Design District.

You recently said you picked up healthier habits like eating more. Was it hard being a teenager growing up in front of the camera?
I think everyone is always self-conscious, whether you’re in front of the camera or not. Everyone always loves to look their best, so of course I was always aware of it, but I think it comes down to education. I didn’t learn until later in life that the more you eat, the more your metabolism works at a healthy rate and you’ll actually lose weight and be more toned if you keep it on a consistent schedule. I would never starve myself then but I would definitely choose different things and eat smaller portions.

Set the record straight—there’s a great photo of you and some bridesmaids hitchhiking at Julianne Hough’s wedding. What happened?
The bus broke down from the wedding to the reception because they were at two different locations. We didn’t actually hitchhike. We were joking. But we took that opportunity, as we waited for the rest of the vehicles to come back around, to get an awesome photo of all the bridesmaids. It was a joke. We didn’t really get in the cars of any strangers, but we would’ve if anybody had stopped.

Your new movie, Flatliners, deals with bringing people back to life…
We went through a rigorous medical boot camp to learn about everything to do with reviving a human in a dire situation— CPR, how to use the defibrillator, how to get heart monitors, and if that’s not working, how to physically check the body. We had to do that so that we would look believable on camera as if we had been doing it for years. I don’t want to say that I could save a person’s life, but I could definitely assist in keeping them alive until the proper paramedics came if something were to happen. My character especially, she’s the most hardheaded, stubborn, by-the-rules kind of girl, and she’s competitive, so she wanted to go above and beyond and test the limit. The film explores different themes of life and death and moral compasses and doing the right thing. If you don’t do the right thing, does it weigh heavy on you? Will you do something about it or will you just turn a blind eye?

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Long dress in black silk with multicolored sequins print, $3,895, and bolero jacket in organza with multicolored sequin polka dots embroidery, $1,395, both at Emporio Armani, Bal Harbour Shops.

Is it difficult dating in Hollywood?
You’re the subject of paparazzi but you do a very good job of keeping it private. That is between me and my dating life and it will stay that way and that’s why I’m so good at it because I avoid these questions.

We’re so focused on the ocean in Miami and so are you, with your commitment to sharks as an ocean advocate.
Sharks are so misunderstood and we have a terrible fear of them because of movies and they get a bad rep because of the press. On the rare occasion there’s some sort of accident, you hear about it because it gets publicized, but you don’t hear about all the times when nothing happens, which is more often than not. There are sharks in the water all the time swimming with people, and they don’t do anything because they don’t care about us. They’re animals and they make mistakes so every once in a while, you have to realize that if you’re in their home, you have to play by their rules and you are taking a risk when you’re in the water with them, but they’re not really interested in humans. I want to spread that awareness and make sure they get protected because they don’t have anybody looking out for them. I’m going to be the voice for these amazing and beautiful creatures.

Flatliners hits theaters September 29. For information on how to get involved with protecting sharks, visit oceana.org

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