FRIDAY, MAY 15
"Ms. Jones, how does it feel to have such a breakout role so early on in your career?"
This is asked by a press reporter who stands in a sea of other reporters, photographers, and fans. They stare at us eagerly, stare at me. I'm sitting onstage at the Los Angeles Palooza Film Festival on a panel with the legendary Paul Christopher to talk about his new movie, Deep Within. We start filming in a few weeks.
"It's surreal," I say with a small laugh. I swallow and remind myself to smile brighter. I cross my legs and will my heartbeat to slow down. I just want everyone to like me.
"I can't believe this is my life right now," I say. "When I got the call that Paul wanted me to audition for this movie, I almost fell out."
Everyone laughs at this, and I unclench a little. Be cool, I think to myself. Be charming. Be the best that you can be! God, I sound like an after-school special.
"Evie is one of the most talented students I've witnessed come out of Mildred McKibben," Paul Christopher says in his elegant British accent. He turns to me and smiles, adjusting the brim of his gray newsboy cap. His white hair is pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. "She really understands character in a way I haven't seen from someone so young. We've already done great work together on Mind Games, and I'm looking forward to working with her on Deep Within."
I smile and try my best to pretend that I'm not completely freaking out at his praise. Paul Christopher is in his midsixties, not that much younger than my grandmother, and he's been making twisty, critically acclaimed thrillers for decades. I've sat at home on my living room floor, watching his movies on a loop, my bowl of popcorn sitting untouched because I was so engrossed in the story.
Now maybe someone will stop eating popcorn in order to watch me.
People in the room are recording us on their phones, and I'm once again thankful to my agent, Kerri, who hooked me up with a stylist last week. In my opinion, I've always had good fashion sense. I mean, that's what happens when your grandmother is Evelyn Conaway. (Yeah, that Evelyn Conaway. Basically the biggest movie star ever.) But the bright-orange Carolina Herrera minidress and white Christian Louboutin pumps I have on today is maybe the best outfit I've ever worn.
I imagine the number of times I'll be tagged in videos and posts on Instagram and sit up a little straighter. I'll have a lot of DMs to respond to tonight.
I turn to Kerri now, who is standing off to the side. She gives me a subtle thumbs-up, and I nod. As thrilling as this is, having her here makes me feel less alone, less like I'm in a fishbowl.
"Ms. Jones, you have quite the family legacy," another reporter says. "Do you feel any pressure now that you are following in the footsteps of your grandmother, specifically?"
"Of course," I say, answering honestly. "But I've wanted this my whole life, so I feel ready. I've been waiting for a really long time."
A really long time meaning basically since birth. I grew up watching my grandmother's movies. My parents wanted me to have a "normal" childhood, so the plan was that I couldn't go on auditions until after I graduated high school. But then Paul Christopher came to our spring showcase last year and was so impressed with my performance, he offered me a role in Mind Games on the spot. Technically I didn't break Mom and Dad's rule because I didn't have to audition. And then they couldn't really say no when I was invited to audition for Deep Within after the senior showcase a few months ago.