Victoria Justice on Surviving Child Stardom
Victoria Justice is making the leap from child actor to mature artist—and with her new starring role in Brian DeCubellis’ new art world drama Trust, she’ll leave you wondering why you hadn’t thought of her that way before.
A deliberate departure from her roles as a child actor on Nickelodeon series Victorious and Zoey 101, Trust stars Justice as Brooke, a married art gallery owner living in New York City with her newscaster husband Owen (Matthew Daddario). Though the union looks blissful on the outside, the temptation arises when Brooke signs a new artist (Lucien Laviscount), while Owen is equally distracted by a graduate student named Amy (Katherine McNamara).
Justice, now 28 years old, plays a married woman for the first time. It’s part of why she views the role as a progression from her days on Nickelodeon sets. “More adult subject matters are going to be what I’m interested in at this point,” she tells The Daily Beast. “That’s what I loved about this movie. It’s sexy, it’s this romantic drama thrill ride, and I love that it explores themes of temptation and infidelity. These are really interesting concepts to me.”
Justice landed her breakout role in Zoey 101 alongside Jamie Lynn Spears back in 2005. She went on to appear in a handful of other Nickelodeon shows and landed her own series on the network, Victorious, in 2010. In the years since that show ended, she has starred in projects including the MTV thriller series Eye Candy, the 2016 Fox remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and films like 2019’s Summer Nights.
But Nickelodeon stardom and her latest roles are only part of a dream she’s been working toward since landing her first role at age 10 on Gilmore Girls. “I saw a kid in a commercial when I was 8 years old and I remember just watching this kid and being like, ‘I think I can do that. I want to do that.’ I screamed for my mom to come into the room and she was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And I was like, ‘Do you see that kid? How do I do that? Can you help me do that?’ So that’s kind of how it started,” Justice laughs.
The singer and actress’s Nickelodeon days taught her the demands of realizing that dream. “I was working so many hours,” she recalls. “We would rehearse Monday and Tuesday and usually film Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And then on Saturday and Sunday sometimes I would be recording or learning choreography or doing photo shoots. There was always so much going on.”
Thanks to her parents, she was able to balance her duties as a child actor with the luxuries of just being a kid. “It’s not like they were pushing me to do this. I was pushing myself,” Justice says. “I wanted to do all the press. I wanted to be in the studio. I wanted to learn choreography. I wanted to work 12-hour days sometimes or more because I loved it.”
“It can be tricky sometimes to balance having a social life and then having a successful career, but you just have to carve out time. I think my parents helped me keep all that in perspective. And I think I did a decent job,” she laughs.
The cutthroat Hollywood industry can take advantage of child actors. Justice believes it is important for aspiring young actors “to either has a parent figure around you that’s guiding you or someone else that you can trust and that you can talk to,” she says. “You have to really develop a strong backbone and know when to say no and this is too much, I’m tired, or I’m not comfortable with this or I don’t want to do this. I think maybe it’s hard to do that on your own sometimes when you’re a child actor. That’s why it’s important to have that guardian or friend or parent figure to help guide you because it’s a lot to navigate.”
Justice rose to fame after being spotlighted by Dan Schneider, the veteran producer behind Victorious and many other iconic Nickelodeon shows such as iCarly, The Amanda Bynes Show, All That, and Drake and Josh. She says she has no opinion of what became of Schneider. (Nickelodeon cut ties with him in 2018 after reports emerged of “temper issues” and staff complaints of “abusive behaviour.”) Rather, she remains gracious toward him. “I’m very grateful to Dan for giving me the opportunities and giving me those breaks. I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t discovered me on Zoey 101 and then created Victorious for me, so I’m just very grateful to him for that,” she says.
In Trust, meanwhile, twists and turns force characters and viewers to question everything they know about fidelity, jealousy, and trust. Justice hopes for audiences to examine what defines cheating and fidelity in a happy marriage. “I’m excited to hear the conversations that people have after this movie—who they think is right and who they think is wrong and for people to talk about what is considered cheating,” she says.
She hopes to continue pursuing surprising roles in projects like the film, ones “that have a sensuality to them and are sexy because it’s super fun and it’s such an empowering part of being a woman,” she says. A musical or a romantic comedy could be next. “I really just want to try everything.”
Justice has also returned to making music. She released her first single after a seven-year hiatus, “Treat Me,” last year, followed by a love song called “Stay” released on Valentine’s Day. “I’m going to be releasing more music very soon,” she promises. An album is still in the “early stages” of planning. But “right now my focus is just putting out a couple more singles and going from there,” she says. “I’m super excited about where I’m at,” Justice says about both life and career.”