Midnight Sun star Bella Thorne finds the light within after dark past
Bella Thorne's childhood experiences helped her get into teen drama role
I think I'm a Bella Thorne fan.
The 20-year-old US actress immediately appeals when she shows up for our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills to talk about her new movie Midnight Sun, with her long pink hair, pink vintage pants and a cut-off top that she designed herself, with the words 'I'm Cute' in blood-drippy pink lettering.
With a Miley Cyrus wild-child vibe going on, the former Disney Channel star proceeds to speak her mind about everything.
In Midnight Sun, a Hollywood remake of the 2006 Japanese film of the same name which opens here on April 5, 17-year-old Katie (Thorne) is housebound during the day as she suffers from a disease, xeroderma pigmentosum, that prevents her from going out in sunlight.
After dark, she goes to the town's train station and plays her guitar for travellers.
One night, she meets Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), a high school all-star athlete, whom she has watched from her specially tinted window for years.
She hides her condition from him as the two fall in love.
Thorne said of her lead role in the teen weepie: "I ended up mostly watching YouTube videos of people who have the disease, how they feel, what's their daily life (like). Director Scott Speer and I tried to figure out the story about a girl that happens to have a disease, not a story about a girl that is a disease."
On how she related to her character, Thorne said: "Being raised by a single parent, I get that. I've always wanted a relationship with my father as Katie has with hers so I get that too. Another thing I really loved about Katie is - with my past I can understand this - everybody's looking at you like this diseased thing, this apple that's a bit more bruised than the rest."
She was referring to how her dad died in a traffic accident in 2007, and the fact that she and her three half-siblings were brought up by their single mother.
Thorne began her acting career in TV shows My Own Worst Enemy and Big Love, before gaining prominence for her role as CeCe Jones on the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up.
Bullied as a child because of her dyslexia, Thorne ended up being home-schooled.
"I really love school and I didn't get to go to school. And I know that seems like, 'Okay, you could go to school now'. But it's obviously so much harder when you're turning 21 and going back to school, now you're going to learn everything that everyone has already learned since they were younger.
"Talk geography to me, you're going to think I'm an idiot. There are so many things I really don't know about. Even all my writing and reading is completely self-taught."
Even fitting in a tutor in her filming schedule is something she is unsure about.
She admitted: "I feel like an embarrassment. I'm going to have a tutor now come to me and look at me, 'You're 21, how do you not know this?'"
Earlier this year, emboldened by the Time's Up movement sweeping Hollywood, she announced on social media that she had been sexually assaulted from a young age till she was 14, but did not identify her abuser.
She wrote: "Over and over, I waited for it to stop and finally it did. But some of us aren't as lucky to get out alive. Please today stand up for every soul mistreated."
So it's not surprising that when asked if she is as positive as her character in Midnight Sun, Thorne said: "The glass is half empty usually. I like to call myself a realist. But then other times I'll be like, 'Bella, look at you being so negative, shut up, stop talking, say something positive, my goodness!'"
Thorne is has dated US rapper Mod Sun since October, and says she's not shy around men.
"I'm super aggro. I'm looking at (a person) like, 'Are you going to ask me for my number or not?' I also believe that life's too short. If you want to go out and get the girl, get the girl, just go do it. That's what we do in this movie but I definitely think I'm more aggressive," she said.
And she's not shy about speaking her mind about the attention she gets over what comments she makes, what clothes - or lack thereof - she wears or who she is hooking up with.
She said: "I'd like to say I really can't please everyone, because it seems to be that I'm my least self when I try to. And that always sucks.
"It's this constant back and forth of me always trying to decide what I'm willing to give. And most of the time it just doesn't work.
"It just ends up with you crying in your bed or outside by yourself. But also a good amount of time, I could give a ****."