The hard-working actress is proof that life really is like a box of chocolates.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's February/March 2010 issue.
Michelle has been playing with sweets since the age of 3, when she spilled cranberry juice for a Wisk commercial. Thankfully, she managed to steer clear of sugary 30-second purgatory to firmly plant herself in the pop consciousness with roles as Buffy's sister on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and an exhibitionist co-ed in the film EuroTrip. We should also mention that both roles led to Trachtenberg amassing a rather large number of not-so-secret admirers. So when pedophilic fans of Buffy (and non-pedophilic fans of bikinis) heard that she would be co-starring in something called A Couple of Dicks, you could forgive (and understand) their excitement.
The thing is, even though Dicks is as innocuous as a Kevin Smith cop comedy with Tracy Morgan could be (especially now that its title has been changed to Cop Out), it still underscores what we love most about la belle Michelle: her unpredictability. This is a woman who not only lives in the moment, but also makes it more memorable for everyone. So while the 24-year-old Brooklynite might be busier than she's ever been, jetting between L.A. and New York to play the diabolical Georgina Sparks on Gossip Girl and rookie nurse Chloe Payne on Mercy, she still managed to find the time to be our valentine, and to talk to Complex about Big Apple flashers, dating older men, and why she's—wait a second, why ruin the surprise? Not knowing what you're gonna get is half the fun.
It would take an army—or Martin Scorsese—to ever get me naked again.
Born and bred in Brooklyn! Did you ever get flashed or groped on the train growing up? [Laughs.] I did. I was a kid, so I didn't get groped—that would be really creepy. But there were some men not fully dressed that I saw on the subway. My mom and I would pretend that we were crazy people—because a crazy person doesn't want to approach another crazy person.
What's the nastiest thing anyone's said to you on the streets of New York?
It's probably been more recent, since I've grown into my womanly form. You know, you'll walk by a construction site and it's like, "You kiss your mama with that ass?" What does that even mean? I don't kiss my mama with my ass because it's back there! My lips are up here, so that's weird. It worked though, 'cause I turned around and was like, "What does that mean?!" So he won.
And you spoke for several hours.
Um, he's my boyfriend.
So, A Couple of Dicks. Did you sign on for the title alone?
Totally. Best headline of my life: "Trachtenberg Likes Dicks." How can you not have A Couple of Dicks on your IMDB page? I sent a mass e-mail to all my agents and managers like, "I would like to thank y'all for your contribution to my 20-year career, because I am now on top of some dicks."
They don't land Michelle Trachtenberg if it's called Cop Out, the studio's safe alternative title, do they?
Probably not. Although Tracy Morgan makes up for the lack of dicks in the title—he's awesome.
Still, it doesn't have the same cock-ring to it.
It doesn't have penis in the title is what you're saying. I get it.
There must have been lots of dick jokes on the set. What was the best one?
"Are we rolling on Dicks?" "Sort of. Don't make it hurt."
What's the oddest thing you've encountered working in the Joss Whedon universe?
There was a group of followers who really believed that Joss was God; they made hats about it and wanted me to wear [one]. They were like, "You work with God every day," and were absolutely set on him being actual God. He is a creative genius, but I'm pretty sure he's not actually G-O-D.
I guess I still have resentment towards all the boys in high school.
God of his universe, maybe. Would you work with him again?
I think he's extraordinary; he definitely knows how to put women in a strong superhero-type role. If there was something that wasn't Buffy-related, it would definitely be interesting.
A stake through the heart of Buffy fans!
There is a [new] Buffy movie being talked about, and some people think they should do one. There [already] was a Buffy movie, that's what started it all. We had an amazing seven-year run, and at the end of Buffy, the universe ended. [Laughs.] There's not really anywhere to go.
Many of your drooling devotees fell in love with you on Buffy—when you were 14. What was the creepiest thing you encountered on your journey to legality?
Oh, goodness! I heard that there were "Trachtenberg to 18" counters. Even at the time, I was like, "You're never gonna get a chance! So what's your counter for?" And now I'm like, "You're still never gonna get a chance, even if I'm 30, so you don't need no counter."
That's awfully dismissive. You hardly know these gentlemen.
If anyone's checking a counter, it's pretty safe to say that I'm not going to give them much thought. It's creepy. I once dated a guy who was like, "Holy shit, I just made out with Harriet the Spy!" And that's messed up. Don't say that. I was 10, you're 30, it's just weird.
Speaking of which, why are you into older men?
I'm not necessarily being ageist, but someone who is older has lived life more. Someone could surprise me, but I feel like there's a phase guys go through in their early twenties when they're supposed to hook up with a lot of chicks and break a lot of hearts. That's great, I'd just like to catch you after that. I'm not looking to settle down and make babies, I'm just not looking for the guy who's texting seven different girls like, "Let's screw here. Let's hook up later." I've always had at least a six- or seven-year age difference with boyfriends. And I guess I still have resentment towards all the boys in high school.
What did they do to you?
Kids—boys and girls both—were very cruel to me, all throughout school, and particularly in high school, when girls were getting boobies and I didn't have any. I was a really late bloomer. I was tortured, made fun of.
Were they jealous because you were an actress?
I mean, I've been an actress since I was 3. I sort of made it a point in school not to talk about my [acting], so I was immediately rendered a bitch because I kept it to myself. I just felt like if I told you about the things that I did in my life, I would be an even bigger bitch in your mind. I was popular—not in the sense that I was liked, but I was well-known. People were envious of me, but they took it to a nasty place, like, "Let's mess her shit up," as opposed to, "Yay! So cool!"
And did they mess your shit up?
When I was in elementary school, this one girl threw me down a flight of stairs, fractured my ribs, punched and fractured my nose, and told the principal I used the word "bitch" and got me [sent to] detention—the only time I've ever been thrown in detention in my life. When I was in junior high school, there was a whole gang of girls who would push me into lockers and steal my clothes after gym, so I wouldn't have anything to wear.
I've just always had sex on the brain. A lot of people thought I was having sex before I actually was.
We weren't aware you were schooled at a juvenile detention center.
[Laughs.] Then, in high school, there was this girl who had a drug problem and she tried to make my life a living hell. She'd tell the teacher horrible lies about me; she dated a couple of my friends and when we were all out one night, she took someone's vodka bottle and chucked it at me. So yeah, I guess I harbor resentment towards kids from high school, but then I did this movie called EuroTrip, and you totally jacked off to it, so I'm good!
Did you ever plot Georgina-esque revenge?
No, but I did run into the girl who threw me down a flight of stairs. We were coming out of a restaurant and there was a wall of like 20 paparazzi. They were probably waiting for Paris Hilton and I just happened to come out. I have never before or since said something like this, because it's so disgusting, but I turned to her and was like, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm really famous. They need to take my picture. Sucks for you."
So you're not Facebook friends with her?
No Facebook. No…what's the Twit thing? I can't. There are tons of fake Facebook pages and it drives me apeshit. Some of these fake Twitters and Facebooks, they're like, "I'm so special! Look at my new movie! Don't you think I'm so pretty?" I never, ever talk like that.
What's the most uncomfortable thing they've said?
I don't know if my friends were messing with me, but they were like, "Someone said you were eating for two." That's great. All I need is: "Michelle spotted drinking a glass of wine —is she hurting the baby?" [Laughs.]
Ah, the joys of celebrity.
I don't like that word.
What do you think of the whole reality-TV aftermath, with so many people being famous for no apparent reason?
To each their own. I'm proud of my accomplishments. When my mom calls me and says, "I saw a great picture of you in that magazine," I know I earned that. That to me is more rewarding than sitting there and being like, "Why the hell is that bitch on the cover of the magazine? What has she done?" People rip [reality stars] down, but you've created them. What you're ripping a new asshole into, you have made.
How does it feel knowing that there are threads on your IMDB page in which people discuss where they can see you nude?
It's really creepy. When I was filming Beautiful Ohio and we were doing the scene with my naked tush, [that was] probably one of the most horrendous moments of my life. It would take an army—or Martin Scorsese—to ever get me naked again. I am very aware of screen caps. [Laughs.]
Having been an actor for 21 years, especially as a child, how is it that you're not—
In rehab or on drugs?
My mom was protective, but she just said, "It's your choice—you ruin your career or don't." If you realize how lucky you are to be sitting in the position you are, then you just don't drink, don't do the cocaine.
I am very, very pale. I've had men tell me I resemble old-fashioned Hollywood glamour pin-ups like Veronica Lake or Jessica Rabbit.
[Laughs.] The cocaine!
"The cocaine!" I call it "the weed." I'm drug dumb. I don't know shit about drugs. I just don't do that because I would never do anything to—God forbid—ruin my career. I value my career.
There must have been drugs and alcohol around, though, right?
I've been in situations where I've been petrified of putting my purse down because I was traveling the next day and I knew that there was stuff on the counter. I'm just overly paranoid.
Awkward budding sexuality was a big part of Dawn's character on Buffy. How smooth and comfortable was your own entrée into sexual activity?
Would you like to know what kind of condom I used? [Laughs.] Seth Green says I've been the same person since he met me at 14. I guess I've just always had sex on the brain. A lot of people thought that I was having sex before I actually was, because of the way I held myself. I didn't lose my virginity until I was 18. It wasn't a crazy, massive thing.
It's a good thing—that could have been painful. When your body filled out, were you comfortable being curvy?
It's been really hard. There are tabloid magazines that call me fat. That's hard to accept, but it's also hard to think about the girl who's not as thin as I am and who looks at me as a role model—if I'm not skinny enough, then what chance does this girl have? That shit bothers me.
I've heard that you don't work out. Ever. How do you keep it together?
I always feel like I'm gonna do a Nutty Professor and just explode, like my knees are gonna get 500 pounds. [I don't work out but] I'm always moving. The only time I'm ever literally still is when the camera's rolling. I probably have ADD, I don't know.
You're supposedly quite flexible, too. How limber are we talking?
[Michelle puts her leg behind her head.]
They both stay up there. Pretty flexible, double-jointed everywhere. Yeah, I could've been in Cirque du Soleil. [Laughs.]
You do have the face of a 12-year-old gymnast.
For my dirty-old-man fan base.
You also have some of the palest skin I've ever seen. Do you feel fetishized a lot?
You mean by creepy little girl sites? You're dirty! Do you have a fetish? [Laughs.] No, I am very, very pale. I've had men tell me I resemble pin-ups, old-fashioned Hollywood glamour pin-ups like Veronica Lake or Jessica Rabbit, which is very flattering.
And do you have any fetishes?
Why are you obsessed with creepy shit?! I think I have a rash from the paint [used in the photo shoot]. Seriously, my skin is burning hot.
That's just my questions getting under your skin. And here's another one: Can you say something sexy in Russian?
Even saying "I love your lips" [Michelle says it in Russian], it's not really sexy.
You're trying to sell it short.
You really are liking the kink, aren't ya?
Have you ever taken the Mercy nurse outfit home?
Clearly you haven't seen my Mercy nurse outfit.
WATCH MICHELLE’S BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO:
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (STYLING) Anoma Ya Whittaker. (HAIR) Creighton Bowman for Exclusive Artists/Kérastase. (MAKEUP) Fabiola Arancibia using M.A.C. Cosmetics at the Wall Group. (SET DESIGN) W.A.R.S./We Are Rocket Science (SOFA) Bocca by Studio 65. COVER, SEVENTH, AND NINTH IMAGES: Earrings by Giles & Brother by Phillip Crangi / mask by Agent Provocateur / jacket by Cushnie Et Ochs. FIRST AND EIGTH IMAGES: Necklace by Delphine-Charlotte Permantier / swimsuit by Oye / skirt by American Apparel / tights by Falke / ring by Jessica Kagan Cushman / bracelet by Gara Danielle. SECOND IMAGE: Earrings by Giles & Brother by Philip Crangi / dress by Shipley & Halmos / tights by Falke / boots by Rock & Republic / bracelets by Lia Sophia. THIRD IMAGE: Necklace by Giles & Brother by Philip Crangi / dress by D&G / shoes by Sergio Rossi. FOURTH AND TENTH IMAGES: Dress by Agent Provocateur / tights by Falke / jewelry by Gara Danielle. FIFTH IMAGE: Sunglasses by Dolce & Gabbana / necklace by Delphine-Charlotte Parmentier / swimsuit by Oye / skirt by American Apparel / ring by Jessica Kagan Cushman / bracelet by Gaga Danielle. SIXTH IMAGE: Glasses by Alexander McQueen / dress by Shipley & Halmost / bracelets by Lia Sophia.