There was a fleeting moment when Aubrey Peeples was just a girl struggling with the decision of where her post high school life would take her. In a not-so-normal situation, Peeples had an acceptance letter from Harvard University waiting in the wings. To make it an even more serendipitous moment, she had to choose between attending one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country, or taking a role on one of ABC’s most popular shows. Naturally, Peeples made the choice to follow her childhood dreams and well, the rest is IMDB history. While on ABC’s Nashville, Aubrey Peeples broods every week as the tortured and misunderstood Layla Grant, a promising runner-up of a music competition who is shaking up the world of floundering country star, Hayden Panettiere’s Juliette Barnes. Although Layla Grant and her trials upon entering the Nashville scene might be the picture of drama on primetime television, Aubrey Peeples and the unraveling of her career has been anything but.

The twenty one year old actress is quickly on the rise thanks to her acting and singing chops which landed her the lead role as Jem in the big screen version of 1980s cult favorite, Jem and the Holograms. The Florida-born actress has already shared the screen with big-name actors like Connie Britton and Kevin Bacon, and she’s previously starred in another cult classic, Sharknado. Yes, the SyFy movie about flying sharks. Entering the beloved world of Jem and her die-hard fans will be a new territory for Peeples, but she is primed and ready to conquer it, just like the rockstar she portrays on film. I spoke with Peeples about the role that changed her life, her love of literature, and her future in music beyond the screen.

Do you feel a big responsibility in the role of Jem, considering the show has such a fervent cult following? How have fans reacted?
Absolutely. I had no idea what I was stepping into—I will admit Jem was before my time, and I didn’t know about this fascinating world until one of my last callbacks. But then I was introduced to not only these badass women crime-fighting rockstars, but the loving and supportive fan-base that comes along with them. I’m hoping that our modern adaptation will introduce young teens to this special subculture just like it did for me. And I hope the original fans think I do an alright job. Overall, they seem to be super excited. We had some super-fans come to set, and we were actually starstruck by them. Shout out to Mike Watters—almost every day he posts a picture wearing a Jem sweatband and he’s stoked to see the film.

What was your favorite Jem outfit from the film? Are you into vintage style?
I love vintage clothes. “Jem’s” clothes were super eighties inspired, of course, so I got to wear a lot of cool, handmade leather pieces including this pink jacket that will be on the new doll as well. “Jerrica” got some cool clothes too—all us girls got to wear flannels and docs and cool beaded vests and whatnot for our pre-fame outfits.

What were you doing when you heard you were cast in Nashville?
I was packing up all the books in my apartment—an arduous task as there are hundreds—in preparation for moving from LA to attend Harvard. It was a crazy moment, as I had just ruminated for months over whether to stay another year in LA or to go to school—of course as soon as you make a decision to leave town, you book a role. It was a dream come true booking Layla, though, and it certainly has completely changed my life in a way I could have never dreamed of.

What do you personally think of Layla Grant’s relationship with Jeff Fordham?
I think it has opened up a whole new side for both characters that is super interesting to watch. Love it or hate it, or a little of both, it undeniably has allowed the audience to see a more vulnerable side to Layla and Jeff—and it’s allowed even more of Layla’s crazy to come out, which I for sure love getting to play. I think that since she’s been with Jeff, the audience has taken pity for Layla and seems to be rooting for her more, which is nice for me. Plus, getting people to root for a villain is always fun. How do you think Layla Grant would fit in with the Holograms? I don’t think she would fit in one bit. Aside from the differences in musical style, Layla would just refuse to be one of the Holograms. She would for sure pounce on that solo contract and screw all the Holograms over.

How did your life growing up in Florida make you into the artist you are today?
I was lucky to be in close proximity to some great professional theaters like the Orlando REP and the Winter Park Playhouse, and I just grew up a theatre rat doing musicals and plays every chance I got. That’s where my whole foundation for what I do now came from, and it certainly has largely shaped both my acting and music careers. I am with the same vocal coach I had in high school, the ingenious Priscilla Bagley, and I really owe her all credit for the way I sing. I Skype her for lessons whenever I can. I have to ask about your deferment from Harvard University.

Was this always your dream school? Do you have definite plans to finish out a degree one day?
At first, I had my heart set on Northwestern. I never thought I would get into Harvard, and originally thought I’d just apply just in case. I thought it was a shot in the dark. But when I visited the campus, I completely fell in love, upped my game, and crossed my fingers really hard. It’s still my dream school—it’s definitely still my plan to attend there in the near future. I’ve read that you really love grammar and editing, where did this love come about? I think it must have come about from the exorbitant amount of reading and writing I do. I think I must have just engendered an eye/ear for it, and basically I think I love it because I’m good at it. So, you’re a major book fan.

If you could portray any literary character in a film, who would you be and why?
Well, they already made Fight Club and Helena Bonham Carter beat me to it. I would have loved to be in Girl, Interrupted, but I could never fill Angelina Jolie’s shoes. My favorite author is Haruki Murakami, and he always writes these brooding mysterious young girls I want to be—but there is the problem that I’m not Japanese. So I think I would go with being in Feed, by M.T. Anderson, because I think it is a really important book. It completely changed my perspective on life; it speaks volumes on modern technology, advertising, and consumerism and is much smarter than any other dystopian novel I’ve ever read.

Being that you’re a musician yourself, are there any plans for you to record and release your own personal music album as Aubrey Peeples?
Absolutely. One hundred percent. I’m hoping to release a blues-inspired rock album within the next year or two. I’d love to have my own band, I’m working on that now. I’ve been writing a lot this past year and am hoping to get a producer on board soon. Who would be your dream music collaborator? That’s so hard. I find a lot of inspiration for my sound in Susan Tedeschi and the Tedeschi Trucks, Amy Winehouse, The Black Keys, Jack White, The Black Crowes. But if I could collaborate with anyone, I’d have to say Aretha Franklin—or Bonnie Raitt, or Sam Cooke, or Howlin’ Wolf. I don’t know. I could go on for ages.