If you’re reading this, I assume you’re either a fan of Twilight or have at least heard of it. If not, here’s a quick primer: Twilight is a bestselling series of young adult novels by American author Stephenie Meyer, first published in 2006. It follows the adventures of Bella Swan, a college student who moves to a small town and meets a group of werewolves known as the Cullens; and who becomes romantically involved with one of them, Edward Cullen. The novels were published in six parts and have since been adapted into a film franchise that’s now become a successful Hollywood brand. (Fun fact: the first three books in the series were initially rejected by every major publishing house in the U.S. before Twilight was picked up by Little, Brown and Company for publication.) We talked to the actor behind Edward Cullen about his experience making the film and what’s next for him.

On Being A Part Of The Twilight Saga

I’ve been a part of the Twilight franchise since the beginning, having played one of the lead roles in Twilight. (The first movie is now available on Netflix if you need a refresher.) I’ve always been a big fan of the books and had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest literary talent in recent years. I was just very fortunate to be a part of something that’s still going strong today. (The last movie in the franchise, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, was released in 2012 and the final installment, Breaking Dawn – Part 2, hits theaters on October 25th.)

How Is Making A Part Of The Twilight Saga Different From Other Films You’ve Done?

Well, to begin with, it’s a six-part mini-series. So it was kind of like doing a television play. (Even though it was a big event in theaters, it wasn’t quite the same as working on a big-budget Hollywood movie where you’re getting hundreds of shots done in a day and working with really famous directors and writers.) Being on set every day for such a concentrated period of time, there was a lot of energy put into making sure that the days went smoothly and we got everything we needed to get done. (This is where my intensive daily workout schedule came in quite handy; having a full-body routine preparedness helped me feel prepared and ready whenever we had a shooting day. And since we didn’t have any break between scenes, I was able to keep up with the strenuous schedule without any problems.)

What Did You Learn From Working On Twilight?

Besides just being a part of such an iconic piece of film history, I also learned A LOT from working on Twilight. For one thing, movie magic is actually really, really hard to accomplish. (Believe it or not, there are a LOT of rules that you have to follow in order to make sure that the special effects you’re seeing onscreen actually look like they’re coming from one place at one time. It’s not enough to just position the camera and push a button; there are so many other things that you have to think about and consider before you can truly call yourself a’special effects master.’) The fact that this was my first taste of movie magic only made me more curious about what was going on behind the scenes and fueled my desire to learn more about filmmaking. (I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert, but I do feel that I have a better understanding of how movies are made today than I did before I started working on this series.)

What Is Next For You?

After Twilight, I did a couple of smaller films and then decided to take a break from acting and work on my music instead. And now, after almost five years away, I’m finally coming back with a brand-new project that I’m very excited about. It’s a psychological thriller called Desert Flower that I wrote with my good friend Natasha Lyonne and that we are both producing. (Natasha is also one of the stars of the film.) It’s not out yet, but I can already tell you that it’s one of the most ambitious projects that I’ve ever been a part of. And I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far and cannot wait to share it with the world.

Desert Flower Explores The Dark Corners Of Women’s Mental Health

Desert Flower is a psychological thriller that explores the dark corners of women’s mental health. It’s the story of Lorelei, a high school girl whose life changes forever when she finds a strange, yellow flower on her school’s football field. As she digs deeper into the flower’s properties, she begins to notice some very strange things happening to her. (Think Fight Club for girls.)

We followed the rules of making a realistic teen movie and focused on the story as much as possible without giving too many details about the plot. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to keep the secret that this is a psychological thriller, but it took me a while to get used to telling people that I’m making a film about mental illness. (Once you do, it’s not so hard to explain.)

Why Do You Think People Will Connect To This Film?

Well, for one thing, it’s an incredibly relatable story. We all have friends, teachers, family or other people that we know in real life that behave similarly to the characters in this film. Everyone can relate to the idea of wanting to understand why you’re seeing strange things happen to your friends and family, even if it’s not truly apparent. And it would be great if there was a way for people to learn something from this film; sometimes, the best stories can teach us something about life. (I love that this film has a dual purpose of being both entertaining and educational.)

How Does It Compare To Other Movies You’ve Been A Part Of?

For me, making Desert Flower was a lot like working on a regular movie, but with a lot more crazy ideas and concepts thrown in. (Like a mind-meld with David Lynch or David Cronenberg.) I did a lot of research to really understand this mind-flora that we’re trying to portray in the film and I even spent a lot of time going to scientific meetings so that I could learn more about the field. (It’s not often that I get the chance to do something like this and I’m really excited that I was able to find the time to dedicate to it. Even now, when I’m not working, I still find myself thinking about this project or books that I’ve read that are somehow related to it.)

Besides the research and learning, I also felt that making this movie was a lot more fun than making most other films. (It’s a good thing that we had such an ambitious project because it’s definitely made me want to try something new and take on bigger and better things.) I remember a line in one of the books that stuck with me after I read it: ‘Artists should be selfish and arrogant, and never apologize for being unique.’ It really is something to live by.