Nicole Huff Knows How to Play the Mean Girl

The 'Luckiest Girl Alive' star accidentally auditioned for one of the most-anticipated projects of the year and found herself working with Mila Kunis.

Small Talk: Nicole Huff
Styling: Gelareh Kamazani Makeup: Sonia Dai Hair: Nazi Rakhshmah. Photo:

Lane Dorsey

When Nicole Huff first auditioned for The Luckiest Girl Alive, she had no idea what she was getting herself into. While it was far from Huff's first venture into Hollywood (she’s worked steadily since landing Degrassi: The Next Generation back in 2015), and not even her first experience working on a Netflix adaptation of a novel (she nabbed a supporting role in the streaming giant's Tiny Pretty Things series back in 2020), the young actress admits she originally knew nothing about the Mila Kunis-fronted dark mystery, aside from its title.

"I just remember it was literally the day before the Zoom audition, and all I knew about it was that it was called Luckiest Girl Alive," she says. "I remember being really excited about the project because I knew Mila was a part of it, and I had grown up watching her."

What the 24-year-old actress didn't realize was that the film, which is based on the 2015 New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by Jessica Knoll, came with enormous expectations before it was even cast — a fact Huff quickly learned after discovering that plenty of her friends and family (plus, a cool few hundred thousand die-hards on #BookTok) were already fans of the story. 

Compared by book buffs to the likes of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train, the upcoming mystery/drama (streaming on Netflix Oct. 7) follows successful writer TifAni "Ani" FaNelli (Mila Kunis) who seemingly has it all — until a true-crime documentary director forces her to confront a trauma from her past. Ani relives the incident through a series of painful flashbacks, in which the film tackles timely issues like sexual assault and gun violence. As the story jumps from present day to Ani's high school years, Huff plays one of the private school mean girls, Olivia Kaplan, who half-torments, half-befriends young Ani (Cruel Summer's Chiara Aurelia) as she struggles to navigate her pretentious high school's social hierarchy.

Small Talk: Nicole Huff
Styling: Gelareh Kamazani Makeup: Sonia Dai Hair: Nazi Rakhshmah.

Lane Dorsey

Packed with enough suspense to keep you guessing (and watching through your fingers) until the very end, it's easy to see why so many readers have been not-so-patiently waiting for the beloved novel's turn on screen since its debut seven years ago. And while it's undeniably exciting to join a project with a built-in fan base and star-studded cast ("She's just such a down-to-earth, really charming, witty, humble person," Huff says of Kunis), Huff tried to put all of that out of her mind during filming.

"My focus wasn't necessarily just how successful the book was. I mean, that was definitely an honor and it made it super-exciting," she shares. "But my focus was more so the story and making sure that I understood the character and who she was to me. Really finding out what makes her tick and becoming that on set."

InStyle spoke to Nicole about preparing for The Luckiest Girl Alive, trailer chats with Mila Kunis, and what book she wants to see on screen next.

Congrats on Luckiest Girl Alive! Tell me a bit about your audition process. 

It was pretty quick. It wasn't months of auditioning. I feel like they knew who they wanted, and I feel like Jessica [Knoll] had such a good eye for who she picked for each character. I read the book [upon landing the part] and after reading it and finding out the cast, I feel like everyone fit each character so well. I actually hadn't read the book before I auditioned; I read it after to prepare for the role and to know more about how my character, Olivia, contributes to telling the story of Ani and her coming-of-age story.

How would you describe Olivia Kaplan?

I originally got a very short description. It was like, "Studying and not eating anything at lunch and mean to Ani." And I was just like, "How can I make this character have more depth?" Reading the book and finding out all of the issues she dealt with really helped with that. Olivia put a lot of pressure on herself to do well at school and was abused by her father, which I believe actually contributed to how bitter she is in the movie and how she takes it out on Ani. To have this new student just come into the group and everyone welcome her, it's threatening for Olivia, and she feels the need to make herself seem better to compensate for her insecurity.

The plot of the film gets very heavy at times. How did you prepare yourself to tackle those intense scenes?

Really, it was just making sure that I was becoming Olivia and then living under those imagined circumstances. Really believing that there was a school shooting and how I would react to that and what was going on in my brain, getting myself really worked up about it and letting that adrenaline take over. Because I think when something like that happens, adrenaline takes over. You can't even really think straight. You can't really think of the consequences and what's really happening and what's going to happen after. It was about focusing on how I, as Olivia, would really feel if I found out that was happening in my school.

Small Talk: Nicole Huff
Styling: Gelareh Kamazani Makeup: Sonia Dai Hair: Nazi Rakhshmah.

Lane Dorsey

Although you and Mila weren't in any scenes together, what was it like to run into her on set?

I grew up watching her on TV and really admire her, and so I went up to the [assistant director] and I was like, "Would it be okay to meet Mila right now?" I thought it would be a quick "Hello, nice to meet you, bye," but she invited me in her trailer and was like, "Hey, come sit down. Come sit down." And I sat there for half an hour. 

I remember she told me, "You're doing an amazing job." And I said, "Thank you so much. You're amazing." Before I left, I told her, "I really look forward to watching the rest of your career," because I've been following her for a while. She said back to me, "I look forward to watching the rest of your career." To hear that and to hear that you're doing an amazing job from someone as successful as her is such an honor. Getting to be a part of her movie, getting to spend some time with her, and getting to talk to her was really an amazing opportunity. I was definitely nervous, excited, but it was just quite the experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Book-to-screen adaptations are more popular now than ever. Is there a novel you'd like to see on screen next?

I feel like there's a few, but I was part of Tiny Pretty Things and it was a book, so it was really cool to see that adapted into a show. But in terms of what I would want to see an adaptation of next … there's already been an adaptation of The Secret Garden as a movie, but I would love to see a television show.

What's next for you?

I'm actually currently working on my original EP. I'm also very passionate about singing and dancing, and I'm working with Roy Hamilton III, who has worked with Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, *NSYNC, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, the list goes on. It's pop and it's fun and it's dance. I would say it's kind of inspired by Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Ariana Grande. I'm just very excited for what the future holds.

Small Talk: Nicole Huff
Styling: Gelareh Kamazani Makeup: Sonia Dai Hair: Nazi Rakhshmah.

Lane Dorsey

Small Talk

Is there a pop culture moment that you can point to that first sparked your interest in Hollywood?

Oh my god, there's so many. I mean, anything to do with my favorite actors or my favorite singers and dancers. Like seeing Angelina Jolie win an Oscar, seeing Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears and their performances and thinking, "I can do that." Watching Rachel McAdams in The Notebook.

Which celebrity have you been most starstruck to meet?

Definitely Mila Kunis.

What was your last binge-watch?

The Queen's Gambit. And I've been really interested in comedy, so I watched The Office for the first time, which is crazy.

What's your favorite item of clothing that you own?

I love jeans. I know, simple. And I love a good high heel.

If you could only watch three movies for the rest of your life, which three would you choose?

Girl Interrupted, The Notebook, and Maid in Manhattan.

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