Somewhere in the French countryside, on an evening train headed into the sunset, actress Nina Dobrev receives a FaceTime audio call from her friend Ruby Rose. It’s a marvel of modern technology: Rose is connecting from nearly 6000 miles away in Los Angeles, but after a short series of “Can you hear me?” back and forth, the two voices come through crystal clear. (Though Dobrev does her best to speak softly—the French, after all, are less than keen on loud Americans, even ones fluent in the language, which Dobrev has been since childhood, in addition to English and Bulgarian, her native tongue). In an attempt to unplug, the former Vampire Diaries star would ordinarily never answer such a call. “I famously get on planes and every single time I tell my whole team that the Wi-Fi was broken on the flight,” she confesses to Rose. “But I think at this point, after so many flights, they know that I’m just lying. I just don’t want to talk to them.”
This phone call is a special exception, however. Because 29-year-old Dobrev and 32-year-old Rose are best friends. The two performers met on the set of the action film they shot two years ago, XXX: Return of Xander Cage, and instantly clicked. “On most films, you can hit it off during filming, but then often when it’s over, that’s kind of it,” Rose says toward the end of their conversation. “You move on to different projects and you keep in contact, but you don’t always end up with a friendship as real as ours.”
Over the course of 30 minutes, we had the rare pleasure of eavesdropping on a candid interview between the two celebs—“kindred spirits,” as they call themselves—where Rose asked Dobrev to get real about everything from meditation to fitness to career to toxic Hollywood friendships. Keep reading to drop in on their gripping conversation.
Ruby Rose: I don’t think I’ve ever asked you most of these questions before.
Nina Dobrev: I’m nervous.
I want to know about changing your beauty aesthetic and hairstyles—how is that a form of empowerment for you?
I do feel like changing your aesthetic can be therapeutic in a weird way. I mean, it’s odd to even say that out loud because your aesthetic is superficial in so many ways, but it can also affect the way you feel. I mean, I know for a fact that when I cut my hair shorter two years ago, it was almost like I was cutting off old energy.
I feel like it’s superficial on one level, but because you’re a creative person in a creative industry, I feel like it’s when we get to take control back of our bodies and our hair. You’ve obviously been on a very, very popular TV show for six years, and you have to look the same. So when you finish something like that or get a break from that, did you want to go and make as many changes as you could before you started something new again to like feel like yourself instead of your character?
Absolutely. I mean, that’s why I cut my hair.
I remember you told me that you would paint your nails every colour the second that you finished for that season.
Yes, I did. Because like you said, I have to always have sort of basic simple nails on the show, and on Friday night, I would go get my nails done, and it was my way of feeling like I was different. But with every role that we do, it empowers us to be different people. That’s why for the film Lucky Day, I chopped my hair off again and did the bangs and the short French bob. Your outside does reflect your inside in many ways.
So you’re crazy-fit now. I’ve only known you for a couple of years, and I’ve only known you as being really fit and loving the gym. But have you felt like there’s been a difference in feeling positive about your body as it changes with age? Have you had any struggles with this?
Oh my god, 100%. Are you kidding me? I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted and didn’t go to the gym. This is a newfound love for fitness and education about the type of food that I’m putting in my body, which I’m pretty good at doing for the most part, but on occasion, I do cheat and do my own thing. It is this big cycle of being super healthy for a couple of weeks and then falling off the wagon and going back on and falling back off the wagon again. I feel like everybody struggles with that. But now, when I fall off the wagon, the older I get, I feel it more and I see it more. So life is forcing me to have to be a little bit [stricter]. I hadn’t truly, truly considered veganism until I met you. But hanging out with you and eating these Impossible burgers definitely inspired me to consider it more seriously because [vegan food] is so yummy and delicious. Either that or your friendship can cast a spell on me.
With a crazy schedule, traveling, and family, what is your fitness routine, and do you incorporate mental wellness and general good health into fitness?
Honestly, it’s easier to have a routine when you’re home and in one place. It’s a lot harder to do when you’re on the road. I had a couple weeks where I was super strict and good, and that’s cause I was at home. I would wake up, walk the dog, make my shake, go to the gym, and that was my routine. I’m a creature of habit when I’m in one place. But as soon as I get on a plane and go somewhere else and the routine is broken, it kind of puts me in shambles. It does affect me mentally if I’m not doing the same things that my body expects of me. For the last couple days when I was with my mum in France, I’m not gonna lie to you, I had a croissant or two and I felt guilty about it. But then I had to remind myself that enjoying those moments, breaking the routine, being with your loved ones, hanging out with my mum, and indulging in that extra glass of wine or maybe a second or third croissant isn’t the end of the world. It feeds your soul in a way that you might need more. It might be healthier for you. So it’s about finding that balance and being okay with it. Does that answer the question?
Yeah, absolutely. So then with mental wellness and spirituality, when you’re exhausted and traveling, is there anything you go to? To feel mentally fulfilled and spiritually whole and not too run-down and stressed, do you feel like you’ve evolved since your early 20s? For instance, I love to meditate. And I feel like you and I are a little similar like loving board games and other stuff that takes us out of the current moment and lets us focus on something else. Is it being with your family, do you meditate, do you read books, see a therapist? Is there anything that is your go-to now that you maybe didn’t do in your early 20s?
Everyone around me who I respect and love meditates, so I probably should jump on the wagon, but I haven’t yet. Actually, I’m sorry. I lied. I did meditate with Julianne [Hough] recently, but if she hadn’t forced me to do it, I probably wouldn’t have. She kind of forced me, and I was a little bit hesitant at first. It was this weird, crazy experience, but ultimately, I remember feeling like I had more energy even though I also felt sort of faded. I haven’t done it since, it was a couple months ago, but I remember that feeling and wanting to do it again. It’s hard. I feel like I can’t do it unless I am pushed in that direction or have some guidance. And maybe that’s something that has to do with me and who I am. I also can’t go to the gym unless I have a trainer telling me what to do or I’ll sit there on my phone and text and Instagram and read and do all kinds of things. I get distracted. Maybe I have ADD.
When you get back to L.A., I’m going to make you meditate with me.
Yeah, we should. If I had the support from someone, I feel like I could do it. I might be ready for that phase now in my late 20s. The other things that I do are yoga and, like we said, going somewhere and turning your phone off or getting on the plane and not getting Wi-Fi. Life can be a little overwhelming if you’re always in that energy and you don’t take yourself out of it. Like you and I, we’re okay with saying no, for example. The power of saying no to doing things and taking time for yourself.
How did you learn to say no? Because I know that it’s not something that people in this industry teach us. As much as I love my manager and my agent, nobody ever teaches you to say no because they want you working and they want you to make money. Is there a person in your life or a situation that made you say, “You know what? It’s time for me to start taking control over what I do with my life?”
I think when I hit 27, my priorities shifted. It was one of those things that I’d been warned about. People told me that when you’re younger, you don’t really have a concept of time. You think the world is your oyster, but after a certain amount of time, you realise that it is finite, and what have you done up until this point? Was it something important to you? What have you achieved? What do you want to achieve? Where are you in that path to achieving it? Once my priorities shifted, I realised that I didn’t have as much time. I started to realise, what was I doing? Was it making me happy? If it wasn’t making me happy, then I don’t need to do it. No one’s forcing me to be here. I should be spending my time with things that make me smile, make me laugh, make me fulfilled. And so as soon as I realized that staying out a little bit later would make me feel not so great in the morning, I’d rather go to bed. I’d rather hang out with my dog and watch a movie and do things that I want to do instead of waste my life and my time.
Okay, so your skin is ridiculous, and I’m so jealous of how perfectly flawless it is. It never seems to have any issues, which is so annoying. What kind of products do you use?
That is not true, and you know it. It’s gonna be laughable to everyone who reads this because you have the most beautiful skin in the entire world. I should be asking these questions of you. But I mean, we are constantly wearing makeup for work, so when I’m not working, I try not to wear makeup. And that helps a little bit. But otherwise, we all break out; we all have bad days. I use La Mer a lot. I use a lot of sunscreen too. That’s so important.
What women in real life inspire you?
You, honestly. Julianne. Riawna Capri [the hairstylist]. My mum. The women who are around me who I know well inspire me because I know their flaws, and I know they’re just like mine. And I know that they have good days and bad days, but they are still strong and beautiful. All of our experiences separately and together make us so much stronger, and that inspires me.
What inspires you the most about your mum?
How full of life she is, how present she is. So much so that it’s annoying because she’s never on time, because she’s constantly stopping and talking to strangers and looking and appreciating everything around her, which is so beautiful and amazing, and I love that about her. It grounds me too. I need to stop and appreciate things more, and she needs to stop appreciating things and be on time more.
So some questions about our friendship. We hit it off pretty much instantly when we met. And we’ve become such close friends since then. What do you think about our friendship is so good?
I feel like we have similar interests and similar spirits. For the most part, if I call you and I invite you to something, you probably at first say you don’t feel like it. But I tell you to get up and get ready, and usually by the second try, we end up having an adventure of some sort.
It’s great. You actually make me go out and take me out of my comfort zone. I think we have a great friendship in that we both prefer to keep a small number of close friends. We just want to hang out but not do something outside in public. We do the same things all the time. We just like to eat, train, laugh. But I think the thing that I love about you the most is that you’re so funny. I’m still not sure if people really know how funny you are. Like you could very easily be doing stand-up comedy. And then you and I, with our lack of ego when it comes to pranking each other for fun and knowing that the other person isn’t gonna get all serious like, “That wasn’t funny,” or “Why did you spray me with a water gun right as I finished my day?” So I think we’re kindred spirits. We’re young at heart. I mean, we’re young anyway, but at heart, I think we’re like 9-year-olds.
No, we’re probably like six years old. I feel like that’s another thing that drew me to you is how funny you are too. Your sense of humor and your sense of playfulness in life. It’s always an adventure with you. But there’s also a groundedness about you. There’s a depth to you that most people don’t see.
I’ve also found that it’s harder to make friends as an adult. In L.A. as well, I think it can be hard to find friends. Have you had that experience?
I have had that experience, but also at the same time, I don’t really want any new friends. Does that make sense? As you get older, everyone’s with their groups and they don’t want to let anyone else in anymore. As I get older, the people who I spend time with I want to spend quality time with. I want to have meaningful friendships and invest more time with them, and in new friendships, I don’t really care as much for. I think what was really special is that I met you later in life, but I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. And then because we are so similar in so many ways, I knew that as soon as you met my friends, you would also click with them.
What about when it comes to toxic people: friends who were great but you’ve outgrown them, or toxic people who might come into your life because of what you do instead of who you are as a person. Have you ever had experiences where you’ve had to remove toxic people from your life?
There are toxic people who have come into my life before. I feel like when you’re younger, you kind of don’t really realise it. But I surround myself with people who are very blunt and honest and real. And when somebody comes in who doesn’t share that authenticity, you can smell it from a mile away. And so, I trust my friends to tell me if I’m not seeing something or if someone’s not being genuine or doesn’t really want to be my friend for the right reasons.
I feel like you’ve got 95 films coming back to back. What are the new films that you’re still working on that you can talk about?
Well, we’re about to start XXX in a couple months, which I’m really excited about. Prank wars 2.0: the 2018/2019 edition.
I’m not ready. I’m not ready.
I’ve been planning pranks for years now, Ruby. You better prepare yourself.
But you’ve also got a film coming out, Dog Days, on the same day as my film [The Meg]. They’re always trying to pit women against each other, but I can’t wait to see your film.
I can’t wait to see yours.
We’ll have to go see each other’s on the same day.
I was just gonna say, we should watch each other’s movies. Go in the theater but only pay for one ticket and then sneak in the other one.
So what else are you doing?
Doing a TV show starting in a couple weeks called Fam, which is new for me. Like you said, not many people know that I love doing comedy, watching comedy, being in comedy, laughing in general. So working with Tone [Bell] and Odessa [Adlon] and everybody, it’s like laughing all day long. I was terrified during the pilot. But it ended up going well. The live audience aspect is really scary, but I’ve gotten over it, and I feel more comfortable now. I’m excited about that. And I’ve got Lucky Day, which is the role I cut my hair for, coming up next year. Departures is another film.
If you could have three tips to happiness, what would they be?
Laugh more, spending time with people you love, and trying new things. Trying new things makes me really, really happy. Just trying to push the envelope, expand your horizons. What are the three things that make you happy, Ruby?
Yeah, I would say laughing. Because when you laugh I feel like there’s no ego; there’s no vanity because it’s like an involuntary movement of the body. It comes in the stomach, and it has this physical effect. It’s very contagious, which I love.
Yeah, and it gives you abs.
Yeah! And then I think for me, animals and nature play a big part in my happiness. So being around my dogs or going to the beach or going for a hike. It reminds me of what you were saying about your mom. We kind of ignore the beauty of the world, but when you’re traveling or looking into the eyes of these little creatures that we have, you with Maverick or me with my three little ugly dogs, there’s something about the unconditional love and beauty of it.
I love your dogs.
And good friendship is so important. I think in the age of social media and the state of the world we live in, being able to just shut up and be with friends who care about you I think is the way that I recharge. Okay, lastly, just a couple of random questions: Batman or Spider-Man?
Hamburgers or tacos?
Hamburgers with cheese. Sorry, Rubes, not vegan, just regular cheese. I want it to be cheddar.
Pools or beaches?
Birthdays or Christmas?
My birthday is always right after Christmas, so everyone’s always a little fat, overeaten, and they drank too much, and so they don’t want to party. Everyone’s always fresh on their New Year’s resolutions and kind of lame. So I guess I would say Christmas. Probably next year I’ll make everyone break their New Year’s resolutions and hang out with me.
Cats or dogs?
I cannot choose between the two. Animals are all equal.
What about between me and our friend Riawna?
Oh, this is mean. I can’t choose.
I know, I know. I love you.
I love you, too. This was so fun. We should do this more often.
Yeah, we should definitely.
Let’s do all of our interviews together like this.
Credits: Photographer: Paley Fairman (@paleyontology); Hair: Riawna Capri (@riawna); Makeup: Adam Breuchaud (@adambreuchaud); Manicurist: Betina Goldstein (@betina_goldstein); Stylist: Robert Ziemer (@robdogdaddy)