In the horror comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, out October 30, Halston Sage plays Kendall, a popular girl with a heart of gold who is described as having “clearly won the genetic lottery.” It’s a glib assessment that Sage, 22, has had to fight since she came to attention in 2014’s hit comedy Neighbors, in no small part due to an onscreen snog with costar Rose Byrne. The scene earned Sage an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Kiss. “I’m proud of that!” Sage, who grew up in Los Angeles, says with a disarmingly nerdy chortle. “Getting to kiss Rose was a privilege. I still have a crush on her.”

Sage has been working to add substance to her bombshell roles—a struggle she has in common with Lacey Pemberton, the character she plays in the recent young-adult drama Paper Towns. Lacey, the not-so-clueless BFF of Cara Delevingne’s Margo, can’t seem to shed her ditzy reputation, despite the fact that she’s bound for the Ivy League. Sage’s surprisingly layered performance will no doubt lead to meatier roles for the actress, but for now she is donning the scream-queen crown, starring alongside Jack Black in an upcoming film adaptation of the YA Goosebumps horror books. “I’m ready to walk the streets like in Pretty Woman or get locked up in the loony bin Girl, Interrupted-style,” she insists. “I just have to be patient.”