Actor Zoey Deutch is about to be everywhere. She's starring in Netflix's buzzy new Ryan Murphy comedy The Politician alongside Ben Platt, Jessica Lange, and Gwyneth Paltrow, and will appear in Zombieland: Double Tap, a sequel to the 2009 hit also starring original actors Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson. While Zoey is currently riding high on great new jobs and an ever-growing career, life wasn't always so easy for the actor. She told Net-a-Porter that despite growing up in the spotlight (her mom is '80s and '90s mainstay Lea Thompson), her early years were somewhat of a "terrible time."
According to Zoey, she was bullied in middle school, and that bullying helped give her the tools she needed to succeed in Hollywood. “I had a terrible time in middle school. Just the worst,” she told Net-a-Porter. “There were a lot of coughed insults when I walked down the halls, and there was some pushing and shoving, but mostly it was just people talking behind my back. Now I’m in a profession where everyone talks behind your back. But I rarely pay attention to it and I never do it to others. It’s none of my business what other people think about me, and I meditate on that mantra.”
The bullying led Zoey to transfer to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts at age 14, and she graduated a year early. “My parents didn’t want me to work in high school, but they saw how miserable I was, and I think they just wanted me to have some success and happiness,” she said. Her acting career officially kicked off when she was just 15, appearing on a string of episodes of The Suite Life, and since then, she's challenged herself with a variety of roles, from the highly-anticipated The Politician — where she plays Jessica Lange's teenage granddaughter — to indie movies like Buffaloed.
Because Los Angeles is a small town, Zoey still runs into some of her middle school bullies, but doesn't let it bother her. She's moved past it, and it taught her a very important lesson in both her personal life and her career. "We just pretend not to see each other,” she said. “But they know.”
Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Zoey Deutch Reminded Us She Got Her Start on The Suite Life on Deck
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue