Emma Roberts on Flirting with James Franco in Palo Alto: 'It Was Fun'

Palo Alto: Emma Roberts Talks Flirting with James Franco Onscreen
Emma Roberts and James Franco at the premiere of Palo Alto at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival
Noam Galai/WireImage

04/26/2014 AT 12:45 PM EDT

There was nothing but a sense of comfort on the set of the suburban teen drama Palo Alto – especially between costars Emma Roberts and James Franco, whose book of short stories provided the basis for the film.

"This is like a dream cast," Roberts, 23, told PEOPLE Thursday at the film's New York premiere, at the Tribeca Film Festival. "It was one of those kind of lightning-in-a-bottle casts where, when we were on set, I was like, 'This really special. This isn't like a regular movie.' "

Added the actress: "James is someone [who] I've always wanted to work with … I was so nervous to meet him because I'm like, 'Oh, my god, is he going to be nice?' And he was so nice and such a great actor to work with and just a sweetheart."

In the film – which focuses on the experiences of rebellious high school students in an urban community of northern California – Franco, 36, and Roberts share a charged chemistry: Roberts's character gets caught up in a flirtatious streak with her soccer coach, played by Franco.

"It was fun," Roberts gushes about getting up close and personal with Franco. "Neither of us made it awkward, so it was great. And also, I think the fact that I was not actually 17 probably made things less weird. I was 21. I think that that kind of made things feel like we’re pretending – this isn’t real."

Emma Roberts on Flirting with James Franco in Palo Alto: 'It Was Fun'| Tribeca Film Festival, Palo Alto, Movie News, Emma Roberts, James Franco

Emma Roberts and James Franco in Palo Alto

Tribeca Film

As for the film itself, the newly engaged actress said she was drawn by characters that are "very relatable" and "feel very familiar."

"You’ve definitely met this girl, and you know this guy and the parents," she explained. "You definitely have friends who have parents like that. And I think that's what makes the movie so fun to watch, because you're kind of seeing all of this unravel and relating it to your own experiences."

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