Child actors often struggle with the jump to adult roles, but for AnnaSophia Robb, who gained fame in kids’ movies like Because of Winn Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the transition has been smooth.

Last seen in The Carrie Diaries playing the high school version of Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, the Denver native takes on the role of a Southern belle in the PBS miniseries Mercy Street. The lavish production takes place around a field hospital in Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War.

Now 22 and a sophomore at NYU, Robb embraced the challenge of playing Alice Green, a young woman whose reaction to the war takes a surprising turn. With the show kicking off this Sunday at 10/9c, we offered up a penny-farthing for her thoughts…

“Transitioning into womanhood is a very delicate thing. It’s hard because women are put into submissive roles and objectified. It’s about finding yourself and owning your sexuality…”

What intrigued you about the story and the character?
A lot of times we see [the Civil War] as the blue and the gray, but this has so many other shades. There’s empathy and sympathy for both sides. We see them as Americans, as people, not as right or wrong. I put my northern abolitionist feelings aside because Alice has one of the most incredible dramatic arcs I’ve ever experienced in a character. You see her go from a young girl to a woman, and she becomes the most radicalized member of her entire family because of the situation thrust upon her and losing people dear to her. It’s so rooted in historical accuracy.

Did you research the period?
I read a lot. All of us actors were handed a huge binder of resource materials—books and histories to read, films to watch. We had many experts on the set, medical experts and behavioral experts advising us on how to behave, how to walk. For costuming, we’d have to wear gloves, hats and a coat, as was proper for ladies of the day. My character is very much growing up, so she’s in the midst of going from school to becoming a young woman. And the Civil War provided an interesting moment for women of the South to assert themselves while the men were off to war because they could have a purpose, fight for a cause. So it puts Alice in a vulnerable position, where she has a lot thrust upon her at this age and she has some big decisions to make. I like that I get to play characters that are evolving and awakening to whatever it is that they’re trying to become.

You relate.
Yes of course. Transitioning into womanhood is a very delicate thing. It’s hard because women are put into submissive roles and objectified. It’s about finding yourself and owning your sexuality, and there are a lot of conflicting messages. I’m just figuring it out, you know.

So where do you want to go from here?
I want to get into production, find my own projects. That’s going to take a while. It takes a long time to develop projects. Mercy Street took four years. Like Mercy Street, I look for really thoughtful stories and a character I can grow with and dissect, something that’s very different from me.

Anyone you’d love to work with?
So many actors and directors! I’d work with any of this cast again. Mercy Street was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. We’d hang out at night and go to dinner. It was like summer camp.