The sweet, suburban experience that is Sarah Hyland’s TV home life as Haley Dunphy on ABC’s Modern Family might not quite match her own ’90s-era upbringing in New York’s East Village, but being a savvy city kid suited her just fine. “I had the subway maps memorized by the time I was seven,” she recalls. “It wasn’t exactly the safest place to grow up—we lived a block from Saint Mark’s Place, so sometimes there’d be needles down in the foyer you might slip on—but I thought that was just a part of life.” These days, however, the 23-year-old actress is based in Los Angeles, where she can better focus on her career.

In December, Hyland appeared in the badass two-part historical miniseries Bonnie & Clyde, portraying the infamous criminal Clyde Barrow’s sister-in-law Blanche, a reluctant member of his gang. Hyland also has another special personal project in the works, an indie film about a somber homecoming that she is both producing and starring in entitled See You in Valhalla. And on the big-budget front, you will find her in the newest supernatural flick Vampire Academy (out February 14), an adaptation of the YA series that follows a set of bloodsuckers at boarding school. “[Screenwriter] Dan Waters did an amazing job of putting his spin on the story with this sarcastic, witty, dark dialogue, while still staying very much true to the book,” says Hyland. As Natalie Dashkov, a character who suggests even the unhuman go through an awkward phase, Hyland does an about-face from the sitcom teen queen role that made her famous. “Natalie was really fun to play,” she says. “She’s such a fly on the wall, so unassuming, and a loser—at best—with pimples and glasses and frizzy hair.”

Make-unders aside, embodying a vampire takes some real prep. So to achieve that vibe, minus, you know, the inconveniences of immortality, Hyland shares how to undergo the transformation (without taking a bite to the neck).

1. Spend a lot of time in the dark.
Sunlight is definitely not a vampire’s friend. In the Vampire Academy world, certain species get badly burned from the sun, while others die. Get used to being a night owl.

2. Shape up.
There’s always going to be a member of the enemy clan just waiting to attack, and if your guardian goes AWOL, you’ve got to be ready to fight for yourself. Start on the squats, crunches, and push-ups.

3. Find some fangs.
Every good/scary/sexy vampire has a sweet set of fangs. One option is to pick up the cheap Dracula ones you wore as a kid or shell out some serious cash for the hardcore movie-quality kind. But if you’re really committed, you could always take a file and shave those puppies down!

4. In lieu of drinking blood, make a bloody good cocktail.
Treat yourself to a delicious Bloody Mary, redheaded slut, or sangria in place of the real stuff. If you have enough, you just may fool yourself.