Fur, Simone. Dress, Dolce & Gabbana.
Everyone Loves A Bitch…Especially in Hollywood
story / Ilaria Urbinati
photographs / Shanna Fisher
stylist / Ilaria Urbinati @ The Wall Group
makeup / Amy Nadine @ Starworks Artists
hair / Alex Polillo @ Starworks Artists
Krysten Ritter is a rarity in Hollywood, and with her delicate beauty, talent, and business skills she is a triple threat. She has been able to raise her career to epic proportions with leads in She’s Out Of My League, 27 Dresses, and the NBC pilot Apartment 23. Her pretty, pale complexion that once sparked Addams Family-related taunts from her seventh grade classmates are the same looks that launched her teenage modeling career. Krysten has stockpiled an impressive amount of jobs in her acting arsenal over the past few years including her cult television role as Jane Margolis in Breaking Bad. Before her acting career took off, she was a badass, convict-dating, farm girl who didn’t really fit in. Now she’s a Hollywood darling. Although rapidly becoming an “it” girl, she has still kept her small town charm. Krysten reminisces with Ladygunn about high school haters, first loves, dishes about her current endeavors—which includes a hint (sort of) to the size of James Van Der Beek’s package.
What were you like in high school? I was a wreck! I was kind of a bad ass though, too. I wore big jeans, Guns and Roses t-shirts, and combat boots and then graduated to boots and skirts with thigh highs when Clueless came out. After that, I was pretty much always in black and wore an army jacket that I wrote all over in pen about how much I loved my criminal boyfriend (who would beat people up after school). I went to a very small school, and everyone talked so much shit. After I became a model, it got even worse. Modeling wasn’t something I sought out; it just happened to me, and I went with it. The girls would make fun of me saying that I “wasn’t even pretty,” or “how is she even a model?” —that kind of stuff. So I was happy to get they hell out of there. I went to Tokyo for a modeling gig before school let out and missed prom and even my graduation. I heard they had some assembly acknowledging that I wasn’t there and said “…and Krysten Ritter who is no longer with us…” so it sounded like I was dead. My Nanny told me that I had no self-esteem. She said that modeling was the best thing that could have ever happened to me because it gave me self-esteem and also got me out of my house. RIP BETTY PAYNE. LOVE YOU.
What was the first album you ever bought? This is embarrassing, but my Dad got me a boom box with a CD player when I was 13 or something. I got the Offspring, Dance Mix 93, and Funk Master Flex. I was also pretty into Nirvana and stuff that my older babysitter turned me on to.
Who was your first crush? My high school boyfriend, for sure. I was crushing on him pretty hard when I was in 7th grade and he was in 9th. We were both in the band—which is NOT COOL. I had moved from another school and didn’t know any better and his parents made him be in the band. By the time we finally got together in 8th grade, we were no longer in the band and were like Bonnie and Clyde.
What was your first audition like? It was the mark of me finally knowing who I was. My modeling agency thought I was bubbly and quirky and funny blah, blah, blah, and they thought I would be right to go out for on-camera work. So they first started me off with commercials. It was an audition for a Dr. Pepper commercial, and I remember them asking me questions and chatting with me, wanting to see my personality on camera. I made them laugh; I danced around like a lunatic. I got the gig and that’s when I realized I wanted to try acting. I felt like I finally had control over my life. With modeling, you’re a clothing rack—with acting you can always bring your self into whatever the project is, be better, work harder, prepare more, and train your ass off. That commercial never aired, and I never made the money I was promised. I was exposed to all of that scary reality of this business right from the beginning. I got tough and focused and knew I was going somewhere. I wasn’t going to sit back and accept anything else. From then on, it has all been like little stepping-stones.
You were quite in demand this past pilot season, getting offered a lot of really solid pilots—why the sudden rush of demand for your skills? It was kind of a shock to me. I had no idea that people wanted me to be in their TV shows. I wasn’t even planning on doing the pilot season as I was pretty happy doing indie movies and was comfortable in that genre and form—specifically the drama of it all. You have to prepare like crazy, jump in, be totally overwhelmed and taken over, and then leave. People had seen Breaking Bad and loved it, and that’s what a lot of my gigs came from. So it was from people seeing that, or maybe I was just next in the rotation of girls. I have no idea. But I’m definitely grateful.
Cotton tank, Gap. Sheer skirt,Asos.
What made you eventually decide on Apartment 23? I thought the script was funny as hell. The character is like nothing I have ever seen ever—in film or TV. It’s so edgy and hilarious. It makes me laugh. I thought this was a show that would either be horrible, die and never be seen, or it would work. Or it would at least get on the air and be as edgy as it sought out to be. I figured either go big or go home. It doesn’t suit my personality to be on a show that doesn’t excite my personal taste. I like to do a lot of things. I like to write, act, produce, and make music and so. If I’m going do a show and potentially play a character for years and years, I want it to be exciting. And my show does excite me. I thank my lucky stars for this opportunity and for Nahnatchka Kahn’s ingenious, crazy, sick mind.
Why did you prefer to play the bitch over the good girl role? Obviously it’s way more fun!
Your character does some pretty despicable things in the pilot. Did you ever worry about the audience not liking her or you? Not really, because that would go against everything I do to prepare for a role. I knew what I was signing up for, and my job is to bring this amazingly well written character to life. As an actor you have to do what’s best for the character, and in this scenario, you have to do what’s funny. I can’t think about the outcome, and I don’t want to change my character. I find it weird when people try to change a character to make them “likable” or worry about what people will say. I love it when actors go for it even if they look ugly. I’ll be a bitch, look ugly, or go without make up if the part calls for it. I’ll do anything if it gets a laugh. At the end of the day it’s all about the work. I just try to bring as much life to my characters as I can. As for Chloe, she doesn’t think she’s a bitch. And neither do I. She’s a fabulous girl with no morals, no filter, and no attachments. She’s always got the best intentions or at least intentions to have fun. She’s free. I find that fun and refreshing.
Your producer won an Emmy for Modern Family the night before you started shooting your first episode on set. What was the atmosphere on set that day? Were you excited or did it add pressure to meet those expectations? The producer and the director both won Emmy’s before our very first day of shooting, and it was awesome! It was just an exciting way to start the series. Like, wow, I’m working with people at the top of their game, and they still show up on set early, hungry, and eager to make a great show. It’s amazing to work with such high-level, talented people like that. I’m so lucky.
Like a moron, I asked our director Michael Spiller—before the weekend—if he was going to any Emmy parties. We were both saying we were tired, but he said he was going to suck it up, etc. It turns out he was freaking nominated, and then he won! He was so laid back and cool about it all. He never even corrected me for being so naive and not realizing he was nominated—I was so embarrassed… When I saw him Monday, he was humble and fun, and it made me love him even more. He even let me hold his Emmy. That was cool. I tried to photoshop him out of the photo afterwards for fun. Just kidding, I don’t have photoshop.
Everybody loves a comeback and word has it this show will do for James Van Der Beek what How I Met Your Mother did for Neil Patrick Harris. What’s it like working with him? Does he play your love interest? Are you two friends outside of work? He plays my best friend on the show, and our history is that we dated but his junk was too big for me. How’s that for backstory? He is amazing on the show, and I truly think that this will be a big deal for him should the show work. Although I haven’t seen Dawson’s Creek yet, I feel like I have because he is always telling stories about it. I mean, he’s such a sport—he’s full on making fun of himself in a really funny way. And wait ‘til you see how he can dance!
Silk gown, Dolce and Gabbana. Wool Hat, stylist’s own.
You are quite the Hollywood hyphenate these days. You just sold two TV shows, which you co-wrote and are producing—are you allowed to discuss those yet? I’m executive producing a show at MTV called Cassandra’s French Finishing School for Boys by amazing writer named Eric Garcia. He wrote the book, which it is based on. When I originally found the book, I thought it would be a great piece of material to develop for myself to act in. When “bitch” came around it was too good to pass up, so we decided to retool the show and take it to MTV. I am very invested in this project. I consider it to be a female counterpart to Dexter, where what would normally be your antagonist is actually your protagonist. This is my first project as a non-acting producer, and I’m loving it. The other show is something I developed and wrote with my bestie, Stephanie Lysaght, and Charlize Theron recently came on to produce. For me, it’s all about creating content in a genre that I love and want more of. Also, working with amazing and inspiring women like Charlize isn’t too shabby. We will see what ends up sticking, but I just keep throwing shit out there and waiting to see what sticks.
Last year you got to see Life Happens, (formerly known as BFF & Baby) the movie you had co-written with a friend for three years, actually make it to screen with some pretty major stars and yourself as the lead. That must have been satisfying… It’s so beyond amazing to see something come into fruition like that. And it’s rare. It was an amazing learning experience for me about how hard, yet attainable projects of this nature are. You just gotta go for it. The movie was based on some events that my writing partner and I actually went through. It’s about two best friends (myself and Kate Bosworth) who are hell bent on having it all—living in a time where women can have the job, the money, the man, and the career—reaping the benefits of everything women before us have built. Then my character gets pregnant, and it throws a wrench in our plans. It’s nice to see that side of things: nature versus career and how to handle it, or what it actually means.
It’s coming out in 2012! Life Happens will open March 30th in New York and L.A. and will expand to additional markets on April 6th. Tell your friends!
Do you see yourself collaborating behind the scenes (ie, writing, directing or producing) on episodes of Apartment 23 in the future? I would love that. I’ve already been bugging about directing an episode next season, and Natch and the producers seem to be totally down for it. Fingers crossed we get a second season, so I can do just that! I have been keeping a close eye on how the show is run and the direction, but also trying to learn as much as I can from the DP so I can be prepared to set up the shots. I feel totally ready and prepared and am just awaiting word. I feel like directing a show that you are already on is a great place to start. You know the cast and crew and the writing so well. And I feel like I really understand the timing of the show. FINGERS CROSSED!
There are a handful of ladies these days like yourself: Chelsea Handler, Kristen Wiig, and Whitney Cummings etc., really focusing on funny, strong, and female-centric material. They seem to be flawed characters—bitches, party girls, broke girls, “bridesmaids of dishonor.” It’s a nice change from the usual male-scribed, clichéd females we are used to seeing on screen. Are good girls just less appealing for a writer/actress to create? I think we are just seeing a lot of left-of-center type girls writing what they know. And the characters are a little flawed and truthful. I’m not complaining! Cookie cutter, cliché characters are boring. These are talented amazing women you are mentioning, and I think it’s rad that their strong comedic voices are being heard.
You are also designing. You co-designed a dress for charity with your friend Corey Lynn Calter and more recently a shoe with Alice & Olivia. How fun was that? It was so much fun. What I also found creatively interesting was the budget limitations we had in order to keep everything charitable. I definitely see myself designing a line and venturing out in that way. I just want to design all the clothes I want in my own closet. Ilaria are you in?
Silk dress, Alice and Olivia. Thigh highs, American Apparel.
Is fashion something you are interested in pursuing more of? Your Life Happens co-stars Kate Bosworth and Rachel Bilson both launched lines with Mint this year – Jewelmint and Shoemint, respectively). Could you see yourself doing something like that? Is there another Mint available? I think I should do a make up Mint with my amazing make up artist Amy Nadine. Who do I call about that?
With your involvement in TV, movies, writing, producing, fashion, and music—you seem to be building a small empire here, is that the plan? I think so. I’m just the kind of girl who likes to keep moving, like a shark. Otherwise, I might die. I want to do it all, and I tend to gravitate towards women who do just that. It’s exciting and as an artist it’s all the same stuff: expression, exploration, character work, and using your platform to keep growing.
Not bad for a girl who grew up on a farm tending to chickens and cows. When you need a reality check, do you ever just fly home and shovel some cow dung? I’m good on the cow dung. I’m not a fan of poopy. I have a sensitive stomach and a serious gag reflex. Yesterday someone ripped one in Yoga, and I seriously thought I was going to throw up and had to leave. You should see me when I have to pick up Mikey’s poop. I nearly throw up every time. Yucky!
The most re-occurring aspect of all your projects is that you seem to be consistently collaborating with friends. Is that aspect of it important to you or just a coincidence? Does working with friends ever get tricky or just way more fun? It does get tricky—and has a time or two—but you learn as you go. I have found that if you decide early on that everyone has a common goal to have fun then you can avoid the awkward stuff that may or may not occur. Personally, I love working with friends because how cool is it when you can come up together? I love my work, I love working, and I love my talented, amazing friends. When you spend so much time working in this business, it’s important to me to have my friends around. I also think that collaboration is where it’s at. Two heads (or three or four or five) are better than one! Everyone brings something invaluable to the table. We are all learning different things as we go, and it’s important to learn from each other, let people shine, and be supportive. I’m gathering a pretty amazing crew of talent around me. Why not go with it?
Because of your hair and fair complexion combo, you have been compared to a handful of actresses such as Anne Hathaway, Katy Perry, and Zooey Deschanel. That must get old… For a minute there people would come up to me and ask me if I was Anne Hathaway, and then they would ask if I was in Zooey Deschanel, and then Katy Perry. It’s pretty bizarre when that happens, and I usually feel like a moron. But they are pretty girls, so I never take offense or anything. But convincing people that you weren’t in 500 Days of Summer can get super awkward. I wish I was—what a great part! Zooey is heaven in that movie.
At this point in your career, how often are you getting recognized on the street? Which role do they usually cite? Pretty often at this point—I would say almost daily. It’s pretty much nuts for a small town girl like myself. And I seem to get recognized multiple times when I leave the house looking like a shlubby loser. I would say I get recognized from [Confessions of a]Shopaholic, Gilmore Girls, and She’s Out of My League, but it’s mostly Breaking Bad. I can always tell when my season of Breaking Bad is re-airing or just came out on DVD or Netflix. It’s like it comes in waves for that show. People love that show so much and always come up to me raving about the show, and they go on and on. It kinda put me on the map, so I’m really grateful to be a part of such an amazing show.
You do a lot of comedy but your stint on Breaking Bad blew some serious doors open for you—any more heavier dramas in the works? Breaking Bad really did open doors for me in so many ways. I still can’t believe it. This year, an amazing playwright named Jessica Goldberg offered me the lead in her movie Refuge, which she adapted from her play to be her directorial debut. The script was so layered and subtle because it was based on a play. I played a girl whose parents abandoned the family, leaving her to give up all her dreams and raise her younger brother and sister—the brother has brain damage. It was about nothing but the work, and I prepared like crazy because I knew people weren’t used to seeing me like that. It’s not every day that an amazing, against type piece of material will come your way. My acting teacher Marjorie Ballentine and I spent weeks and weeks breaking down the script and the character arc, and I’m so proud of it. That has been the pinnacle as far as what I find most exciting about acting: stripping down, no hair and make up, no frills, and no luxuries. Just getting back to the basics. I love doing dramatic work and challenging myself in new ways, but I also love to laugh and make people laugh. I hope people continue to let me do both.
I think we should throw a rock in Tim Burton’s window with your reel tied to it. Have you ever done anything crazy to get a director or casting director’s attention for a role? I have sent a letter or two when I felt like my not playing a role would be some sort of injustice, but I haven’t done anything too crazy. But you’re right I need to work with Tim Burton! I’m dying to! I myself am strange and unusual, (Lydia in Beetlejuice!) and I’ve been obsessed with him and his aesthetic style forever. I need to get his address and just accidentally on purpose stalk him with my headshot.
Can’t I be in Beetlejuice 2? Addams Family? I think I could rock Morticia Addams. My first day of 7th grade at a new school, I got on the bus to all the kids singing the Addams Family song. It sucked at the time, and I hated being made fun of. Being in Addams Family now that I’m all grown up would be the perfect “F U.”
Out of most celebs I’ve met, you are the least affected out of any I have known—the least “actressy.” You seem to go about this in an enthused but rather matter-of-fact way, as though this is just a job like any other. Do you think that has something to do with your farm girl upbringing? You’re so sweet thank you. I love you. I think my upbringing has something to do with it, for sure. I was raised to waste not want not. If you don’t need it don’t buy it—that kind of thing. I definitely understand what a luxury it is to be able to do what you love. So I have a strong work ethic and also like to have fun.
Clichéd question: where do you see yourself in five years? Head of your own studio? Movie star? Oscar? Kids? I would like to have my own production company made up of all the talented people closest to me. Maybe kids in 5 years. Or a little past that depending on what’s going on, but I definitely want a family.
You just adopted your first pet, the ever-adorable Mikey, who is featured in the shoot. What’s it like being a first time parent?! Mikey Mohawk! My little man from the streets of K-town. I’m pretty much obsessed with him, which makes me think I’m going to be an annoying, overbearing mom. It’s been interesting to adapt to him. My boyfriend and I got him together, so we have had challenges there on how to raise him, etc. It feels so grown up [having a dog]. He’s such a great little guy, and I couldn’t have asked for a better addition to my life. He’s just so sweet and grateful to have a home, and he does tricks!
Favorite movies of all time? Annie Hall, Manhattan, Tombstone, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Grease, Dirty Dancing, Wedding Singer, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Saw, The Notebook, Bridesmaids, and Anchorman.
TV shows? My So Called Life!!
Music? The National, Bon Iver, Palace Brothers, Neil Young, Band of Horses, Dolly Parton, Pixies, and the Black Keys.
Lastly, what’s your ideal way to spend your very well deserved weekends off? Heating up the pool and having friends over for wine and pizza!