An Exclusive Interview with Actress Krysten Ritter

Over the past few years, the world has been allowed into the eclectic and eccentric world of actress Krysten Ritter as she constantly proves herself to be full of surprises. There are few other actors who could go from a role playing Jesse Pinkman’s junkie girlfriend Jane on AMC’s “Breaking Bad” to playing the eccentric and outspoken party girl Chloe on the ABC sitcom “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” and be believable as both.

Even more surprising may be her role in Refuge, written and directed by Jessica Goldberg, based on her off-Broadway play, in which Ritter plays Amy, a woman trying to raise her two troubled younger siblings after being abandoned by their parents, taking dead-on jobs to earn enough to survive. One night, she meets a stranger named Sam (played by Brian Geraghty) in a bar and he moves in as a tenant, getting more involved with the family and their dynamics.

It’s a terrific dramatic lead role for the actress who seems to shine in everything she does, whether it’s in the recent indie rom-com L!fe Happens which she co-wrote, her album with Will Burnett as EX Vivian or all the other projects she’s been developing as producer, including one for MTV called “Finishing School for Boys.”

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to head out to the Hampton Film Festival to catch the film’s premiere there last weekend, but neither could Ritter, because she had to remain in Los Angeles to work on the upcoming season of “Don’t Trust the B—-,” so got on the phone with the actress to talk about making the movie and a few other things. I wasn’t able to get out to the Hamptons so I had to watch your movie on my computer.

Krysten Ritter:
Oh, bummer. I’m also not in the Hamptons and had to watch on my computer, but Brian’s there and he said that it was fabulous so that’s good. I’m just bummed I missed it.

CS: It’s a really nice movie, and you don’t really see many character dramas that are really about the characters – four people trying to coexist in each other’s lives.

Yeah, those movies hardly get made anymore.

CS: Exactly, I know. I know it’s based on a play, so had you seen the play or did you know Jessica before you got involved with it?

No, the play was done in New York for a year with some really cool actors, but it was definitely a cool play that actors are very aware of. Jessica’s a really funny playwright, so I read it and my manager called and I was on the phone with working things out and he just happened to get this script in his in-box and he said, “Oh, yeah it’s really low budget. I don’t know if you want to do anything.” I was like, “Well, let me at least read it,” so I was reading it on my computer and I just blasted through it and was like “Where do I sign?” I couldn’t wait to do it. I loved the writing, I loved the script, and I thought it would be an amazing challenge for me.

CS: It’s I feel like I’d only seen your comedies until very recently when I caught up on “Breaking Bad”–I was a late convert there–so it was really interesting to see you doing a full-on dramatic role. Have you not been offered many dramas since you’ve done so much comedy?

No, I think a lot of people in the industry saw me in “Breaking Bad,” but I feel like it’s such a different audience. People who know me from comedy don’t watch it, and the people who watch “Breaking Bad” definitely haven’t seen my chick flicks, so it’s sort of across the board. I can usually tell who has seen what based on the offer. It’s a rarity in the business right now to get such a good single script about people, so that’s what drew me to it. It wasn’t like “Oh, I have to do a drama.” It’s always about the character whether it’s a drama or a comedy – usually it’s a good arc and fun stuff to do and yeah, I had a good time doing it. It was fun to play that down and go back to the basics. No hair and make-up, work with my acting teacher and just get in there.

CS: Had Brian already signed on to do the movie before you came on board?

No, he wasn’t. Well, I was offered the film and I met with the director and Jessica was talking about ideas she had for the Sam character, the part that Brian ended up playing, and he was one of her ideas. I was nervous and reluctantly told her, “Well, I’m dating that guy… and he’s my boyfriend.” We’ve been together for two years and I was really skeptical about doing a project with him. I had only been dating him like four or five weeks. It was early, we were into each other, but it’s just never a good idea to do something like that. Jessica said, “Oh, that seems like a great idea because you’ll have this great chemistry and bring it to the movie,” and I was like, “Yeah, it’s good for you, but what about my life?” We explored other ideas and at the end of the day, there was just nobody better suited for the part than Brian, so we went off to do it and it ended up being a really good idea and we had a great time together. You know, two actors, it’s rare that you get to see each other because one’s always out of town doing a movie, so this way, we got to see each other every day. It was great and I loved working with him. He’s just a regular dude from Jersey, he’s a surfer, and he’s got a great work ethic and I do, too, and we’re both from really humble and the opposite of Hollywood beginnings. It was rad and I think that in the movie, you can see a little bit of our early dating sparkle.

CS: So Jessica didn’t know that and it was a complete coincidence she threw out Brian as an idea?

There was no way she could know because it was so new and nobody really knew. I remember sitting there for ten seconds thinking, “Should I say this out loud?” She got excited and she was like, “Great! You can just ask him if he’ll do it.” For me, I was like panicking. I was like, “No, this is my cool movie.” It just got so complicated.

CS: It really worked out well. I didn’t know that before seeing the movie and I thought the two of you worked great together.

Thank you. Yeah, everyone’s like “Oh, you actors, you met on a movie,” and I’m like, “No, actually we didn’t meet on a movie. We were set up through friends and we ended up doing a movie shortly after,” so yeah, I think he did a good job and I love watching this film because it’s a side of Brian that’s so different and I love how he sort of fumbles around and fixes stuff around the house. I like him in that role.

CS: What about the two younger actors? I thought it was also interesting to have you play someone who is responsible for anyone else, because we’re used to not seeing you being responsible.

Well, I have a 15-year-old sister in real life so I can relate to that relationship with the siblings right away. It was sort of what I grabbed onto first. I get that. Having a sister fifteen years younger than you, there’s this really interesting dynamic, because you’re a friend and you’re cool and you’re BFFs but you’re also sort of a parental figure because you’re so much older and you say what goes. I really looked after her because I feel like she’s my responsibility. I stick up for her. I would beat the sh*t out of a kid if she picked on her, do you know what I mean? So I related to that.

CS: How did you work with Jessica on this? Because this was originally a play, was there a lot of rehearsal involved? Did you go out to Long Island a while before shooting or did she try to capture stuff on screen?

I love rehearsal, so I’m a big advocate for rehearsing and I wanted to make sure that was possible. I don’t like surprises. I think it’s important to be flexible and free, and you can’t be free and spontaneous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you have to focus on knowing your lines for example. I like rehearsing. Brian doesn’t like to rehearse as much. I convinced him we should rehearse and I ended up being right, which is an ongoing theme in our relationship. (Laughs) I don’t fight for much but when I fight for something it’s usually because I think I’m going to be right. I really love rehearsing. There’s nothing worse then getting there on the day. Your crew’s ready to shoot something, you gotta block, you’re on the clock, your producers are running around because it’s such a small budget, you can’t go overtime and you’re trying to find a scene and you don’t know what’s going on. For me, rehearsal is very important and I spend a lot of time doing it. Also, I work with my acting teacher for hours and hours before walking onto any set.

CS: You seem to be drawn to female directors lately, including working with Amy Heckerling on “Vamps” and she’s really a pioneer.

Honestly, a couple years ago I remember saying out loud, “My God, there’s no female directors,” and since then I’ve worked with so many–Amy Heckerling, Jessica, right now we’re working with Wendy Stanzler, a female director, on my show. I don’t know if I invited that or what but I love it. I love strong women, it’s inspiring and I look up to them. My showrunner is a woman, and I just love it, because we can be girlie, but not in the annoying ditzy way, but girlie in like a surreal way.

CS: Obviously, you’ve been shooting the show right now so have you had any time to do any writing on your own?

Yeah, I’ve got a pilot at MTV that we just shot, but I’m producing that, I’m working on this new screenplay that’s a little darker then “L!fe Happens” and then I have a pilot that I wrote with a friend we just sold. It’s all just about development and getting in early. I love developing projects and producing as well, so I do what I can while I’m doing the show and it’s a little tricky in terms of time-management, because it’s all day every day. I do what I can and I’m pretty good at time management.

CS: Was it a surprise that the show got picked up because it’s a very risky and edgy show, and it’s surprising when audiences gravitate to those kinds of shows.

ABC loves our show and they’re very good to us. I love the show. I wasn’t surprised, I was thrilled. I love it. I’ll play the B until I’m 80 if they’ll let me.

CS: I guess the networks are getting edgier to compete with cable.

They have to. The thing is that right now cable, that’s where everything is. You don’t even need to go to the movies anymore, everything’s on television, especially cable–the good writers are all going to cable, so I think the networks are following suit with shows that are edgier and more outrageous and fun. I love them for it.

CS: Being that you have a lot in development, do you find it hard to keep on top of those and line up movies while doing the TV show?

Well, the thing is that it is very difficult for schedules to align and you have to just let it be what it is. There are some things I wish I’d been available for this fall, but that’s okay. I’m so happy to have the show, so it’s all good. It’s a good problem to have, but for me, I really want to have time to write things.

CS: Is there a lot of downtime while doing the show?

None at all. There’s no downtime. Sometimes my friends will be like, “Oh, just call me when you’re in your trailer.” I’m never in my trailer, it’s literally nonstop. I get there, I go straight to hair and make-up, I put on my outfit, I go straight to set and get wired, we do the scene, we go tighter, we turn around and while we turn around, we’re getting prepped up, and we go back and complete the scene. We go and change for the next one, then we go to lunch and during lunch, I usually have a fitting or a table read, so it’s go, go, go, there’s really no downtime at all.

CS: How far ahead have they been shooting? I notice the first show of the season is in a couple weeks. Are they shooting well in advance?

We just completed episode 6 and we start episode 7 on Monday, so we will have 13 episodes ahead so we have six left over from last year. We’re almost halfway through our season. It’s a blast, it’s so much fun and I really love shooting fast like that. I think I’m being spoiled because we don’t have these grueling, horrible schedules like some people do in this business. We just have a great schedule and it really cause for a light, fun set. Our producer believes that you can be funnier when you’re well rested and there you have it. It’s just a sweet job. We also cross-shoot, which makes things go about 50 times faster than it would if it were a single camera or film.

Refuge just premiered last weekend at the Hamptons Film Festival and it’s currently playing at the Woodstock Film Festival–there’s one more screening on Saturday night–and hopefully it will get picked up for distribution soon. You also will be able to see Krysten Ritter weekly on ABC’s “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” starting up again on October 23.


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