Photos: Noah Kalina
Stylist: Liz McClean & Lexyrose Boiardo
Hair: Kristan Serafino
Makeup: Beau Nelson for the
Wall Group/Beauté Cosmetics
Krysten Ritter’s Unscripted Style
Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
In 2011, Design Bureau spoke with rising star Krysten Ritter about her personal style and nomadic lifestyle. Today, with Ritter's "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23" and Life Happens debuting this week, we're revisiting the story for your reading—and viewing pleasure.
By Christina Voss
When actress Krysten Ritter arrives at the East Village apartment for the day’s photo shoot, she shakes out her long black hair, still wet from rain, and smiles broadly at her surroundings.
“I want this apartment. This place is amazing,” she says. But as it relates to her own home, design is the last thing on her mind. “I do not have a domestic bone in my body. The only reason why my [home] is designed is because my roommate did it for me.” An interesting fact, given that her home was featured on popular design voyeur site, The Selby.
After greeting everyone, Ritter disappears with her hair stylist to prepare for the shoot. When she reemerges, she shows off a completely new haircut—her long, dark locks now transformed into a blunt shoulder-length bob with brow-grazing bangs. “I’m an actress,” she says with a grin. “I’m supposed to change.”
Her new haircut may seem spontaneous, but she explains that it is marking her transition from one film to another. She has just finished filming the romantic comedy Vamps with Alicia Silverstone and Sigourney Weaver (directed by Clueless’ Amy Heckerling), about two young, female vampires in New York. Now, she’s shooting the tentatively titled BFF & Baby (later retitled Life Happens), which she co-wrote with director Kat Coiro about two best friends whose lives change when one of them gets pregnant. Although Ritter has done her share of romcoms, her characters have range; she’s played the sweet girl in Confessions of a Shopaholic, the emasculating hard-ass in She’s Out of My League and the darkly witty heroin addict in Breaking Bad. But in person, Ritter is playful, funny and describes herself quite simply as a “weirdo.”
“High school was tough [for me] because you can only miss 25 days, and I missed them all,” she says. She spent her childhood growing up on a small cattle farm in Pennsylvania, and at 15 was discovered by Elite Model Management. Soon after, Ritter was catching the 5 AM bus to New York City for photo shoots, and by the summer she was living on her own in Tokyo. “That’s when going back became harder. I was from this tiny, tiny town—farm,” she says. “And here I am off in Tokyo with my own apartment, fending for myself.”
After leaving her hometown behind and relocating to New York, Ritter decided to pursue modeling full time—a decision she quickly discovered wasn’t the best fit. She found herself waiting endlessly at “go-sees,” only to have someone nod at her book and move on. “They just want a clothing rack,” Ritter says. “They just want you to stand still and shut up.” But everything changed when her agency sent her to audition for a commercial. This time, they didn’t just flip through her portfolio and thank her for her time; they asked her to talk. “So I did, and I got that job, and I left and thought, ‘Oh my god, this is so cool,’ because I felt like I had full control. Because I can always work harder. I can always be better. Instead of, ‘My nose is too pointy! My thighs are too bootylicious!’ You have no control [in modeling].”
Ritter likens the experience of acting to the process of a painter—she selects certain personality elements for a character the way a painter selects pigment. What really drives her is the moment when she truly becomes the character. “There’s only a couple moments in acting when you feel like you transcend [the boundary between] where you start and the character stops,” she says. “You chase that, and you keep going back.” Even still, there are times when it can be too intense. When her Breaking Bad character Jane died in the critically acclaimed AMC series, she briefly felt overwhelmed with emotion.
“When you have someone like Aaron Paul on top of you and violently trying to revive you, and sobbing, it’s like, ‘Holy shit, if I were dead, this is how people would react.’ ” The scene even became too powerful at one point. “I teared up and I was almost hyperventilating. I didn’t even think I’d have that reaction. Sometimes when you’re playing these darker roles, it does seep into your real life for a second.” Not that it would stop her from going back to that place. Ritter seems to enjoy flirting with darkness, and she says she’d welcome the challenge of playing a character like Jane again. “I would love to play something super dark, like a murderer or something,” she says. “But here’s the thing: I fancy myself a little cooler than I actually am. I think, ‘Yeah, I can play tough’, but then I’ll see myself on screen and think, ‘Oh my God, I’m such a nerd—there’s no way I could actually kick butt.’ ”
Modeling begat Ritter’s nomadic lifestyle, and, consequently, is one of the reasons why she says she's never developed a particular interest in designing her own space. “I just don’t care about things that don’t fit in my suitcase…I guess it’s because I’ve been a vagabond for so long. I’m more concerned about what I have with me. I don’t have a real sense of home.” Her roaming requires a flexible sense of personal style, which she describes as “easy and accessible and multi-purpose.”
Ritter is endlessly inquisitive, creative and eager to explore new outlets of expression. In addition to modeling, acting and writing, she sings, plays guitar and writes music, performing under the name Ex Vivian. And now she can add design to her list of talents, as she is working on two collaborations in the world of fashion: a dress with clothing designer Corey Lynn Calter and a jewelry line with Exhibitionist designer Michael Spirito. Calter approached Ritter to co-design a dress for Dare to Share, a charity dedicated to helping special needs children. The design is reflective of her busy lifestyle and tastes. “I live out of a suitcase, and I’m pretty minimalist. This dress can be worn during the day, around the city, to a meeting, and then [you can] put on a pair of heels and wear it out at night.” The dress also reflects her taste for darkness. “I hate using the word goth, because I’m not actually goth, but maybe it’s a little that. A little girly and a little rock ‘n’ roll. Ballsy.”
Her foray into jewelry design has this same dark-edged sensibility. The line is inspired by nocturnal creatures and features subtle nods to beetles, spiders and bats using gun metals and organic colors. Again, she mentions that the line isn’t necessarily meant to be gothic. “I’m dark, but I’m also very feminine,” she says. In fact, where goth tends to evoke images of death, Ritter’s inspiration comes from an appreciation for life. She recounts a specific moment that inspired her jewelry collection: when her little sister came to visit. “She stomped on a beetle and I was like, ‘Bailey, no killing in California!’ I said to her, ‘If you want to live and thrive, you’ve got to let the beetles stay alive.’ And I [thought] that would be a good concept for a jewelry line.”
It’s understandable why Ritter feels the need to be clear that her style isn’t gothic— what with her dark hair, fair skin and past roles that allude to a gothic style. The living, breathing Ritter is a bit paradoxical: she likes a little edge, but still loves a feminine look; she keeps it easy, but isn’t afraid to go glamorous; she likes it dark, but with a celebration of life. As for design, Ritter views it as an opportunity for genuine personal expression, not an interpretation of a pre-existing identity.
“The writing and the designing and the music— that’s what I’m putting out into the world. The acting stuff is creative. It’s ‘How do I interpret what’s on this page into a living, breathing, three-dimensional person?’, and that’s a challenge,” she says. “But the design from the ground up is just totally your own.”