Don’t Trust the B---- In Apartment 23 star Krysten Ritter on playing a sociopath and a shopgirl
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The actor: Krysten Ritter started out in entertainment at age 18, with a modeling career that took her around the world and put her in ads in print and on television. In the early 2000s, however, Ritter decided to transition into acting, working her way from small parts in movies (Mona Lisa Smile) and on TV (Tanner On Tanner) into playing a big-screen best friend in Confessions Of A Shopaholic and scoring big street-cred points for her work as Jesse Pinkman’s addiction-prone girlfriend on Breaking Bad. Ritter can currently be seen as the titular character in the new ABC sitcom Don’t Trust the B---- In Apt. 23, which premières April 11 at 9:30 p.m. EST.
Don’t Trust the B---- In Apt. 23 (2012-present)—“Chloe”
Krysten Ritter: She is a sociopath in a tight dress. Best part ever. [Laughs.] And I have never played the title role of a TV show before, so it’s been a little crazy and overwhelming and amazing, and the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Basically, she’s a girl who has the morals of a pirate, which is a phrase that may be overused—if only by me—but it’s the best description for her. She has no emotional attachments, so she’s totally free. She has very creative ways of making money. She has no filter. If she has an idea to do something, then she does it. I think she has good intentions, but she has a very messed-up way of going about them. So the show sort of revolves around that character. Dreama Walker plays June, one of many roommates Chloe has scammed, but for some reason, she challenged me, so I’m letting her stick around, if purely for entertainment. James Van Der Beek—who plays himself in the show—plays my best friend. I have a stalker neighbor who’s obsessed with me, and she’s played by Liza Lapira, who’s so funny. We also have a pervert neighbor who lives across the airshaft and watches us get undressed. And I let him sometimes. For fun. [Laughs.] Because Chloe has no inhibitions.
The A.V. Club: How has it been playing against James Van Der Beek playing himself?
KR: The Beek from the Creek? [Laughs.] Or JVDB. I’ve worked so hard to be able to say those initials really quickly in the right order. He’s heaven to work with. He’s such a stand-up guy. I got a new dog recently—I rescued this stray dog that was hit by a car—and I love him, but… we live in James’ old house. I was finishing a play in New York, I had nowhere to live, and I sent a frantic email to everyone I knew, and he was, like, “I have the perfect place for you, it’s got great vibes, and good things happen to people who live here. And I know this because I just moved out of it.” So I took it sight unseen, I got this little dog, and James went out and bought me wolf pee.
AVC: Say, that is a stand-up guy.
KR: [Laughs.] He bought it for me to put around the house, so coyotes don’t eat my dog. It was an amazing gesture, I thought. His character on the show is at least as narcissistic as mine, if not more, so together, I don’t even think we listen to each other. We’re just, like, talking about ourselves. Which is probably how we came together to be best friends.
AVC: The pilot reveals a quirky comedic mindset. Do you think audiences will embrace it quickly enough for it to succeed? Quirky comedies have made it in the past, but it’s certainly a struggle.
KR: Right, like 30 Rock is super-eccentric. Or Community. But this is nothing like anything I’ve seen on television, and it’s interesting, because when you watch the pilot… I’ve now seen five episodes, with every one, you just sit back and it’s just, like, “Whoa!” It’s such an explosion of fun, with things coming at you, and it’s happening so fast, and… I laughed really hard. I think the writing is amazing, and I am really proud of it. And I, uh, don’t like a lot of stuff. [Laughs.] My taste… I’m pretty selective about what I like, as far as television goes, and I really, really, really like this show. And my friends are snobby, and they really like it. So I don’t know how it’s going to be received, but I hope people like it, because I’m having fun and I’m not ready to not play Chloe. It’s too much fun.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)—“Art History Student”
KR: That was my first real movie, where, yes, I played an art-history student. [Laughs.] But it was a run-of-picture deal, so I was there for the whole time, and it was a real learning experience for me. I’d been a model before that, so, y’know, you’re traveling the world, you’re doing photo shoots, and that’s it. It’s all about you. And then I got to that set, and it was all women: Julia Roberts, obviously, but also Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and their group of girls, and then they hired five more girls underneath of them, just to be around and maybe speak. Basically, though, we were glorified extras, me and these other girls. I’m still close to the other Art History Students, though. Numbers two, three, four, and five. [Laughs.] But, you know, it was very humbling and interesting to see how the hierarchy works, how energy spreads like wildfire, and just how the movie industry is. How shit works, basically. And I got lucky, because the movie was four months long, so I got a couple of bucks. But then I didn’t work again for another year. So it was a really good dose of reality early on in my career.
Tanner On Tanner (2004)— “Saleswoman”
KR: You know, that was pretty awesome, I have to say. It was really only one scene, but it was a speaking scene with Cynthia Nixon, and I was cast based on a meeting with Robert Altman. The casting director liked me and said, “I want you to come and sit with Robert.” So we met for, like, an hour, and he cast me. And that was the first time that ever happened, where I didn’t go through an audition and a callback and so on. So I’m really proud I can say I’ve gotten to work with such a legendary director like him. He seemed to really love what he did. He said, “We’re going to work together again, kid!” I wish that could’ve happened. But just being in his presence was pretty much the coolest thing ever.
AVC: What do you remember about him as a director?
KR: You know, he was really specific. And giving. I haven’t seen that much in directors, unfortunately. Directing’s a hard job, and I think it’s rare when you work with one that really helps you. And he was very helpful, and he was able to communicate to me in a way I really understood, where I went, “Okay, I get that! That’s what I’ll do!” He was really into it, and he was very helpful and encouraging.
Confessions Of A Shopaholic (2009)—“Suze”
KR: Suze! [Laughs.] So fun. That was just a blast. I played a character who was just roses. You know, just very positive, a very good friend. I loved working with P.J. Hogan. He taught me how to be confident on a set. He told me early on, “Read the first three books [of the Shopaholic series], and go in there with your highlighter and find lines that you like and want to have in the movie. You are the owner of Suze, so make her yours.” Because it was a book that was being adapted, and it was originally supposed to be British, so there were a lot of changes and stuff going on because of that. But he said, “You are Suze, and you’re going to do what’s right for you.” He’s lovely. You know, he did Muriel’s Wedding and My Best Friend’s Wedding, and I was a big fan of his work, so the way he shot the movie… I thought it turned out really beautiful. And I had this glorious wedding dress. [Laughs.] And Isla Fisher and I… I learned so much from her about comedy and how to give a big take, a little take, and a medium take. You know, every job has been a learning process, and that one was a big hurdle and a big deal in my career.
Killing Bono (2011)—“Gloria”
KR: That was also a lot of fun. I got to go to Belfast and stay there for a while, and it was set in the ’80s, so I had really big hair, and I wore really tight leather dresses and other tight stuff. [Laughs.] Plus, I got to play with boys: Ben Barnes and the adorable and electric Robert Sheehan, who… oh, my God, he’s, like, the next Johnny Depp. [Laughs.] So it was a fun time. I had authentic Guinness at this famous place called the Crown Bar. I don’t know if you’ve been, but it’s pretty awesome. And Guinness there tastes different somehow. It tastes like a milkshake, almost. So that was really cool. And, you know, Belfast is such a small city—it’s basically the size of Santa Monica—and I fit right in. I lived in this cute little hotel, found out where the gym was, and would walk a lot, and on the walk, find other stuff to do. Plus I love putting cream on everything, and there’s plenty of it to be had there. So it was a really great time.
Breaking Bad (2009–2010)—“Jane Margolis”
KR: The best role ever. Honestly, it was the best fucking role. I’m so lucky to be a part of a show that is so well done. I think it’s a testament to how talented and how much of a visionary Vince [Gilligan] is. Every little thing is all him. No one strays a word from the script. You don’t wear a belt buckle on camera unless he’s seen it. And I think that the genius is in the details, and he’s a very detail-oriented guy. But I think the best part was working with Aaron Paul. I love him. I just want to eat him up. [Laughs.] He’s such a great, giving actor, and I would love to work with him again. It’s funny, ’cause that show seems to be just as popular as ever.
AVC: If not more so.
KR: And that’s so weird, ’cause it was three years ago, and I feel like more people come up to me now than then. It’s really insane. I think the show just keeps spreading and… it’s all about Aaron for me. And Bryan Cranston as well, of course. You can’t do a scene with him without finding yourself watching him as if you’re an audience member. You’re, like, “Okay, right, I’m not gonna watch, I’m gonna work.” But then… [Stares blankly into space for a moment, then laughs.] “Right, sorry, I’m actually in the scene!” But I’m truly in awe of those boys. Between them and the writing… I got so lucky from that show. I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities because of that.
AVC: You get asked a lot about Aaron and Bryan, but what was it like working with John de Lancie, who played your father on the show?
KR: You know, it’s funny, but… we really only worked together two days, and because of our relationship on the show, I’m either on drugs when I’m with him, or, y’know, I’m so afraid of him judging me. Because of the dynamic of the characters, we just never really got to know each other. But I will say that, as an actor, he was rad. [Laughs.] Everyone on that show is such a good actor.
AVC: Were you surprised when you got the call-up to do the flashback scene in season three?
KR: Well, I knew that they wanted to do those. I think they wanted to do a few more flashbacks, in fact, but I was doing a TV show called Gravity on Starz. When your character’s dead, you can only do so much in flashbacks, and Gravity… it seemed like a good opportunity. The scripts were good, but the execution just wasn’t. I don’t have any regrets. But I was really honored and excited to go back to Breaking Bad. It was my birthday, and I’d spent my last birthday on the show, too, so it just felt really good. They had a big cake for me, and all this exciting stuff. And it was nice to go back and know what we knew. Like, people love these two characters together, so knowing that, it was like we got to give everybody a little bit of candy. [Laughs.]
AVC: Did you two fall back into your onscreen relationship pretty well?
KR: Oh, yeah. If anything, it was even easier than before, because it was this day where we’re going to the museum, we’re in love, and after knowing how much the audience loved us together, it was really easy to start loving each other all over again. [Laughs.]
AVC: Were you aware of how Jane was originally supposed to have died?
KR: Yeah, with Walt having a more direct hand in her death? I just think that would’ve been too much, you know? They have to protect the lead character at least somewhat. But, y’know, he still did have a hand. [Laughs.]
AVC: Even now, as the show prepares for its fifth season, Jane’s presence looms large over Breaking Bad. At some point before the end of the series, surely Jesse is finally going to learn about Walt’s semi-involvement in her death.
KR: I know. It’s so sad. I never thought I would… I didn’t really feel affected by it throughout most of the time we were shooting that sequence and all that stuff was going down. We all knew it was coming. I think I was promoting Shopaholic or something, maybe doing photo shoots, and things were really busy, so I didn’t have time to let it sink in. It wasn’t until I was getting my death makeup. At first, I was like, “Oh, this is so cool! I look like a Tim Burton character! I look dead! Yeah!” I thought it was rad! [Laughs.]
And it wasn’t until the final scene, where I’m dead and he’s trying to give me CPR… They had this cast made to protect my chest, and they actually made it to fit my stand-in, who was smaller than me, so it wouldn’t close all the way. And it’s almost like wearing a tight dress: you can’t get a full breath. So I’m, like, “Okay, I can handle this… ” But my skin’s getting pinched, he’s on top of me and—God bless him, he’s such a wonderful actor—he’s pounding on my chest as hard as he can, and this thing is pinching me, I can’t get a full breath of air, and as I’m sitting here, trying to lay still and basically play dead, I’m thinking, “Oh, my God, this is what would happen if I was really dead. All of these people would be sad, and there’d be a boy on top of me, crying… ” It became very overwhelming. And then when you can’t get a full breath on top of that… We had to stop. Everyone else had been, like, “This is going to be so sad,” but I thought nothing of it until that moment. And when it hit, it was really crazy and weird to see how people would react to your death. And I think ever since then, I’ve been kind of fascinated by that. Which is why the suicide show [Gravity], honestly. I was, like, “Wow, this is what happens if you try to die and don’t.” It was insane.
Gravity (2010)—“Lilly Champagne”
AVC: Given how it’s so directly connected, this seems to be a perfect time to talk about Gravity.
KR: [Deadpan.] Nah. We don’t have to.
KR: [Laughs.] I’m just joking. No, we can.
AVC: Because it wouldn’t be the first time someone said of a past project, “Let’s move on,” and wasn’t joking.
KR: No, I thought Lily Champagne was a really fabulous character. Because of the experience on Breaking Bad, I was fascinated by her situation. This character kills herself, becomes briefly conscious in heaven, and then comes back to life after flatlining and is forced to go into a therapy group with other suicide survivors. So I thought the content was… well, it was not unlike everything else I like: weird and left of center, a little dark, but kind of funny, too. Witty and irreverent. I’d probably do it again if I saw the script. The scripts were strong. But the budget for the show just didn’t quite work.
AVC: Eric Schaeffer was the creator, director, writer, producer, and star. How was he to work with?
KR: You know, I… [Long pause.] Eric Schaeffer is a prolific guy who writes a lot and produces a lot and gets his movies made and gets his TV shows made. And he’s very persuasive. He just… he wasn’t supposed to be the star of the show. And he somehow was by episode three. So that was the thing. But he was a big fan of mine. He liked me a lot, and we got along really well. Some people don’t get along with him really well, but we did. But I guess I just became a little disappointed about the direction of the show.
Veronica Mars (2005-2006)—“Gia Goodman”
Gilmore Girls (2006-2007)—“Lucy”
KR: Veronica Mars was my first thing that was kind of a big deal. I did eight episodes on Veronica Mars, and it was really fun. She was ditzy, but she was adorable. And she really liked Ryan Hansen’s character [Dick Casablancas]. So yeah, she was fun to play, and it was fun working in San Diego. I was living in New York at the time, so splitting my time between New York, coming to L.A. for auditions when I needed to, and then San Diego for that… It was really cool. And because that was on UPN at the time—then it moved to The CW—I made some good relationships with the people there, and I ended up getting Gilmore Girls as a result.
Gilmore Girls was a completely different experience, though, because they were at the very end of their run, and here I was stepping in late in the game. That was tricky, because I was so young and wide-eyed and, like, “I can’t wait to do this,” while everybody else is going, “Let’s get this over with.” [Laughs.] But yeah, that was… It’s funny how many people watch those shows. They really got thing started for me. So I’m really grateful.
Gossip Girl (2009)—“Young Carol Rhodes”
KR: Where, funnily enough, Ryan Hansen was my love interest once again. [Laughs.] Josh Schwartz is so cool, and he really knows what he’s doing. He’s tapped into that whole voice and that whole demographic. And he’s got great taste in music. I think I emailed him a couple of months ago, going, “Hi! I need new music! I’m a little stale. Whaddaya got?” And he’s always got his finger on the pulse, man. Him and Stephanie Savage were so passionate about that idea [a Gossip Girl prequel spin-off], so we met and there was no script, but I just thought and believed, “These guys know what they’re doing.” Obviously it wasn’t executed in a way that made it work, but that’s another one that I’d still do again in a second. It was a lot of fun to do. Again, big hair in the ’80s. [Laughs.] It’s a thing!
L!fe Happens (2011)—“Kim”
KR: What came out of that Gossip Girl episode, which is even more exciting, is that I wrote a movie called L!fe Happens, which is coming out in small release through Universal and stars Rachel Bilson, who’s friends with Josh Schwartz. Good friends. Like, she introduced him to his wife. And when I wrote this script, I ran into Rachel at an audition, and I called up Josh and said, “Hi, Josh, I wrote this script. Can you give me Rachel’s number and forward her this?” And I heard from her immediately, and she said “yes” to my project, which is really what helped get the ball rolling with that. So it’s really cool when you can call on people you’ve worked with before. Your network becomes bigger, and it becomes a nice community when you keep those people with you. I mean, it certainly worked out well in this case!
AVC: As far as the title goes, did you put an exclamation point instead of an “i” just to piss off journalists?
KR: [Laughs.] Well, the original title was BFF And Baby, which is the title we wanted it to be. But, you know, that might also piss off journalists. Who knows? But that’s what the movie’s about: best friends and a baby. But then you’ve got test audiences and things like that, and… Basically, I have nothing to do with the title. [Laughs.] I didn’t even realize that was still in it. If it is. It’s out of my control. But I’m really proud of the film. It’s something I wrote and star in and produced, and it was shot in our back yards. We called in a lot of favors, and I got to work with all of my best friends, basically, to make the movie on our own.
’Til Death (2006-2007)—“Allison Stark”
KR: Yeah, I was the first daughter on ’Til Death. For a couple of episodes, anyway. And then I was no longer available, because I was going to do Shopaholic, so they cast someone else. Three or four someone-elses, I think. [Laughs.] That’s about all I’ve got on that one.
AVC: There were three others—Laura Clery, Lindsey Broad, and Kate Micucci. Do you think your performance helped set the bar for future Allisons?
KR: Well, I was the first, anyway. That’s all I’m willing to say! [Laughs.]
27 Dresses (2008)—“Gina the Goth”
KR: Yeah, I really started doing movies in… whatever year that was. I guess it was 2007 that we actually filmed it? Anyway, I had a small part. I was in the honeywagon. I didn’t really hang out with Katherine Heigl or anybody. I was just kinda doin’ my thing in my goth outfit. [Laughs.]
AVC: Did you enjoy getting the chance to go goth?
KR: [Laughs.] I did. I mean, I’m really not goth at all. I think it’s just because I’ve got this black hair, maybe, that I can get those parts. Which is great. Any parts I can get, I’ll take. But, yeah, I like the goth thing, I like the death thing, I like Tim Burton… I like that highly-stylized, almost-cartoony stuff as an aesthetic.
KR: I got to work with Amy Heckerling. And Alicia Silverstone, Sigourney Weaver, and Malcolm McDowell. A really fun cast. I shot it last year. I don’t know when it’s actually coming out, though. But working with Amy Heckerling and basically her entire crew from Clueless, even the costume designer, Mona May, was fun, because they would be talking about, like, “Remember how we did that scene in Clueless… ?” And I’d be, like, “Oh, I remember!” And then I’d recite the whole thing. [Laughs.] I felt like I knew it just as well as they did, because I’ve seen it 300 times. At least. And as far as playing a vampire… well, obviously, I didn’t exactly have to spend hours in the makeup chair. I barely had to do anything. I just showed up as myself, they put some black around my eyes… Alicia had to get paled down a little bit, but I’m so pale and photograph so pale that it was, like, “This is such a great genre for me!” [Laughs.]
AVC: You’re seen helping Anna Paquin shop, and that seems to be your entire contribution. Were you just in the neighborhood and doing someone a favor, or was there more to the role that ended up being cut?
KR: You know, even though it only came out last year, that movie was actually shot six years ago or something crazy like that, so it was very early on my career. I was up for several other roles in the film and went through many auditions, and at the end of the day, I wasn’t the right person for the other characters, but Kenneth [Lonergan] liked me enough to offer me a little part with one little scene with Anna. For a young actor just getting started, it was just a great opportunity to be in the company of an amazing director and writer. You Can Count On Me is very high on my favorite-movie list. And you never know: maybe I’ll be in his next movie! [Laughs.]