Ritter (center) with Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in 'Big Eyes'

Krysten Ritter on Big Eyes, Breaking Bad, and Back on the Farm

'Big Eyes' Opens December 25th

Dec 19, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Krysten Ritter only became an actress 10 years ago, but they’ve been 10 very productive years. She started out in TV, with memorable parts on shows such as Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, and quickly transitioned into film roles. In recent years, she starred in the ABC comedy Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, and played a brief but pivotal role on AMC’s award-winning drama Breaking Bad. During this time, Ritter also co-wrote the indie feature Life Happens and developed several television shows through her own production company.

We spoke with Ritter when she was in New York to promote her latest role in Big Eyes, directed by Tim Burton.

Austin Trunick (Under the Radar): I thought Big Eyes was great.

Krysten Ritter: Thanks! Well, thanks Tim. Good job, Tim!

You and I are from the same generation. Did you also grow up watching Tim Burton’s movies?

Yeah. He’s someone I’ve wished to work with since the very beginning of my career. It’s been on my wish list, or my to-do list, for forever. I’ve been acting now for ten years. Ten years I’ve been dying to work with Tim Burton! And that’s how long it took.

What makes him different from all of the other directors you’ve worked with over those ten years?

What makes him unique is that he’s a genius. He’s an artist. He’s created a whole world and a language and you can spot it from a mile away. I’ve experienced that directors are either great technical directors, or actors’ directors, or they just set up shots – they trust you to do your thing, and they leave you alone. Tim is all of the above. He’s a technical director, because he’s a genius and has a visual stamp. He’s an artist, but he also directs you and gives you tangible, active actions. He’s an absolute dream to work with. He’s encouraging and makes you feel comfortable. He’s awesome. 

What excited you most about this particular script?

I first got excited that it was a Tim Burton movie that they were finally sending me. [Laughs] And then when I read it, it was like: I get her. I totally get her, I can play her, now how do we make this happen? So I went and auditioned, and fought for the role, and here we are.

I know you’re very fashion-minded. You’ve modeled, and you do your own fashion design. Was this early-1960s era of fashion –

Yeah! This era of fashion, and working with Colleen Atwood, the costume designer, who has worked with Tim on almost everything. I couldn’t wait to work with her, and let her do with me whatever she wanted. And it was awesome. She’d redesign a dress while it was on my body. She’d come in and say, “The neckline should be different!” and just start cutting. She’s so confident in what she does.

Period pieces are always a blast [when] you see the finished product. Not so much on the day, when you’re in hair and makeup for two and a half hours. It’s a long time! It takes a lot of work to make it look that way. I just think, oh, poor women in the 1960s…

Do you like the big eye paintings? Are you a fan of Keane’s work?

I think it’s cool. I like that the kids have big, weird eyes, and they look kind of sad and kind of creepy. I have the painting – well, it’s a print that they give me – of the one that’s in the poster, the girl with the blue dress. I got that as a wrap gift so I put it on my fireplace. But otherwise, I don’t know that I’d have one if it wasn’t a film memento.

Is there a day or a moment on set that you look back on as a highlight of working on this film?

My first day, of course, when I met Tim and Amy – it was very surreal. I’m still just a farm girl from Pennsylvania, and I had no ties to the industry. It was important [for me] to celebrate that, and take a minute to think about how hard work really pays off. Here I am with Tim Burton, my dream director, and Amy Adams, the best actress working right now.

Not too long ago it was reported that you were working on a TV pilot called Back on the Farm.

That’s something that I developed through my company. It’s not picked up to series yet – fingers crossed – but we have a script and it’s very exciting. I hope that it happens. It’s something very dear to me.

Can I ask for more details of what it’s about? I know the basic premise, that it’s about an actress who moves back to live on the family farm.

Yeah, so I’m from a farm. There’s a lot of personal stuff in it, as well. It’s about small town life, without making fun of it. I think it’s an accurate representation of what it’s like to live on a farm and be in a small town. I think sometimes in television it’s portrayed as people who are disconnected from the rest of the world, and that’s just not true.

My wife and I grew up in a small town between Cleveland and Pittsburgh

Oh, yeah, so you got it. You know.

…we imagine we’ll go back some day, even though we’re really enjoying our time living in the city. Do you ever see yourself going back to that?

No. Absolutely not. The only place that I would want to live… I love living in New York. I also love living in L.A., because you get a bit more space. Now I’ve gotten used to that. In terms of retiring, I’d live in L.A., or I think Nashville is really cool.

I like a place where you can still get all of the conveniences. I like to have pizza delivered at weird hours. I like to get a green juice. I like to go to yoga. So, if you can get that small town feel with those amenities, that’s where you’ll find me.

In an interview with Indiewire, you said that 2014 was the year you were going to direct a movie–

Shit! [Laughs] Well, I didn’t make that happen. But I did sell Back on the Farm, so I’m going to let myself slide. I’ve done a lot this year.

Absolutely. I wasn’t trying to guilt trip you, or anything! I’m just curious if that’s something that’s still near the top of your plans.

Yes, 100% it is. For me, my life is about time management. Having meaningful relationships and work that I love. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day.

You’re a musician, too. Is that something you still make time for?

I try to play my guitar every morning. It’s not with me here in New York on this press tour, but yeah, I make time for that. If I spend less time doing my hair and makeup, and more time playing my guitar or listening to music or writing, or having a real conversation with a person, then that’s better.

Speaking of listening to music, what have you been listening to lately?

My boyfriend [Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs] gets me some cool records. He just got me Time Out of Mind, the Bob Dylan record. I’ve been listening to that nonstop.

I got back into The National after taking a little sort of break from The National. Obviously, The War on Drugs. Ha! I think my favorite records of the year were The War on Drugs, Sharon Van Etten, and Phosphorescent.

Forgive me if you’re sick of being asked about Breaking Bad…

I’m not sick of it. I love the show. It’s a fantastic show.

You played a pivotal role in the series. Even though your character wasn’t in it for long, she really shaped the direction both main characters – Walt and Jesse – would take. I’m wondering how much you knew when you started out about how your storyline would end?

I didn’t know how she would end, but I knew how many episodes I was doing. I actually thought I was doing less episodes than I wound up doing. I didn’t know the when or how, or what the details were, but I thought I was only going to be doing four or five episodes and it wound up being much bigger than that.

It was recently announced that you’re involved with [Marvel/Netflix series] A.K.A. Jessica Jones. You’re playing a former superhero who has a detective agency. Is that a role you’ll have to train for?

I’m very excited about it. I’m not allowed to talk about it, but I’m very excited. It’s rad, and I’m thrilled to be in the Marvel Universe. And working with Netflix, which I feel, as a viewer, is making some of the coolest shows. It’s a dream come true.

Are there any types of roles you’d like to play, but just haven’t been offered yet? Do you have a wish list?

I had it, but it’s been pretty checked off recently. [Laughs] I like to play complex women who have a lot going on, and I like to play bitches and psychos.

****

Big Eyes opens in theaters on December 25th. For more information about the film, check out its website.

Life Happens, a comedy starring and co-written by Ritter, is available to stream on Netflix and iTunes.

Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones will premiere on Netflix in 2015. 



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