Kaitlyn Dever is one of film and television’s fastest rising and most versatile young actresses and 2014 has been another busy year for her. She stars in Lynn Shelton’s new comedy, Laggies, opening October 24th, in a supporting role with Keira Knightley and Chloë Grace Moretz playing a hard partying teenager with a sarcastic sense of humor who says whatever’s on her mind. She also stars in Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children opposite Jennifer Garner which hit theaters last weekend. Finally, she’s currently starring in the popular ABC sitcom, Last Man Standing, which followed her recurring role in the acclaimed FX drama Justified.
I recently landed an exclusive interview with Dever who talked about her reaction when she first read the script for Laggies, the appeal of the role, finding the right mindset to play Misty, the important lesson she learned from Knightley, what she enjoyed most about working with Shelton, her friends and family screening, playing a daughter in Men, Women & Children who’s trapped in the world of her mom’s strict rules, her thoughts on social media and college, her challenging role in The Greens Are Gone, her aspirations to write and possibly direct, her music, and the band she plans to start with her sister. Hit the jump to read the rest of the interview.
KAITLYN DEVER: I was on hiatus from my show and I was getting sent scripts by my agent and this came along and I read it. I loved it and I laughed out loud when I was reading it. I got sent on an audition for it and the audition material was more of the party scenes of my character. I just went all out for the audition. I remember doing one audition for the role and then hearing two days later that I got it and that I was going to be going to Seattle. I was so excited because I really wanted the role. I thought it would be a lot of fun to do and it was. That was how I got it.
What did you see in Misty as a character that made you want to play her?
DEVER: I knew that I would have to step out of my own box for her. She’s a partier and she says whatever is on her mind and that’s sort of the opposite of who I am. Some of her personality is sarcastic. She’s got a sarcastic and dry sense of humor. It was similar to me because I have that sense of humor. So, I guess it was me at more of a Level 10.
Was there anything you needed to do to find the right frame of mind to play her?
DEVER: The mindset was just do whatever and live it up, I guess. I was sticking to the script most of the time, but sometimes I wanted to improv because I felt like she would say whatever was on her mind. If I thought of something, I would just have to say it and I wasn’t really used to that. Normally, I pretty much stick to the script. I know the character and I learn it. I learn the character like the back of my hand. For this character, I just had to get comfortable with being loose and really outgoing. Compared to other roles that I’ve done, I definitely had to have a completely different mindset. It was fun.
How was it working with Lynn Shelton? What was that experience like for you?
DEVER: It was really cool. When I auditioned, I just met with the casting directors, and then when I got the part, I went up to Seattle. I didn’t meet Lynn until Chloë and Keira were filming. I think the first day of shooting I came down to visit just to say hi to everyone and meet everyone. I met her and she was the nicest. She was so sweet and she was so excited to get started. I could really tell that she loved the project. That’s always something I get excited about when I know that the director is really excited and very passionate about the film and all the characters and all the actors. And just working with her, she was very chill and loose, and she let us do whatever we wanted to with our characters. I had a lot of fun.
DEVER: Keira was very cool, especially when she would hang out with all of us. We had a lot of scenes with the teenagers and then Keira. I felt like she was just another one of the teenagers. That was really cool. I remember Keira, Chloë and I were always just hanging out and talking and having a really good time. I didn’t get to work with Sam Rockwell. I didn’t get to do any scenes with him, but I do remember meeting him in the make-up trailer one time and him just being so funny and nice and saying the weirdest things. When I saw him in the film, I was like, “Oh my Gosh! He’s so good.” He plays such a good dad. He was great.
What did you learn from working with Keira?
DEVER: Usually I don’t get specific advice from certain actors or actresses I work with, but one thing I learned from her is she just had fun on set. She was always having fun and laughing all the time. I think that’s really important to keep in mind when doing movies. I’m not really a Method actor. I’m always afraid of working with someone who’s afraid to [break character] and won’t talk to anyone because they’re in character. Mostly I’ve just worked with actors and actresses that are fun and easy to talk to and had nothing but great experiences. But yeah, one thing that I noticed with Keira is that she does have fun with everyone on set and has a really good time, and that’s something really important to keep in mind.
Have you had a friends and family screening? Have they had an opportunity to see your film yet?
DEVER: Yeah. After it screened at Sundance, I was actually able to get a link to see the film. I think Lynn sent it to me. I sat down with my family and we watched it. I’m not sure my little sister saw it, but I have a 16-year-old sister and a 10-year-old sister, and then both my parents watched it. We had a really good time. My little sisters loved it.
You were recently in Men, Women & Children which taps into the zeitgeist of our tech obsessed culture. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your character in that and how that experience was?
DEVER: I play Brandy who’s a regular 15-year-old girl, although she’s a little more quiet and kind of stays in her own world. She’s trapped in this world of being under her Mom’s really strict rules. She checks my Facebook every night. She checks my computer and my history on my computer. She gets all my texts from my phone. I can’t do anything on line without her seeing it. I have a secret Tumblr account and that’s the place where I can just go and be myself. It was really fun to be able to do that, especially because I felt it would relate to a lot of girls that age. Doing that film was just the best experience.
How was it starring opposite Jennifer Garner who plays your mom and working with director Jason Reitman?
DEVER: When I worked with Jennifer, I remember everything being so easy. I feel like we had so many scenes together in the film when I was watching it, but I only remember working with her for two days. I feel like we got everything done so quickly. I think it’s because she’s just so good at what she does. She was on point every take and I really learned a lot from that. And then, working with Jason was such a great experience. He’s really talented. I learned a lot from him and the rest of the cast, too.
Are you active in social media and the internet? Do you have your own Facebook page? Do you think of social media as a place where you can be positive and share ideas?
DEVER: Yeah, I feel like social media is a great thing. I try not to go on it too much. Before I found myself going on Instagram just to check pictures that I pretty much already checked and I’m just scrolling through for no reason. I think social media is a great place to share ideas and to connect with other people. I don’t really have a Facebook page anymore. I mean, I have a personal Facebook page for my friends and stuff, but I don’t really use it anymore. It got to a point where there were so many apps and stuff on my phone that I started getting overwhelmed because there were so many things to check. Just Instagram and Twitter are what I stick to these days.
Can you tell me about your upcoming projects that you’re excited about? I know you’ve filmed two dramas. You played Grace Turner in Grass Stains which was shot in North Carolina and Lily Green in The Greens Are Gone in Massachusetts.
DEVER: I did Grass Stains two summers ago. I had a really great time on that set, but I’m not sure when it’s going to come out. They’re still in the editing room figuring out what they’re going to do with the film. I should hear pretty soon what’s going on with it. And then, I just did The Greens Are Gone this past summer. That should be coming out pretty soon. I should be hearing within the next month or so. In The Greens Are Gone, I play a character that’s bipolar, so that was a big step and quite a challenge. I played Catherine Keener’s character’s daughter and I also worked with Maya Rudolph and Molly Shannon. Molly Shannon actually played my therapist in the movie, which was so cool. I’m a huge fan of hers.
You’ve worked on major studio films, indie films and TV. Is there a medium you prefer? How has the opportunity to work in both film and TV sharpened your skills as an actor?
DEVER: I really love both. I love the show I’m on now, Last Man Standing. I’ve learned a lot from doing the sitcom. I’ve learned so much about comedic timing. And then, when I did Justified, that was my first time where I really thought I worked so hard for a role and then I became someone else. And then, for all the movies I’ve done, I’ve played so many different roles. I love both, but I guess in my career maybe I want to stick more to film.
What do you look for in a project?
DEVER: Anything that is different and that will show someone that I don’t just do comedy, or I don’t just do drama, and I can do a lot. Also, I look for a story that comes across as real.
DEVER: It’s sort of a scary moment right now because I’m about to graduate senior year and I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t want to lose the momentum with what I’m doing now as an actress. I’m already doing what I love. I’m doing well and I’m very happy with the work I’ve been doing. I couldn’t be any more lucky and blessed, but I don’t know. It’s a tough decision right now. I want to go to college. If I did go to college, I’d maybe want to major in English and History. I’m trying to figure it all out right now actually.
Do you have any aspirations to write or direct down the road in addition to acting?
DEVER: Yeah. I was just talking about this. I feel like maybe later on I would love to, because I’ve worked and learned with a lot of directors and maybe I would like to direct something someday for sure.
Are you doing any writing now?
DEVER: I do write. I actually do want to start my music as well. My sister and I are starting a band. I’ve been playing a guitar for nine years, and she plays piano, and we sing together. We’re going to start up something soon. I mostly am writing songs right now actually, but I would love to write a script someday. I write all kinds of songs. It ranges. And I write poems as well.