Q&A: Danny Abeckaser on 'The Iceman'
Abeckaser stars alongside Michael Shannon in the true story of hit man Richard Kuklinski.
May 01, 2013
Israeli-born and Brooklyn-raised, Danny Abeckaser made his mark in New York City by opening up mega-clubs like Marquee and Avenue, but it’s his more recent foray into acting that’s got our attention. After starring in 2010’s critically acclaimed indie Holy Rollers, Abeckaser has landed his meatiest role to date—Dino Lapron, best friend to hit man Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) in this month’s The Iceman (out May 3). Based on the real life of Kuklinski (aka “The Iceman”), who killed 100 people between 1964 and 1986, the film also stars Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, and James Franco.
How’d you score the role of Dino in The Iceman?
DANNY ABECKASER: I’m friendly with the director [Ariel Vromen] and he’s always told me about the project. I just loved it. He gave me the script, I read it, he talked to me about maybe having a little role in it. I didn’t realize the role was going to be so big.
How would you describe your character?
DA: Dino is Richard Kuklinski’s best friend, and he basically doesn’t know anything about Richard’s other life, which is being a hit man. Dino gives Richie a bit of a human side. Everything else in the movie is showing him in his world—the profession that he chose—but when he’s around Dino, you see the other side of him. And Dino’s a good guy; he’s a straight up guy who just happens to be friends with a serial killer, basically.
What did you think of the 1970s attire?
DA: I had a big mustache and I’m wearing ’70s clothes—that was fun. Every actor loves to do that. I mean, we’re basically just playing dress up, you know? You get to act like an idiot and get away with it.
What’s up next for you?
DA: I did The Wolf of Wall Street with Martin Scorsese. I have a small little role in it. That was exciting. And I’m almost ready to start shooting my next movie called The Life in New York. It tells the story of a guy who comes up in the nightlife world and kind of transitions between New York and Las Vegas. It’s a great little film and very dear to my heart because it’s loosely based on experiences that I’ve had.
Speaking of that, how did you come up in the New York club scene?
DA: I’ve been in the club business for about 15 to 16 years. I started as a promoter in various places and now I own a few places in New York. So I’m still involved, but I don’t go out as much; I’m not an everyday operator.
So as someone “in the business,” where do you go to grab a drink?
DA: My places! If I go out, I love going first to The Spot at The Trump Soho, then hitting Avenue, and then ending my night at Marquee.
Five years from now, what will you be doing?
DA: I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. I’d love to work with him. But I want to do great work and do things I enjoy, that would be my goal. In five years, if I could have my choice, it would be just to do movies that I would want to watch. I guess that’s every actor’s dream.
photography by Rob Kim
Ben Lyons Talks Yahoo! On the Road
Lyons plays host to a global tour with acts like The Gossip and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
April 29, 2013
Yahoo! On the Road host Ben Lyons
“It's kind of a dream job: go across the country and host concerts and activities with different celebrities,” says entertainment personality and self-confessed “hip-hop nerd” Ben Lyons when describing his new gig as host of the Yahoo! On the Road tour. Billed as an “entertainment road trip,” the tour kicked off in New York City today, with a performance by The Lumineers, and wraps in San Francisco on May 31 before crossing the pond to Europe. Bookings include comedians, popular bands, and surprise special guests, with different headliners at nearly every stop. Confirmed acts in various cities include Empire of the Sun, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Gossip, fun., Michael Yo, and many more. Still to come in New York this Friday is a performance by John Legend. To learn more about the tour—and where to score first come, first serve tickets—we chatted up Lyons.
First of all, what about this project appealed to you?
BEN LYONS: For me, as a music fan, it’s an awesome way to see some of the more talked about bands in music right now, up close and personal, and I get a killer credential. It seems in the last five years, with the emergence of Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Jay-Z's Made in America, there's a lot of great festivals that happen for a limited amount of time, and we're doing this for an entire month in the states, then going overseas in June and July.
How would you describe your role as host?
BL: I'll be onstage introducing the bands and comedians, [and] I'll be interviewing all of the bands. We have different bands in each city, but I'm the guy you'll see in New York on May 3, in San Francisco May 31, and everywhere in between.
Your background in the music industry goes well beyond your TV work.
BL: I got my start producing music videos when I was a kid in New York. And I'm kind of a hip-hop nerd. Growing up in New York City in the ’90s was a golden era in hip-hop.
What does one pack to go on the road for a month with a bunch of entertainers?
BL: I know, right? My mother always gets mad at me because I come and visit her in New York and I always have a new pair of sneakers on, that's when I get the ‘Benjamin.’ And when you get Benjamin, as opposed to Ben, you know you're in trouble. I have one big duffel already packed with just different sneakers, so I'll be set there.
Have you been everywhere the tour is going?
BL: No, absolutely not. That was another selling point for me. I think they did a really good job of booking artists who are really relevant to music right now. A lot of the artists we have as part of our On the Road series you're going to see later in the summer at Lollapalooza or Made in America. We really want to make sure that these shows are filled across the country with people who are fans of the bands.
Sounds great. How can people get tickets?
BL: People can get tickets by following me on Twitter [@IamBenLyons], and following @YahooOnTheRoad. In each city, we're going to have really cool different ways to interact with people to get tickets—you can win them on Flickr, or by using one of our Yahoo! apps.
Ellen Wong Talks 'Carrie Diaries'
The Toronto native explores life in the Big Apple both on and off screen.
March 05, 2013
As quirky sidekick Jill “The Mouse” Chen to AnnaSophia Robb’s Carrie Bradshaw on the CW’s The Carrie Diaries, Ellen Wong charms viewers with her adorable wit. The 28-year-old Canadian transplant—who now lives in Brooklyn—chats with us about the show’s ’80s wardrobe, playing a teenager again, and catching up on Sex and the City.
How do you like living in New York so far?
ELLEN WONG: I really love it. And I just feel there is no way you can be bored in New York. There’s so much to do and everyone is so creative and independent and such forward thinkers. And it makes you feel like you’ve got to get up and do something, always.
Were you a Sex and the City fan before landing this role?
EW: I actually didn’t see the show before we shot the pilot. I watched [it] on DVD this summer before we started shooting and it was a lot of fun. I can definitely see why it left such a legacy and why it was so loved.
Tell us more about your character, Mouse.
EW: I must say that she shocks me every time I read the script. And her strength, her confidence in herself and what she wants, shocks me. She is intense because she is really ambitious. But, at the same time, she loves to have fun and she’s very caring and giving to her friends. So that’s what I really, really love about her. Her confidence inspires me, too.
What’s it like playing a teenager again?
EW: None of us on the show are 16. So, it’s funny. But I feel like it’s better that way because then you can really take the life experience that you’ve gained and put it in your role. I’ve done the research. I feel like you can’t play 16 unless you’ve gone through it.
Are you loving the '80s clothing?
EW: Oh my gosh, yes! I asked [costume designer] Eric Daman who his inspiration was for Mouse and he mentioned Square Pegs. He said Tracy Nelson, who plays the character Jennifer DiNuccio, really inspires Mouse. She’s a bit preppy, lots of bows and frills. I think it’s nice to see a conservative girl be fashionable. She’s reserved, [but] it’s who she is and she’s confident in that.
What’s on your agenda for 2013?
EW: Well, right now I’m just focusing on The Carrie Diaries and we’re hoping that everyone will enjoy watching it. We’re all having a really great time on set and it’s so fun; I don’t want it to pass me by and to not be in the moment. So, I’m really trying to just enjoy.
Watch The Carrie Diaries on the CW on Mondays at 8 p.m.
photography by Jason Kempin/gettyimages.com
Matthew Segal Mobilizes the Youth Vote
Segal talks about creating an online political channel set to launch this spring.
February 25, 2013
Matthew Segal founded Our Time to help educate young people about voting in the US.
“When I testified before Congress at 19, I really had no idea how it worked,” Matthew Segal says with a laugh. But watching many of his classmates wait in line 10 hours to vote in his first presidential election was a galvanizing moment in his life. Just six months later he would be speaking before the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary about voting irregularities. “Very quickly, I decided that not only did I have to learn the legislative process, but that there was a necessity to help educate many of my peers about how it works, too.”
As a junior at Kenyon College, he founded the Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE) to make electoral participation more accessible to college students, with branches of the organization forming at 40 different colleges. In 2011, he combined forces with Norman Lear’s voter registration nonprofit Declare Yourself to create Our Time, the political and economic advocacy group he now helms.
“In Washington, DC, the younger you are, the less value your opinion has and the more you’re told that you’re naïve, you’re arrogant, or that your seat at the table is not necessarily deserved,” says Segal, who has been greatly encouraged by CNN’s Piers Morgan. “I’ve always viewed Washington with a jaundiced eye; an outsider sharing how I feel the system is wrong and inefficient. Our generation is the most diverse and multicultural in history. I want to build not only a TV show, but a larger media framework that isn’t presented in the divisive, strident way that TV and political news currently is.”
Our Time is divided into an education side that dissects language used by politicians and media to help the average person understand what’s being debated and how it affects them; an advocacy element that develops and lobbies for ways to make student loan debt more manageable, to expand national service jobs, and to reform the voting process on behalf of Segal’s generation; and a media arm that garners coverage of the work they’re doing in mainstream media—with Segal himself serving almost exclusively as its mouthpiece.
“It’s not that our generation doesn’t care that our quality of air is declining, or that people are being discriminated against,” says Segal. “If I can donate money, sign a petition online, or tell a thousand friends about a party tonight in six seconds, the thought that if I’m concerned about a particular issue, that I have to write a letter to my member of Congress who has to caucus his other colleagues for a committee hearing, which then has to be sent to a forum leader who has to put it to a floor vote, and pass the House and go to United States Senate, and then pass a 60-vote filibuster... that notion is simply asinine to the average person [my age].”
photography by aaron Clamage. Shot on location at The National Press C lub Studios, Washington,
Q&A: Michael Clinton Talks Travel Savvy
The world-traveler and publishing industry veteran discusses his new book, The Globetrotter Diaries, travel tips, and more.
December 19, 2012
Whether you’re journeying an hour via car or halfway across the world on an airplane this holiday season, tips from a seasoned traveler could certainly help. Luckily, we snagged Michael Clinton—world-traveler; president, marketing and publishing director at Hearst; and author of the forthcoming book The Globetrotter Diaries—for sound advice. Take in Clinton’s words of wisdom on traveling for New Year’s Eve, secret New York City must-sees, and why you should only travel with a carry-on, before The Globetrotter Diaries drops on February 16, 2013 ($30, amazon.com pre-order).
How has your work in publishing affected your globetrotting lifestyle? Or vice versa?
MICHAEL CLINTON: You know, the more you see the world, the more you want to see the world—so the more business travel I had…. For instance, if I was in Tokyo on business, I would say, ‘Well, where else in Asia should I be going or thinking about?’ One influences the other.
In your new book, The Globetrotter Diaries, you encourage people to travel for New Year's Eve. Are you going somewhere this year? Where have you rung in the New Year before?
MC: This year I will be at the Cavas Wine Lodge in Argentina. I’ll be sitting under the summer night with a group of friends, ringing in the New Year. I have spent New Year’s Eve on every continent. I was in Antarctica once—cooling the Champagne in chipped ice in a glacier. That was kind of fun. We did Cape Town for the millennium. We’ve been to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was great; it’s a beautiful time of year to be there. I was once on a Japan Airlines flight, going from Bangkok to Tokyo, eating sushi and drinking Champagne on the plane. That would count as Asia, right? Paris for Europe! And, Sydney—Sydney Harbour.
You've said that it's important to visit developing nations. Which ones have you visited? Why is it important?
MC: Just a few to give an example: Mozambique, Cambodia, and Laos. First of all, what those nations need is tourism and foreign exchange to be able to grow and expand. But more importantly, I think you’re able to find ways that you might be able to give back. For instance, when I went to Cambodia. I’ve been involved in fundraising now for about 10 years for a children’s hospital in Angkor Wat. There was a children’s hospital started there by a group called Friends Without A Border. It was really the first children’s hospital established in the country of Cambodia after the atrocities there. So, when you travel to developing nations, aside from helping to stimulate their economy with tourism, you see ways to give back. And then you come back and give the message to others who can participate.
New York City is also noted in The Globetrotter Diaries, as you are a longtime New Yorker. What are some favorite insider spots you'd tell a person traveling here to visit?
MC: I went to a place last night that you have to go to if you’ve never been. It’s a restaurant called Pulqueria. It is a very cool subterranean Mexican restaurant downstairs on Doyers Street in Chinatown—I mean you really have to make a left, and then make a right, then make a left…. Also, the great garden [Conservatory Garden] on 105 St. and Fifth Ave., right inside of Central Park. It’s like a little English garden—it’s a fantastic experience. Another thing that I would say is, all around Gramercy Park. It’s Teddy Roosevelt territory, and there’s a huge amount of history there, just walking around those few blocks.
You discuss summers in the Hamptons in your book, too. Do you have any winter favorites out East?
MC: Some of the restaurants out there are perfect for winter, like Robert's in Watermill or The American Hotel in Sag Harbor. I’m a runner so I love running in the winter out there because there’s not a lot of traffic. You can run through an open field, which is great. Also, I like going to Marders—you never think about going to a nursery in the winter, but you should actually go. They’re open in the winter and it’s magical when you go in there, like stepping into a wonderland. They have a hot chocolate bar, lots of great books, and different gift items.
Most people will be traveling at least a short distance to see family and/or friends this holiday season. What is your number-one tip for holiday travel no matter where you're off to?
MC: Carry on—period, end.
Do you have anything else that you want to say about the new book?
MC: It’s packed with lots of travel tips, but the other thing you may have noticed is that they’re not from my own travels. I called ten other people who I know are incredible world travelers, [like] Nancy Novogrod, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure, and the president of Louis Vuitton [Valerie Chapoulaud]. It was really tapping into a lot of globetrotters. I think there are a lot of great tips that people can pick up from not just my own travels and myself, but from all of my friends and colleagues.
Noel Fisher Talks Twilight and More
The actor takes on a huge franchise while starring in a hit Showtime series.
November 15, 2012
Between his part in the latest installment of the multimillion-dollar franchise Twilight and his guest-turned-recurring role on Showtime’s hit series Shameless, Noel Fisher has his hands full. “I love this job, I wouldn’t do anything else,” says the Vancouver-born 28-year-old, seemingly smiling on the other end of the phone.
Although Vladimir, the ancient Romanian vampire that he’ll portray alongside Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, is starkly different from Shameless’ Mickey Milkovich, a sexually confused and violent teen, Fisher plays each of his characters with a raw sensibility. This might be due to the passion he feels for his job, and the excitement he gets from taking on difficult roles. “The most interesting characters to play, as an actor, are the characters that have really difficult things to deal with,” says Fisher, “I guess that’s what acting is, trying to show the struggles in people’s lives and how they act and try to overcome those struggles.”
Here, he discusses Twilight, his passion for sci-fi and the upcoming season of Shameless.
Congratulations on your role on Twilight! It’s a huge franchise, how does it feel to be part of it?
NOEL FISHER: I’m a big sci-fi junkie. Fantasy, action—I really love all that kind of stuff. Playing a 3,000-year-old vampire who is hell-bent on revenge is pretty perfect for me. I was really happy.
Twilight has catapulted the career of many actors who are now major stars. How was working with them?
NF: It’s really lovely when you get to actually meet all these people, and they’re just regular people and they have a great sense of humor and they kind of just want to have a good time. They really do a wonderful job of creating a good atmosphere on set. You wake up every morning being [like], ‘awesome, I get to go to work today.’
Your role on Shameless has been turned into a recurring one. What can you tell me about the upcoming season?
NF: I’m really excited for everybody to get to see season three of Shameless. Selfishly, just for myself, I’m really excited that fans get to know a little bit more about Mickey, because he’s kind of been this peripheral character up until now. He’s this strange, closeted, violent person who you don’t really know that much about, besides his reactionary way of dealing with life. And I think it’s going to be really interesting for fans to get more of a glimpse as to why he is the way he is.
NF: You’re not going to be disappointed. There are some really, really crazy plot points that are going to throw you for a loop and spin the whole thing around. I don’t know anything else that has the ability to take you on such a roller coaster of emotions that you’re hysterically laughing in one scene and then in the very next scene you’re sobbing.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOE DEANGELIS PHOTOGRAPHY
Chris Messina As You've Never Seen Him
The New York-born actor talks about his revealing new role in 28 Hotel Rooms.
November 14, 2012
Chris Messina and Marin Ireland in a scene from 28 Hotel Rooms
You probably think you know Chris Messina. Films like Julie & Julia, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Argo have proven that the actor can hang with Hollywood's heavy hitters, while television shows like Big Love, The Newsroom, and The Mindy Project have made him a (hip) household name. But on November 16, when 28 Hotel Rooms hits New York theaters, you’ll really get to know the actor, who director Matt Ross calls “astonishingly brave.”
Messina spends the majority of the film in the buff, playing a book-touring novelist whose one-night stand turns into an unexpected, albeit indoor, relationship that goes on to span multiple cities and many years.
The 38-year-old actor’s engaging performance in this film isn’t a coincidence. Onscreen—and in person—Messina exudes a sexy sincerity that clearly resonates with audiences outside of his native Long Island. He’s successfully been able to play both the everyman and leading actor, and in 28 Hotel Rooms, he commands the screen in what is the equivalent of a two-person stage show. Here, we sit down with one-half of that duo to chat about timing, television and, yes, trucker hats.
You reunited with your Big Love co-star, Matt Ross, to collaborate on this film, which is his first feature and directorial debut. What was that like?
CHRIS MESSINA: Matt and I are always talking about films we like and things we want to do together. We’re very similar in the ways we like to work. With this film, we would improvise and sometimes leave the camera running for 20 minutes so the actors could move about freely. We would shoot a bit and then come back to look at it, which is the beauty of a low-budget film where you can really be involved. I’m so proud to have been a part of a film like Julie & Julia, but it’s not like Nora Ephron is going to let the cameras roll for fun, you know? And with a film like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen gives you a part and you play it.
Do you think improvisation was necessary to keep the film authentic?
CM: Yes and no. We loved the script and Matt did a great job writing it. We shot 90 percent of what was written, but we also set up an atmosphere where improvisation was welcome. We could get as crazy or quiet as we wanted. It was a place with no wrong or right.
Aside from a bartender or hotel maid, you and Marin [Ireland] carry the onscreen weight of this entire film. How heavily did you tap into your Broadway experience?
CM: I try to reference my stage experiences with every project I do. With 28 Hotel Rooms, we had Matt, who went to Juilliard, and Marin, who is a theater animal. So, yeah, I felt like I had to be on my toes with them because they’re both so good. Having just two people onscreen was definitely a fear when we came up with this concept. If you don’t like me or her or us together, you’re just not going to be into it.
What do you hope the audience’s reaction to this film will be?
CM: I hope they go on the roller coaster ride with this couple. I understand that certain people will get mad because these characters are lying and cheating, but I also hope they realize these are human beings. We spoke a lot about the concept of timing while making this film. Looking back on life, you see missed opportunities or relationships that could have worked out but the timing was off. I think everyone can relate to that.
This film gives you a well-deserved executive producer credit. Do you see yourself taking on more roles like this?
CM: I love acting, but I think it’s unfortunate that the types of movies I really loved growing up, like The Conversation or Kramer vs. Kramer, aren’t really being made anymore. Or, if they are, I can’t get a part in them [laughs]. Right now, I think we’re in the golden age of television, which is why I’ve been doing a lot of it these days. I fell in love with the idea of taking a character over a long period of time to stay, grow, and move with them.
Your breadth of work is pretty incredible, especially what you’ve done in the past year. How do you choose your projects?
CM: It’s always different. Sometimes, it’s an actor I get to work with. With Argo, it was Ben [Affleck], who I think is an amazing actor, producer, and director. I’m fascinated with the way he bounces in and out of those roles. I knew I’d be very lucky if I got to be involved with that project. Other times, I just really love a character, like Danny on The Mindy Project. Doing network comedy was a big twist for me and it’s a very scary world . . . It’s just totally different but that’s why I wanted to do it. You adjust because you have to.
Tell us some of your favorite neighborhoods in NYC?
CM: When I lived in NYC, I was in Washington Heights, Astoria, and then Cobble Hill, which I really loved. Later, I lived in Williamsburg but that was before it was hip—it was when trucker hats were really popular, if you remember. Now I really like the East Village. I feel like it’s one of the last remaining neighborhoods in Manhattan.
Neal Shapiro on Thirteen's 50th Year
As Thirteen celebrates its 50th anniversary, CEO Neal Shapiro plans even more New York–centric cultural programming.
November 08, 2012
Neal Shapiro, the CEO of Thirteen, the flagship station of PBS, is anything but remote as he guides the station into its 50th year. “It’s both daunting and exhilarating,” he says of the milestone anniversary. “Daunting because the history is so incredible, and exhilarating because we’re finding things that people haven’t seen before and sharing that with new generations.”
As part of the anniversary celebration, Thirteen will air a range of new shows, including Pioneers of Thirteen, a four-part documentary series, which traces the station’s programming from the 1960s to the present. There are interviews featuring a diverse group of VIPs including Edward R. Murrow, Andy Warhol, Vladimir Nabokov, and Muhammad Ali. “We’re doing much more local programming than we ever did before,” says Shapiro, who took over the leadership of Thirteen, WNET, and WLIW-21 five years ago. “Local arts, history, and culture are hardly ever done on commercial television.”
Also under Shapiro’s stewardship, Thirteen has built a new state-of-the-art glass studio at Lincoln Center. “The glass is really a metaphor for who we are; we truly are a public medium,” says Shapiro, whose sartorial trademark is a different pair of suspenders every day. “The public has a right to see what we’re doing. I don’t look out that window and see advertisers and Nielsen ratings; I look out and see the people who watch us, and that’s whose opinions count.”
With six million viewers but only around 200,000 members, Thirteen hopes the anniversary will be the springboard for increased fundraising and even more original programming such as Call the Midwife, a series about midwives in London’s East End during the 1950s, and NYC-Arts, which provides a curator’s look inside a different New York exhibit each episode. “I’m breathless at great creativity,” says Shapiro, who also aims to air off-Broadway shows on Thirteen as a way to further spotlight local culture. “There was a time when public television used to do a lot of plays. In our archives we found a story about a young actor in a publishing house in Russia; he went on to some fame eight months later when he got the starring role in The Graduate (Dustin Hoffman). We have the first television appearances of Meryl Streep and Jon Voight and early appearances by Martin Sheen and Faye Dunaway.”
Born in Albany, Shapiro always wanted to be a journalist. “I grew up idolizing people like Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley and was lucky enough to work with Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Sam Donaldson, and Diane Sawyer,” says Shapiro, a former president of NBC News with 32 Emmy Awards to his credit. “There were moments when I would say, Can you believe this is me? This kid who taught himself to type so I could write sports columns?”
Today, Shapiro thinks that with so many television channels, branding is becoming more important. “PBS and Thirteen mean quality, something that will enrich you, either intellectually, spiritually, or both,” he says. “There aren’t many other brands out there that can claim that.”
At home with his wife, ABC News’ Juju Chang, Shapiro balances his three sons’ exposure to television, computers, DVDs, and other digital formats. “They have to do all their homework before they get any screens, and during the week, they have to play before they watch television,” says Shapiro. “They can watch PBS without time limits, but other things are limited. What makes good stories are strong characters and good conflict. The difference between reality television and what I argue is better television is characters you care about in a conflict over an issue you care about. Reality television has taken that and perverted it.”
But in the Shapiro-Chang household, who controls the remote? Says Shapiro, “When you have nine TVs in your house, that’s not really an issue.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SARI GOODFRIEND
Q&A: Krysten Ritter Digs Deep in 'Refuge'
The TV actress takes on a heavy role as a small town girl from a broken family.
October 16, 2012
Krysten Ritter in Refuge
“Every day I drive home from work and I’m just so grateful!” said an abundantly sincere Krysten Ritter, who, it bears mentioning, has a two-hour commute (in L.A. traffic) to the set of her ABC show, Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt 23. Though it’s clear that she’s little like the character she plays on television (she’s the “B”), Ritter has an innate sarcasm and quirkiness that’s detectable even over the phone. But what defines her most is her absolute devotion to her craft, a passion that’s clearly demonstrated in her latest film, Refuge, which premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival. “I think I spent my entire paycheck on acting coaching,” said Ritter of preparing to play Amy, a young woman who must care for her two siblings after they're abandoned by their parents.
Below, the multifaceted Ritter talks about working with her boyfriend, channeling her small town past to prepare for Refuge, and sharing the small screen with James Van Der Beek.
How did you prepare for the role of Amy?
KRYSTEN RITTER: Amy basically has to give up on all of her dreams in her own life in order to care for her two younger siblings. So she’s a girl with really no hope and no future. It was pretty heavy. For me it was a great opportunity to sort of get down and dirty and back to the basics. It wasn’t about anything but the work. There’s no hair and makeup, literally, which is refreshing and fun. As an actress, it’s amazing to get out and stretch like that. [On my TV show] everything is light and beautiful and poppy and bright. It was such a great opportunity to change it up.
Speaking of your TV show, congratulations on season two! Your character, Chloe, is vastly different from Amy. Which one do you relate to most?
KR: All of my characters are sort of built-in. I always pull from personal experience. I do relate to my character a little bit on the show because she’s ballsy and she does what she wants to do and she is not conventional—she’s not climbing a corporate ladder, she’s not pining after a guy, and I’m very much like that. I definitely like her in those ways, and I’m a little light on my feet. I’m not promiscuous and I’m not a party girl. Those are two things I don’t relate to. In terms of my character in Refuge, I think I was able to play it ‘as if.’ First of all, I’m from a very small town and I was able to sort of go in and live how my life would be if I didn’t become an actress, or if that was all taken away from me. I lived in a house like that, and I know what it’s like to feel stuck.
In Refuge, your real-life boyfriend, Brian Geraghty, plays your love interest. What was that like?
KR: We were only dating for a small amount of time [before filming], so we still had the butterflies. But it was good because I got to see how he works and how he interacts with other people, how he treats people, how he has got such a good work ethic. And we both have very strong ethics. We’re both from humble, humble beginnings, and we both didn’t have any sort of silver spoon. So for me, I think it was not only a great acting experience, but a great personal experience for my life.
Going back to your show, can you reveal anything about season two?
KR: The first episode back is going to be about a Dawson’s Creek reunion. So there’s some very fun stuff in there. The second episode is the Halloween episode, which is also very fun, and we see what Chloe does every Halloween—it’s very outrageous, of course. The show is just getting tighter and better, and the writing is so flawless and funny. It’s the best job ever.
And you get to work with James Van Der Beek.
KR: James is awesome! We have such a good time together. I think he’s so funny, and I feel like his character is just getting better and better. Him and I have a similar outlook on things. We’ve been given a blessing, so we both treat it that way.
A Day with Donal Brophy
From Whitehall to Highlands and back again—with time for a shave and a glass of rosé in between.
September 07, 2012
In 2007, The Highlands Restaurant Group formed with a vision to give New York an authentic and contemporary taste of Scotland and the British Isles. As principal, Donal Brophy is involved in every aspect of the group’s portfolio, even playing a major role in the design of each restaurant. In 2011, Brophy launched Whitehall, a bar focused on gin and a menu of traditional English grub, which joins Highlands, a gastropub specializing in Scottish cuisine and cocktails. (The Highlands Group also oversees the kitchen at the new-this-season Byron restaurant at The Surf Lodge in Montauk.) We followed Brophy on a busy day as he juggled tasks for all three restaurants.
Rise and shine! I usually start my morning by heading down to the local newsstand on Prince and Sullivan and buy the Times, a coffee, and a croissant. To quote John Gunther, “All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” After breakfast I do an hour-and-a-half workout at the McBurney YMCA. I’m about 40 years below the median age of most members, but I love it! I get to eavesdrop on a lot of hilarious conversations.
Head to the flower market on 28th Street to pick up two giant pear branch arrangements for Highlands and Whitehall Bar + Kitchen. We change them out every five days or so.
I’m at Whitehall, in the West Village, where I’m greeted by my friends and business partners, Brian McGrory and Mary Wan. I sit down and go through my emails and see what is urgent and going on throughout the airwaves. It so happens they are short on silverware and other necessities at Byron. I’m driving up there first thing tomorrow morning, so I make a list and head to Balter Sales on the Bowery.
Our office computer at Highlands has crashed and is going to need to be repaired, according to the Geek Squad. I pick up an old PC we used to have at our restaurant Mary Queen of Scots [closed] and speed back to Whitehall for an investor meeting. I’m sure I’m going to be late, but I make it and say a quick hello before getting down to business.
The time is ticking before we open at Highlands and Whitehall, and I still have a ton to do. First, I need to hook up the computer at Highlands so the guys can play music and print menus. Then, I have to arrange those pear branches that have just been delivered—which is no easy task by the way.
Time for what we call ‘line up’ with the staff at Whitehall. We go over the special for the evening, taste new wines, and discuss other issues. Brian and I then head to Morandi for a cheeky glass of rosé (spilling the beans…).
I head up to my barber on Greenwich Avenue and Jane for a quick haircut and shave.
Arrive back at Whitehall and the place is in full swing. I take a few minutes to check my email and make sure everything is on track for the weekend in Montauk (which can be crazy). Byron is usually booked two weeks out, so I have a lot of requests from friends and VIPs.
Start working the door and managing the floor at Whitehall, making sure everything is running smoothly—the hosts are doing a good job turning tables, the kitchen doesn’t have any issues, etc. When managing a small space like Whitehall, you pretty much chip in and help on all levels (i.e. running food and drinks, taking orders if the waiters are particularly slammed, making drinks, etcetera, etcetera). The intention is to make sure that everything is seamless. Whitehall and Highlands are neighborhood spots, and we tend to know a vast majority of the guests. This is probably the part of the job I enjoy the most.
Head around the corner to see how Highlands is doing. All seems to be going smoothly—nice and busy. Now back to Whitehall.
The kitchen closes and the bar fills up with people having cocktails. I chat to a few friends that have come by to say hello.
Head home to get a good night sleep for what awaits us out East.