For longer than she liked, Krysten Ritter played the Best Friend, which in movie land is like always being the bridesmaid, never the bride. She tried to change things up with a few dark roles on cable television (a heroin addict on Breaking Bad, a suicide survivor on Gravity), but she’s now stepping out big-time — taking the lead in her own network show just as the first film she’s co-written is hitting theaters. The show is Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23; the movie is L!fe Happens. In the film, Ritter plays Kim, a woman who gets pregnant and then tries to navigate the dating world with a baby in tow. In Apartment 23, she’s Chloe, the kind of girl who would con Kim out of her rent money and steal her baby daddy, too. In neither scenario does Ritter play the supporting role of best friend — that task, in the case of the sitcom, falls to James Van Der Beek. Also on the way is a part that takes advantage of the actress’s goth good looks: Vamps, which will be out later this year, co-starring Alicia Silverstone. Ritter checked in with Vulture about her casting couch, becoming a sociopath, and Clueless nostalgia.
You must be relieved that after working on them for so long, your movie and your TV show are both finally coming out.
It’s crazy. I feel like all my babies have left the nest and now it’s time to make new ones. [Laughs.] You know what they say: If you want something done, give it to a busy person. I’ve gotten really good at time management and delegating over the course of these two projects.
Plus you had a third one in the middle that helped, since you stole some of the cast from Vamps.
I used Vamps as a casting couch! [Laughs.] I pretty much did, because I was casting L!fe Happens while I was on the set of Vamps, and anybody I had ever worked with, I asked to be in this movie. I remember one time, I was in the hotel restaurant, and Justin Kirk [who is in Vamps] saw me there, sitting with my computer, and he said, “Ritter! Come join us.” And so I was telling him, “I can’t. We just got financing, and I’m making a budget.” And he said, “Awesome! Is there a part in your movie for me?” I think he was joking, but then I said, “Actually, there is. Can I get you to sign right here?” And so I trapped him. [Laughs.]
What led you to want to create your own material? Was that a way to break out of the sarcastic-best-friend rut?
It wasn’t just about that. I’ve been doing a lot of movies lately where I’m no longer just the best friend, so I didn’t feel that I needed to create my own part to get a lead role. I think it was more about trying to do a female buddy comedy, because we thought there was a lack of them. And when Kat [Coiro, her writing partner and the movie’s director] had a baby, and we were driving along, flirting with guys — well, I was, she wasn’t — and then her baby cried … we looked at each in the car, and the movie was born.
Or at least the idea of it was. But you went through a couple of incarnations?
We went through every incarnation of the story and every Hollywood stereotypical scenario you can think of to make a little movie. At one point, there were these producers who wanted to buy it and make it an even bigger movie. Another set of producers said, “What about making this a TV show?” So it was going to be a multi-camera sitcom for ABC, which is the same channel my new show is on. And when those didn’t get made, we thought, Why not go back to the original version? And why not make it ourselves, so we have nobody to answer to? Which was kind of awesome. There was nobody telling us that we can’t do this.
What would you have done if this idea had become a show on ABC at the same time Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 did?
I couldn’t do them both, that’s for sure! It would have had to be one or the other, and I don’t know if I could trade or choose between them. So I’m really glad this came together as a movie. Don’t Trust the B—- is the role of a lifetime, and I’m just so grateful for it. I’ve never seen a character like [Chloe] on TV before.
Usually guys get all the good sociopathic lead parts: Dexter, House, Frank Gallagher.
I’ve never seen a sociopath who’s a female, and it’s just so delicious. I’m so honored to be the first one, if I am. I just love that she has no filters, and marches to her own drummer. She drinks, she has sex, she parties, and those are all really fun things to play. I love that she’s part of the great digestive system of New York City. And I’m not playing myself. [Laughs.] I’m not playing the friend, I’m playing a force of nature. I could probably never find a role as a good as this.
People can relate to the show’s concept because we’ve all had a roommate from hell.
Not me. I’m probably in the minority. I haven’t had a roommate like this, thank God, mostly because I haven’t had that many roommates. I did live with some models in an apartment once, but I don’t think that counts.
Did you ever watch Dawson’s Creek?
I never did. Is that bad? I think this way, [James Van Der Beek] is my James, and not my Dawson. And he’s such a good sport. But I’ve watched Clueless as many times as humanly possible. Like, I would run home from school to watch it. Like, I can quote it backwards. So when I got to do Vamps with Alicia Silverstone, it was the coolest thing to do a movie with her and become friends with her. I always wanted one of those closets like her character had, where you can figure out your outfits? The skirts with thigh highs? And now I have her in my phone. How cool is that?