Generally speaking, choking on your own vomit isn’t a career enhancer. Krysten Ritter proves otherwise. The 28-year-old actress was in something of a rut until landing the part of Jesse Pinkman’s junkie girlfriend, Jane Margolis, for Breaking Bad’s second season. “Up until then, I was getting a lot of comedic sidekick roles,” says Ritter, who had pretty much sewn up the feisty best friend in romantic comedies (27 Dresses, What Happens in Vegas, Confessions of a Shopaholic, She’s Out of My League). But one dark role has begotten another darkish one: She’s now starring in Gravity (debuting April 23 on Starz), an ensemble dramedy about an A.A.-style group for suicide survivors. In many ways, Gravity’s Lily is like Jane: smart, acerbic, and quirky. But this time her character lives, hooking up with a grieving widower who drives his car off a bridge only to be thwarted by a passing cruise ship. “Krysten has this intangible energy,” says Eric Schaeffer, Gravity’s creator. “She can go from downright melancholy, to sarcastic, to very light and kooky.”
Her mind does travel interesting paths. We start talking about an upcoming film role, playing the manager of an Irish band in Killing Bono. “It’s based on a book of the same name, a true story about U2 and a band called Shook Up!,” she says. “They came up around the same time. This is a pretty bold statement,” she adds, “but I think one of the guys in the movie, Robbie Sheehan, is going to be the next Johnny Depp. He’s electric, only 22, and he’s also got some big CGI movie with Nic Cage coming out: Season of the Witch.” Ritter pauses. “What is it about Nic Cage that people find appealing, I wonder?” I suggest that he has done some great work. “He was in Leaving Las Vegas—and he was kind of awesome in Face/Off,” she says. “He’s too old for me. I don’t look at men that age. I just don’t. I usually date young boys.” Younger than you? “No, just my age. Older guys are nurturing, they like to take care of you, and sometimes it’s nice to be fed and watered, but there’s nothing worse than a grumpy old man.”
Dressed in scuffed motorcycle boots and a plaid button-down, the actress could easily pass for her former self, a Lower East Side–dwelling model (discovered in a rural Pennsylvania mall when she was 16), or the lead singer and guitarist for a rock band called, say, Ex Vivian—which, as it turns out, is Ritter’s gig when she’s not acting. And since not acting isn’t happening much lately, “at the moment I’m just trying to maintain my skill as a musician,” she says. “I try to pick up my guitar—a classic nylon-string that I call Guitarlos—for fifteen minutes every morning. When I don’t, I’m starting off on the wrong foot. I’m going back to L.A. after this interview, and I can’t wait to be playing my guitar and not have hair and makeup.”
Ritter admits to a wanton lack of pickiness when it comes to her work. “I take every single job that comes my way,” she says. “I know so many complete assholes who’ve got a lot of money in the bank and got it quickly and have no concept how hard you have to work.” But with the move from supporting parts to leads, she’s been forced to employ restraint, even turning down a role for the first time. “I’ve been working for six months straight, and otherwise I would be useless in [my next project] Vamps.”
For some bizarre reason, when every film and TV show seems to boast a vampire, the deathly pale, gothic beauty is just now playing one. (I mean, look at her!) Out next year, Vamps is a comedy from Clueless director Amy Heckerling, who cast Ritter to star opposite Alicia Silverstone. “It kind of sucks,” says Ritter of the vampire glut. “Amy’s been working on this movie for a long time—it’s her passion project. But Vamps is first and foremost an Amy Heckerling movie, not a vampire movie, like Twilight—though I can’t really say since I haven’t seen it. I might be the only person.”
Premieres April 23 at 10:30 p.m.