Variety is Spicy: Krysten Ritter on Refuge and Vamps

The star of 'Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23' on balancing sitcoms with indie films and playing a vampire for Amy Heckerling.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


We always noticed Krysten Ritter standing out in other people’s movies like Confessions of a Shopaholic and She’s Out of My League so we’re glad to see the world catch up. She’s the star of ABC’s “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” and the movie she wrote herself, L!fe Happens. Now her next step is beginning its journey on the festival circuit. Refuge premiered at the Hamptons Film Festival over the weekend. Ritter plays a woman taking care of her brother and sister after her parents have abandoned them. We got to chat with Ritter by phone the afternoon after her premiere.

CraveOnline: In the last year, we’ve seen L!fe Happen, “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23” and now Refuge is starting to get seen. Has this been a particularly creatively fruitful time for you?

Krysten Ritter: Yeah. I’m so fortunate to have been given these opportunities to do such hugely different projects. That’s really the dream. Variety is spicy and keep stretching and flexing muscles. To me it’s really important to go back and forth between comedy and drama, so I’ve been making that a priority and luckily I’ve gotten to do it.

Did “Breaking Bad” really change things for you?

Yeah, “Breaking Bad” was a huge moment for me because it changed the course of my career and sort of took things to a new level in terms of raising people’s awareness about me and seeing something different because I was just in a lot of chick flicks before that. So that was the real game changer. And who knew? When I signed onto the show it was small and no one had really heard of it or were really watching it because only seven episodes had aired. Now it’s like the biggest show of all time so it’s been a real gift. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

Did “Don’t Trust the B—-“ change things again?

Yeah, I have never been the leader of a major network sitcom before and the amount of press and exposure that that gives you, I never anticipated any of that. I never thought about it. I just sort of showed up to work like I went on any other job, whether it was movie, TV or an indie. I treated it the same way. It wasn’t until it came out where I was like, “Oh wow, this is a different thing.”

Did you shoot Refuge before or during “Don’t Trust the B—-?“

It’s crazy. I got an offer for Refuge in early January. I had spent my Christmas break sort of strategizing and really thinking about what I wanted to do next and I decided I wanted to do a dark cool indie movie and then it came to me and it was so precious to me. Then pilot season started and I wasn’t really planning to participate in pilot season. My agents were not so thrilled about me going to do a tiny little independent film and make zero dollars and not be available. So when an offer came in for “Don’t Trust the B—“ which was “Don’t Trust the Bitch” at the time, I took a meeting and I loved Nahnatchka Khan and my agent said that I could go do Refuge if I did the pilot as well. So it was sort of part of the agreement, the negotiation.


So Refuge was an offer? You didn’t have to audition for the role of Amy?

Correct. That’s always nice.

Having written a film yourself, L!fe Happens, could you relate to the writer/director Jessica Goldberg?

Yeah, we started working on the scenes and breaking it down right away. It’s very nuanced, the film, and subtle. Sometimes you can really mine out those moments. Also because it was a play, some stuff won’t translate so we really got in there and made sure the scenes were doable for the camera and fleshed out the characters. But I loved working with her. We met many times over coffee or a glass of wine at her house sitting at her kitchen table really just talking about the script. Then I also worked with my acting teacher a lot. I think I spent more money on coaching than I did on the entire film.

What were the most difficult, challenging scenes? Because it is so subtle, Amy never complains about anything.

No, she’s somebody whose future is over. She has nothing to look forward to anymore. She’s retired and resigned. I think she’s given up. It’s not worth getting upset, it’s not worth yelling, it’s not worth arguing anymore. She’s a little dead inside. There’s always the challenge, just getting into the headspace and staying there. It was really, really helpful to be in the Hamptons in the freezing cold, shooting in this little house. I didn’t have any privacy or my own holding area. We all shared this living room together. We all got dressed together and in a way, that’s what helped me get into character for Amy. She’s got people just hanging off of her and they always need something from her, so in real life it was really good to be in that situation as well, just surrounded by people and having to hold down the fort.

Amy’s not bitter though, is she?

No, I don't think she’s bitter.

I don’t either. I agree she’s resigned, but she accepts her role and does it well.

She’s strong. She stepped up to the plate. I don’t find her to be bitter at all. She’s solid and she’s doing what she has to do for her sister and brother.

Was Amy unlike anyone you’ve ever played before?

Yeah, totally unlike anyone I ever played. You know, I grew up in a really small town in a house that was similar, so it was really good for me to figure out where I would be if I didn’t become an actress or if I didn’t have the life that I have now. I think I’d be kind of in a similar place, so it was good for me in terms of perspective and getting into that. It was cathartic as well, so for me it was sort of just tapping into where I came from.

And this was in The Hamptons?

Yeah, we shot in The Hamptons and we shot a completely different side of The Hamptons. We show the blue collar side. We didn’t shoot the gorgeous big mansions. It was a completely different thing. I love The Hamptons. I had never been there before, shockingly. I lived in New York for 10 years and never made my way out there, but I just had the best time. It was cold and romantic and their food was great and there was yoga and a cute spa. I could totally live in the Hamptons.

So it wasn’t as totally sparse as it looked in the film?

There are areas, sure, but we kind of shot around all the money. We found stuff that made it more Anytown, USA.

Was it a relief to come off of Refuge and do a big comedy like “Don’t Trust the B—?”

It’s the dream, you know. The goal is to change it up and go back and forth. Yeah, it was nice to shoot a movie where you don’t have to go to hair and makeup. There is no hair and makeup. You’re wearing the same jeans in every scene and it’s not about anything else. You don’t have a fancy trailer, so it was definitely good for you as an actor just to get down and dirty, just focus on the work and that’s it and make sure you’re flexing those muscles, because if you don’t use it you lose it. I love my sitcom more than anything on the planet so yeah, it’s nice to go and have fabulous clothing, beautiful hair and makeup. It’s very girly. It’s just a great time.

Does doing a movie like Refuge make you crave another one?

Yes, absolutely. For me, if I can do cool indies like this, a play and my TV show, that’s the way to go. I don’t want to repeat myself.

I had a chance to speak with Dreama Walker for Compliance and she calls it “Don’t Trust the Bitch.” Do you just say bitch?

I’m starting to get used to “Don’t Trust the B—-“ because it’s a little quicker I guess. And it rhymes [with Apt. 23], so I had a hard time for a while but now I’m like whatever, “Don’t Trust the B.” Everyone calls it something else, little pet names. My agent calls to say, “Okay, so next week on ‘The Bitch.’” They call it “The Bitch.” Some of the crew for short call it just Apartment 23 so it’s just a free for all. It’s such a long title.

What fun stuff is coming up for Chloe?

This season is even tighter and stronger and funnier in my opinion, and I was a big fan of last season, so I’m thrilled. We’re going to have a little attempted “Dawson’s Creek” reunion for our premiere. We’re going to have a potential love interest introduced in a Halloween episode. Many fabulous costumes in the Halloween episode. It’s crazy. It’s so outrageous the stuff we get into.

How many costumes does Chloe have?

Four. Of course sexy everything.

What kind of character do you get to play in Vamps?

Vamps is pretty much Clueless for vampires.

That’s what we’re hoping for. I’m glad they embraced that.

Yes, very much in line with what you would expect from Amy Heckerling if she were to do a vampire movie. That’s pretty much what it is. I got to work with Amy Heckerling who is such an amazing voice and one of my favorite female directors of all time. So that was pretty surreal, and Alicia Silverstone is a friend of mine now and I grew up watching her. I mean, she was the Aerosmith girl, she was in The Crush and Clueless. She was the epitome of cool when I was in my most formative years so now that I know her it’s so weird and awesome.

I’m glad you’ve seen The Crush also.

She’s great! I don't know how she was that good so young.

What kind of vampire do you get to play?

She’s very tech savvy and hip and sort of has her finger on the pulse of how the kids are acting now. They’re trying to keep up the image that they’re not dead, they’re not vampires, so it’s really important to stay with the times. So even though she was alive in the ‘80s and still love all of these ‘80s things, there’s a lot of references, she’s trying to be hip and young. A lot of LOLs.