Krysten Ritter grew up on a beet farm in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania. Or so I, having watched too many episodes of The Office, misunderstand her. "No," she corrects me. "A beef farm, where they slaughter cows." If there ever was an upbringing that would keep someone from becoming a pampered Hollywood actress, this would probably be it. But even without such bovine beginnings, Ritter would still not be a likely candidate for getting carried away.
When I catch up with Ritter, all of the Internet has just become abuzz with news of Williamsburg's "Hipster Grifter," and Ritter hasn't yet seen the story. "Where is it? I have to find it!" she practically screams, and instantly Googles it. "That sounds like it could be a movie! Oh my god, that's so crazy! I'm a Williamsburg hipster!" She catches herself and laughs. "Or I spent all my formative years there."
Ritter now plays the lead in the much-anticipated Gossip Girl prequel, which airs May 11, and has a host of other projects in the works as well, and her recent bump from supporting to lead roles has lead to a necessary decampment to LA. "All my best friends are still in New York, and they come out here and are like 'Ugh! LA,'" she says. "And I don't have the heart to tell them I'm not coming back."
Ritter was discovered by a model scout in her hometown mall when she was just 15, and spent the last few years of high school catching 4am buses into New York for 7am call times. At 18, she moved to the city to pursue modeling full time, an experience that lead her to write Model Camp, a satirical screenplay. "I was into it for a while, but then you start to realize how crappy it is and how icky it makes everyone feel," she says. "You stand in line for four hours and they look at your book for 30 seconds. You have no control over what happens to you."
She soon started booking commercials, and in the process, discovered she had a knack for something not normally associated with models: comedy. "I was bouncing around going to all these auditions and doing big dramatic scenes," she says, "but getting laughs." Years of bit parts lead to roles on the Gilmore Girls and in 27 Dresses and Confessions of a Shopaholic, and then in the very un-chick-flicky series about crystal meth Breaking Bad, where she plays a "former druggie landlord love interest." In the Gossip Girl prequel, which is currently just being touted as an '80s flash-back, Ritter plays the black-sheep older sister of Lily Rhodes, aka Lily van der Woodsen, aka Lily Bass, aka Serena's mom. Set in LA in 1983, the series is worth watching for the clothes alone, as Ritter is decked out with a perm, banana clips, fingerless gloves and a Thriller-esque leather jacket.
Like a true ex-Williamsburg hipster, Ritter also has a band, Ex-Vivian, which she jokingly refers to as herself and the hired guns. Ritter writes the songs and plays guitar and keyboards, and frequently collaborates with Brooklyn-based producer and DJ Speculator. "Now that I'm in LA, there's a lot of frequent flyer miles used," she says, "Pretty much all of my friends are musicians, so that's our idea of hanging out, like 'Hey, you want to come over and record?''
And though Ritter has no plans to return to New York, she is coming back to Pennsylvania—at least temporarily—to film a movie, King of Prussia, with Ryan Phillipe. Sadly, it's not a movie about the mall. "It's about this guy who is the King of Prussia," she says. "But I've totally been to the KOP mall. It's pretty epic." And she should know.