by Zi Alikhan
photography by Steve Shaw
Most 22-year olds started 2010 with resolutions that read more like pacts made in an installment of American Pie than the lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne”. My roommate, for example, decided to entirely abandon monogamy this year in an effort to let her inner pimpstress thrive and prosper. Another friend of mine decided to throw away her inhibitions and “party like a frat boy” at the start of the new decade – a blessing for those of us who get to experience the new pledge first hand, but undoubtedly a curse on her completely unsuspecting liver.
Annalynne McCord is not most 22-year olds. “My New Year’s resolution has actually been to use the position that I’m in for something greater than myself,” the 90210 star recounted to me from her on-set lunch break. She continued, “but also to challenge my peers, my little young Hollywood 20-somethings that are out here in the limelight, to do more.”
From this, and any other account, it quickly becomes evident that McCord is far more than the Barbie-like beauty with the smoldering gaze and dangerously pouty mouth that we’ve all seen onscreen. The daughter of a pastor, McCord grew up in Atlanta and at 15, she signed with Wilhelmina Model Agency. McCord’s big break came in 2007, when she rocked season five of FX’s Nip/Tuck as Eden Lord, the volatile Lolita with the know-how to poison her step mom with mercury. She came to McNamara/Troy looking to get her hymen reconstructed after a “horseback riding incident,” and left quite the lasting impression. A few films later, she landed her current role as Naomi Clark, West Beverly’s resident salacious and manipulative queen bee, on The CW’s remount of 90210.
But being a certified vixen by the age of 20 isn’t always as beneficial to a burgeoning acting career as one might think. “It’s been a pain in my ass, excuse my French,” McCord recounted to me, her endearing chuckle coming through, though her words were very truthful. “It’s something that definitely helped me to get to a certain place, but it’s also inhibited me from playing roles that I really want to play.” Though McCord is very thankful for all the opportunity her unquestionable beauty has provided for her, she is determined that now, “it’s about breaking out of that and really proving myself and showing that I’m not to be put in a box, that what you see is not what you get.”
It seems that 2010 will prove to be a big year for McCord as she embarks on ambitious new goals, not only as an actress but also as a humanitarian. Since their inception just a few years ago, McCord has been closely involved with The Blind Project, an organization dedicated to supporting girls rescued out of the commercial sex trade in South East Asia. The Blind Project helps support economies and put an end to human trafficking by educating and employing these young women, turning them from victims into survivors. McCord is currently serving as an ambassador for the cause. She came to The Blind Project at a point in her career that she describes as “cynical and very angry,” a time when the conspicuous consumption young Hollywood expected her to take part in was making her feel “empty,” “hollow,” and “void.” At this point, she got in touch with an old acting partner from her years in New York City, a mentor of sorts who she believes possesses a “love and understanding that you can’t comprehend in any way.” This friend knew that McCord, who will willingly admit that she may have grown up “too fast,” feels a special connection to children “whose innocence is being taken away,” and pointed her in the direction of a few friends who were launching The Blind Project. Simultaneously, McCord was offered a contract for Naomi on 90210, a role she’d already rejected twice. For some reason, it was different this time. She describes this moment in her life as a rejuvenation of her acting career through her desire to spread the message of The Blind Project’s cause, and the opportunity to find new love in her craft by filling the rest of her life with meaning. “I have to take the next job, I have to take the next project,” she explains. “I have to watch what I do carefully to make sure I go to the next level, because now my voice and my work are not for me. They’re for something else.” And she plans to go to the next level in her humanitarian work, as well. In 2010, McCord will make her first trip to Thailand as The Blind Project breaks ground on a new factory, and she is very excited to have the opportunity to really “go out there and be more hands-on.”
But just because her desire to affect others crosses international borders doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate a stateside good time. When asked what New York has that Beverly Hills can’t offer, McCord is quick to longingly respond, “I would start with the energy of New York City. It’s non-stop, 24/7… no place like it in the world.” With that sound of amazement that even the most jaded New Yorker has when they truly reflect on the marvel that is their city, she continues, “New York is a city that no matter what time you’re there, there’s always a pizzeria open, there’s a laundromat open. It’s a city that never sleeps, and I really miss that aspect of it. Also you cannot get baked ziti anywhere else but New York City, Little Italy. It’s just not going to happen,” she insists. “I mean, the few Italian restaurants out here that serve it, it’s just a joke. (New York) is the baked ziti capital of the world.”
Before we said our goodbyes, I asked McCord if she admires any actress enough to want to play her in a movie. Without hesitation, she responded with Angelina Jolie, for “100,000 reasons.” In addition to her work as both “a mother and a humanitarian,” McCord seemed very excited to tackle some of Jolie’s onscreen roles in recreating the story of her life. When I asked her about donning the Tomb Raider costume, she excitedly answered, “In a heartbeat. It could be all sweaty, and I wouldn’t even bother!” She’s definitely not the Barbie I’d imagined from seeing her on 90210. She’s something way more fun to be friends and play with.