Krysten Ritter is in her “golden years,” a sweet spot that often takes a retirement party and decades spent greeting the 9-to-5 workday to reach. But at just 30, she is confident she has arrived in them.
“I think, growing up, my parents were working towards this elusive Golden Year. I want my whole life to be golden years,” says Ritter. “I feel so lucky to have a job that I love. Also, to really appreciate what it is. It is hard out there for a lot of people. I’ve seen that my whole life.”
Most known for her acclaimed roles in AMC’s Breaking Bad, 27 Dresses, and Confessions of a Shopaholic, Ritter is taking her 15th “golden” year in the business as chance to wear all the hats, from writer to director, to bring her movie L!fe Happens to the big screen while starring beside James Van Der Beek in ABC’s new show Apartment 23, and somehow finding the time to marvel at life’s tiny takeaways.
“All of my jobs have been little baby steps. It has been sort of like the long-haul rather than something happening to me and changing my life overnight. I wouldn’t change it for the world because I’m not an asshole and I don’t have a drug problem,” said Ritter. “I became a grown up and I earned it. I know how to manage myself and I know the responsibility I have to take for myself.”
Ritter has kept both this attitude and an odd-ball nature, known to work in her favor, tucked close to her since the day she was scouted in one of Pennsylvania’s small town shopping malls at the age of 15 and ushered into a world that grew her self-esteem instead of hampering it.
Ritter recalls. “Most of the models are freaks of nature, that this why they are models. They can afford to put the others down. I’ve seen a lot of girls go through hard times. I was able to look at myself objectively and be like ‘OK, this a business.’ It prepared me a lot for the business I am in now. I know how to take a pretty picture. It didn’t chew me up and spit me up. It was like a life boot camp.”
Fifteen years since that point, Ritter still has that same awareness, which keeps her grounded still today. “Because of my upbringing, and being on my own so early, I always knew if I got into trouble then I’d be dead on the side of the street. In hindsight, I am so lucky that for some reason I had such a good head on my shoulders at a pretty young age. But I am still terrified. The fear is combined with never wanting to not live my life. Thank god, I never had the fear of branching out instilled in me, though.”
She weaves her multiple projects in and out of the conversation, as if she were standing before the Wonka-esque inventory at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Manhattan, gushing to guide you through each rack. “I like to have so many things going on at once. I am in the perfect field for that. As the year ends, for me it all feels like the same job. Especially all the acting, producing and development work. [Apartment 23] is very fun though; I laugh all the time. It’s like being in Disney World all day.”
One of ABC’s first shows to take to the screens in Spring 2012, Apartment 23 was Ritter’s first knee-deep step into a role her friends immediately thought had been written just for the quirks only Ritter could deliver. Premiering in April, the show chronicles what Ritter refers to as a Tom & Jerry relationship between two unlikely roommates. The comedy unfolds as a Midwestern young woman is blinded at first sight by the Big Apple after finding herself in too-close quarters with an incompatible rebel known to shrug off social norms, played by Ritter.
“My friend was like ‘You could totally play this bitch with the mouth of a pirate. I could just see you killing this role.’ She really has no filter, no morals; she’s completely unattached. She says things that everyone is thinking but would never say.”
Even with the show wrapped and waiting in the wings of the TV listings, Ritter praises the girl living in Apartment 23 that allowed her to play outside the lines. “It’s really exciting to have a character that you just get to eat up. She’s such an offbeat, like if Holly Golightly were alive today,” said Ritter. “I either play the best friend or the drug addict; it is fun to be all of those things tied up into one. That’s a really lucky thing.”
Ritter seemingly has a knack for finding Cinderella shoe-fits roles. But the thing that sets her apart once she discovers it? She’s out the door and sprinting before anyone else can try shoe on. “When I get excited about something I start to really go for it,” said Ritter. “Like for instance, I got a dog two months ago and the dog is all I think about. I want to open a boutique dog rescue. I would love to do that because I just want to take them all home. I had a farm growing up so I am used to having a lot of animals.”
Ritter laughs as she retells the dialogue with her sister that resulted in her trying to plant the idea of taking some dogs back to the farm they both grew up on, Ritter promising to pay for all the dog food. “I’m the type to have a dog rescue and 12 children in Africa.”
With a clear call for the voiceless in this world, Ritter recently found herself inspired after attending the Ripple Effect Dinner to benefit The Water Project this past December. “I just met Kat Graham [at the dinner]. She got up there and did the auction herself. She is so passionate about the cause. My best friend and I went together and just looked at one another and were like, ‘Who is this angel from heaven?’”
Inspired by Graham’s passion, Ritter is now digging deeper into the wells of philanthropy to find new ways to use her stardom for good. “My friends and I are now thinking about ways to raise awareness for The Water Project. I think it is exciting when you get to a point in your career that’s not so selfish and icky and you have a platform that people will listen to.”
With milestones such as this one to be proud of, Ritter still manages to stick to a simplicity that makes us think of the girl next door rather than the one in Apartment 23, like the recent birthday that welcomed her into a new decade. “It is a great head space to be in, starting a new year and just turning 30. It’s pretty insane. I reached a lot of goals that I had for myself before 30. I have amazing women in my life. I have such great female friends. All girls should have great female friends. I’ve got a great little dog and a great little boyfriend and then the TV show. I look good, whatever. I’ve gotten to have my cake and eat it too.”