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Interview: Krysten Ritter on Tim Burton and talking to strangers

The actress was stoked to work with a favorite filmmaker but finds it weird that strangers know her middle name.
“I’ve been begging my team to get me in a Tim Burton movie since the start,” Krysten Ritter says at the junket for “Big Eyes,” the latest from Tim Burton. She made it. It only took her 10 years — a time, mind you, that also involved a noted stint on “Breaking Bad,” as Aaron Paul’s doomed girlfriend, her own TV show (“Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment B”) and some movies. (She recently stole some scenes as Jonathan Pryce’s daughter in “Listen Up Philip”).
“Everybody talks about things taking 10 years,” Ritter says. “If you have a fervor or drive to stick with it, then you’ll be rewarded — after 10 years. Most people wouldn’t last.”
But back to “Big Eyes,” in which she plays a close, modern friend of Amy Adams’ Margaret Keane, a painter whose husband (Christoph Waltz) took credit for her insanely popular work. “The first day on set I was of course crippled with nerves. But I hid it well,” she recalls. She cites “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” “Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “Batman” as her absolute favorite from his oeuvre. She says she also loves the Nolan version on the latter franchise. “It’d be like comparing my phone to this couch.”
“Big Eyes” required her to adopt the styles of the time, namely the late ’50s and ’60s. While Ritter admits that “doing period is always fun,” there were drawbacks. “Sitting in hair and makeup for a very long time — you don’t think about that when you sign up. My personality isn’t really suited for sitting in a hair and makeup chair. I always want to get up and do other stuff. I’ve gotten my hair and makeup down to 35 minutes. But here you’re wearing your girdle and you’re uncomfortable, and all the time you’re thinking, ‘Those poor women.’”
And then there’s doing press. Ritter is very friendly and energized. But she admits — as any sane person would — that chatting to strangers, sometimes about personal details, can be unpleasant. “When you decide you want to be an actor, because you like to act on set, nobody comes over and says, ‘You know all this other stuff comes along with it, right?’” she remarks. “You figure that out as you go. Nobody tells you that. Nobody. I didn’t choose to speak in public. I chose to be an actor.”
It’s always imbalanced too: “Strangers will know who you are, which is weird too. Or they know your middle name.” (We’ll let you look that one up.)
Ritter has spent her career jumping back and forth between film and TV — one easier than the other. “Films are dramatic and you jump in and do then leave it in the past. TV is really about endurance and keeping yourself healthy — that’s the important thing, to be able to work those kinds of hours every day for an extended period of time,” Ritter explains. “Movies you can sometimes get by with a couple of Aleves and a Diet Coke. With TV you really have to take care of yourself. It’s all about stamina and endurance.”
There’s this myth about actors sitting around all day on sets, waiting for shots to be ready. That’s definitely not true about TV. “When I’m shooting my friends are always saying, ‘Text me when you’re in your trailer!’ There’s no downtime,” she tells us. “In movies, yes, there are hours of downtime — sometimes. But in TV if there’s downtime they’re fitting you for next week. I’ve never had downtime. On ‘Don’t Trust the B—’ I don’t think I had a single moment.”

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