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Kathryn Newton Is One Of The Busiest Actors In Hollywood

Culture
Photography by Myles Pettengill. Styled by Alvin Stillwell. Shirt, skirt, jacket by Teatum Jones.

And she’s not even old enough to drink

Most actors who begin their careers at the age of four find themselves, at some point, getting homeschooled. But not Kathryn Newton. “I’ve gone to real school my whole life,” says the now-20-year-old actor. But despite a regular education, the brutal schedules and irregular hours of show business made Newton something of an absentee student. “I ran for president every year, but nobody knew who I was because I missed so much of it,” she says. “They were like, ‘Who’s Kathryn Newton? Does she even go here?’” Today, it’s likely that Newton’s former classmates have a pretty good idea of who she is.

In 2017 alone, Newton has made small-screen appearances as Reese Witherspoon’s daughter Abigail on HBO’s bougie melodrama Big Little Lies, and as another independent spirit (and daughter) on the final season of AMC’s critically acclaimed but criminally underwatched drama Halt and Catch Fire. And this month alone, she’ll show up on the big screen as Frances McDormand's daughter in the furious black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and as a classmate to the title character in Greta Gerwig’s nostalgic bildungsroman Lady Bird. It’s a year that many actors her age would kill for. "The past six months, I did three projects at the same time,” she says. “Two were in Atlanta, so I'd work in the morning on one and in the afternoon on another. I felt like I was the luckiest actor in the world to be on two great projects in one day, like, boom-boom."

Miami-born Newton began her career in New York City when she was four years old, after booking a role on the ageless soap opera All My Children. Around that time, she remembers waiting nightly at the side door of the Shubert Theater, where Bernadette Peters would greet fans after her starring performance in the Broadway revival of Gypsy. “I wanted to be a Broadway star. I'd go to see Gypsy every night, and I totally made best friends with her,” Newton says of the legendary actress, deadpan. Eventually, Newton booked a role as the resident cute kid on the CBS sitcom Gary Unmarried, and even though she spent much of her youth working, it never felt that way to her. “I have the most amazing pictures of my outfits,” she recalls. “I just dressed up like a princess every day. It was the best. They had candy everywhere, and I remember the cameras looked like giant robots you could swing on, like something in a playground. They look so much smaller now.”

Newton’s big break came with the lead role in Paranormal Activity 4, the fourth installment of the popular found-footage horror franchise. Her character, Alex, was a juicy “final girl” type of party, cut from the same cloth as Halloween’s Laurie Strode and Scream’s Sidney Prescott. Suddenly, Newton was landing guest spots on popular dramas like Supernatural and Mad Men and, for the first time in her life, getting recognized in public. “Supernatural fans are amazing,” she gushes. “The people I’ve met from being on that show—I think those interactions have changed my life.”

Dress by Hot-as-Hell, Bracelet by Jen Hansen jewelry, Ring by Armature.

Actors who’ve grown up in the industry can sometimes be jaded by the long hours and lack of normalcy, but the profession has lost none of its luster for Newton. She still talks about the craft in the adoring terms of a wide-eyed rookie. “I’ve never looked at acting like a job,” she insists. “It’s never been like that. The closest I’ve come to a nine-to-five was [Gary Unmarried] because everyone knew when you’d be getting in and getting out. But with film, it’s not like that. When you go to work, real life almost pauses, if you’re lucky enough to land in something where you can let go and forget yourself. The whole time, you’re creating around people who are interested in the same things you are, working together to make something great. I don’t think it’s right to call it work.”

If Newton’s rosy view of acting hints at a youthful zeal, her recent output has hinted at more of a darker streak. The defiant daughters she plays in Big Little Lies and Three Billboards, which shot concurrently on long days that Newton insists were too rewarding to be exhausting, both take throttling hold of their sexuality. In the former, her character auctioned off her virginity as a political demonstration against sexual slavery; in the latter, her character’s wilder impulses get her killed, inspiring McDormand's character to seek justice. That doesn't mean she's getting typecast as a rebel. Newton jokes that the backpack-toting dork she plays in Lady Bird "is the real me," and next year, she'll play a more traditional teenager in Blockers, a studio-fronted comedy about three parents foiling their daughters’ attempts to get laid on prom night. Newton sees these assorted characters as the jumping-off point to a larger conversation about the boxes we lump young women into: “There’s something very special in the adolescent girl,” Newton says. “We’re all sisters. These characters are all on their own path to figuring out who they are. That’s just how things go when you’re young. I think I’m still on the road to finding out who I am, and I think that’s going to be a constant search.”

Glasses by Gucci, Top is Vintage, Skirt and Belt by Milin.

At an age when many of her peers are still figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives, Newton already knows. Instead, she concentrates on what kind of person she wants to be. She resists easy categorization, describing herself both as “glam” and “a nerd” in the span of a few minutes. In her performances, too, she’s steely one moment and nakedly vulnerable in another. Newton, who still lives with her parents, is also a lifelong golfer, using the sport as a therapeutic counterpoint to her hectic professional life. “Golf is a very individual sport, and it’s not subjective,” she says. “With acting, you never know how you’re doing or why you didn’t get a job. Golf made me realize that when you put work into something and accomplish it on your own, it’s just you. It’s not about the other people you’re competing against, it’s just you and the club and the ball and the course. It taught me a lot about character—plus, I love the clothes.”

Shirt byTwo Feathers, Sweater by Frankie, Pants by Any Old Iron, Shoes by Gucci.

Newton talks excitedly about having just finished a three-month stay in Ireland while filming a new adaptation of Little Women for PBS, and following our conversation, she'll head to a table read for the Supernatural spin-off, Wayward SistersSet to premiere on the CW following Supernatural’s upcoming 13th season, the show will see Newton reprise her role of Claire Novak, this time as a lead. There, she expects to openly weep in front of her new co-workers. “I’ve read the script a lot of times now, and every time I do, I always cry! I get very emotional.”

Newton says this without even the faintest trace of self-consciousness. For all the parts of herself she’s still getting to know, Newton’s intimately familiar with her sentimental side. She’s never shied away from feelings in their rawest form, not from heartbreak or repeated school electoral losses. In the half hour we spend chatting, she uses the L word in reference to all of the following: storytelling, fashion, going to school, her parents, the Supernatural fanbaseGerwig, and the '60s. “I don’t think anybody can stay the same, but I would still like to be nine years old again,” she affirms. “I wanna be a kid forever. When you’re little, you’re full of love. That’s something everyone should shoot for.”

Dress by YVY.

Photographer: Myles Pettengill  

Stylist: Alvin Stillwell   

Hair: David Gardner  

Makeup:  Hinako

Jacket by Gina Cas, Dress by Teatum Jones, Shoes by Tom Ford, Sunglasses by Cutler and Gross.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Credits:
Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.