Actress Brittany Curran, 27, was born in Weymouth and raised on Cape Cod and in Hingham before moving to Los Angeles at age 11 to pursue her acting career. She made her small-screen debut on MADtv and her big-screen debut in 13 Going on 30. She has appeared in numerous TV series, including The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Men of a Certain Age and Chicago Fire. On film, her credits include Akeelah and the Bee, Dear White People and the forthcoming movie The Man from Earth: Holocene. She currently stars as Fen on the Syfy channel adaptation of the best-selling fantasy trilogy The Magicians. She graduated from UCLA in 2013, and she currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Vancouver.
Jonathan Soroff: The Magicians is like an adult Harry Potter with sex and drugs and a bit of gore. Did you read the trilogy?
Brittany Curran: I read the first two, and I’m going to start reading the third. I would have read all of them if my character had actually survived in the books…. In the books, she basically dies right away, and with the show, they decided to expand and extend her storyline.
Thing you love most about Cape Cod? The nostalgia. It reminds me of my childhood. And because I don’t live there anymore, I have this idealized, perfect view of it. It’s so quaint. I love the little ice cream shops. In my mind, it’s this flawless part of the world.
Thing you miss most about New England? People from New England have such a strong sense of place. I feel like it’s a part of their soul. I love that. The way Boston fans love their sports teams. It’s just this allegiance to where they’re from. And then of course, there’s the architecture and so much history, and most of my favorite writers are from there. I’ve visited most of my favorite writers’ graves. All of that.
Favorite thing about LA? I just love that everything is close. You can be on the beach in an hour, in the mountains hiking or skiing in an hour, or you can be on Hollywood Boulevard at a premiere in an hour. Everything’s at your fingertips, and there’s so much variety. The food is also amazing. But now that I think about it, being the history geek that I am, my single favorite thing in LA is the studio lots. I love the idea of Grace Kelly and Marlon Brando having been there. All that old Hollywood lore.
What’s the biggest lie on your acting resume? There are no blatant lies but I might have heightened things a bit. And I’ve certainly gone into auditions where they’ve said, “Can you skydive?” And I said, “Of course!” But I only say that about things I’m confident I could learn how to do.
How in the world did you earn a degree at UCLA while working full-time as an actor? Just constant panic and therapy. I always wanted to go to UCLA, and my career was going really well. I was filming Chicago Fire and a couple of other things, and it was crazed. I was in Chicago half the time and at school the other half, trying to get through my studies. One day, I just had a meltdown and I called up the university’s counseling services. They went through the usual “Are you thinking of hurting yourself or anyone else?” And having a sick sense of humor, I said, “Other than my French professor? No.” Then I had to convince them I was just joking. Anyway, I just learned time management. And as exhausting as it was, I was doing two things I really loved, and it was so worth it.
Biggest audition nightmare? It happened to be for The Magicians, and I just felt so unprofessional. They had sent me three scenes, and I only saw and prepared the first two. Then at the audition, when we got to the third scene, I was completely unprepared. They gave me a few minutes to memorize it and come back in to do it, and I guess it was OK, because I got the part. But I felt like a fool.
Does your success surprise you? Yes. I mean, I’m lucky. I’ve seen brilliant, brilliant actors whose careers don’t turn out, and there’s nothing they really could or should have done differently.
Do you feel like there’s anything you missed as a kid? Yeah, sometimes I look back and think I missed out on some of the regular high school experience. I did go to prom, and I went to graduation, but I probably missed some stuff during my teen years. And then I think, “I got to experience all these cool things most people never get to,” so it’s a trade-off. Plus, I love where I am now, so regardless of any of that, it was worth it.
What advice would you give a kid who wanted to act? First of all, study. Go to acting class. Watch as many movies as you can. Read scripts. Read plays. Just study the hell out of it before you take another step. That’s what I did. I went to class for a couple of years before I ever got an agent and manager. The other thing is that today, you can create your own content. Technology’s great. You can pick up an iPhone and shoot a really decent movie. Create your own stuff.
Advice for their parents? Support your kid whether they’re doing great or they’re not, but even more, keep your own life. Keep your own job or hobby, and remember that while you love your kid and want them to succeed, you also have to think of yourself. I’ve seen it happen so many times where the parent gets so entrenched in the kid’s career they forget their own lives, and that’s not healthy for anyone.
How do you think you made the transition from being a child actor to being a successful adult actor? I think I always had a really good support system. The people around me were all good influences. But since I was a kid, I never wanted to be an actor to be famous or to get rich. I wanted to be an actor because I love storytelling. Because I always had the right idea of what acting should be, at least in my opinion, it made the transition easier. If you love acting instead of money or fame, it’s easier to hold onto the dream when things aren’t going great.
Role you’re dying to play? Two. I want to be a Disney princess more than anything in this world. And I also love Westerns, so I’d die to play an 1860s badass harlot or a cowgirl or something.
Actor you worked with who had you starstruck? I grew up watching Everybody Loves Raymond, and I had the biggest crush on Ray Romano. So when I played his daughter in Men of a Certain Age, I was so excited. Growing up, he was my favorite comedic actor, and in the pilot, there was one scene where my character was supposed to kiss him on the cheek and say, “Bye, Dad!” But in my head, I was actually excited about giving him a kiss, which I now realize is very twisted.
Scariest thing you had to do for a role? There are different scary emotional places I’ve gone. I remember shooting this horror film Exeter, and there was one day where I was bludgeoning this woman to death and impaling her with a foosball stick, as one does. But I just got myself into this horrifying emotional state, and at the end of one of our takes, I was covered in fire extinguisher foam and I couldn’t stop crying. The director came over and gave me a hug, patted me on the head and said, “It’s OK.” I’ve also done some fight scenes where it was 80 percent me, 20 percent stunt double, and there was some dangerous stuff that was kind of scary. In the same movie, Exeter, I had to run full tilt at a guy holding a lawn mower so that my arms got chopped off. That was scary.
Role that you were up for and really wanted but didn’t get? It’s funny. Some of the roles I wanted the most, the movies ended up doing nothing at all, which surprised me, because they were such brilliant scripts. But Emma Stone and I used to be in an acting class together, like 13 years ago. She was always brilliant and hilarious and naturally great. About 10 years ago, I went for a callback with the director of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and when I came out, I was feeling really good about it—until I saw Emma, who went by Emily at the time, sitting there. I was like, “Damnit! It’s that frickin’ hilarious girl from acting class!” She was so nice, so I was happy for her when she ended up booking it, and then from there, she just exploded. But she deserves it.
Fantasy love scene partner? Chris Pratt and Tom Hardy. But my boyfriend would love me to do a lesbian love scene with Kate Beckinsale. [Laughs.]
Favorite movie of all time? American Beauty. I’m obsessed with it. But I also really love Singin’ in the Rain.
Ever wanted to do Broadway? Last season on The Magicians, we did a musical episode where we did a number from Les Miserables. I started getting obsessed with Broadway and singing, and that little bug has just become full-blown. So, yes.
If you weren’t acting, what would you do? Well, 6-year-old me would say be a flight attendant. But I would want to be a screenwriter. And I’m starting to do that, too. I’d also love to be the next Jack Kerouac, except without the alcoholism and dying young, because I love him.
How do you get red-carpet ready? I wish I could say something really exciting. The night before, I take a bath and do my facial regimen, meditate. In the morning, I like to run or do yoga or something active. And being on the red carpet itself, it’s such a fake thing, smiling for all the cameras, and I wish it was more genuine, so I just try to think extra happy thoughts. When I was younger, I would always come home and listen to classical music because I felt it grounded me and prevented me from turning into a raging bitch who only lived for fame. [Laughs] And I’d like to think I’m not a raging bitch, so I want to believe it worked.
Stupidest thing you ever read about yourself in a tabloid? When I was on Chicago Fire, I played Taylor Kinney’s younger sister, and he was dating Lady Gaga. I was back in LA for the week, and some tabloid said he was secretly dating me, which was hilarious. If anything, Taylor really acted like a protective older brother to me. It couldn’t have been further from the truth.
You did The Young and the Restless. Are soaps really hard? I only did one episode, but yeah, they’re hard. I have tons of friends who have been on soaps, and just doing that one episode, the thing that was most shocking to me was how fast it was. Hair and makeup, in the dressing room for two seconds, and on set. Then we just whipped through it. And if you’re a series regular, that’s non-stop, so I really have a lot of respect for the people who can study their characters that quickly and just keep it going.
Award you want the most? I want the Leading Actress Oscar. That first, and then second, I want an Oscar for Best Screenplay, because I like to write. But I will happily accept them in either order. Just to let the Academy know. ♦
Styled: Lauren D’Avolio / Anchor Artists; Hair: Michelle Lee / Salon Eva Michelle; Hair Assistant: Jackie Wright / Salon Eva Michelle; Makeup: Tessa Lisa / G2O Spa and Salon; Wardrobe: Mara Hoffman dress from Covet + Lou