Kayli Carter was selected as one of Vanity Fair's Breakout Stars for her work in Tamara Jenkins’ upcoming film, Private Life, opposite Kathryn Hahn, and Paul Giamatti. The film opened the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and officially premiered on Netflix on October 15, 2018.
Check out our exclusive photos and interview with this rising star as she talks to us about acting and how she prepares for her roles and what it was like to work alongside her talented co-stars.
Can you tell us your story in a nutshell? How did you become an actress?
I didn’t catch on as early as some people do. I thought that the way I played as a kid was how all kids played, and it wasn’t until later on that I realized that I had been acting and directing since I was small. I was in high school, and my theater director asked if I could turn off the lights in the auditorium, I walked into the empty room and took a look around, and all at once the overwhelming urge to try to do this as a career came over me. I went to a University in Savannah, Ga, and the week I graduated I moved straight to New York. Once the train was in motion, you couldn’t really tell me no.
Can you recall your most memorable audition?
Definitely my callback for the play I did with Mark Rylance. He is the actor every person worth their salt wants to act with. It was a sixty minute callback where I was dropped into improvising with the greatest theater actor alive, and we were riffing on prose poetry. It will never happen like that again.
Can you walk us through your process whenever you act?
My road map is the script. In a good piece of text, you don’t have to create some convoluted backstory. Why would I need to come up with my character’s favorite color, who cares? I want to know what’s driving them forward, moment to moment, and how they interact with others, what they believe about themselves. I only use what is in the text, but the most important thing to me is to remain present and open to the director, and my acting partners.
How was it working with Kathryn Hahn, Paul GIamatti, Molly Shannon and Tamara Jenkins in The Private Life?
I hit the lottery with that project. Here’s the thing, Private Life has the most incredible ensemble cast, and Kathryn Hahn’s performance is a tour de force. Tamara Jenkins is an Oscar nominee, She is an auteur. She writes everything that she directs, and her work is pristine, and also, it’s messy. I love an actor who comes to set with no ego, and is willing to exchange real energy. Kathryn, Paul, Molly. They’re the real deal. Sometimes movies like this are ignored in favor of glitzier, money driven projects—but for my money, I want to watch real people, move through the raw, the real. I don’t like my movies shiny. It helps that they are the funniest, kindest folks. People I’m keeping around for the long haul.
How did you prepare yourself with the role of Sadie?
I didn’t have much time, actually. The actress who initially had the part dropped out a few weeks prior to filming, so they were in the lurch. I can say that I have never learned lines that quickly in my life. I did my script work, but since they were casting so close to the start date, I had to put almost every scene in the film on tape for Tamara through the auditions. She was easy to meet, Tamara put every note on the page, like an incredible composer. I picked up the instrument and played the notes. She wrote the symphony.
What should we look forward for in Bad Education where you play opposite Hugh Jackman and Alison Janney?
I can’t say too much, except that watching Allison work is going to be a highlight for a long time, she was a daily masterclass in honest acting. I love this script, It’s dark and funny, right in the prime spot where life happens. It’s set in the early 2000’s and I’m sort of obsessed with the bizarre culture war of the early aughts. A moment of silence for the women impacted by that moment in fashion.
What is the proudest achievement of your career so far?
I’m proudest of the work I haven’t taken. I’ve kept myself from doing jobs that I think would compromise the path I’m on. I’ve gotten the chance to perform with the best, and now I’m spoiled. I also know that those filmmakers, and storytellers that I’ve worked with so far, have excellent folks in their orbit, who will someday call my name up. I’ve been exceptionally lucky, but this is also not an accident, I’m building the kind of career I want to have for life.
Top 3 songs in your playlist right now.
Kiss Off- The Violent Femmes
Crippling Self-Doubt And A General Lack Of Confidence- Courtney Barnett
Dreams- Fleetwood Mac
If you’re not acting, what keeps you busy?
I love to cook, so at any function where there is a kitchen, that’s probably where you would find me. I also write, and in this downtime I’ve been writing quite a bit. I figure if I’m unhappy with what’s out there, I should be part of the solution. Right now I’m deep into some late 80’s deep dives, doing research for something I haven’t been able to forget about. If an idea follows me around, I’ve gotta dig in.
Is there any advice you can give to any aspiring actors and actresses out there?
Stop trying to figure out what people want, and trying to be that… You can’t, it’s absolutely going to ring false. I am authentically myself out of necessity, and that’s only because I was given great parents who encouraged me to find and use my voice from an early age.I used my voice loudly, and confidently, which didn’t serve me well in high school, but wow, it’s paid off now.
If you are a book, what book would you be and why?
My favorite book is Just Kids by Patti Smith, I respond to memoirs over fiction. Real people’s stories hold the most fascination for me.
See Kayli starring in her latest film, Private Life only on Netflix!