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Kaitlyn DeverHae Ran

Shailene Woodley selects Kaitlyn Dever

The Dallas-born darling bringing raw intensity to the screen and padding her CV with indie roles

TextCarmen GrayPhotographyHae Ran

Taken from the January issue of Dazed & Confused:

Golden Globe nominee Shailene Woodley: “Kaitlyn’s always so present and available and explores different colours of herself. It’s really interesting to watch and that’s what affects you most – she doesn’t cry because the script tells her to cry, she cries because she feels like crying.”

Texan-born actress Kaitlyn Dever has won Oscar buzz for her breakthrough indie role in young director Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12, a festival hit that scooped South by Southwest’s Grand Jury and Audience awards for best narrative feature. The 17-year-old actress plumbed dark terrain to portray Jayden, the volatile new resident in a facility for at-risk youths. Her character’s raw intensity brings things to a head for supervisor Grace (Brie Larson), who recognises her own troubled past in Jayden.

“Jayden’s the complete opposite of me,” Dever tells us with her unruffled southern warmth. “Comedy comes more easily to me. When I’m with my friends I’m always joking around. But I like drama more: you have to dig in deeper. Some scenes were so intense. I needed to step out of character as soon as we heard ‘cut’ or I’d have just gotten too depressed. But it’s really rewarding when you can be part of a film like this. Everyone knew it was a great script.”

“She says whatever’s on her mind and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. It was very fun to play her – I just got to go for it and be myself times 100”

Dallas-raised, Dever is now based in California to be at the heart of the industry. She landed her first job on a Mattel Barbie commercial after setting her sights on acting aged six. “Something just sparked in my head. I told my parents at that age and they thought it was weird,” she laughs. “At nine they finally let me take classes.” 

Dever has a bunch of other indie roles under her belt and her star is set to rise – although she somehow manages to fit in being in a band with her 14-year-old sister inspired by Johnny Cash and The Cure. In James Ponsoldt’s Sundance hit The Spectacular Now she plays the controlling, know-it-all best friend to Shailene Woodley’s protagonist, and she stars alongside Tye Sheridan in Grass Stains, a low-budget drama set in the summer aftermath of a prank gone tragically awry. She’s also in Lynn Shelton’s forthcoming Laggies with Chloë Grace Moretz and Keira Knightley. “My character in that is a partier,” Dever says. “She says whatever’s on her mind and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. It was very fun to play her – I just got to go for it and be myself times 100.”