Dress and brooch by Louis Vuitton. Earrings by Justine Clenquet.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

By John Griffiths

Unbelievable streams on Netflix.

Editor's Note: This interview took place in February, before COVID-19 took hold in the United States.

Ask industry insiders and entertainment critics to name today's most promising young Hollywood star, and you'll hear Kaitlyn Dever's name over and over. The 23-year-old actress-who has the dry wit, worried shrug, and Gala-apple cheeks of a young Geena Davis-wowed viewers with daring turns in three projects last year alone and has become an awards-season red carpet fixture.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever wears a flowing butterfly print dress in a groomed topiary garden.

Dress by Aliétte. Boots by Marc Jacobs. Earrings, vintage from Aralda Vintage.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

For Netflix's miniseries Unbelievable, she earned Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. For the big-screen high school hit Booksmart, she landed an award from the Hollywood Critics Association. The Austin Film Society crowned Dever their Rising Star. And the National Association of Theatre Owners—the trade organization that relies on its stardom-predicting prowess to help rack up big bucks at the box office—named her one of the world's Female Stars of Tomorrow.

It's easy to understand the hubbub. In Unbelievable, a true-crime drama based on an acclaimed podcast, she's heartbreakingly raw as Marie Adler, a Washington state teen in foster care who is raped but has trouble getting anyone to believe her until two female detectives, played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, latch on to the case. "Wait," a legion of sitcom diehards no doubt said, "That's the girl who played Tim Allen's youngest kid on Last Man Standing?!"

Actress Kaitlyn Dever wears a flowing butterfly print dress in a groomed topiary garden.

Dress by Aliétte. Earrings, vintage from Aralda Vintage.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

Sitting in a makeup chair in a plush movie star trailer, where she's getting her chestnut locks combed and twirled ahead of her Watch photo shoot, the soft-spoken Dever—Phoenix-born, Dallas—raised-is obviously worlds away from Unbelievable's grim setting. But being a Rising Star in 2020 comes with its pressures. Social media trolls, the dizzying amount of TV content and competition, expectations to be a role model in the #MeToo era-it must be overwhelming, no?

"Overwhelming in a good way," says the focused Dever, without a pause. Even as someone fusses with her bangs and another lightly brushes Dever's brows, the actress makes it clear she's looking at her newfound fame from a solid perch. "First, I'm lucky just to be a working actor. And then it's a rarity to be working on projects that I am actually genuinely passionate about, that I really, really love. And then for those projects to be loved by a lot of people is also a rarity. And then to be recognized for your performances...I'm just blessed," she says with sincerity.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever wears a purple sequined dress with a jungle patterned sleeves.

Dress and earrings by Valentino. Ring by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

The talent for entertaining runs in her family. Her parents, Tim and Kathy, were professional figure skaters (her dad competed in the 1988 U.S. Figure Skating Championships) before becoming skating coaches in Phoenix, then Dallas. When Dever was 3, Tim randomly auditioned to be the new voice of Barney (yes, the big, purple dinosaur of TV-kiddie-show fame) for a series of videos. Score!

Soon enough, Dever decided to expand her own audience beyond Sunday Bible school plays and acting out funny bits from That's So Raven for her two younger sisters. She took acting classes and began nabbing parts in commercials shot in Texas. When her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, however, Dever—then just 12—took on the biggest role of her life: quasi-mother of the house until Kathy fortunately rebounded. "I couldn't live without my mother," she says.
A year later, mother and daughter ventured from Dallas to kick some proverbial tires in L.A. Dever was cast, almost immediately, as the timid pal of the lead character in 2009's Chrissa Stands Strong, a film in the popular American Girl family-flick franchise.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever wears a purple sequined dress with a jungle patterned sleeves and lower portion.

Dress and earrings by Valentino. Boots by Andrea Wazen. Ring by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

Her career took off in earnest when, at 14, she booked the role of feisty Eve Baxter on Standing. Over the show's seven seasons, says Dever, "Eve became part of me." The year she started Standing, she also began a recurring role on the gritty modern-day western Justified as tough foster kid Loretta McCready and pal to hero Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). "I've probably also got some Loretta in me," she says.

No lie. While having her picture taken on a mansion's stately grounds is "definitely fun," says Dever, she's thoughtfully keeping her eye on what her clout can give her: scripts that offer her meaningful roles along the lines of troubled Marie.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever Wears a headband with a flower print top while leaning against a topiary bush.

Suit and blouse by Monique Lhuillier. Earrings and ring by Irene Neuwirth. Headband by Eugenia Kim.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

There's no doubt that Dever—who lives in a guesthouse on her parents' L.A. property, along with her poodle-Yorkie mix, Banjo—will have her choice of award-winning parts. But she's already thinking beyond her contributions as a dramatic actress. She and her sister Mady have a folk-rock band, Beulahbelle, and judging by their live MTV performance of their original song "Caster, Caster" a few years back, Dever could well have a future in movie musicals, which she says she'd relish. She also "loved" directing the band's first video—and wants more. "I told (actress and Booksmart director) Olivia Wilde I wanted to direct, and she told me, 'You've got to stop thinking about it. You just have to do it.'"

Here, the forward-footed Dever lets us in on her life, work, and the occasional hurdles along the way.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever Stands in a topiary garden wearing burgundy pants and long flowing lilac colored top.

Top and pants by Gucci. Shoes by Far. Earrings by Ariana Boussard-Reifel from Broken English. Rings by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

You have an incredibly impressive résumé, and you're only 23. Do you remember the first job you booked?

It was a [2007] commercial for these Shrek Go-Gurt tubes. There was a picture of Shrek on the outside of the yogurt tube, and then something happened when you turned it upside down to drink it—it would, like, turn into Shrek's wife, Fiona, or something. So they had this boy eating the yogurt, and he turned into a princess. I was the girl laughing.

As the oldest of three sisters—and a commercial star!—did you boss around siblings Mady and Jane?

As the oldest, I think you're just obligated to be the bossy one because you've lived longer. [Laughs.] I hope they don't consider me to be too bossy. My sisters and I really got along growing up. We were a team.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever wears a yellow dress as she stands in front of an orange tree full of fruit.

Dress and brooch by Louis Vuitton. Earrings by Justine Clenquet. Ring by Maya Brenner.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

Your dad was the voice of Barney. Explain.

My parents had been figure skaters and then were coaching when my dad got the Barney job. It was so casual. I remember it not being that big of a deal. I mean, some of my friends knew—but it was just sort of my dad's job.

Did your parents pressure you to become an ice skater, not like the next Tonya Harding, but -

I loved I, Tonya, the movie about her. No, they never pressured me. But I was on skates as soon as I could walk. And I did compete for a while, but I didn't love it. I kind of complained about it a lot. [Laughs.] So my parents were, like, "If you want to do it, do it. If you don't want to do it, just tell us."

Actress Kaitlyn Dever wears a flowing butterfly print dress in a groomed topiary garden.

Dress by Aliétte. Earrings, vintage from Aralda Vintage.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

So you can sing and ice skate. You could do an ice skating musical!

Yes—I'm dying to do a musical. And I would do an ice skating movie, too.

You're getting extraordinary praise for your role in Unbelievable. How did that come about?

I was on my last week of filming Booksmart and getting the classic actor panic that I'm constantly getting, which is, "Oh, I'm finishing this project and I have no more work for the rest of this year because I've put every, every, every, everything I had into Booksmart," and it's all I was thinking about. Then I got an email with a link to the podcast and the first episode's script, and it all just blew me away. I knew immediately I had to do it—if they'd let me. It was a really hard audition. But it was in a room full of women, which felt really good. And two of the producers, Sarah Timberman and Katie DiMento, were both producers on Justified. So they basically watched me grow up.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever Wears a headband with a flower print top while leaning against a topiary elephant.

Suit and blouse by Monique Lhuillier. Socks by Darner. Shoes by Sergio Rossi. Earrings and ring by Irene Neuwirth. Headband by Eugenia Kim.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

How did you prepare emotionally for playing Marie?

This person is still very much alive, and I realized [my performance could] affect her life. The most important thing to me was just making sure I was getting her story right and that I was doing her justice. I was really lucky. I had a lot of information about her. And it was also really important for me to understand her life prior to the assault.

What I learned is that so much of how we're affected by trauma comes from how we've been brought up in the world. And Marie had an extremely, extremely tough upbringing, going in and out of foster homes her entire life. That affected the way she coped.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever stands next to a lion statue wearing an orange overcoat.

Coat and blouse by Prada. Shoes by Schutz. Socks by Darner. Jewelry by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

Have you ever known anybody who grew up in the foster care system?

Well, I had done a movie called Short Term 12 that was heavily based on the foster care system. The director had also worked in the system, so he shared a lot of insight on what that's like.

Was the role soul-wrenching for you?

My heart obviously immediately broke for her. I didn't really ever come out of that sadness for the four months of shooting. I'm not a method actor, but I'd have an excruciating headache from doing a scene where I'm crying—and doing it all day. I'd get exhausted and emotionally drained. But none of that compares to what she felt in real life.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever wears a yellow dress as she stands in front of an orange tree full of fruit.

Dress and brooch by Louis Vuitton. Earrings by Justine Clenquet.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

Without putting you on the expert pedestal, if someone comes to somebody saying they've been assaulted, have you learned the best general advice to give them?

Yes, it's encouraged me to talk about it, but I also think that you don't have to do anything that you don't want to do, anything that you are not comfortable with. If I can allow someone to feel seen by watching the show, that's enough for me. I'm not an expert and I'm still learning, but it's been really cool taking the show to Washington, D.C., and meeting with members of Congress trying to get the Debbie Smith Act passed. It's a very crucial piece of legislation that will eliminate [America's rampant DNA-testing] rape-kit backlog.

There are, like, 200,000 rape kits just sitting there not being tested, not being investigated. And that is another reason why people do not come forward—they think, Well then what's the point? Why would I even talk about that? when it's something that is so hard to talk about already.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever Stands in a topiary garden wearing burgundy pants and long flowing lilac colored top.

Top and pants by Gucci. Shoes by Far. Earrings by Ariana Boussard-Reifel from Broken English. Rings by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

You seem so strong. Do you ever get discouraged?

Of course. All the time. I mean, it's hard having confidence even going into audition rooms and wanting [a part] so badly, but I've realized there's really nothing I can do to change my instincts or change who I am. I can only do my work on the character and then hope that my ideas kind of link up with the creatives' ideas. I'm trying to learn that there is no controlling anything. And I think I'm getting more confident as I get older.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever stands next to a lion statue wearing an orange overcoat.

Coat and blouse by Prada. Earrings by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

You've certainly developed a strong fashion presence on the red carpet!

I've always loved dressing up. I've always loved fashion. I don't really dress up in my day-to-day life, but I think the one time you can and should is when you're going out and celebrating—especially because I have an amazing stylist. Her name is Karla Welch [who also styles Sarah Paulson, Amy Poehler, and Demi Moore], and she's brilliant. She and I have had the best time styling for awards season.

Who's your style icon?

My mom is always my style icon, because she knows everything. I cannot leave the house without consulting her first about what I'm wearing. I went on a date last night, and I needed her. [Laughs.] But my very first celebrity style icon was Avril Lavigne. Then I had a really intense Audrey Hepburn phase—she's so cool and classy, so that obsession is obvious. I've always liked edgy, though. Kristen Stewart—I love, love, love her style.

Speaking of mighty women, you've worked with directors Kathryn Bigelow and Olivia Wilde, and alongside actresses including Emma Thompson, Olivia Colman, Jennifer Garner, and Toni Collette. Do they all have one remarkable thing in common?

The one through line is that they're just doing it. They're not complaining; they're not holding back. They're doing everything with determination and confidence. And I think confidence is one of the most infectious things in the world. To be around people with a work ethic, who say what they want and just get it done—what's better than that?

With all your success so far, do you ever feel like you're gliding through your own fairy tale?

It's always up and down. I mean, all of it feels like a dream, but at the same time, there are moments that bring you back to reality. But that's what makes life so exciting—the ups and downs.

Originally published in Watch Magazine, May-June 2020.

Photography: Christopher Ross

Stylist: Erica Cloud

Hair: Chad Wood

Makeup: Molly Greenwald

Unbelievable streams on Netflix.




Suit and blouse by Monique Lhuillier. Socks by Darner. Earrings and ring by Irene Neuwirth. Headband by Eugenia Kim.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

Kaitlyn Dever has got our attention. At just 23 years old, the actress has wowed viewers in three brilliant and daring projects last year alone, including the critically-acclaimed Netflix miniseries Unbelievable.

Watch photographed and interviewed the rising star for our May-June 2020 issue, and no surprise here, the results are impressive. Get a preview in this exclusive first look and don't miss our cover story and photo shoot with Kaitlyn Dever—on newsstands May 19!

Unbelievable streams on Netflix.

Style Inspiration

Katilyn Dever in a modern garden wearing red pants and a long flowing top.

Top and pants by Gucci. Shoes by Far. Earrings by Ariana Boussard-Reifel from BrokenEnglish. Rings by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

"My mom is always my style icon, because she knows everything. I cannot leave the house without consulting her first about what I'm wearing." — Kaitlyn Dever

Like A Fairy Tale

Kaitlyn Dever standing in a landscaped maze in a sequined and floral print dress

Dress and earrings by Valentino. Boots by Andrea Wazen. Ring by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

"All of it feels like a dream, but at the same time, there are moments that bring you back to reality. But that's what makes life so exciting—the ups and downs." — Kaitlyn Dever

Total Confidence

Kaitlyn Dever in butterfly print dress.

Dress by Aliétte. Earrings, vintage from Aralda Vintage.

Photography by Christopher Ross. Styled by Erica Cloud.

"I think confidence is one of the most infectious things in the world. To be around people with a work ethic, who say what they want and just get it done—what's better than that?" — Kaitlyn Dever

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Unbelievable streams on Netflix.

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