On set and preparing for her first starring role in a major motion picture, getting ready for scenes with stars like Steve Carell and Julianne Moore, you can understand why Analeigh Tipton would be a little bit anxious. Luckily, that's exactly what her directors wanted.
"She's a nervous person in general," Tipton says of her character in "Crazy, Stupid, Love.," the star-studded ensemble romantic comedy out Friday, "and it was a great excuse to be nervous without anybody noticing. Like, 'Yeah no, I'm acting, I'm being a really good actress, I'm super nervous!'"
Tipton, a 22-year old model/actress and relative newcomer, plays Jessica in the film, a 17-year old babysitter for the children of Julianne Moore and Steve Carell, on whose character, Cal, she develops an adorably fumbling secret crush. As a serious student of the art of acting and a newcomer in a cast that also includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei, Tipton took the opportunity to learn as much as she could from each established star.
"Julianne is this bubble of energy and she is so much fun and smiley and happy on set," she remembers fondly in in a conversation with The Huffington Post. "Emma, I learned a lot from Emma, because I really look up to her, she's my age and she's so accomplished and she's funny and she's smart and she's just kind of, willing at comedy, she really puts everything into it and that's priceless. You can't judge yourself, you have to just go at it and she really does."
Working with Carell in particular proved very valuable for Tipton, providing her both with opportunities in front of the camera, and later, with the raw footage of the day's work.
"I got to try a lot of different improvisations on set. With Steve, he kind of delivers a little bit of something each time," she explains. "And then he'd go back and he'd watch himself on video, and most actors don't like to watch themselves. For me, I'd never seen myself act, to go back and watch myself, it was a very useful tool for me, because I was like, oh, I'm making this face, or I could do this more, and I learned that I was a little more subtle. Directors would say 'Just be more animated!' I realized that I could go really over the top but it would come off in a good way, in a funny way - hopefully."
Indeed, Tipton's Jessica is a main pipeline of comic relief in the film. Harried and sweet, she cautiously pursues Cal once he announces his imminent divorce, stealing scenes with her effort to bridge their age gap -- and fend off his 13-year old son Robbie, who has declared her his soulmate. Jessica nervously fidgets with assorted braids, tosses skinny arms about and, sometimes, says more with the movement of her lips than the words that come from behind them. She's certainly never presented as a girl operating with access to a deep well of cool; Tipton insists that that part of the role came naturally, proudly listing her geek credentials.
"Just this weekend, I spent my weekend rock climbing and playing laser tag. And for the midnight release of Harry Potter, I completely dressed up in full garb," she readily admits, giggling. "I'm kind of a huge dork, I have a bumper sticker that says, 'So Jedi.' Composure comes and goes with me and I think that, it was definitely heightened on set, they would say, 'More awkward! More awkward!' and that's so much fun to play."
Still, that part, at least, is not entirely acting, she says.
"I kind of do this awkward body language because, growing up, I had a really hard time expressing myself vocally," Tipton admits. "I'm a writer, so I can write things honestly, but when it comes to actually try to say something, I would just use my hands, and [think], 'if I move my hands like this, then maybe you can try to understand what I'm trying to say.' So it paid off later when creating Jessica."
At one moment in the film, Jessica pursues advice from a more popular girl, uncomfortably asking for tips on flirting with men; her room at home has, until she tears it down, a poster of kittens on a brightly painted wall, a reminder of her youth despite all effort.
"My character is so relatable, because she's this 17, going on 18, going on to college girl who wants to be seen as a woman," Tipton said. "And this little boy, Robbie, reminds her that she's a babysitter in high school, that [he] is much closer to her age than his dad, and he is a constant reminder of what she can't achieve, and what she wants to be considered as a woman -- she doesn't want all this child stuff around her."
Once again, this character motivation wasn't much of a stretch for Tipton.
"I think looking back on when I was 17, I wanted to be an adult so badly that I did the stupidest things and I got angry over the silliest moments and they were so important to me then and I could definitely relate to Jessica in that way," she remembers, a 22-year old talking as if those heady teenage years were a lifetime ago.
To be fair, you couldn't blame Tipton for speaking about those teenage days like they're ancient history; she's experienced and learned a lot over the last few turns of the calendar.
Having moved out to Los Angeles at 18, intent on becoming a writer, she remembered having pangs of regret about her Jessica-like need to be an adult.
"When most of my friends were going to college dorms and parties, I was down living in a little apartment in LA that I would have to vacuum -- I have a cat and a dog -- and it was a very different -- I didn't get to go home during summer," she remembered. "And I definitely looking back I was kind of like, I just want to be regular... I was doing all this cool stuff, but there's something that's part of me like, I kind of missed out on the frat parties that stupid mistakes that kids make, that I went into adulthood faster."
On the other hand, when those hard partying college kids put down the solo cups and ping pong balls during the week, there's a good chance they were watching Tipton on TV and seeing her in magazines.
Amidst the writing, she found herself on "America's Next Top Model," impressing the judges all season and making it to the top three in 2008. The next few years were spent taking the modeling world by storm, before shifting over to the acting world with a guest appearance on "The Big Bang Theory." Tipton made her film debut in last winter's action hero comedy, "The Green Hornet," with Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz, setting up this big feature role.
Viewers will see a lot of Tipton from here on out; she's got top roles in two upcoming indie films: "Samaritan," a drama about the relationship between a student and a suicidal girl, and "Damsels In Distress," a comedy with Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody. Her small screen career will continue as well, as she features in the third season of "Hung."
And looking even further long term, having began her career as an aspiring writer, Tipton hasn't left that dream in the shadows of her new stardom. She's working on two very different feature film scripts: an animated film about zombies (one of her favorite subjects to muse on), and a dramedy about sisters.
"[It's about] two sisters being in shitty situations, and really having to find yourself, and finding your acceptance of life, even when life is pretty shitty," she explains. "It's not necessarily a happy comedy, but, it's sort of a dry, witty... it explores the rare relationship between sisters and girls, and it really focuses on what it's like to just kind of be a girl today. And not have, the Hollywood fairy princess story. I don't want to write about those. I want to write about all the gray that happens."
Luckily, just as with her acting, she's got some of the best teachers in the world. Tipton graciously remembered conversations with "Crazy, Stupid, Love." writer Dan Fogelman about film writing, with the Hollywood veteran recommending a pile of books on the subject. Then there was the motivation provided by her peers.
"When I shot 'Damsels in Distress,' I was surrounded by the young actresses who were part of the mumblecore movement, like Greta Gerwig," she enthused. "They're so inspiring as writers -- they're just writing the scripts, they're not perfect, but they're based in reality. They're so amazing to me, and it was so inspiring."
Of course, it's not totally a one-sided deal; Tipton is already giving back to the next generation of stars coming in behind her.
Having felt bad about having to yell at and shoot down Jonah Bobo, the kid actor who plays Jessica's adorably tireless 13-year old pursuer, she rewarded his perseverance as they finished filming a major scene, a harsh rejection in the school yard.
"The last take that he was going to be in, that was going to be wrap, that was going to be picture wrap," she laughs while remembering. "And so we did it, and I yelled at him and I'm supposed to walk away, and I actually, I told the directors that I was going to do this beforehand, his mom to a bunch of pictures beforehand, and I pulled him in to a big kiss, and I just held the kiss for an incredibly, uncomfortably long time."
The way things are going for Tipton, he might want to hang on to those pictures.