Examining Anna Kendrick: A Deep Dive into Her Characters, Career, and Personal Growth

The actress takes a moment to introspect. However, fret not, she is finding humor in the process.

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According to Anna Kendrick, it would be a great idea for every character to have a scene with their mother at the start of filming. She believes that this kind of deep, emotional work could be like therapy, allowing actors to tap into their character’s past without having to deal with their own personal baggage.

The idea first came to her while working on her new show “Love Life” for HBO Max (coming out on May 27), where Hope Davis plays her mother. Reflecting on that experience, she noticed how much she learned about her character and how it brought up memories from her own childhood. This made her realize that, even though she hadn’t thought about it in detail before, she has always deeply analyzed her roles as an actress.

During a phone conversation from her home in Los Angeles, where she has been staying since March, she talks about her habit of questioning why people behave the way they do and why they perceive the world differently. This continuous curiosity and introspection, she believes, are what help her excel in her profession.

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Naturally, with a career in acting that began in her teenage years, Kendrick understands that her initial attraction to the industry was far from deep. “I can’t pretend that I was drawn to exploring the complexities of human psychology back then,” she remarks with a hint of sarcasm. “It was more about the thrill of being onstage in a costume, belting out songs in plays like ‘Annie’ and ‘Gypsy’ where all eyes were on me. My goals were pretty simple: sing loudly and command attention.”

Her journey was indeed focused. At just 12 years old, Kendrick wowed audiences in the 1998 Broadway production of “High Society,” earning a Tony nomination and solidifying her place as one of the youngest nominees in history. Shortly after, Hollywood beckoned, but the reality was far from glamorous.

“I can’t sugarcoat it, those early days in Los Angeles were tough,” Kendrick reflects on her beginnings in the industry. “I remember wandering around L.A. and stumbling upon those dimly-lit, hidden entrances where aspiring actors like myself were expected to enter for auditions. It’s demoralizing to be shuffled to the back entrance, handed your lines, and told to wait with a room full of girls who could pass for your twin.”

While she may not look back on that time with nostalgic warmth, it played a vital role in shaping the Anna Kendrick we admire today, known for her performances on the big screen as well as her witty tweets. She even wrote a successful book of personal essays called “Scrappy Little Nobody,” which became a best-seller. Surprisingly, learning to let her unique personality shine through, rather than suppressing it, was a key moment in her acting career that came about thanks to a certain vampire series.

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“I remember auditioning for ‘Twilight’ with a friend and both of us questioning why we were there,” Kendrick reminisces. “We assumed they would hire a tall, blonde actress for the bitchy mean girl role. I decided to just go in and do something silly since I didn’t think I stood a chance. Maybe the casting director would remember me for being funny and consider me for another role. I had to understand that the only time I got a job was when I did something unique that no one else could do.

Taking that realization from a therapist’s office, it wasn’t just a breakthrough in my career, but also a psychological one. It didn’t guarantee lasting success in Hollywood, but it did lead to my first Oscar nomination.

The story, now a well-known chapter in my life, is that writer-director Jason Reitman had me in mind for the role in “Up in the Air” even before I auditioned. It was a leading role opposite George Clooney. I got the part, but as the less experienced actor, how did I walk onto set and feel like I belonged?”

“Oh, I never did,” she says with a wry chuckle. “George was so sweet, always saying things like, ‘Are you feeling nervous? It’s normal to be nervous on your first day’—even though he definitely never gets nervous himself. But I believed him at the time, and that’s what I needed to hear: that it’s okay to feel nervous. Because it’s one thing to be nervous, and another to hide it.”

Now, Kendrick herself is a leading lady, well-known for her roles in the popular “Pitch Perfect” movies, which have collectively made over $500 million globally and established her as a major name in Hollywood. In a very different position from where she was years ago, she now tries to show the same understanding and empathy on set that was once shown to her.

“No, I’m a total mess,” she says with a brief pause before answering sincerely. “You learn to adapt to your different co-stars. Some thrive on spontaneity and don’t need the dialogue to be perfect, while others shine in those early, scripted takes. It’s all about finding the right balance.” When asked about her ideal scene partner, Kendrick does have someone specific in mind.

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“I prefer working with female scene partners,” she mentions. “From my experience, women are generally more giving and collaborative in their performances. While I have worked with many talented male actors, sometimes it feels like they have already decided on how they are going to perform. It’s a bit unsettling when it seems like they are not fully engaging with me, no matter how skilled they are. It’s not about one gender being better than the other; I just personally connect more with female actors.”

Putting gender considerations aside, Kendrick acknowledges that what works for her may not work for everyone else. An actor’s approach to a role is influenced by the tools they have at their disposal. She humorously illustrates this point by saying, “There are moments when I wish I could step into Angelina Jolie’s shoes for a day, just to experience acting from her perspective and see how different it is. I would approach the role in my way, as she does it in hers.” She pauses, and then adds, “Sorry, that might sound a bit pretentious.”

In essence, Kendrick is exploring the idea that once you have embodied a character, it becomes uniquely yours because no one else can interpret it the same way you do.

It’s not surprising that Kendrick often feels like she knows her character better than anyone else by the end of a project. She acknowledges that no matter how much preparation she does, the writer truly understands the character best. However, during press tours, she can’t help but feel possessive over her character, even if she didn’t create it. In her recent series “Love Life,” Kendrick felt a deep connection to her character, drawing from her own experiences to make her portrayal authentic.

In addition to her attachment to her characters, Kendrick recently took on the role of executive producer for “Love Life.” She saw this as an opportunity to have more creative and practical input, allowing her to be assertive and have her opinions valued on set. This newfound responsibility allowed her to feel more than just an annoying presence on set, giving her a sense of validation for her contributions.

While Kendrick doesn’t plan on producing every project she’s involved in, she is committed to continuing to pursue opportunities that keep her curious and engaged. She reflects on the idea of constantly learning and evolving, recognizing that there may be moments where she questions if she truly knows everything yet. This hunger for growth and knowledge drives her passion for both acting and producing, keeping her eager to explore new challenges.

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