TV’s Next It Girl: AnnaSophia Robb is the New Carrie Bradshaw
By Lauren Waterman || January 2013
The day after power was restored to downtown Manhattan post–Hurricane Sandy, AnnaSophia Robb appears at Balthazar, a chic SoHo restaurant, looking not even the slightest bit worse for wear. Her outfit, for the most part, is appropriately low-key—an aqua cowl-necked cotton top paired with brick-red cords and a black Parajumpers puffer coat—but she’s tied a colorful patterned scarf, haute-hippie-style, around her head. (Later, she’ll confide that she tends to favor athleticwear whenever she’s not working: “It helps motivate me to get to the gym if I’m already wearing the clothes,” she explains.) That one little flourish, more than anything else about the actress, seems very Carrie Bradshaw. Which is appropriate, because AnnaSophia is stepping into Sarah Jessica Parker’s stylish shoes in The Carrie Diaries, a new series on The CW that functions as a kind of prequel to Sex and the City. It’s this production that has brought AnnaSophia to New York; the show, like SATC before it, is filmed in the city and uses Manhattan as something between a character and a backdrop.
But the nineteen-year-old star, who graduated from a high school outside Denver last spring, talks like someone who would have ended up here, eventually. “I think I was made to live in New York,” she says. “I love it.” So what if, thanks to the hurricane, she had to spend the better part of the previous week bunking in Brooklyn with a castmate? The Big Apple may have flooded, but AnnaSophia’s enthusiasm for her new hometown is entirely undampened.
“I love being able to walk everywhere,” she says, shortly after ordering a salad dressed with truffle oil and a goat cheese tart to share. “And there’s so much going on—I actually get a little nervous on the weekends, wondering what to do and who to hang out with.” More than that, though, AnnaSophia adores the city’s endless capacity for surprise. “When I used to watch Gossip Girl or Sex and the City, I thought the things that happened were totally exaggerated. But then I got here and realized they’re not. That’s what it’s really like!”
To what kinds of things, precisely, is she referring? “Well, just today, for example, I was walking through the park, and there was a guy playing a piano, absolutely beautifully, right in the middle of a plaza. That doesn’t happen in normal cities,” she says.
Word of this exchange, innocent though it sounds, prompts another question: Does AnnaSophia get hit on a lot? “Never,” she says. And because she’s currently single, she’s inclined to view this as some- thing of a problem. “Everyone always says that guys are intimidated by me,” she reports, “but I seriously doubt it. I mean, I’m five-foot-nothing!” Her own analysis of the situation is equally tough to solve: “I think I must make a stank face,” she says, illustrating by pulling her delicate features into an exaggerated scowl.
Boy trouble is one thing AnnaSophia shares with her sometimes lovelorn new character. But Candace Bushnell, who wrote the books upon which both SATC and The Carrie Diaries are based, says the connection goes far deeper. “She has an innocence and a vulner- ability, combined with a strong sense of self, that makes her perfect for the part,” the author explains. AnnaSophia has been working for years—she was discovered by a scout after enrolling in an acting class at age eight—but between films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge to Terabithia, and Soul Surfer, the actress “managed to live a ‘real girl’ life in Denver,” Bushnell says. “I love that she’s able to bring everyday teenage experiences to the role.”
“I loved high school,” AnnaSophia says. “Everyone always asks me if the other kids treated me differently because of my career, but they didn’t. If you act weird, people are going to treat you weird, but if you’re just yourself, people respond to that.”
Initially, she’d planned to go straight to college—she was accepted into Stanford University—but she found the opportunity to audition for The Carrie Diaries too good to pass up. “When I was younger, I didn’t want to be on TV,” she says. “I made a conscious decision to stay away from Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel—not that they’re not great companies, but because I wanted to play different kinds of roles and have the freedom to choose my projects. So when my agent called about this job, I said no way. TV was too much of a commitment.” But the pilot script won her over. “I realized it was actually a really strong story. It had a lot of heart and integrity, and Carrie seems like a character that I can grow with.”
Of course, because SATC began with a 30-something Carrie in 1998, the new show is set in the first half of the 1980s. But AnnaSophia says her ward- robe stops short of being cringe-inducingly realistic. “We call it ‘aspirational authenticity,’” she adds. The same could be said of her performance: With her big green eyes, she looks more like an anime character come to life than anyone’s idea of an everygirl. But the vibe that AnnaSophia projects is totally relatable. “They told me that I got the part because I did a little chicken dance at the end of my audition, after they asked me about my prom. I’ve got rhythm,” she clarifies, “but not the moves to go with it, and I guess they liked that I wasn’t afraid to be goofy.”