Actress Leven Rambin Talks Texas, True Detective & Her Cinderella Style

Photography by Olivia Malone
Styling by Kat Typaldos
Hair by Alex Polillo
Makeup by Rachel Goodwin
Manicure by Stephanie Stone

When it comes to True Detective, actress Leven Rambin, 25, admits she was “slow on the uptake.” She first became a fan at the behest of her fiancé, actor Jim Parrack, whom she describes as “one of the biggest art snobs I’ve ever met.” He told Rambin, who will be starring in Season 2 of the hit series, that it was his favorite show on television, and she emerged after a solo binge-watching session in full agreement. Even though she wasn’t part of the first wave of die-hard fans, Rambin knew that her role on True Detective would be a career changer, especially since she was acting alongside megastar Rachel McAdams. “I told Rachel that I had the most mind-blowing creative experience working with her,” says Rambin, who plays McAdams’s character’s sister, Athena Bezzerides. (In the first episode, she is busted by her cop sister for taking part of an online porn ring — a job that Rambin's character openly admits to choosing as a newly sober person. Wearing a long green wig, a nose ring, and not much else, she goes head to head with McAdams which is really something to behold. Their tense interaction is a harbinger of things to come within the show's very complicated plot lines.) Yet despite the heaviness of the role, Rambin's litany of praise for her costar wouldn’t fit in a tweet: “She’s such a genius. I realize how on point, how focused, how prepared, mature, professional, ready to go, open, present, and giving she is. And I just was blown away by her.”

Rambin, who with long blond hair and a striking silhouette radiates classic, Grace Kelly beauty, doesn’t hold back when it comes to her admiration for other women. When it comes to style, her icons are fellow young stars. For red carpet inspiration, she looks to classic bombshells such as Jessica Chastain and adventurous tomboys such as Shailene Woodley and Zoe Saldana. But she was most wowed by Lily James’s looks during her promotion of Disney’s Cinderella. “I love what Lily James has been wearing. Whatever the hell she has on,” Rambinsays. “Everything she wore for her Cinderella premieres, I freaked out about.” Zuhair Murad, Giambattista Valli, Elie Saab: It seems Rambin has her heart set on someday wearing couture. “I love Chanel. I do,” she says. “I’ve never worn a Chanel piece on the red carpet, but I ogle the tougher pieces and lines.”

Unlike some stars, Rambin isn’t intimidated by the demands and hours of preparation that go into red carpet appearances. “I like fantasize about it,” she says. “I just love it. As a woman, it’s a unique experience. It’s a very Cinderella moment.” Her willingness to beautify even extends to high heels. There’s no balking or wincing here: “The higher the better in my book.”

But even amid her glamorous fantasies, Rambin has come to understand the value of simplicity in style. When a recent story in Harper’s Bazaar about an art director who wore the same outfit every day — a button-down, ribbon tie, and trousers — went viral, it was a revelation for Rambin. “I was like, ‘That’s genius!’ I spend so much time trying to coordinate stuff and find stuff, but now I constantly wear the same thing.” Rambin’s uniform is a nod to her Houston roots: baggy Levi’s jeans, a T-shirt, and a Levi’s denim jacket. “I went through a phase of craziness with accessories everywhere, wearing rings and necklaces and chains, sort of a rocker moment, and I’m more comfortable now looking more classic and elegant. I think that was liberating for me.”

Rambin started her career on All My Children, but you’re more likely to recognize her from her role as Glimmer, a District One tribute, in The Hunger Games, or Clarisse in Percy Jackson. But unlike those roles, Rambin’s character on True Detective is very much rooted in this world. “It’s a more of a human experience that I have here, instead of a superhero or fantasy thing,” she says. “It’s grounded and dark.” But though this role is a major departure for the former soap opera actress, Rambin is confident that her fantasy fans will still watch the show. “It’s a very special audience, they stick with you,” she says. “You know that somebody is on your side and rooting for you.”

Among her fans are 70,000-plus vocal Instagram followers, who may have unknowingly bolstered her during True Detective filming, which posed a unique challenge: Unlike Season 1, which was directed by CaryFukunaga (he won an Emmy for his work on the show), the new season has a different director for each episode. “It felt like shooting five different independent films,” Rambin says. And what did she learn from taking feedback from five different points of view? “It grows you as an actor no matter what. You either become more confident, or you learn something new. Or you realize that you were right and not to listen to certain people!”

Natasha Lyonne On “Orange Is the New Black,” Her Soul Cycle Addiction, and Big Hair
Playing Marilyn Monroe Taught Actress Kelli Garner to Love Her Curves