Alexandra Daddario Doesn't Have a Plan
The actress opens up about taking life (and career) as it comes and turning it into success.
Alexandra Daddario dropped out of acting school. While this fact may ring rebellious, especially regarding an actress known for her sweet, girl-next-door roles, it’s actually quite the opposite. Calling it on college is just one item on the list of what makes Daddario seem so down-to-earth.
The school she left was a small performing arts college on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where she grew up. She wasn’t admitted into the acting program, and she didn’t necessarily fit in with the groups of theater kids roaming the dorms and scream-singing the Broadway show du jour. (I went to the same school, and these nightly off-off-off Broadway performances were a thing.) Testing out higher-ed, only to find her acting education in other ways, is indicative of how she’s moved through her two-decade long career — with purpose, sure, but without constraints.
“I'm not super-strategic,” Daddario admits on a Zoom call from her house in Los Angeles. She comes across comfortable and effortless as we chat, stopping to check on her barking dog. Another check on that aforementioned list. “For the majority of my twenties, no one was throwing offers at me,” she explained, going on to say she learned to take jobs that felt “cool,” and tune out the rules of Hollywood. “There's stuff I've done that people don't take super seriously, which is fine, but I've always taken my characters seriously, and so I've always found something in each project.”
This attitude has made for a robust résumé filled with movies and television shows that span genres from action to comedy to horror. In the last 10 years, she’s starred in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Baywatch remake with Zac Efron and The Rock, she had a pivotal role in the first season of HBO's breakout series White Lotus, and now she’s leading the highly anticipated series Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches on AMC. And that’s just a small snippet.
It’s not just her roles that are executed without a care for norms, though. It’s her whole public persona. She embraced that duality wearing inflatable Moschino one minute and swapping to Chanel and Gucci the next. She analyzed every look, including the porcupine quills that came from hairstylist Peter Gray’s dog’s run-in with one, with the mindset that she’d be able to inject her personality — public as it is — into each outfit. And the Miu Miu bra set? It puts her squarely in a different kind of coven: Hollywood It Girl.
On social media, she's candid if not silly. In 2020, she started a YouTube channel with her former roommates, Kate and Morgan. Quickly, it amassed hundreds of thousands of subscribers who watch videos of her everyday life — cleaning out her closet, answering fan questions, watching and rating movies, and visiting tourist attractions in different cities. One of the most watched videos (with around 4.4 million views) is just the three women swimming around in a pool talking and making jokes. It's access that typically gets withdrawn as an actor's star rises.
"I wouldn't film myself sobbing about a breakup and be like, 'I can't handle it anymore. I'm so upset. Why did he do this to me?'" she admits when discussing her comfort with that level of exposure. "I think there was part of it, not even consciously, but part of it that was like, come on, all this other stuff you see isn't real. And being ridiculous and weird and strange or a little bit less polished about things, that's life. We're all a little weird, so why hide it?"
Being ridiculous and weird and strange or a little bit less polished about things, that's life. We're all a little weird, so why hide it?
The irony is that for many of the characters Daddario plays, hiding the truth makes them fun to watch. In Mayfair Witches, a show based on the series by the late author Anne Rice, her character, Dr. Rowan Fielding, is a successful neurosurgeon who seemingly has it all together. Behind the façade, though, she's dealing with significant changes in her life in relatively destructive ways.
"I think a lot of us feel [like Rowan]," she says about tapping into her character's psyche. "You have your survival mechanisms, things that you do to help yourself be happy. Sometimes you make bad choices, but you have this other part of your life figured out." For Daddario, it’s meditation and yoga. For her character, those mechanisms are a little less grounded. Rowan is freshly 30, which Daddario described as a pivotal and difficult time for anyone trying to link the person they've become as an adult with the one from their youth they don't want to lose. "It feels epic, and it feels scary,” she explained, referring to her own experience with aging. “We get lost, and we become a mess. We have the darkest moments."
These transitions are something Daddario embraces. She grew up in New York City, surrounded by all of the creative culture that comes with it. At a young age, she knew she wanted to act and when she was a teenager, she landed a role on a soap opera. By the time she was 22, she was cast as the lead in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the popular novel series turned two-part blockbuster film franchise. "You're building and building, and you hope that you don't regress, but, at times you do regress," she says about the ups and downs of her career.
She admitted that while a blockbuster film like Percy Jackson was an obvious step up for her, she remained humbled by the unknown. "I never was like, 'I've made it,' even now I don't feel like, this is it, I'm good for life now. I'm very, very proud of what I've accomplished, and I'm grateful, but it's a ladder. You're always sort of trying to figure it out," she said, adding a little callback to our earlier conversation. "When you reach a certain age, and you're still doing it, you go, ‘Well, I'm not going back to Marymount now to get my degree and figure out what to do; this is my job.’"
Another piece of having such a wide-ranging career starting at such a young age is that she had a front-row seat to Hollywood's reckoning around the way women are both treated on set and portrayed in film.
"Look," she says with a breath. "It shouldn't be a touchy subject, but when I started out, I wasn't meeting with female directors. It was all men that you met with."
I feel more comfortable in my skin, I feel more comfortable with what I put on, and I feel more comfortable with my choices.
She went on to say that those experiences were mostly great ones, but the collective awareness of the one-sidedness of Hollywood has created a noticeable change. "There's been a huge shift [in Hollywood] as far as how we want to portray women, the number of women working behind the scenes, the number of leading roles for women is increasing." She's also seen a positive change with the new addition of intimacy coordinators on set. "While some people might say that it went from zero to 60 really quickly, I think it was such a long time coming that these things had to happen. And even if some people feel like it's sort of an overcorrection, I think it's much better than not doing anything about it,” she said, referring to both comfort and safety of filming sex scenes and nudity. “I love having intimacy coordinators and people paying attention to these types of things. And I love seeing more women in front and behind the camera."
While work is a clear priority, Daddario has had some substantial non-career-related changes this year. In April, she married producer Andrew Form in New Orleans, where she was filming Mayfair Witches. The wedding was featured in Vogue with much of the fanfare surrounding Daddario's ‘20s-inspired dress. The idea for the event, she explained, was just to have a low-key celebration where they wanted to "get everyone drunk so that they don't notice if it's a bad party." She didn't realize how much people (especially wedding TikTok) would freak out about her gown, a pleated, off-white dress by Danielle Frankel. "I'm not the type of girl who's dreamed of her wedding, I had no idea what I wanted to wear, but I knew I didn't want it to be super traditional," she says. "I guess I was kind of thinking Meghan Markle." She said once she found Frankel, she knew something would work. "That was just the one that felt right, and I didn't overthink it, and I just went with my gut."
It's not surprising that her style was a hit. Daddario has become somewhat of a fashion darling in the past few years. And though her gut didn’t let her down on her wedding day, she shares the credit for many of her style wins with a professional.
"I have a great stylist!" she says emphatically. Together with Emma Morrison, Daddario has had incredible red carpet moments. As she listed some of her favorites, a one-shoulder Dior dress and a leopard-print Givenchy jacket, I could see both of us getting more and more excited. When she got to an Alexander Vauthier look, I interrupted and, with admiration for the outfit I absolutely favorited on Instagram, said, "The suit!" She immediately echoed back, "THE. SUIT." It’s not just the fact that she wears special clothes, it’s the way she wears them that makes her stand out amongst the sea of gorgeous celebrities in expensive clothes. She appears unafraid to immerse herself in the dramatic glamour of a black dress by pairing it with a large diamond choker and black lipstick. Even if it’s not your style, you can’t help but look.
As it is the case with many people, the reason she can do this is because she realized fashion is supposed to be fun. "I feel more comfortable in my skin, I feel more comfortable with what I put on, and I feel more comfortable with my choices," she says. "[When I was younger], sometimes the only time I didn't feel self-conscious was when I was acting." She remarked on early moments during the height of the Baywatch press when she would get photographed by paparazzi wearing pajamas. She went on, "I think as you get older, you get out of your head a bit more, and you get more confident with your decisions, and not dressing for other people; you're doing it for yourself. And that's been really freeing."
Besides promoting her new show, focusing on herself is a big part of what's next for Daddario. She also admits she's finally got time to watch the second season of White Lotus. Though her character Rachel isn't on this season, she has some ideas for what happened to her. "She's still with Shane," she guesses.
Unlike Rachel, Daddario is making moves in fashion, love, and career for herself. She's feeling content with her job, her role as a stepmom to her husband's two kids, and just trying to live life as calmly as possible — the latter is perhaps more relatable than dropping out of the same school. "I take it day by day. I think it's hard to make plans because you have to adjust them so much. I'm feeling that if you make plans, then you get laughed at by God or whomever," she concludes. "Anything can happen."
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