2019 Breakthrough Entertainer: Dever shined in TV and film

Dever in Netflix's 'Unbelieveable'

NEW YORK (AP) — Any actor can find it difficult to find a meaty role in Hollywood, whether it be in TV or film, comedy or drama. Actress Kaitlyn Dever shined in both genres and mediums this year.

Dever garnered hordes of fans after playing bright and goofy Amy in the female-driven film “Booksmart,” about two tightly wound overachievers intent on one last crazy night before graduation. A few months later, she won critical praise for her moving portrayal of a lonely rape victim in the Netflix series “Unbelievable,” and garnered a Golden Globe nomination for best performance by an actress in a limited series or motion picture made for television. It’s also earned her a spot on the list of The Associated Press’ Breakthrough Entertainers of the Year.

Dever has been gratified by the success of both projects.

“It’s been sort of crazy. The fact that people love something as much as you do is so, so good. Watching the love grow and grow for ‘Booksmart’ was something I’ll remember forever,” she said, recalling its premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival.

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“People were like laughing and then people were brought to tears and they were cheering afterward. I mean, it was a really, really, cool moment.”

Some may not have even recognized her as the same actress in “Unbelievable,” as the roles were so different in subject and tone; Dever said she loved the paradox.

“I love bouncing back and forth between drama and comedy. People used to ask me if I liked drama or comedy, which one I liked better, and I can never answer. I think they’re actually very similar. I almost prepare for them the same way,” Dever told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “I think you have to start with honesty with both.”

Dever, who turns 23 on Saturday, started acting at age 10 in small TV roles and has been steadily rising since then, with her first recurring role in the series “Justified” in 2011 and several supporting film roles before landing the lead in “Booksmart.”

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Dever was inspired to be an actress after seeing Toni Collette in the 1999 movie “The Sixth Sense”; she recalls being blown away “by how real she seemed.” She had a full circle moment when she co-starred with Collette in “Unbelievable,” and got to tell the Oscar-winner what an inspiration she was to her.

It’s no coincidence that both of Dever’s roles this year involved female creators on and off-screen. She calls working on sets with other women “comforting.”

“I totally think that we need so many more women involved in the industry and making movies. We’ve made a lot of really big moves. I think there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said. “Both of those projects were very, very female driven, which is something I want to continue to do on other projects.”

She’s set to star in two upcoming anthology series, Hulu’s “Monsterland” and FX’s “Platform,” and is “dying” to do a musical film. Though she’s become one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood, Dever says her life hasn’t changed much “and I don’t want it to change.

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“I’m the happiest when I am working and I feel so calm and content when I’m on set. It’s so fulfilling and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”