When Kaitlyn Dever strolled into the Manhattan restaurant on an overcast September afternoon, she looked like the physical manifestation of sunshine. Literally: The 22-year-old actor was dressed in head-to-toe marigold, a look she credited her stylist, Karla Welch. Turns out the outfit is part of a recent style renaissance that included a closet clean out ending in eight bags of clothes.
“I was realizing how many style phases I’ve gone through, and some of them are…interesting,” says Dever, ticking them off on her fingers. “Crocheted tops—I was doing a lot of ‘boho’ shopping. The floppy hats look, I wore that one a lot.” There was even a brief flirtation with going goth that coincided with a crush on Chris Angel.
Were you into magic? I wondered. “No, I like tattoos,” Dever deadpans, arching an eyebrow. “I know, very edgy. I was 14; it was a formative year. Kind of gives you a glimpse into my taste.” She’s since moved on from Chris Angel—these days, she says she’s dying to work with Jeff Goldblum—but the search for a signature style continues. “I feel like I’m constantly becoming other people, and then I’m dressing like the character I play,” she says. “That’s why I feel so scatterbrained in my style.”
When it comes to her career, however, Dever knows exactly what she wants: She’s been acting since she was nine—early roles include “Adorable Girl” in the Make It or Break It series and a part in An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong. Nearly a decade of recurring roles on series like Justified and Last Man Standing followed. This year, Dever officially went from rising star to supernova with a breakout role in Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart alongside Beanie Feldstein. The movie, about two BFFs who strive to have one wild night before high school ends, was called “one of the best teen comedies to come along in years” by The A.V. Club and has an impressive 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Dever and Feldstein’s Amy and Molly have become the heirs apparent to Lucy and Ethel or, more recent, Abbi and Ilana—in other words, a comedy duo that proves once and for all the buddy genre isn’t just for the boys.
Now, people are buzzing about Dever’s performance in Unbelievable. The Netflix series is based on a jaw-dropping, real-life ProPublica investigation and has become a tentpole of the fall TV lineup. In it, Dever plays Marie, a teenager who is raped at knifepoint, reports the incident to police, and then recants her story after detectives pressure her into confessing that she made it all up for attention.