‘Only 19 but my mind is older’. That’s the Instagram bio of Landry Bender, the actress making a major name for herself in Hollywood over the past few years.
She’s not wrong, either; Bender is an old soul with a bright mind, and 1883 was lucky enough to chat with her about her life and career thus far.
Landry Bender has been acting since before she was ten years old, and that comes through clearly in her work. Having landed her first role in a feature film at just ten years old, she’s been on a path for success ever since; Disney, Netflix Originals, and now a Hulu adaptation of a New York Times bestselling novel. You might be thinking Landry is like every other nineteen-year-old in this business, but she isn’t. While talking to her, it’s clear that she’s bright, intelligent, and passionate about the work she does. With her bubbly personality, dedication to her craft, and acting chops to boot, it’s no wonder that she’s one of the breakout stars to watch of 2019, and trust us, you’ll want to keep an eye on her.
We chatted with Landry about her latest project Looking for Alaska, the last season of Fuller House, her love of travel and music, and the goals she has for the future.
Your first role was at ten years old playing ‘Blithe’ in The Sitter opposite Jonah Hill. That’s such a funny and raunchy film for a ten-year-old, especially for their first gig! What was that experience like?
It’s probably still one of my favorite experiences on a set because it was my first one, and it was everything I had wanted it to be. I got to work with David Gordon Green [the Director], who I didn’t know was a total genius, and I had never seen anything with Jonah Hill but I had heard of Superbad and he had made a cameo in Night at the Museum, and it was just so much fun to film.
You show off some pretty mad rapping skills in The Sitter. Any chance we’ll see more of that? Or specifically, any possibility of some musical projects in the future?
You know everyone always asks me that! I think right now I’d love to sing in roles for television or film, but who knows! I sing, and play guitar and write lyrics, so never say never. Maybe in five years, I’ll be talking about my album but right now I’m really happy with acting.
Like so many other great actors, a lot of your earlier professional gigs were at Disney. What has it been like to make the change from projects directed to younger audiences, to ones that are more geared towards people your own age?
I think it was a really natural progression because I was playing characters my own age at the time and I was doing projects I would have watched then. I’m so thankful to Disney and everything I did there. You know, I think sometimes there’s this stigma or notion around getting started there, but I never felt that and I’m ultimately just really grateful. But yeah, it’s felt natural just growing up and playing older roles now.
Your latest project, Looking for Alaska, was just released and is garnering such positive reactions and responses, from both fans and critics. I’m a huge fan of the book and I have to say, it was exactly how I envisioned and was just really beautiful to watch. What was it like working on that project? Had you read the book beforehand?
Well, thank you, first of all. And yes, I had read the book. I was like thirteen or fourteen years old reading John Green and sobbing in the theater during The Fault in Our Stars. He really shaped my teenage years so it was incredible to be a part of the project.
I know Sara was a smaller character in the novel, but they made her more of a series regular in the show after your audition. How did that feel?
It felt great, honestly. Usually, when I’m vying for a role, I do a lot of research and get really into the story, but this project honestly came together so fast and Sara was a smaller part when I auditioned, so I really wasn’t banking on anything and didn’t have too much time to immerse myself fully. But once they said they wanted to make her a bigger role, I really started to want it even more.
Sara is such a complicated and complex character. What about Sara appealed to you, and how did you prepare for that role?
Like you said, she’s super dynamic, and that was really appealing. Sometimes you really hate her, and other times you can really sympathize for her. Because she was a smaller character, there wasn’t too much source material to go by, whereas I know Charlie [Plummer] and Kristine [Froseth] [who play Miles and Alaska, respectively] had read the book about five times each and had tons of crazy notes scribbled in their books. So, to prepare, I just really tried to put myself in her mindset. I even stalked a few girls on Instagram who I knew were like Sara, to see how they really lived. You know, she comes from a good place but because of how and where she grew up, she’s just been stuck in this bubble and is obviously very ignorant. It was cool, because we were able to really talk about class and privilege and ignorance, and it felt important.
I feel like sometimes in teen dramas, the relationships can feel really scripted and forced, but I never got that while watching the show. The chemistry between the cast seemed so real and genuine. Any fun memories from set, or a particular scene you enjoyed filming?
Thank you for saying that, because that was really our goal from the start. We had about two weeks of rehearsal before filming where we got to get to know each other. We were just a bunch of kids in Louisiana, and we’d have movie night and game night and do some fun acting games. I remember our first cast dinner, it was just eight young kids plus a few crew, but we were all huddled in a corner and I just remember that feeling really special. In terms of favorite scenes…I really loved the Halloween episode, and all of us being stuffed together in this gym with no AC. It sounds terrible, but it was really fun.
Switching from Sara to Rocki: the last season of Fuller House is also set to come out soon. Anything you can tell us about that?
Yeah, I just got back from set, actually! We filmed the finale today, and it was definitely really emotional. It was like no one wanted to admit that this chapter of their lives was closing.
I can imagine for the cast who’ve been involved with the story for so long, too!
Absolutely! I kind of just let them have their moment. In terms of my character, I have a really cool arc this season and you get a lot more backstory about my family, which is awesome. But the finale is a tearjerker for sure, so be ready for that.
You’re so young and yet you already have such a great acting resume. What are some of your goals in the future? Any type of work you’d like to do specifically, or dream roles you’d love to play?
Well, thank you for saying I’m so young because I totally forget that. I think I should be doing more all the time, and then I have to remind myself that I’m nineteen, and I’m like ‘okay, time to chill out’. But I’d love to be more involved in screenwriting and directing and producing when I get older, for sure. That’s something that’s really important to me.
Especially as a woman.
Totally! It’s really awesome that I’m growing up in this industry when so many big changes are happening for women. I’ve been reading some really awesome scripts about well written teenage girls, and I’m excited about that. I’d also love to play a character based on someone who’s real. I feel like there are so many people out there who have such amazing stories. Like Audrey Hepburn, for example. Like, hello, if anyone’s listening, I’m down.
I know you’re a self-proclaimed lover of travel. Where’s your favorite place you’ve been?
Oh man. I’d have to say Paris and London. I visited those cities when I was around fourteen with my family, and it was so incredible. I’d love to explore the rest of Europe, too. And anywhere tropical.
So, what’s next for Miss Landry Bender? Anything exciting you can tell us?
Well, I hate when people say, ‘You’ll see!’ But…you’ll see! But really, I’ve been reading some amazing coming of age scripts and looking at some really cool projects, and there are a few things I’m excited about. So yeah, we’ll see!
interview by Lauren Ablondi Olivo
photography Maeghan Donohue
styling Lou Mairone
hair Patrick Kyle
makeup Tony Tulve using FACE Atelier and Viseart Paris
BTS Video Lamont Richardson
location J&D Auto Repair