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Strange Magic

Strange Magic

Actress Analeigh Tipton keeps her cool in Warm Bodies. By Caitlin Smith. Photographed by Andrew Stinson

One winter afternoon, in the lobby of the Thompson Hotel on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Analeigh Tipton is sitting in a plush armchair with her lithe legs crossed like a pretzel, head hunched intently over a sketchbook, her pen moving swiftly in hand. Wearing a baseball cap, parka, grey skinny jeans tucked into hiking boots, and accompanied by a large backpack, the 24-year-old Sacramento native looks more like a tourist than someone who has starred in films with Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore (Crazy Stupid Love), Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody (Damsels in Distress), and Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz (The Green Hornet). But any illusion of pedestrianism is quickly erased upon the sight of her face—feline and feminine with a perfect cupid’s bow mouth and tremendous blue-green eyes that flicker with bewilderment when she sees me, as if she just realized she’s in a crowded hotel lobby and not alone in her bedroom in Los Angeles. “Hi,” she says gently, as she hurries to shut her little black sketchbook and gather her things. “I was just doodling….”

There’s a quiet exaggeration about Tipton, like a silent film star. It’s in the way her eyes light up when they catch sight of the multicoloured cookies and cakes that line the display case of the café we go to for coffee; how she’ll sometimes clasp her hands to the side of her head during a particularly enthusiastic statement; or the way she grins widely as she plays me some of the kooky Icelandic rap she discovered on a recent trip. She seems, almost, from another era. It’s this whimsical nature paired with her intensified girl-next-door features that won Tipton a spot on America’s Next Top Model in 2008. And it was Tyra Banks who told her she should pursue acting when she was voted off as second runner up (her charismatic performance in a mock CoverGirl commercial warranted the praise). It would’ve been easy for Tipton’s 15 minutes to end there, left to collect dust amongst the rest of Tyra’s devoted mini-mes, but instead she quickly earned a cameo on The Big Bang Theory. Her audition impressed the right people, and she soon signed on with Abrams Artist Agency and started booking film roles almost immediately.

Next up for Tipton is Warm Bodies, an oddball romcom from director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50) about a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) and the non-zombie girl, Julie (Teresa Palmer), he falls in love with. Tipton plays Nora, Julie’s best friend, who’s just trying to make sense of the strange pairing. “She’s very self-assured, she’s brave, she’s not afraid to state her opinions, she’s not afraid to be completely curious,” says Tipton, sitting in a corner booth at the café. “And that’s kind of cool, because at the same time she’s funny. It was nice to play both.”

Tipton calls Levine’s filmmaking style “a new way of storytelling.” She elaborates: “It’s in his editing, in his use of music, the emotion that no one can describe. He unfolds it all so poetically—going in and out of action from watching the story and then pulling the audience back into the story. That’s what he does with Warm Bodies. It just matches the story.”

Stories have always been important to Tipton. She actually moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to become a writer. “I got really embarrassed about [pursuing acting] around my family because it didn’t really seem like the scientific or the structured thing to do,” she explains, noting that her father is a computer server engineer and her older sister is a lawyer. “My family could relate to writing more.” For her, though, writing and acting go hand-in-hand: they’re both about playing pretend. “That was my favourite thing—give me something to pretend and I’ll make it happen.” Now Tipton is combining both of her loves by writing a screenplay with two colleagues from one of her previous films, but she’s keeping mum on the details.

Though she would now be classified as a successful actor, Tipton confesses she often doesn’t feel like one. “I still get uncomfortable,” she says, delicately fiddling with the lid of her coffee cup. “I’ve worked with actresses that just radiate. They’re these glowing sparkly things.” But she’s not? “I feel very strange on set. I have my notebook and I doodle…sometimes I can come off as…” she trails off, struggling to find the right word. “I’m not shy, I’m just reserved. I was home schooled. I was in my head a lot, and that’s where I’m comfortable.” She smiles a sincere smile. “I’m very grateful for any oddities and quirks I have now. The successful people that I’ve met are so their own weird person. I wish teenagers—kids—knew that people work when they’re just themselves. That’s when it works.”

Stylist: ANNA MARIA
Hair: BRIAN MAGALLONES
Makeup: KIM BOWER