By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Fans of the drama series “Mad Men” watched Kiernan Shipka grow from a sassy schoolgirl to an independent-minded teenager during the seven seasons it aired on AMC. The acclaimed cable series also encompassed nine years of Shipka’s life. But like her strong-willed onscreen character, Sally Draper, Shipka is a survivor.
At 15, the Chicago-born actress is looking ahead—both personally and professionally. Newly graduated from high school, she is taking college courses at Central Michigan State. She also stars in a new independent film called “One and Two,” in which she plays another character with a strong independent streak.
Living on a rural farm, which for some unexplained reason is surrounded by a large, impenetrable wall, Eva (Shipka), her brother Zac (Timothee Chalamet) and their parents work all day on chores to stay alive. The monotony is broken up occasionally when Eva and Zac sneak out of the house at night to practice their special gift. They can teleport several feet at a time. Their overbearing father (Grant Bowler) doesn’t approve and disciplines them whenever he catches them darting about. Mom (“The Twilight Saga’s” Elisabeth Reaser, who also guest-starred as waitress Diana Baur in the final season of “Mad Men”) tries to shield them from his wrath, but when she becomes ill Dad becomes even more controlling.
Andrew Droz Palermo wrote and directed the fantasy thriller, which premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival. In addition to its theatrical release, the moody thriller is available on VOD.
The polite and poised Shipka recently spoke by phone about her new film, her life post-“Mad Men” and what’s ahead.
Q: This film is largely just the four of you. What was it like working with such a small cast?
Shipka: It was such a fun shoot and it was really interesting and challenging. It was really neat because there was such a family vibe on set because everyone got so close. We shot it in under a month. We worked long hours every day but I couldn’t have had a better time doing all of the above.
Q: What attracted you to the project?
Shipka: What drew me to the film was the fact that the story itself was really intriguing, and also partly the fact that Andrew Palermo’s vision was very beautiful, inspiring and artistic. I loved that. The combination of elements all came together, and I was really excited to work on it.
Q: You shot this in North Carolina last year?
Shipka: Yes. Winston-Salem.
Q: Did you get a chance to explore the area, or did you hang out mostly with the cast and crew?
Shipka: It was a really good vibe on set. It was really fun. It was filmed on this farm called Horne Creek Farm. That was a little more secluded. There were chances between breaks to explore and see the animals. It was an actual working farm. Then we got to hang out in the town itself, which is really a college town. Timo, who’s my co-star, and I became such buds, and it was kind of fun to be in a town where you got to know everyone by the end of the month, and finding places and hanging out.
Q: As a celebrity, did fans come up to you?
Shipka: People were awesome and nice. There were some people who recognized me and Timo, but they couldn’t have been lovelier or nicer about the whole thing. I think everyone in the town knew we were making a film nearby and they were excited about it. It made for a fun environment.
Q: Eva has this ability to teleport. Were you aware how the special effects would look while you were shooting the film? Did Andrew explain to you how it would eventually look?
Shipka: I did. Andrew explained and so did (visual effects supervisor) Josh Johnson, who was in charge of the effects. He was on set every day. It was so much his part. And there was collaboration too in how to approach the filming (of the effects) and stuff since the cast was partaking in the whole thing. So I had kind of a vibe as to what it was going to look like but I’ve got to be honest, when I saw the end product, I thought it was so cool!
Q: The film is kind of a metaphor for growing up and leaving the nest, and your character, Eva, has a rebellious streak. Did you relate to her? Do you feel like you’re testing your wings as a teenager?
Shipka: To me, Eva was more understandable, relatable, because their situation is so different (from my life). But I can see where she is and why she does what she does. I was inspired by her courageousness. She’s such a go-getter and she broke free. I think it’s very interesting and it stands as a cool metaphor.
Q: What does the title mean to you?
Shipka: I know Andrew Palermo has seen Zac and Eva as like a Jack and Jill or One and Two. They are One and Two to him as they are to me as well.
Q: You’re character is hard at work in this. She has chore after chore on the farm, and occasionally gets to go swimming in the creek. How would you survive in a situation like that where you have to get your own food? Are you self-reliant?
Shipka: If I was transported to living on a farm right now, there would be some struggles. I’m not going to lie. I’m basically a city girl. I don’t know how self-reliant I’d be in a situation like that. But I think, over time, I’d learn and get used to it. It’s just a different lifestyle.
Q: What would you miss most about city life?
Shipka: The restaurants are what I’d miss most. I think I’m supposed to say my friends, but I went straight for the food.
Q: It’s great to be able to teleport, but if you could have a special power would it be that or something else?
Shipka: Prior to today, I’d always said flying would be the best, but today I think having super intelligence would be more useful, and super fun.
Q: You’re pretty smart already. You’re only 15 but already taking college courses. How’s college life treating you?
Shipka: It’s treating me well.
Q: What are you studying?
Shipka: My next class is French, which is lovely. I recently finished a class on the History of Western Dress, which was a lot of fun.
Q: You have a lot of diverse interests, don’t you?
Shipka: I do. I love taking classes in all different things. It’s definitely a hobby of mine: learning new things.
Q: You recently wrapped a film with Emma Roberts called “February?”
Shipka: I did.
Q: What was that like? You shot it in Canada, right?
Shipka: Yeah. It was really fun. We shot it right outside of Ottawa. It was a great experience; it was super fun.
Q: It’s a horror movie?
Q: What can you say about your character? Is she the hero? Is she evil?
Shipka: The whole thing is very mysterious and there is this haunting presence throughout. I don’t want to spoil anything. You don’t know a lot throughout the whole movie, which I think is a cool aspect.
Q: Are you working on other projects now?
Shipka: No. I’m just enjoying my summer.
Q: You guest starred on the first season of Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Will you be returning for the second season?
Shipka: I don’t know. I’d love to go back on it. It was great.
Q: It’s been well over a year since you wrapped “Mad Men.” Do you stay in touch with the cast?
Shipka: I’ve seen a good amount of the cast and some of the crew—not as much as I would like—but we’ve gotten together on several instances to celebrate the show. When the finale was airing and even when it premiered, we had wrapped for some time, so it was nice to see everyone then. I’m sure I’ll see some of them at the Emmys. I saw Jon and January at the Oceana (SeaChange charity) event not too long ago, and it was really nice to see them.
Q: Do you consider Jon Hamm and January Jones your surrogate family in a way?
Shipka: Really the entire set is such a second family because we all worked together for so long and we all changed so much. Nine years is a really long time. So everyone really did become really close. It’s a very special relationship I have with everyone.
Q: They auctioned some of the props from “Mad Men” for charity recently. Were you able to keep anything from your wardrobe as a memento?
Shipka: I took the necklace that my character wears. It says (Sally’s initials) S.B.D. Don gave it to her.