Actress Analeigh Tipton

Portrait by Craig Sjodin / Courtesy of ABC

Three years after her breakthrough performance in Crazy, Stupid, Love, Analeigh Tipton is revisiting matters of the heart this fall as the star of the new ABC comedy Manhattan Love Story. The 25-year-old actress and America’s Next Top Model alum talks about being in a New York state of mind, bonding with Steve Carell over figure skating, and getting the film bug at St. Francis High School. 

Are you on the set of Manhattan Love Story as we speak?
I am. We have long days. They’ve been like 16-hour days. I have two scenes to finish up and then I have another one in a taxi later this evening.

The show shoots in Manhattan—is that where you live now?
Amazingly, yes. The whole cast is from Los Angeles. When we learned that we were [going] to shoot in Manhattan, which is such a key part of the show, all of us were so excited. I was probably the most optimistic and excited, and I decided to move my entire life over here from Los Angeles a month ago. All the other cast members subletted their places out. Let’s hope this does really well because I’m kind of out here for a while.

Can you tell us a little about the series?
The show is called Manhattan Love Story because it is about this girl [Dana] who’s from a small town and moves to Manhattan to pursue her dream in publishing. She’s just this sticks-out-like-a-sore-thumb, clumsy newbie. And she meets Peter, who is a jaded New York guy and has been there his whole life. It’s about their budding relationship and just the ins and outs of figuring out what it means to find yourself in this big city and find yourself in your 20s in a new relationship.

You also hear our internal dialogue, which was a challenging piece of the show because it can come off incredibly campy. But the stuff with Dana and Peter is incredibly real and surrounded by a lot of comedic, entertaining beats that really highlight the differences between our actions and our thoughts. It’s like, if you really pay attention, [you can learn] what each sex thinks in these different situations. The pilot, for example, opens with Peter walking down the street saying “yes” and “no” and [the camera] pulls back to reveal that he’s looking at women. It flashes to me doing the same thing, and it reveals that I’m looking at purses. Now, when I read this, my instinct was like, “Oh, that’s so stereotypical.” But my mom saw the pilot and was like, “I do that walking down the street.”

Your acting career thus far has mostly been on the big screen. What made you decide to make the switch to TV?
When Jeff Lowell, the [show] creator, came to me, my agent and my manager, we weren’t looking to do television. My biggest [hesitation] was kind of just the general fear that television brings to some film actors, that it’s going to limit my creative ability. When an actor signs up for a show, it could potentially be a giant part of their life. I’ve done a ton on HBO [for Hung], but that had a lot of freedom in it because it was a recurring [role]. When I first read the breakdown [for Manhattan Love Story and saw that] it was a half-hour comedy, I was like, “That’s really not anything I want to do.”

But in sitting down and talking to Jeff, I learned that this half-hour comedy was a single-camera, beautifully cinematic, almost film-like piece of work that they were trying to put together, which was very rare for a network television show. And that we were not only shooting in a studio. We’re using Manhattan as one of the lead characters in our story. We film on location in different places. For the pilot, we actually got to shoot on a ferry that goes around the Statue of Liberty, which is just incredible. It almost looks like we’re shooting on a green screen because it’s so beautiful.

How are you feeling about starring in your first scripted TV series?
It’s very nerve-racking, but it’s exciting. It doesn’t feel like I’m unprepared. In my first lead, Two Night Stand [the new romantic comedy co-starring The Spectacular Now’s Miles Teller and Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr], there was a lot more pressure because people were waiting to see if I could do it. That was filmed almost two years ago. In this one, I felt like the people involved had such confidence in me. I didn’t have to doubt myself.

Your breakthrough role was as the babysitter with a major crush on Steve Carell’s character in Crazy, Stupid, Love. [Tipton’s scene-stealing performance in the 2011 film landed her on The New York Times’ five “Faces to Watch” list that summer.] How was it working with him?
It was wonderful. I think he taught me more about how to be on set than anybody I’ve worked with. He’s very seasoned and he’s very, very, very kind. If a new actor comes on set, you can tell they’re green because there’s no school that teaches you what it’s really like to be on a set. Not on a big-budget [movie], when it has its own language—it’s an incredibly weird environment.

Steve was never, not once, impatient. He never spoke down [to me]. My first [solo] scene with Steve, my family came to set for the first time. It was a car scene. I had never been in a car rig. I had never done this big of a scene, let alone with Steve in a car. I had a panic attack right before it started and I started hyperventilating. Glenn [Ficarra, the co-director] took me aside and was doing breathing [exercises] with me. I was so humiliated. Then I got in the car, and Steve leaned over and went, “So you figure skate. My daughter figure skated.” [Tipton is a former figure skater who competed twice in the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships.] That just made me relax instantly because we didn’t talk about work. He wasn’t in any zone. He just talked to me. I think watching Steve, I [learned] that it’s not about who you are or what you’re doing; it is about how you treat people that makes a set environment and makes people respond. And to be yourself is okay—you don’t have to be always “on.”

While many people may have discovered you in Crazy, Stupid, Love, others were introduced to you a few years before then, when you were on America’s Next Top Model and made it to the top three.
I was 19. I had just moved to L.A. [from Sacramento] for writing and directing. I wasn’t trying to model, I was trying to act. But I needed a job and I was tall [Tipton is nearly 5-foot-10]. [Modeling] seemed like easy, fast money. [I thought], “If I get on the show, cool. I get to travel.” I didn’t really understand at the time what it was or what it would be looked at as. It was kind of before reality TV became what it is. It was interesting work-wise early on, going in to read [for acting jobs] and having Top Model come up with someone who didn’t know me. They [just thought], “You’re a reality star and model, and now you’re trying to get into acting.”

Especially since for you, it was the other way around—acting came way before modeling. In fact, weren’t you president of the film club at St. Francis High School?
Yeah, I started the film club. Filmmaking was my first love. I never got a big [acting] role at St. Francis. I was a crow in The Wizard of Oz. I played a French maid in Little Women. I was always heartbroken. So before my senior year, I went to the USC film program and I came back and I was like, “Why aren’t we making cool videos [documenting various aspects of high school life like homecoming]?” I had this really great camera and we started filming and I would edit all of these films together. That was something that I’m extremely proud of. It really drove me to move to L.A. [to pursue a film career].

Greta Gerwig also went to St. Francis, and coincidentally, you co-starred with her in the 2012 comedy Damsels in Distress. Did you meet her on the set of that movie or did you know her before?
I met her after being cast. But I found out that my sister tutored her in algebra and knew who Greta was. Now St. Francis is huge, but at the time it was a much smaller school. So for that connection to be there was pretty [remarkable]. Actually, on the movie Viral that I just worked on, one of the producers, Ben Shields Catlin, went to Jesuit [High School]. We were talking and he was like, “I’m from Northern California.” That’s how the conversation started. Then we narrowed it down: “You went to Jesuit? I went to St. Francis. Oh my God!”

And when you’re back in Sacramento, do you have a favorite place to visit?
Yes, I always go to Manderes [in Folsom]. My parents are friends with the owner, and he’s incredibly kind and has always been so supportive. They have the best risotto. Also, in Sacramento I think the craft beer thing is getting to be popular, and Manderes definitely has an incredible selection of [craft beer].

So your parents still live here?
They just sold my childhood home in El Dorado Hills. My dad worked at Intel for 30-some years and he retired in January. Now they started their drive across the country—they’re going to be [living] in Wisconsin. It’s kind of an odd thing because Sacramento is my home. But all my friends and my memories are chained to that area, so I’m still going to be getting back there. I love Sacramento. S