Kaitlyn Dever Shape WRTW September 2021

Kaitlyn Dever Is Leaning Into the Tough, Emotional Roles That Spark an Important Dialogue

The adaptable actress is using her skills to tell the kind of stories that can be difficult to watch, but necessary to see.

Following her breakout role in the 2019 coming-of-age comedy Booksmart, Kaitlyn Dever hasn't blinked at the challenge of embodying some heart-wrenching lives that speak to our times. A rape survivor (in the Netflix series Unbelievable). A sister left grappling with the aftermath of teen suicide (Dear Evan Hansen, in theaters September 24). Another young victim of the opioid epidemic (Hulu's forthcoming series Dopesick). "These stories deserve to be told in the best way possible," says Kaitlyn, 24. "I put so much pressure on myself to do all these characters justice."

And it shows: Her raw portrayal in Unbelievable earned her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a TV motion picture. Her role as Zoe Murphy in Dear Evan Hansen demands a high-wire act of mixing gravitas into a comedy of errors and also belting out the Broadway tunes of the original hit play. (Kaitlyn honed the comic timing on sitcoms like Last Man Standing. She got her musical chops growing up and now singing and songwriting with her younger sister Mady as the duo Beulahbelle.) "I do things that scare me sometimes, but I'm almost addicted to that feeling," says Kaitlyn.

Lana Condor WRTW Shape Mag September 2021
Djeneba Aduayom

Here, she talks about the personal rewards and transformational power of stretching yourself for a worthy purpose.

Here to Represent

"We screened Unbelievable for several congressmen and congresswomen. We were trying to get the Debbie Smith [Reauthorization] Act passed, which essentially eliminates rape-test backlog. I could feel that we were making a difference. [The law passed in 2019.] Since Unbelievable came out, I've had so many people sharing their stories with me. It means the world to me."

"I make sure we're telling these stories right — and telling them with honesty and respect."

Know No Limits

"I love mixing it up. I never want to be set in stone with anything I do. There are endless opportunities in this industry, and I'm constantly reminding myself that I can make anything possible for myself."

Kaitlyn Dever Shape WRTW September 2021
Djeneba Aduayom

A Timely Message

"People will connect with Dear Evan Hansen because this is a musical that lets us feel less alone and less isolated — especially during a time when we've all felt disconnected from our loved ones. And we've lost so many lives during the past year. Now more than ever, this movie needs to be told."

Photography: Djeneba Aduayom, @djeneba.aduayom // Styling: Molly Dickson, @mollyddickson // Lettering: Samantha Hahn, @samanthajhahn // Hair: Adir Abergel/A-Frame Agency for VirtueLabs.com, @hairbyadir // Makeup: Georgie Eisdell/The Wall Group, @georgieeisdell // Manicure: Thuy Nguyen/A-Frame Agency for OPI, @thuybnguyen // Creative Director: Noah Dreier, @noahdreier // Photo Director: Toni Paciello Loggia, @toniloggia

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