Phoenix-Born Actress Kaitlyn Dever on Short Term 12

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By Kiko Martinez

She may not have fully understood what it meant to be an actress when she was only 5 years old, but somehow Kaitlyn Dever instinctively knew it was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Born in Phoenix in 1996, Dever moved to Dallas and later to Los Angeles to pursue her career on screen. Since moving to L.A. in 2007, Dever has starred on such TV shows as Justified and Last Man Standing. She also worked with Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood on the biopic J. Edgar. In the critically acclaimed 2013 film Short Term 12, Dever, 17, plays Jayden, a troubled teenager living in a group home who confides in one of the staff members about her family problems.

See also: Short Term 12: A Potent Story of Kids on the Edge

I read ever since you were little you wanted to be an actress. Where did that specific idea come from? I was so little, so I don't know what I was thinking. I would tell my parents I wanted to go to acting classes and get an agent. I think it was from watching TV and wanting to be inside the TV. It wasn't until I was nine when I started taking acting classes. I came home and told my parents it was the best day of my life.

When did you realize this was something you could make a living doing? My parents decided they would take me out to L.A. for a month and when I saw how hard it would be to get into the business they would bring me home and that would be the end of it. But I ended up booking the very first audition I went out for. I'm not sure when I realized I could make acting a living. I just wanted to do it because I loved performing.

What did you like about Jayden as a character? When I first read the script I knew Jayden was someone I had never played before. She had all this stuff going on internally she had to tackle. I knew that was something challenging I wanted to take on.

What kind of mindset do you have to be in to tap into the kinds of emotions in this film? I just like to be myself when I'm on set. Ten minutes before the scene I start imagining what's going through [Jayden's] head. It was actually easy to do for Jayden because she has so much going on and so many awful things happening in her life. It was easy for her story to make you feel angry, upset and frustrated.

I'm guessing you used those feelings for the scene where you have a meltdown in your room. Yeah, for the "freak out" scene I made myself get happy and giddy when the scene would cut. People wondered why I was doing that since the scene is so serious. I would get right back into in when it was time to shoot it again. I just didn't want to get too depressed because I would've been worn out by the end of the day.

Short Term 12 is available on Blu-ray and DVD January 14.

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