SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Analeigh Tipton was on “America’s Next Top Model” and appears in the current film “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
But she’s not a model-turned-actress.
“I am an actress and a writer, and I happened to be on a show about models,” Tipton, 22, a graduate of Sacramento’s St. Francis High School, said last week during an interview at a downtown Sacramento restaurant.
Before she was discovered by a “Top Model” scout via her MySpace page, Tipton studied screenwriting and directing in Southern California, where she moved after high school. Before that, Tipton was a successful competitive ice skater.
“People think that acting stems from modeling, but really, acting is the first thing that would have happened more naturally” for her, Tipton said.
Tipton finished third and was a fan favorite in Cycle 11 of “Top Model.” Appearing on the show “was a wonderful experience,” she said, but she appreciates it most for leading her to her current Hollywood agent.
“I didn’t like being a hanger,” she said.
The actress-model distinction appears important to Tipton, a friendly, exceptionally poised young woman with large, striking blue eyes. And you can see why.
It’s easy these days to be famous for a reality show. It takes a lot more to land substantive roles, as Tipton did, in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.,” and in this fall’s “Damsels in Distress,” the latest from urbane independent filmmaker Whit Stillman (“Barcelona,” “The Last Days of Disco”).
Nobody on the set of either film knew her from “Top Model,” she said. On “Crazy, Stupid, Love.,” which was shot first, she learned about camera angles and lighting while studying the work of actors she respects immensely.
“These people are some of the top actors in Hollywood, and purely on talent,” she said of a cast that includes Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. “They are not just famous — they are famous because they are talented.”
Tipton plays a 17-year-old babysitter whose 13-year-old charge (Jonah Bobo) thinks he is in love with her. She has a crush on his dad (Carell), who is depressed about his recent separation from his wife (Julianne Moore) and oblivious to the girl’s feelings.
In a cast of established stars, Tipton still stands out. Film critic Karen Durbin, writing for the New York Times, chose Tipton as one of five faces to watch this summer, based on Tipton’s performance in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
“Jessica is just one of the secondary characters in this populous film, but whenever she’s on the screen, no matter what’s happening, she draws our attention like nobody else,” Durbin wrote. “Ms. Tipton plays her as not simply youthful but visibly unfinished. She’s a poignant work in progress: gawky, eager, quick to blush, easy to wound and — the grace note of this performance — with a generosity that makes her lovable.”
Tipton’s naturalness also impressed Tenney Fairchild, a veteran commercial director who cast Tipton in his forthcoming feature film “Samaritan.” Tipton plays Rose, the one-time girlfriend of the film’s main character. Rose appears to the guy mostly as a memory, sometimes acting as his conscience.
“As Rose just kind of shows up and drifts in and out from time to time, as thoughts sometimes do, it was important she do so in a friendly and natural way, which Analeigh was able to achieve,” Fairchild wrote via email. “She’s a graceful kid.”
The “graceful” description befits a young woman trained in ice skating, then modeling. Her serious skating career ended with a growth spurt.
“They thought I was not going to get above 5-foot-4, and I woke up one day at 5-9 1/2,” she said with a laugh. “That was inconvenient for my pair partner, who was also about 5-foot-9.”
She found other outlets in high school, where she was president of the film club and spirit coordinator. When she arrived on the New York set of “Damsels,” she was excited to discover co-star Greta Gerwig (“Greenberg”) also is a St. Francis grad.
“It was so refreshing to work with someone who knows home,” Tipton said.
Tipton also will appear in an eight-episode arc on the next season of HBO’s “Hung.”
“I play a schizophrenic pimp,” she said with a delighted smile. Her character guides the career of her boyfriend, who competes for clients with the show’s lead prostitute character, played by Thomas Jane.
It’s a racy premise for a young woman who, according to her mother, wanted to live on her own during college partly because she wasn’t crazy about the shenanigans in co-ed dorms.
“She is very conservative in many ways,” said Robin Tipton, who joined her daughter for lunch in Sacramento.
Maintaining one’s sense of decorum while playing a pimp can be tricky. But Tipton holds her ground.
“She knows what is going on,” Robin Tipton said. “She’s got a certain street smartness about her. I don’t know where that comes from.”
Tipton is savvy enough to recognize that, for a young woman in Hollywood, getting good parts sometimes means writing them yourself. She’s enrolled in a screenwriting program in Santa Monica, and would like to write roles akin to her “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” character, Jessica, who she said is quirky and intelligent, or the role Stone plays in the film: a bright, funny attorney.
“We are not boring. ... we are rounded,” Tipton said of the characters.
And definitely not hangers.