Kikishipka   April 22, 2019

Kikishipka   April 1, 2019


Witchcraft, ricotta brioche and complex female characters… Stylist discovers what makes Kiernan Shipka tick as she showcases the best of the high street.

Kiernan Shipka is having a blast. Jolene by Dolly Parton is booming through the photo studio speakers and Shipka is singing along at the top of her voice, living every word.

When the music changes, Robyn’s Dancing On My Own comes on and she’s lost in the moment, fizzing with energy. If you ever needed a reminder of the sheer optimism and lust for life you had at 19 (and really, who doesn’t need that right now?) it’s right here dancing in this studio in New York.

Since starring as Sally Draper in Mad Men, Shipka has frequently been described as preternaturally mature or old beyond her years. And in a way that’s true. She speaks eloquently about her love of literature and makes a point of shaking everyone’s hand after the shoot has finished, which is quite rare for any celebrity let alone one who is 19. But she is also wide-eyed about the world.

Wearing a red Moncler jumper she bought herself as a Valentine’s present the previous day, she finishes an answer with “obvi” or exclaims, “Oh my god, I died,” about Dolly Parton’s recent collaboration with Miley Cyrus at the Grammys, and suddenly there’s no question of her youth.

Born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, Shipka made her television debut at five months old in ERbefore landing her role in Mad Men aged six. Sally, a strong-willed proto-feminist who rebelled against her parents, grew up on screen for nearly 10 years, as did Shipka.

She has, it seems, remained unscathed in the notoriously difficult world of child actors. Her mum accompanies her on set (and to Stylist’s photo shoot), and she still lives at home in LA with “the fam”, although change is afoot. “I’m making the big move to the guest house,” she laughs. “They’re kicking me into the garage.”

While Mad Men was winding up, Shipka appeared in Flowers In The Attic (2014) and The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015). Then in 2018, she was cast in her first TV leading role as half-mortal, half-witch Sabrina Spellman in Netflix’s Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina.

When the series – a more macabre reboot of Nineties show Sabrina The Teenage Witch – premiered in October, it became an instant hit. Netflix has already confirmed it will run for at least four series. And its timing couldn’t be better: with storylines focused on intersectional feminism, gender identity and exploring sexuality, the show covers topics that are pertinent to right here, right now.

It’s the perfect vehicle for the breadth of Shipka’s talent as she balances portraying an innocent, curious version of Sabrina with one who seeks revenge on the patriarchy. Season two is just around the corner, and for Shipka, it’s a chance to play a darker version of Sabrina who’s tapping into her witchy powers and growing into womanhood.

She is also seizing the chance to play with different roles. Upcoming projects include a Christmas film, Let It Snow – “It’s like if [author] John Green did Love Actually” – and The Silence, a horror film with Stanley Tucci and her Sabrina co-star Miranda Otto. “I love doing TV, I love knowing that I have a character to develop. But movies are really exciting. You pour your heart and soul into them, you go full force, sprint, and then it’s over. Then you have time to sleep, which is also nice.”

Sleep is one of our favourite subjects. Are you obsessed too?

I’m a grandma. I love a nice early dinner and a 9pm bedtime like no other.

It seems as if you’re having the time of your life right now. What’s the best thing about being 19?

At this point I’m excited about just living. Everyone goes through their fair share of things, and I feel I’ve got to the point now where I’m so happy to experience life and own my emotions. I think that’s always a bit of a learning curve – being OK with not being happy 24/7, and figuring everything out. I feel like living and seeing friends, having fun, being silly, also learning a lot and taking in a lot [has helped me]. It feels like a really fun time. I’m really happy with where my life is right now.

You were really feeling the music at the photo shoot. What are your favourite songs to dance to?

Nobody by Mitski. Anything by Blood Orange is really groovy. Frank Ocean. I’m into ‘the party’s dying down’ music. I don’t know how I did physical activity before A Star Is Born’s soundtrack came out. Needless to say, now it’s all Shallow, me and the elliptical. I mean, people are probably looking at me [in the gym] like, “What the hell is her problem?” But I’m obsessed.

Witchcraft has become very on-trend recently. Had you dabbled in it before starting the show?

Growing up in LA I was a bit woo-woo, but being in Sabrina has definitely inspired that further. I’ve always been curious about spiritual things, healing powers, crystals. It always sparks my interest. We have a few practising witches on our show, a few writers are [witches], which is awesome. I also went to see a medium, and watched a lot of movies that surround that kind of thing.

Why do you think Sabrina is important as a young woman on TV in 2019?

I remember when I was 13 or 14, how the TV I watched or whatever I read could influence me so much. To have a character like Sabrina makes me very happy and excited that some young girls are watching and looking up to a strong girl who is doing what’s right and calling out what’s wrong. We see Sabrina fail a lot, but instead of letting it get her down, she gets right the hell back up. I think showing more complex multi-dimensional female characters on television is extremely important. It’s important for people to see themselves in characters.

Who are the characters you looked up to as a teenager?

Blair Waldorf [from Gossip Girl] obviously was my goal and my dream! I’m never going to own that many headbands, but I certainly tried when I was 13. But The Wizard Of Oz was probably the most influential movie for me because it was the first one that ever made me want to actually be in film.

Sabrina Spellman loves a headband too. How about you?

I love a good headband but I don’t really rock one. I do rock a bandana that you tie in this sort of situation [her hands disappear in a blur of hair and bandana]. I don’t know what you call that… I love that.

For our shoot you’re wearing the best of the new-season high street – how do you experiment with your style generally?

For me, it’s about not taking it too seriously – whatever catches my eye. I like things that are basic and chic and adding in fun pieces here and there. I also love dressing up. If I’m going out – which I don’t do a lot – and I get to dress up, I’m going to put on my heels.

Who are your go-to designers?

Madewell kills the casual game. I really like AG for jeans and whatnot, and then as far as more splurge-y brands are concerned, I really like Markus Lupfer. I love La Vie Rebecca Taylor, the line she does for Nordstrom. I love a vintage moment.

With the benefit of hindsight, how did playing Sally Draper affect your coming of age?

In every way possible. It’s one of those things where you can’t imagine what your life would possibly be without it. Physically, I would not be here; I don’t think I would be anywhere near here. I truly have no idea what kind of person I would be without it because it was so formative. It’s where I learned that I really, really loved acting, and watching everyone work was amazing.

Starting so young, have you ever felt like you needed to take a break from acting?

No, honestly I haven’t. After Mad Men I did a few projects here and there, but to be quite honest, acting for the most part has plenty of breaks. It’s always good to take a break from anything that you love doing, just for a second, to get perspective on stuff. Even a month off from Sabrina, I was like, “Oh my god, I see things so much clearer now.” But no, never long-term. That doesn’t sound appealing right now. I love it too much.

Have you considered going to college?

I have done my fair share of college parties, so I feel like I’ve got that experience. And at this moment in time, no, I don’t think so. As long as I can continually educate myself on a daily basis. I never want to stop learning, that’s the thing. If I can continually read stuff and take classes and do things that are interesting to me, that’s perfect. That’s what I want and what I need.

Have you ever thought about what you’d do if you weren’t acting?

I like writing, so I could see myself doing something in that realm, even if it was journalism. I also like making lists [and] organising things. If Goop was hiring, I feel like I’d be their girl. I would go to all the cities, find the restaurants, write the lists. That’s kind of my side job anyway for my friends.

Where are some of your favourite places to eat?

In LA I like Sqirl – their brioche with the ricotta is like clouds of heaven. Oh my god. Have you been to Bestia? It’s a really great Italian restaurant in LA. And then there’s Guisados. The quesadilla there is literally a grilled block of cheese. I need nothing more in my life.

What do you love to cook?

I make basic stuff. I don’t really follow recipes. I enjoy the eating aspect, I enjoy the fact that I can cook something for myself, but as far as getting into major recipes, I’m not going down that road. The only recipe that I can do is a really good chocolate chip cookie. I made these tahini-based chocolate chip cookies with almond flour, chocolate chips and maple syrup, and they were so good.

But generally speaking, I love a roasted vegetable. I make a really pretty salad. I love making toast. There’s something very methodical about toasting a really thick piece of sourdough bread, smashing avocado on it and frying an egg. It’s so simple, so basic, but it makes me feel bougie as hell. I love it.

You mentioned earlier that it’s important for you to continually educate yourself. What are you reading at the moment?

Eileen [a book by Ottessa Moshfegh]. It’s modern lit about this girl who lives in this East Coast town. She’s very sad [and] has a mundane, depressing kind of life. And then she escapes. But she’s telling it from the perspective of many years later. The writing is beautiful, it’s all very romantic, and sort of messy and good.

We hear you’re a Queer Eye fan. Who’s your favourite cast member?

Oh my god, I can’t pick. I can’t really pick. I think maybe Tan [France]. He is just a bright light of joy. I love him. I love the French tuck [his signature styling trick]. I’m all about the French tuck.

How do you feel about modern dating? Is that something you’re able to do much of?

Not a lot, because I’m so busy. I think that the show made me exponentially busier, and all I want to do is sleep on the weekends. Meeting people has always been kind of a funny situation for me, growing up not going to school, but knowing everyone who went to the schools in LA. It’s good, I’ve found ways.

Have you tried the online dating world?

Of course. Raya [an exclusive members-only dating app] for life. Love it. God bless Raya.

Finally, what’s something people don’t know about you?

I’m very good at Words With Friends; I’m very competitive with Lucy Davis [Hilda on Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina].

Kikishipka   April 1, 2019

Kikishipka   April 1, 2019

Raised in Hollywood, Kiernan Shipka escaped the curse of the child star through judicious choices and beautiful scenarios. An intellectual and sexy balance that allows her, at 19 years old, to be as comfortable on a photo shoot for Fendi as a star witch of the teen phenomenon Netflix, “The New Adventures of Sabrina”.


by Boba Stanic

Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, recently considered following up on his masterpiece by saying, “The only reason is to see what happened to Sally Draper. That I owe to Kiernan, she is the heart of this series.” By playing Sally, the impertinent daughter of advertising executive Don Draper, Kiernan Shipka, from 2007 to 2015, she was indeed made unforgettable. Her secret: to play this privileged little girl like a rebel, while showing that she remains a pure product of her conservative environment. Mad Men was also an opportunity for the actress to assert her style.

Thanks to Sally Draper’s wardrobe, her performer, of Irish-Slovak origin, born in Chicago to parents totally foreign to the world of cinema and fashion, made the girls in Hollywood jealous, without having time to take the big head. Matt Weiner extended the scenes in which she appeared, and Kiernan built a golden reputation that allowed him to last in Hollywood, and to be today the star of Sabrina’s New Adventures. Second TV adaptation, this time quite dark, sometimes horrific, of an ultra-popular comic book, after the very kitsch one of the 1990s, this Netflix version is a modern rereading of Sabrina’s character, who must choose between two incompatible worlds: that of mortals and that of witches. Magic tricks, witty words about intersectional feminism, even Satan’s patriarchal authoritarianism… Kiernan dazzles Sabrina’s fans. “Sometimes you need an icon to play another icon,” says Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the showrunner of the series.

You play Sabrina, half witch, half human. Is it easy?

Kiernan Shipka: The real challenge is fourteen hours of shooting every day: laughing at one take, fighting a demon in the next, then sprinting, bursting into tears and solving a mystery by reciting two pages of Latin. Not to mention giving the answer to Salem, the black cat to whom I am allergic. In those moments, I could really use Sabrina’s superpowers.

Do you feel vulnerable?

I have been living in the film business for a long time. As I grew up, I fortunately managed to consider it as a profession. This hindsight allowed me to ask myself, “Do I want to make this my life?” It reveals the need to organize my existence. Besides, I love making project lists!

What was the best advice you received?

Finding the balance between fun and professionalism!

Sally Draper’s personality has it rubbed off on you?

The time of the show, yes, I was fashion addict like her. Then I had a period of withdrawal where I managed to cultivate my fascination for fashion while finding my own style of clothing.

And Sabrina, doesn’t she also take up a lot of space in your life?

His fan club is such that I have become the object of immense attention. But I keep in mind that Sabrina is a great source of inspiration for kids: shared between two worlds, she finally sets her own path, and I hope she will encourage her fans to be themselves.

So spending your life in the public eye has an advantage?

For a long time I was the only child on the set, but I never felt in danger. It’s invaluable, especially since at my age, the experiences are always new. But those around me make sure that I keep my head on my shoulders.

Is your collaboration with Fendi one of them?

The wide variety of their clothes touches me: with Fendi, I can be seductive, fun, fashionable or edgy. As for the glasses, I can’t do without them anymore.

You are active on social networks, yet your media rise has protected you from smear campaigns.

How can this miracle be explained?

If you dig in the depths of the internet, you will find pictures of me at 7 and 19 years old, so I never google myself. I only manage my Instagram account and I touch wood to protect it from trolls. I would prefer Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola to notice it, because I dream of touring with them.

Kikishipka   March 13, 2019

Kikishipka   March 12, 2019

Child stars tend to all grow up in the same way: early success, flailing box-office figures through puberty, parental emancipation, a very public skidding off the rails, a couple of stints in rehab, bankruptcy and finally, self-imposed isolation.

Kiernan Shipka shows no sign of following that pattern. At 19, she is just old enough to vote (and she intends to: “I try to be woke”), but too young to buy alcohol in America – not that the legal drinking age, or the illegality of drugs, has stopped many child stars from developing habits, I remind her. “I was doing really normal kid things so I guess that never even really felt available. I mean, I’m sure it was available if I’d really sought it out, but I didn’t.”

Depending on your age, you’ll recognise Shipka for one of two roles. To the over 30s, she’s Sally, the eldest child of Don and Betty Draper on the long-running series Mad Men, Matthew Weiner’s drama set in the advertising industry in 1960s New York.

To the under 30s, she’s Sabrina Spellman, the half-witch, half-mortal protagonist of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the Archie Comics character. It’s produced by the team behind Riverdale, Netflix’s incredibly popular modern take on the Betty and Veronica, Archie and Jughead comics.

Dressed in velvet trousers and a matching crop top, her blonde bob slicked back, Shipka looks, if anything, younger than her years, seeming precocious as she gushes “thank-you-so-much” at speed to everyone on set. It’s the morning after Fendi’s autumn/winter 2019 menswear show in Milan, and Shipka fizzes over the clothes, the city…

She’s at ease in the fashion-shoot setting, used to working with stylists both on television sets and for red carpet appearances, where her style has evolved from child-appropriate babydoll and prom dresses to embellished mini-dresses and statement trouser suits of late.

Her accent is broad LA: she projects her voice, and smiles constantly. (If anyone at home is having problems with surly teens, media training might provide the answer.) Despite her youth, Shipka is focused, at ease, eloquent. There’s no agent in the room with us to deflect unwelcome questions; neither is there any trace of nervousness – but then, she’s not new to this.

Shipka’s first acting job came at five months old, on the hospital drama ER. “I did commercials growing up, everything under the sun like Toys ‘R’ Us, Trix [cereal], Hershey’s.” The days were relatively short, she reassures me when I ask – so she wasn’t eating cereal on repeat for 14 hours, then? “No, not 14 hours, probably like five or six hours.”

As Shipka tells it, she convinced her parents to up sticks and move from Chicago to LA for her career: she was six at the time. Her father was a property developer; her mother “signed me up for every single class under the sun, and the acting thing was what stuck.”

Memories of Shipka’s first red carpet are a little fuzzy. She won her first Screen Actors Guild Award aged nine, as part of the ensemble cast of Mad Men. “Honestly, it was a little bit jarring at first – you have a million different people with cameras yelling your name in so many different directions.

“I remember I just didn’t know where to look or what to do, but luckily I had people like January Jones to tell me how to proceed.” Shipka was six when she was cast in Mad Men. She read the scripts, but wasn’t allowed to watch the series because its storylines were too adult.

While Sally Draper bought alcohol with a fake ID, in real life Shipka “was pretty happy going bowling on a Saturday night and doing karaoke.” She saw teens ‘grounded’ as punishment in films and asked her mother to do the same: “She was like, “No, I’m not going to ground you!”” Shipka hadn’t done anything transgressive enough. “I think I was just playing it on TV, so I was like, “I’m done.””

The cast on Mad Men were very protective of me. They always treated me like an adult – they never talked down to me like I was a kid – but at the same time, I was never out late at parties and stuff like that. I think it was just good parents, good people.”

If Shipka wasn’t watching Mad Men, neither was anyone else her age: “Because I was on more of an adult show, my friends didn’t care. It probably would have been different if I was on like a very popular young adult show,” she says. The series ended in 2015, and while Shipka continued to act, life untethered to a regular show allowed her a taste of normality.

“I travelled, I took a lot of different classes, college courses [fashion history, sociology], too, because I graduated high school pretty early, I hung out with a lot of friends, did a lot of yoga, I learnt to cook, I read a bunch of stuff.”

Despite enjoying the freedom, Shipka gave it up again last year for the titular role in Sabrina, a textbook example of a “very popular young adult show,” moving to Vancouver to film 13-hour days (not including hair, make-up or travel) five days a week for nine months. The show has been renewed for a second season, due this April.

If Mad Men’s older audience protected Shipka from feeling famous among her peers, that’s quickly changing with Sabrina. “The main difference is that the younger fans are really active on social media,” says Shipka.

“I don’t think Instagram existed when I started Mad Men. Now I feel equipped to use it and manage it so that my mental health can be kept in check – but I can only imagine being 10 or 11 and being inundated with that pressure of having to post. There are a lot of pros to it, but there are also a fair share of cons and toxicity, too, so I’m kind of happy that it became more prevalent as I got older and more sure of just myself as a person.”

Home is with her mother, father, uncle, grandmother and dog in LA; Shipka didn’t go to school, instead completing an independent study programme. “I went to a lot of dances, though – I was pretty adamant about having as much of a childhood, high-school teenage experience as I could.” Her first kiss was on-screen, and she is tactfully non-committal on the subject of relationships; she doesn’t mention a boyfriend.

She recently visited a friend at Harvard. “I went to a party thrown by The Harvard Lampoon, which is their satirical magazine, and it was a very fun party with very smart, funny people.” It could have been the Sliding Doors moment that made her consider taking a few years off from acting: “I was thinking I was going to have that moment, and I actually kind of had the opposite moment. I’m happy I’m doing what I’m doing – I don’t feel like I would want that kind of structure.”

Instead, filming Sabrina “feels quite like college,” with the cast socialising after work. Shipka welcomes the change: “It’s the first show I’ve done with people actually close to my age,” she says.

Which is 19, I remind myself as Shipka tells me about her ambitions – a musical, a comedy, a physically transformative role – and tries out her British accent on me (pretty good). “I feel like the amount of life that I’ve got to experience, and the amount of adults that I’ve been around my entire life – I’ve never really felt my age. Not like, “Oh, gosh, I feel corrupted,”” she says. “I’ve just been working for a long time.”