Kiernan Shipka has been working as an actress for pretty much her entire life, but for years, the former Mad Men star was probably more on your parents’ radar than on yours. “I may as well have been a fly on the wall at the Kids’ Choice Awards,” she tells Seventeen in an interview. Now, with the 19-year-old playing iconic teen witch Sabrina Spellman in Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, she’s finally ready to welcome a new fan base: people her own age. “Having my friends be genuinely excited to watch the show is really cool,” Kiernan says.
The creepy series has all the facets of a grown-up role (A love triangle! Challenging authority! Blood!) and a pro-female message she’s happy to get behind. “I’m unreasonably excited that young girls are going to get to have this character be an inspiration to them. I think she is so strong-willed, has such a good heart, speaks her mind, stands up for herself, and questions things that she feels aren’t right.”
Get to know Kiernan and you’ll feel the same way about her too.
ON DOING GOOD
An upside to having phones and social media has been so much more awareness of all the injustices and things going on in the world, and having a voice and platform that just didn’t exist before. It’s just really incredible to me—I feel like I can continually learn new things every single day. Recently on Instagram, I did the 10 Featured Teachers [campaign], and it was so amazing and such a beautiful experience to see all these teachers and kids getting books that they needed. It was very gratifying to see it actually have an impact in individual people’s lives and to [watch] thank-you videos from [people] who are just so, so happy to have a book that they’ve wanted…it’s just amazing. So more of that to come, for sure. I’m interested to see how we can take that hashtag and put it on a greater scale.
ON HER BIG ROLE
She’s drawn to Sabrina’s girl power.
I gravitate toward feminist content because that’s just who I am. But there was something so cool about this show being so feminist while still having this very separate fantastical element. It’s sort of set in this “timeless” period where there aren’t many references to pop culture, or what’s happening now or what happened in the past. But at the same [time], it’s related to what’s happening in many different ways and resonates on so many levels.
The character pushes her to be a better person.
Sabrina is, for all intents and purposes, a teenage girl as much as she’s a witch who’s faced with decisions no teenager could ever deal with. She puts herself in situations that are very risky—on the life-threatening side of risky—but to have a character who is so strong-willed has really inspired me. To play someone completely and utterly passionate, and who doesn’t back down, makes me want to be the best person I can possibly be.
It made her change up her look.
I was two months into having long dark-brown hair and just absolutely loving it—and then this happens. No complaints! I’m down for anything, but I actually want my hair to be brown or red.
Sabrina is witch-spo.
I would hesitate to call a 16-year-old—Sabrina Spellman—a role model. But at the same time, I remember when I was 13 or 14, how I would see a movie and I would want to be exactly like a character. So to grow up and have a character like Sabrina [influence] someone’s life, that’s so cool to me.
She loves heron-screen BF, Harvey Kinkle (aka Ross Lynch).
Ross is the best, and I couldn’t imagine having a better person to be ‘shipped with. I think our relationship [on Sabrina] is so pure and so sweet. And I’m totally in love with it. I think that a lot of people are going to be as well, and I don’t blame them.
She’s now too busy to date IRL.
I’ll wrap on Saturday at 6 a.m., so I’m pretty much useless on Saturday. And then Sunday, I have to get all my stuff done for Monday. Occasionally, the cast can drive me out for a fun time, but work is my number one priority right now.
ON TAKING CARE OF HERSELF
She’s all talk.
I love to talk things out but don’t necessarily always start by wanting to. Yet I immediately find that if I talk to someone—just to personify whatever is happening and acknowledge it for what it is instead of catastrophizing about it—it feels so much better.
Full interview: seventeen.com