Kristine Froseth first got the call to play Alaska Young in a film adaptation of John Green’s debut novel, “Looking for Alaska,” in 2015. The project ― about Miles “Pudge” Halter, a reserved Florida teen who experiences love and loss when he falls for the enigmatic Alaska while attending an Alabama boarding school in 2005 ― would round out a trio of screen reimaginings of Green’s work, which included 2014′s “The Fault in Our Stars” and 2015′s “Paper Towns.”
Alaska is a character who, on paper, appears one-dimensional. But that’s just what the author intends. The entire book is told through Miles’ point of view in an effort to comment on “the catastrophically limited male gaze,” according to Green. It’s why he has his protagonist describe the mysterious, intellectual, third-wave feminist as “not just beautiful, but hot, too, with her breasts straining against her tight tank top, her curved legs swinging back and forth beneath the swing, flip-flops dangling from her electric-blue-painted toes.”
So how would Alaska not just become another on-screen Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Luckily, a film script by “The O.C.” creator Josh Schwartz, previously set to be helmed by director Rebecca Thomas, attempted to give Alaska her due.
Froseth told HuffPost that Thomas initially reached out to her about the role, finding her through a modeling agency. The director helped the newcomer with audition tapes and even had Froseth do a chemistry read with British actor Charlie Rowe, who, at the time, was up for the part of Miles.
But then development plans were quashed.
“It was really heartbreaking because this was my first time ever getting into the acting world, and to do that with this character and story was incredibly special,” Froseth told us over the phone. “I moved a lot from New Jersey to Norway ― to different cultures and different languages. I really struggled with finding my people, or just finding out who I was. So with Alaska, I just related to how she protected herself in that way.”
Froseth, who was discovered at a mall in Oslo before her family moved back to the United States, ended up booking a slew of roles while “Looking for Alaska” was in limbo, including Netflix Original movies “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” and “Apostle,” and the series “The Society.”
At 21, her star was rising when she received news that the gig of her dreams was once again up for grabs. This time, “Looking for Alaska” was greenlighted as an eight-part miniseries on Hulu, run by Schwartz and his creative partner, Stephanie Savage, known for “Gossip Girl” and Marvel’s “Runaways.”
“Right away, I was like, ‘I need to get in the room with Josh and Stephanie,’” Froseth said.
And so she did.
At this point, Froseth had read “Looking for Alaska” almost a dozen times and discovered a new takeaway each go-around. She was ready to play this role, especially since Savage and Schwartz now had eight hours of TV in which they could fully ditch the male perspective.
Their story showcases a well-rounded young woman whose personal thoughts and emotions cater to the overall theme, which centers on an unexpected tragedy. The other characters ― Miles (Charlie Plummer), Chip “The Colonel” Martin (Denny Love) and Takumi Hikoito (Jay Lee) ― still come to life, but with the showrunners’ additions, viewers better understand Alaska’s vulnerability through her solitary moments or in scenes with her college-age boyfriend, Jake (Henry Zaga).
Froseth truly encapsulates the complex aura of Alaska ― a seemingly put-together teenage girl who tries to hide the painful anxieties she faces every day. It’s a part worth the wait.
“It’s just been great not only to get ‘the girl next door’ roles,” Froseth said. “When I first started, it was mostly the guy’s story and the girl kind of being there to help him through his journey. But now, I’m getting very well fleshed out, complex characters that aren’t just described as ‘beautiful’ or ‘smart,’” she chuckled, adding, “I just hope that keeps going.”
It’s not lost on Froseth the impact of movements like Time’s Up and Me Too have had on the industry, in terms of enhancing the experience of women in Hollywood. Froseth said that in the five years since she began working as an actor, she’s seen a change in the ratio of female to male directors, as well as an uptick in women-centered projects.
“It’s just really incredible to see that the conversation is being taken seriously, as it should be,” she said of gender equality. Froseth also has noticed a lot more collaboration between producers and actors, something she respects as a young actor.
“The goal is to not feel like you’re just a puppet,” Froseth added, “that they want you to be part of the process and they cast you for reason. Just to feel that trust is incredible. There’s so many different opinions, and it’s really great when we all kind of mix it into one pot and cook it together.”
“And obviously if I could ever get on some Joaquin Phoenix-level that would be pretty incredible,” she concluded. “They care about what they do. I just want to keep feeling that because it’s so important.”
“Looking For Alaska” is now streaming on Hulu.
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