This story originally appeared in our May 2015 issue.
Amanda Crew wants you to know she’s not that cool. She’ll tell you about her social struggles in high school in BC’s Lower Mainland and how her idea of a great Friday night involves watching reality TV, baking granola and making tie-dye. She’ll tell you, point blank, that, “Actually guys, I’m not that cool.” But you’ve heard this before, so many times that it’s become cliché, a talking point every star has to hit—especially the beautiful ones. It’s a PR move to make you feel like you can relate to them. As such, you’re wary. And while you’re not about to do that thing where you question the relevance of all fandom, you know that some who claim to be uncool are really brand building.
But when Amanda Crew says it, you’ll want to believe her. All you have to do is look at her CV. Directors love to cast her in nerdy roles. Currently, you can see her on Sunday nights on HBO’s hit comedy Silicon Valley, as Monica, a pencil-skirt and power-hair wearing love interest to the protagonist, and assistant to a very rich and very weird tech mogul. In season one, Monica simultaneously leads the rookie upstart Richard — a timid puppy in Tech City played very convincingly by Thomas Middletich — to success, whilst managing the bizarre behaviors of her socially inept, albeit brilliant, top-dog boss (played by the late Christopher Evan Welch). She is their Cesar Millan, their pack leader. She is the Nerd Whisperer.
And whatever Silicon Valley’s casting director saw in her—you can almost hear her audition: “I’m perfect for this, really! I’m actually not that cool!”—had been seen before. In Sex Drive (2008), she played the nerdy-by-way-of-BFF (Best Female Friend) and eventual lover to the virgin gamer at the centre of the film. And in Jobs (2013), she played Julie, one of Steve Jobs’ exes. She’s remarkably believable in these roles, too.
The Internet would posit that this is due to her girl-next-door, approachable good looks. Or maybe that she’s so often cast in these roles because she’s the platonic ideal of what Nerdy Guys want. It’s actually more than that, though. It’s the feeling you get when you watch her act, like she’s completely comfortable within the characters’ social discomfort. Like that’s where she really belongs.
If that’s not enough, there are her hobbies, which are many and peculiar. “I held an Articles Club meeting at my house last weekend,” she says, as a piece of anecdotal proof, among a list of other supposedly unhip passion projects including a baking and crafts blog, GrannyGirls.com, and a photography site, for which she shoots primarily with a film camera. “I mean, that’s a bunch of girls talking about an article in a magazine, because we can’t commit to a book,” she says. “That’s nerdy! And sometimes I get frustrated because people don’t buy it when I say I’m awkward. They’re like, ‘no, no you’re not,’ and I’m like, ‘Ya, ya I fucking am! You don’t know me!’ (Laughs.)”
This “(Laughs.)” that we threw in there, that’s important. She submits it as yet another piece of evidence in her defense against the accusations of wanton coolness. “My laugh sounds like an angry seagull taking flight,” she says. “That’s a direct quote from many people in my life.”
They aren’t wrong.
And while this laugh is undeniably…let’s say interesting… it’s also the kind that requires you to laugh along with it and to turn your head to see who’s responsible. And then you’ll be looking at her.
Looking at Amanda Crew is a problem in this discussion because, honestly, Amanda Crew looks damn cool. On the red carpet, hair down, dressed up, shoulders back, smile wide, she looks confident and comfortable, like someone who shows up in a limo and leaves in a hot red convertible. On her social media, we see another side: floppy felt hats, Converse sneakers, minimal makeup, easy smiles and a decided lack of selfies. This girl, you could imagine rolling up to the event in a vintage Volkswagon Westfalia and leaving in the back seat of an Uber. But, regardless of the style differences, the overall effect is the same: she’s hot, and she owns it. She is herself, even within her awkwardness, and — not that she isn’t down to be an idol — she wants her fans to be themselves, too.
“I’m not trying to post stuff with the intention of making myself feel better,” she says, when asked where all her selfies are. “When I take a photo, I hope the image inspires someone, or reminds them of something or makes them feel something. Whatever it is, I don’t think I accomplish that by posting a photo of myself. ‘Here’s some inspiration: try to be me!’”
And this honesty is really what being cool means in 2015. It’s not about the look, or the car, or even what you do. It’s about how, and why, you do it. It’s about truth and heart and earnestness. It hasn’t always been that way. There was a time when Crew’s propensity for crafting, for example, might’ve made her a bona fide loser, or her interest in the tech world a certifiable nerd—and not the cool kind. But that time isn’t now.
“What is it to be cool?” she says. “It’s all bullshit. It’s about owning who you are and letting your freak frag fry.… Ooops. Freak. Flag. Fly. That’s a hard one. (Laughs.).”
So let that flag fly, Ms. Crew. Fly it like an angry seagull. We think that’s pretty damn cool, indeed.