While she started her acting career playing half-sisters Lily Montgomery and Ava Benton on the acclaimed soap opera All My Children, Leven Rambin has since branched out from her Daytime Emmy-nominated role in favor of different dramatic parts. Making an appearance in The Hunger Games as as District 1 career tribute Glimmer, and the second season of True Detective as Athena Bezzerides (the sister of Rachel McAdams’s character, Ani Bezzerides), the 25-year-old Houston native has moved onto stories that seriously up the ante. As she continues to nab roles with higher stakes and more action, Rambin has quickly become one to watch, most recently as a small-town girl who gets caught up in her fiancé’s risky bank heist in the crime drama 7 Minutes.
We caught up with Rambin to discuss transitioning from soaps to movies, joining the world ofTrue Detective, and narrowly avoiding disaster on her first day on set.
Your latest projects—The Hunger Games, True Detective, 7 Minutes—are all very action-oriented. What drew you to this genre?
I think I’m just not a very subtle person. I’m not a very immobile person. I take an active role in my own life, so I like projects I can get very involved in.
You got your start in All My Children. Was there a transitional period from acting in soaps to getting involved in these sorts of projects?
Yeah, it was a transition from being comfortable and knowing my environment on soaps to playing on a whole, other league of people and actors. It’s a different environment and world, so I had to adapt my skill and my social awareness. I felt like I had to do a lot of maturing in myself and in my acting.
Is there anything in particular that made you want to make this transition?
I think I was on the soap for four years—all of my teen years—from when I was 14 to when I was 18. Like anything in high school, I just wanted to graduate and see what was out there—different challenges and opportunities. More active projects, to me, with my physicality and personality, seemed to require you to apply yourself more. I don’t think it was a conscious thing.
In 7 Minutes, we see a flashback of your character and she’s quite the picture-perfect high school cheerleader. What were you like as a teenager?
I was a nightmare—I will say that. I do not envy my mom at all, and I definitely was not on the cheerleading squad. I did the dance team for like, a second.
So to get into character, were there certain things that you did to prepare for the role?
I really wanted to feel like I was a resident of the town, which was Everett, Washington. I’m from a big city and lived in New York, and I’ve never [lived] in a small town. I just walked around the town myself to see all the parts of it, the landscape, and the people. I just really wanted to imagine myself as being from there and what that would be like—who I was in contact with, what my dreams and limitations would be. All that kind of stuff.
Was there any specific music that you listened to while filming?
I wasn’t really listening as my character, but I was listening to a lot of heavy-rock stuff like Nirvana and Marilyn Manson. It didn’t really have to do with the story at all.
You’re also in the second season of True Detective. What’s it been like joining this show that already has such a huge following?
I just like that people are watching it. People are starting to watch things for quality over a lot of crap that’s out there. That makes me feel like people have a hunger for intelligent material, not just reality crap and whatever crap is on this channel or that channel—something that you have to think about. You have to use your intellect to watch the show and put things together. It gives me hope for good art like that.
What was it like getting together with the cast for the first time?
Since everyone was new, it felt like we were all doing this really cool, really unique thing. I was very well-accepted. It’s one of the most professional groups I’ve ever seen before. Everyone’s so well-prepared, passionate, and cares so much about it, and it shows in the work.
Do you have any crazy behind-the-scenes stories?
Yeah! On my first day—I live in New York, so I flew to L.A.—I didn’t have a place to stay, so I was sleeping on a couch. I was trying to get to sleep, but I was so anxious because I was nervous and excited and knew I had to be up so early. I took some medication to try to fall asleep and woke up with hives all over my skin. Raised red hives. I don’t know if they were from the medicine, I don’t know if they were from something else, but I was so upset. I was cursing myself, but luckily, my wig had bangs, so it covered all the hives that were on my forehead. I was like, “Thank you, Jesus!”