Just three years after graduating from college, actor Victoria Pedretti has achieved a level of success fit for a Hollywood fairytale. The 25-year-old rising star is using that success — and her on-camera skills — to line up projects that highlight issues she’s passionate about.
In her most recent TV role, in Netflix’s “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” Pedretti stars as Dani, an American au pair taking care of two orphaned children at a British estate. Dani’s queer love story — an act of activism itself, as the series is set in the 1980s — has garnered its fair share of headlines and fan praise, but Pedretti said her character’s subtle-yet-courageous brand of feminism has been largely overlooked.
“We’ve kind of even oversimplified her journey so much in so many of the conversations I’ve seen,” she said.
Prior to Dani leaving her American life behind and heading to England, she’s under pressure to marry her childhood friend, Edmund. In one of the series’ most powerful scenes, the two are in a parked car and Dani has a monologue that, while vague, appears to be her coming out. To Pedretti’s dismay, she said much of that scene didn’t make the final cut, but she said the essence of the scene went beyond her character’s sexuality.
“She’s also coming out as a feminist and somebody who’s interested in existing beyond what’s expected of her as a woman in that place, in that time,” she said. “It’s more that this isn’t her truth, that’s she’s not living fully in her truth. Part of that is her sexuality, but another part of that is her capabilities and utilizing her capabilities to the highest degree.”
In preparation for her roles, Pedretti said she sometimes draws inspiration from the performances of other actors. For Dani, it was Timothée Chalamet’s character Elio in “Call Me By Your Name,” the critically acclaimed 2017 gay romance set in Italy in the 1980s.
While Pedretti acknowledged Dani and Elio are “very different” characters, she said she drew inspiration from Elio’s “kind of curiosity.”
‘Every character has a voice and has an issue’
Finding characters who push boundaries or defy expectations is something Pedretti says she is drawn to and integral to the mission behind her work.
“Every character has a voice and has an issue and is privileged in some way and oppressed in another, and there’s a conversation to be had there about how they exist in the world,” she said. “I can’t feel passionate about a project unless I feel like it’s saying something.”
She said she looks for the universal in these specific stories, hoping the projects she is part of will be used as a catalyst for discussion by viewers.
Shortly after the Oct. 9 release of “Bly Manor,” Pedretti appeared in “This Is Not a Love Letter,” a video poem that explores the topic of abortion and the importance of choice.
The project was spearheaded by Isabel Pask, a writer and actress whom Pedretti said “experienced something extremely traumatic and turned it into something exceedingly beautiful that I know so many women have already felt empowered and uplifted by.”
The imagery in the five-minute film, she added, is “so evocative in portraying female strength, the dichotomy between our strength and our fragility as humans, as well as our connectedness and our ability to support and empower each other if we so choose.”
The next project we’ll see Pedretti in is the third season of the hit Netflix show “You,” a psychological thriller where Pedretti plays Love Quinn, an aspiring chef with a (very) dark side. When asked if she could share anything about the highly anticipated upcoming season, set to be released in 2021, she said, “It’s f------ wild.”
“I personally think it’s already stronger than last season,” she said. “It’s everything I hoped for in imagining a world in which Joe and Love could be really confronted with themselves, and it creates so much space for so much tragedy and hilarity, and I’m so psyched.”
Pedretti, who has been open about having attention deficit disorder, said the love she has for her work and the variety of characters she gets to portray — from an anxious au pair to a murderous psychopath — make acting the perfect profession for her.
“As somebody with that kind of mind, if you’re going to do something, take an interest and be good at it, you have to be passionate about it,” she said. “We’re not going to be great at the things that we don’t find interesting, but we have potential to excel at the things we love, and I was lucky enough to find something I was extremely passionate about."
This article was originally pubbed on NBCNews.com.