Kristine Froseth shows up to the Elite Daily office alone. An actor arriving for a photoshoot without at least one publicist or assistant on hand is so unheard of that I second-guess whether the 5-foot-7-inch blonde, wearing a shimmery, purple turtleneck and purple flares to match, is in fact the Looking for Alaska star. But it is Froseth, the 23-year-old who’s been racking up roles in some of the buzziest projects on streaming TV.
The nonchalant way Froseth travels is a product of her Norwegian upbringing, she says. She bounced between Norway and the United States throughout her childhood, and was struck by the discovery that the other kids she knew in New Jersey had controlling “helicopter parents.”
“I vividly remember how much freedom you have as a kid in Norway, and how independent you are compared to [kids in the U.S.],” she tells me. “I would always just roam around by myself.”
Froseth moves around the set unselfconsciously and, when Arizona Zervas’ “Roxanne” plays, breaks into a groovy dance. “Are you a model?” someone asks, and she laughs. Yes, Froseth is a model. Or she was, before she switched to acting full-time. As a teenager, she was scouted at a mall in Oslo, Norway, and she moved to New York a few months later. She landed gigs with major brands like H&M and Armani, but by 2015, she decided to focus mainly on acting.
She yearned for a creative outlet, which she wasn't finding on modeling jobs. “There was a lot of creative energy around me, but I wasn’t necessarily able to be a part of that as much as I am now. Now, I can be a part of building a character,” Froseth says. “When you’re on set and so present with each other and whoever you’re working with, and you sort of get swept away — that’s so magical to me.”
That’s not to say that her transition from modeling to acting was smooth. She’s terrified of disappointing her audience, which she says made her feel especially connected to Alaska Young, the character she plays in Hulu’s adaptation of John Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, and Veronica, her character in the Netflix film Sierra Burgess Is a Loser.
“[Neither of the characters] trust themselves enough to be who they really are, so they keep up this very consistent front to protect themselves, because if people want to judge them, then they’ll judge that. They won’t actually judge them,” she explains. Having moved around so much as a kid, Froseth says she understood why the characters she played would want to put up walls. And it’s hard to blame Froseth for keeping her own guard up. Looking for Alaska, which centers around a mysterious death at a boarding school, may not be as well-known as Green’s other books, The Fault in Our Stars or Paper Towns, but as his first, it has a particularly passionate cult following. News that the novel would become a streaming show was immediately followed by a barrage of chatter from fans. They “were very vocal about who they wanted Alaska to be... and what energy she was supposed to [have],” Froseth says.
I don’t want to disappoint them. I just want to do it justice, because I love it so much.
The stars of previous Green adaptations came to the projects with name recognition and a built-in fan base. Shailene Woodley already had a following from her roles in The Secret Life of an American Teenager and Divergent when she was cast in The Fault in Our Stars. Cara Delevingne may not have had many acting roles before starring in Paper Towns, but she was a longtime Victoria’s Secret model and a member of Taylor Swift’s girl squad. When it came to Looking for Alaska, the fandom floated names like Kaya Scodelario (Maze Runner), Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), and Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief). Froseth was not on the shortlist.
Froseth’s own love for the novel made it all the more painful when fans didn’t want her to play Alaska. “I remember being super stuck in that mindset,” she says. “Like, This is who she’s supposed to be, this is what the fans are saying she is. I don’t want to disappoint them. I just want to do it justice, because I love it so much.” Fans kept making their thoughts known in the comments when the trailer for the series dropped on YouTube, and she was “so nervous about them being so disappointed about what I had done.”
Still, Froseth is accustomed to proving herself. On past film projects, she's had to prove she's capable of more than her modeling background. “I don’t know why people were negative about me having been a model before, but when I’d come to set there was a lot of, ‘Well, show us that you can do this,’ like, ‘Keep up.’” The scrutiny drove her to “be as prepared as I could be” on set. “You really can’t control what people are going to think anyhow,” she says.
It’s a constant fight. I’m trying to make it my friend ... I think it’s going to be a part of me for quite some time.
So when Froseth posted an Instagram with the caption, “We are so much more than our darkness ever wants us to be. Lets [sic] never give up,” I assumed it was an admonition to her haters. It turns out that she was speaking to something much darker; when I ask her about it, she reveals she’s been dealing with depression for the last three years.
“I think [depression] really got the better of me. It still does, to some degree,” she shares. “It’s a constant fight. I’m trying to make it my friend ... I think it’s going to be a part of me for quite some time.”
Over the years, Froseth’s learned how to cope with particularly bad days. “It takes me a minute and I have to ride the wave first. Then, I like to journal and do something creative with it,” she says. “But I also always reach out to my friends now. I used to be so isolated about it, but, now, knowing they know where I am and just having that [support] has been a game-changer.”
That support system helps her through low moments, and allows her to better appreciate her good days. “[Depression is] something that we can struggle with and have, but it’s not me,” she says. “So having that and knowing that there’s so much light in between those moments, is so beautiful and worth it all.”
Froseth is determined not to listen to doubt — whether from an outspoken fandom, casting directors, or even herself. “I don’t like to give in to that energy because I think it’s wasted,” she says. That resolve has served her well. Froseth says the reaction from Green’s following to her portrayal of Alaska ended up being “so positive.” The show got a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was lauded by critics for improving on the source material, which is a rarity for the YA genre.
2020 is set to be another banner year for Froseth. She has a role in the upcoming indie film The Assistant and will appear in the second season of Netflix’s The Society. She’s currently living in Brooklyn and says she’s training for a hush-hush new project. She’s effusive about the actors she’s drawing inspiration from as she looks forward to future roles: Marion Cotillard, Meryl Streep, and Olivia Colman. “[They’re all] down to mess up and they’re down to be vulnerable,” she says. “There’s so much power in that and I think they convey truth in such a beautiful way I really look up to.”
I ask Froseth if she thinks she’s reached a point where she’s “down to mess up,” or if she’s still reaching. “Yeah,” she says. She’s still reaching, but “it’s hard.” She’s right. It is hard to break down the walls one builds to protect themselves, especially in an industry as cutthroat as Hollywood. But now that she’s won over the fans she was so afraid to disappoint, she can start to chip away at those walls, clearing the way for the messy, vulnerable version of herself to shine through.
Photography: Meredith Jenks