Julia Garner Is Not Normal

The young actress talks about her role as a pregnant teen in “Grandma.”

Photography by Robert Maxwell Styled by Michelle Cameron

Since making her debut as a cult inductee in the 2011 film Martha Marcy May Marlene, Julia Garner has played a Mormon who believes she has been impregnated by listening to a song (in Electrick Children), a cannibal (in We Are What We Are), and the daughter of a CIA agent who becomes involved with a KGB spy (in the FX series The Americans). Her latest turn, as Sage, a pregnant teen in search of money for an abortion in director Paul Weitz’s Grandma, seems practically mundane by comparison. “She’s a normal girl,” Garner, 21, says. “But I’m never cast as the girl next-door.”’

“Normal,” of course, is a relative term. In the film, Sage and her broke grandmother Elle (Lily Tomlin) embark on a fundraising road trip during which they ultimately dig up more emotions and secrets than dollars. A native of Riverdale, New York, Garner got hooked on acting at 15, when she took classes to overcome her shyness. “I did it so I could feel comfortable being in front of people,” says Garner, who will next appear in a movie adaptation of the book Tomato Red. “Because life is really just one big act.”