It’s crazy to think that AnnaSophia Robb has been famous for over half her life. As an acclaimed child star, Robb embodied beloved characters from a young Carrie Bradshaw to Leslie Burke in “Bridge to Terabithia.” Yet Robb is just getting started, proving that even at 26 years old, she’s a cinematic force to be reckoned with.
“I’m starting to feel old now. I’m like, ‘wow I was part of people’s childhoods.’ It’s weird,” she smiles.
After quarantining first in Los Angeles, Robb has finally returned home to her Brooklyn apartment. Her new horror Quibi series The Expecting premieres just in time for the Halloween season, and Robb is reveling in the possibility of returning to work again. With a polished pixie cut and pearl barrette, her smile and charismatic honesty is infectious. “It’s [been] a time of awakening, that’s for sure,” Robb started off about the last few months. “It’s been a lot of emotions.”
In March, Robb’s performance as a young Elena Richardson in the Emmy-nominated Hulu limited series Little Fires Everywhere gained critical applause. Little Fires sparked a further discussion around the intersectionality of class, race, and gender roles. Premiering at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the show encapsulated so much of what 2020 later addressed. Robb’s depiction of how Reese Witherspoon’s Richardson became who she was added an empathetic layer to an otherwise challenging character. “I felt so privileged and honored to be part of [Little Fires Everywhere],” Robb explained. “Kerry [Washington] and Reese [Witherspoon] are such incredible women. They lead with love and inclusivity.”
The female-centric set also fostered deeper discussions about the state of the world. “All of the conversations that were happening were so complex and supportive and really interrogating the story that they were all trying to tell. Everybody had a hand in pushing the boulder up the mountain,” Robb continued.
“It was really cool to see that as a young woman. These are the stories I want to tell, these are the kind of projects I want to be a part of.”
Robb has always used her talent to spotlight essential, and otherwise untold, stories. She credits her parents, especially her mother, with helping her find a balance between school and acting. “It was a decision from a very young age like ‘do I want to stay in school or do we want to go make this movie?’ I know that is such a huge privilege but it set in my mind like is this story worth telling? Is it worth not being in the real world, or having a different kind of education?” Robb said.
“Media is so influential, as we have seen in 2020 especially. It’s deciding whose stories are we telling, whose stories are we amplifying. Obviously, we need a lot more diversity in storytelling.”
Offscreen, Robb also uses her platform as an actress to advocate for social justice. Her Instagram reminds followers to register to vote, support the Black Lives Matter movement, and honor Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg’s legacy for women’s rights. Robb hosted multiple young Black leaders on her Twitter page through Pass the Platform this summer to educate others about the fight for racial equality. “There is a history of systemic racism and bias, and I know that I have to unpack that in my own self and in an everyday way,” Robb opened up. “You can’t privilege one person’s body over another, even though that’s what our culture does. I just so appreciate all of the activists who have made this their workday today, because it’s exhausting. What is more important? We are all on one planet, we have a limited number of days. Are you going to use it to raise people up, or tear them down?”
This current “absolute nightmare” of a presidency is not the sole root of 2020’s awakening, says Robb.
“It’s just a symptom of where I think everybody is at, so we have an individual choice to fight the power and stand for something different,” she explained, through voting, education, and digital activism.
As Elena in Little Fires Everywhere and Emma in The Expecting, Robb addresses women’s right to their own bodies onscreen. Waitress Emma (Robb) mysteriously finds herself pregnant and suffers disturbing experiences throughout her pregnancy while uncovering a possible conspiracy surrounding her unborn child. Both Elena and Emma have scenes discussing their right to an abortion. “In Little Fires, we see a young woman, she’s had several children, she wants a career but she’s in a place where she doesn’t feel like she can choose. And then the rest of the series…is about seeing the consequences of that,” Robb explained. “With The Expecting, Emma doesn’t know…was it rape? Was it something else? It’s really complicated, so being able to look at these stories and rather than just make general claims, having that specificity of the character and the complications, I think that’s how we need to look at people and look at their decisions. I feel really honored as an artist to be able to tell stories about current issues and have people engage with these dialogues. I think the problem that we have right now is making these blank statements and pushing it out rather than seeing people and seeing their struggles. I think it’s such an exciting time that we live in a society where those are the conversations we get to talk about as we progress towards giving more people rights.”
Robb is not typically known for starring in horror roles, partially because she’s not personally a fan of the genre. However, Robb took a Japanese cinema course while in college at New York University that, coupled with auteur Jordan Peele’s 2017 thriller Get Out, expanded her take on scary films. “I started to realize that a lot of horror is a critique. There’s all these subconscious or societal fears and you get to sort of play with it in this dynamic way,” Robb reflected. “I remember reading the script [for The Expecting] and thinking ‘yeah, pregnancy is horrifying.’ Your body changes, you have no control over what’s happening. You have this alien inside just eating your nutrients…it’s just all of these crazy things.”
The addition of a conspiracy against Emma parallels current politics that infringe on women’s healthcare as a whole. “Emma is facing all these different people around her who are not supporting her and who just want to have control over her body,” Robb said. “I thought it was a really topical project and approached maternity in a different way. It’s the story of this sort of unlikable lost woman who is relentlessly put through the wringer and just keeps fighting.”
Robb worked closely with director Mary Harron, known for the iconic film American Psycho. The Quibi series was shot “like an indie film,” and then later split into roughly eight-minute-long episodes. Robb remembers feeling nervous to be in Harron’s presence during the first audition. “I have so much respect for her. She’s a real sort of ‘80s, ‘90s feminist, out-of-the-box thinker, and boots on the ground filmmaker,” Robb mused. “I love her vibe. She’s a real artist.”
The cast and crew bonded while filming in the Boston winter, “outside and in the mud and in the dark,” Robb laughed. She called her costars Rory Culkin a “lovely human spirit,” and Mira Sorvino a legend. While The Expecting is a darkly intense series, Robb counts the experience among what she’s most proud of. “It was hard to make but a lot of fun, and I felt strong after finishing it,” she said.
Of course, nothing about this year went as expected. The Expecting premieres on Quibi October 5th, but Robb jokes that her Peacock streaming show, Dr. Death was supposed to have already aired weeks ago. Based on the true-crime podcast of the same name, Dr. Death also stars Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, and Grace Gummer. She hasn’t even started filming yet but hopes the New York-based production kicks off soon.
That is, only if quarantine subsides. “Just as long as everybody keeps their effing masks on and take care of each other, we’ll be good!”