For many people, Troian Bellisario is someone who seems like an old friend. We watched her on TV for years, playing Spencer Hastings on Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars. We saw photos of her wedding flood our Instagram, double-tapping anything tagged #FortDay2016 — the camping theme she chose for the event. And, when she posted about her journey with breastfeeding earlier this month, we had a glimpse into her life as a new mom.
Thankfully, in real life, Troian is as sweet and unrehearsed as you’d want her to be. She makes fun of her blinking shots when scanning pictures from our photo shoot, and has a relatable reaction to the bubble skirt trend during our interview (“Oh my god, no. That's too soon. It's too soon for a bubble skirt.”) In fact, she’s so chill, it’s hard to imagine she’s really a famous actress — one who landed the role of Becky in Where’d You Go Bernadette, one of the most anticipated movies of summer 2019.
The story follows a mother who goes missing and ends up in Antarctica, where she meets Bellisario’s character, a marine biologist. The film is based off the best-selling book of the same name, although, Bellisario tells us, she didn’t read it prior to her audition.
“I knew I was auditioning for a movie with Cate Blanchett directed by Richard Linklater, so that was the nerve-wracking part,” she reveals to InStyle during our chat, namedropping Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, and Billy Crudup as more of the heavy-hitters in the ensemble. “I was just like, ‘Oh, there's no way in the world that I’m going to be cast in this.’ And then, once I was, I was like, ‘Oh, cool. Now I can just enjoy it and read the book.’ It was exciting getting to read it after I knew I was going to be part of the movie.”
Bellisario’s role required her to film in Greenland, where she ended up spending time on a Russian-vessel-turned-cruise-ship, chatting with scientists and enjoying once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like, uh, drinking prehistoric ice.
“At the end of the day, there's a lot of ice that's floating around in Ilulissat Bay [where we filmed], and they brought it onboard and asked me if I wanted a drink with it,” she tells us, highlighting the standout moments. “I was like, ‘Why? What's so special about this ice?’ It was crystal clear and had little bubbles in it. And they said, ‘This ice — just so you know how old it is — this ice was around when there were dinosaurs on the earth.’”
Of course, it’s hard to discuss a film about motherhood without asking Bellisario about her own experiences. The 33-year-old welcomed a child with her husband, Suits star Patrick J. Adams, last October, and says she’s already planning her own Bernadette-like adventure.
“My daughter's only ten months, but I told my husband, ‘If I just jump on a plane to Italy, you can't follow me.’ And it's not malice towards him. It's not malice towards her. I just…there might be a moment where I'm like, 'Screw it, I’m booking my ticket.’ I totally get that need to disappear because, when you become the anchor point for somebody, when you work and have a family, you sort of miss this wild spontaneity and freedom you once had. You might be like, ‘Oh, I never would have dropped everything and moved to Spain, or gone to Morocco on a whim.’ But you could have if you wanted to.”
Bellisario’s freedom isn't the only thing that’s changed since becoming a mom. According to her, she’s also undergone a style transformation, too.
“I'm just getting out of the sweatpants phase,” she admits. “I don't know how my mom did it. She was a mom in the '80s, but I saw pictures of her in silk shirts and beautiful power suits. I was like, ‘Mom, yesterday, I put on a blouse for the first time, and within two seconds, there was breast milk and carrots all over it.’ It’s pointless to me. It’s a shocker if I wear jeans.”
The actress does try to find balance, though, and adds that, for her, the key is carving out time for creativity and “keeping the whimsy alive.” What doesn’t really help, however, is scrolling through social media.
“It gets difficult because social media is such a means of comparison,” says Bellisario. “What’s challenging for me — and this is my own personal struggle — is sometimes, I'll read about a mom who’s struggling and I will actually feel worse about myself because I'll say, ‘Oh, she has it way worse than me, I shouldn't be complaining.’ Or, ‘I shouldn't be tired because she's done so much more than me.’ Or, ‘There's more that I could do.’ So, I find it kind of has an adverse effect. And the same thing can happen when I follow my friends who don't have kids yet and they're out going to Burning Man. I'm like, ‘Screw you guys!’ It all really depends on my mood.”
It helps that Bellisario is aware of how social media can make her feel, and she’s since implemented a plan that many people could benefit from — not just moms.
“What I'm trying to be really cognizant of lately is, when I'm in a bad place, not to unconsciously seek out means of comparison," she explains. "Because I know that when my resources are low, when I'm tired, when I'm hungry, or a little bit depressed, I'll reach for Instagram. And it's not always for the best reasons. I'll be like, ‘Oh, I want to look at that person who's living a totally different life.’ Or, ‘I want to look at that mom who is doing way better than me.’ Whereas sometimes, it's good to just recognize that and say, ‘I'm super tired right now, I need to go take a nap.’ Or, ‘I need to go stare at a wall or play with my dog.’ Just do something that's going to fill me up. And then, when I feel a little bit more bolstered, then I can find myself searching Instagram and feeling super happy for that person who's at Burning Man or super happy for that mom. I think it's just about being aware of that state of mind that you're in.”
Where’d You Go Bernadette is out in theaters now.
Photographs by Colette Aboussouan, assisted by Owen Angote. Troian is wearing an A.L.C. dress, styled by Annabelle Harron. Hair by Dave Stanwell. Makeup by Min Min Ma. Art direction and production by Kelly Chiello.
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