Actress Alycia Debnam-Carey is most certainly young and beautiful, but it’s her sharp intelligence that is also propelling her success in Hollywood, writes Zara Wong. At 7.30 on a Friday morning at Sydney’s Flemington Flower Markets,Alycia Debnam-Carey is overwhelmed by the choice. It is her first time here – a long-time bullet point on a mental to-do list, as it is for me, too, even though we’re both Sydney-raised. The visit was her idea, a way to kill two birds with one stone while she’s back home visiting from LA: buy some flowers, do a Vogue interview.
￼￼Deciding between either pretty countryside florals like hydrangeas and peonies, or Australian natives like wattle and banksia, she goes for both category options. With four years as an LA resident already, where she stars in the cult series Fear the Walking Dead as well as The 100, she notices there is a wildness, a looseness, to the way flowers are displayed in Sydney compared to her second home; the land where legendary “Hollywood” florists like Eric Buterbaugh and Jeff Leatham are famed for their symmetry and rigour, the way they mould nature to create perfectly formed shapes.
“I hated LA when I first got there. It took about three years for me to like it. LA and America, in general, have this incredible hustle about them. There’s this sense of momentum,” she says enthusiastically. She is eating a vegetarian big breakfast at a local cafe after the floral excursion. “In LA, it’s not on the surface. Everything is in the cracks. The restaurant out front will look like this old, boring place and you’ll go inside and it’s this lush, beautifully designed restaurant.”
You grow up faster in Hollywood, too. But not in the way that the phrase is usually meant. At 22, her friends from high school are finishing university, becoming more independent. “They’re all doing things that I did four years ago, paying bills, finding roommates, buying a first car and figuring out these menial tasks.” Actresses – as they wont to do, especially the more lines on IMDb they receive – are always eager to play down the glamour. But for Debnam-Carey, as a rising star on television it is a full track with consistent travel and long shooting days of more than 12 hours with little time off, depending on the storyline and size of the role. “The days are very, very long, and the travel time – getting there and back.” The television shoot schedule is an accelerated form of a movie. “For a film you have the whole script in its entirety for a couple of weeks, so you can learn scenes and really rehearse them so that when you get to them, they’re more fleshed out. But TV shows are harder. You don’t really learn them as a full script, because they change the drafts quickly.” Her short-term memory has improved. “But it just means I forget things a lot quicker!”