One to Watch: Ariana Greenblatt Is Hollywood's Otherworldly Darling

Ariana Greenblatt has played a green-skinned humanoid from the fictional planet Zen-Whoberi (Avengers: Infinity War), a badass survivalist in a monster apocalypse (Love and Monsters), and the key to a global catastrophe that takes away humanity’s ability to sleep (Awake), and this month, she’ll be introduced as a young girl who finds herself stranded on Earth 65 million years in the past battling dangerous prehistoric creatures (65). With a résumé stacked with big sci-fi adventures, one could argue the actress is more at home in larger-than-life worlds than she is being your average teenager. At just 15 years old, Greenblatt is a promising tour de force in Hollywood working with some of the industry’s biggest names, but she also loves to crochet, drink boba, and partake in an extensive skincare routine.

65, the action film that sees Greenblatt opposite Adam Driver, is just the first of an exciting stream of projects in her pipeline. Later this summer, she will star in Greta Gerwig’s long-awaited Barbie movie, which she says is beyond what anyone can imagine. She also wrapped filming Borderlands—an adaptation of the popular video game franchise—in which she plays Tiny Tina alongside the likes of Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jack Black. Simply put, if you didn’t have Greenblatt on your radar before, this is your sign to start paying attention. 

Ahead, we chat with the on-the-rise actor about everything from working one-on-one with Driver to her industry heroes and TikTok’s slugging trend.


(Image credit: Tiziano Lugli; Wardrobe: Bec + Bridge dress; Gucci bolero; Jenny Bird earrings)

First, what excited you about the story of 65?

The main exciting thing for me was being able to work with Adam Driver. Just seeing that he was attached got me extremely excited, especially knowing that Sam Raimi was producing and that the writers and director also wrote [A] Quiet Place, which I think is a very brilliant movie. So everyone that was already involved, it was a very cool thing for me to be a part of. 

The film is very much you one-on-one with Adam Driver. What was it like having him as a scene partner?

This was the first film that I’ve done that was one-on-one for me. I’ve never done a film where it was just two people on set every day. It was just us two and the crazy weather and situations that we were put in. It was a really cool dynamic to build with Adam. We talked about a lot of it, especially in the beginning when we were watching movies to inspire us and just going through the scripts and scenes figuring out what dynamic we wanted to portray. We had a lot of fun showing the characters’ personalities together and how we interact because we couldn’t be more opposite as characters. An older guy and this young girl, they are not related in any way—finding those lines and those little personality moments and then how we evolve as people and end up really caring for each other. So it was nice to see that. 

What were some of those inspirational movies you watched together?

We watched Alien. That was the main one. Literally genius! And then we watched True Grit with Hailee Steinfeld. That was the first time I watched the movie. It was in the middle of the pandemic, and it was wintertime, so my mom and I went out to Walmart, I believe, and we got all of these really ugly Christmas sweaters, but they all had this T.rex on it. We got really lucky. We were like, "Okay, we’re all going to watch this movie in this theater, and it’s freezing, and we haven’t filmed anything yet.” It was a really cute idea, and we got everyone little sweaters for Christmas time. That’s definitely something I remember from when we watched those movies. 

What stood out to you about your character Koa, and in what ways did you relate to her?

When I first read about Koa, I was immediately attracted to the challenge of playing her. She’s incredibly complex, and she goes through a lot in a very short amount of time. And I think what attracted me the most was seeing how we watch her cope with everything going on around her because she has a lot to process, and she does a lot of it alone and internally, and I wanted that to read [on-screen]. I also just wanted to build this really quirky personality of hers. She has these moments in the movie when she gets really frustrated with Mills, or she’s annoyed or tired, or she’s thirsty, or she’s seeing something she’s never seen before and doesn’t know how to react to it or what to do with it. It was really fun to play someone who is very new to this world, which obviously we are very familiar with because it’s Earth, but she’s never seen a flower like that—she doesn’t know what to do or where to put it. 

And if I were to relate to anything … every time we see her really exhausted, that was me in real life. I was exhausted and probably was walking and running and sweating and all of that. I either did a math test right before or something of the sort. So that was definitely very real and relatable. 

You are no stranger to larger-than-life worlds on-screen. What do you love about acting in these types of environments/the action genre in general?

I don’t know what it is about me or my face, but I tend to play otherworldly people that are not normal in some way. So it could be a different planet or bright green or postapocalyptic. Whatever it may be, I guess I have a look that they want to make me something who is not human at all. I think it’s really exciting. There is so much to do creatively when it comes to characters like this. I love a challenge, and I love locations, and the entirety of 65 was filmed on location and outside. What you see is actually where we were, so that was definitely fun and a challenge, which I love. You can do so much with it and have a lot of freedom. I don’t like following rules, so when you are playing an alien, there is no guidebook of how to be from a different planet, so you can just do whatever you want, and I think that’s something that I enjoy doing, and I think people love seeing me do it.


(Image credit: Tiziano Lugli; Wardrobe: vintage Wilson jacket; Gucci dress; Jenny Bird earrings; Saint Laurent shoes)

What was your reaction to seeing the final film for the first time?

It was really exciting because I hadn’t seen anything from the film since two and half years ago when I initially filmed it. So it’s been quite a long time since I’ve revisited the world of 65 and my character. While watching it, I couldn’t help but remember what was going on behind the scenes. I will take myself out of what I’m supposed to be watching and be like, "I remember that day. I fell off the tree or whatever it may be.” I have my embarrassing stories attached to the scenes I’m watching. But it was really cool! It was sweet to see my 13-year-old self with my short hair. Finally seeing the dinosaurs put in and the sound effects and the lighting, it was like whoa! At the moment, I couldn’t picture what it could possibly look like because it’s this ginormous dinosaur that you can’t even fathom what it would look like in real life, so that was definitely cool—to see how they put it together and the details. 

Up next, you have the highly anticipated Barbie movie. Can you tell us a little about your role in the film?

Okay, so what I’m going to tell you is what you’ve seen so far is the tiniest little bit that you could ever picture. I’m never on Twitter because it’s a dark hole that I don’t want to go down, but when I was, when the little leaks were coming out, I was just filled with malicious excitement because I was like, "They have no idea what’s going on.” They are coming up with these stories, and it’s like, "You’re cute, but you couldn’t be farther from the truth.” So that’s really exciting. You can expect a lot of fashion moments, a lot of pink, and a lot of Greta Gerwig geniusness. [I] somehow [fit] into the story some way, but I can’t tell you. But you are going to love it, and I feel like it’s going to be such a beautiful and exciting movie that you can watch a thousand times over at sleepovers or wherever, and you are never going to get tired of it. It’s just a really fun, big surprise with a lot of fun people, and I am just so grateful to be a part of it. 

Did you play with Barbies when you were younger?

So that was my thing when I first got the whole memo of the project. I was like, "Okay, this is fantastic because Greta Gerwig is writing and directing, and hello, I’m one of her biggest fans.” Margot Robbie, one of her biggest fans. I was like, "Okay!” I had the Barbie Dreamhouse, but I put Monster High dolls in there and put all of these really weird not-Barbie dolls in the house. I just liked the flushing sound effect and the elevator and the fireplace. That was my jam! I liked that I had my own house that I could make little things in, but I never played with Barbies.

You also have the film Borderlands in the pipeline, which is an adaptation of the popular video game. You have Cate Blanchett, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black in this film. Can you tell us about your experience working on it? 

What I can tell you with this one is I auditioned for Borderlands in the midst of filming 65. I remember I got home one day and was literally exhausted, and it was midnight. I’m trying to find all of this research on this character—her name is Tiny Tina. Why is her name Tiny Tina? This is wacko. I looked it up and fully indulged myself and was like, "This is kind of lit. I love it.” So then my lovely mother was like, "Okay, I’m going to go.” And I was like, "What?” And she was like, "I have to get something!” She comes back from Walmart (we love Walmart in New Orleans—that was like our second home) … and she has all these little gadgets that she created so I can look kind of like this video game character with the dirt and Band-Aids and all of the above. So it’s the middle of the night, and we’re trying to film this tape, and I was like, "This isn’t working.” But at the end of the day, it completely did because you see the insanity going on in my brain and me just falling apart, and that worked beautifully for the character because she is psychotic. 

Working on the film, it was my biggest nervousness dream come true—starstruck, everything. … From the age of 6 when people would ask, "Who is your dream person to work with?” you are going to expect [my answer to be] like Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, whatever, but my go-to answer was Kevin Hart every single time without fail. I wanted to work with Kevin Hart my entire life. So obviously when I heard he was a part of it, I was like, "I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t meet him.” And then I go, and I’m meeting everyone, and they are all so lovely. I fell in love with everyone on set. Working with Jamie… First of all, let’s cover her beautiful soul. She is indescribable because she is just this caring, loving, sweet, professional, adoring person. She takes pictures every day. She’ll be like, "Don’t move. I’m making a black-and-white. I’ll edit it and send to you later.” She has endless amounts of stories. I mean, she is literally an icon.

And then Cate Blanchett. I really admire her. She always came to set looking fabulous, and she has the best personality. When we filmed reshoots a couple of weeks ago, we saw each other for the first time in a few years, and we bonded so much more, I think, because she finally feels more comfortable telling her dirty jokes. She told me, "I couldn’t say this stuff when you were 13.” So we definitely were able to banter back and forth a lot more. The whole cast weirdly and perfectly meshed together. And it’s such a weird group to put in one place and be like, "Okay, go crazy with these characters.” Florian Munteanu, who plays Krieg, is like my best friend even though he’s 32 and a boxer from Romania. He couldn’t be more like me! 

You are only 15 and already have a very impressive acting résumé. Who are the women and/or careers you look up to in this business? 

I love this question, and I spent a lot of time writing the people down because I don’t want to miss one person. … Trust me—I have many. I look up to Natalie Portman because she is fantastic. I look up to Saoirse Ronan. I would love to work with her. I think she is brilliant, and she is also in the family of Greta. Mia Goth, especially recently. She has blown everyone away and has created her own definition of camp and chaos. I’m obsessed with what she’s done. Anya Taylor-Joy—sick, cool. The Menu was dope. I would love to work with Zoe Saldaña. Although, I played a younger version of her, so it seems like I have, but I didn’t play one-on-one with her, and I think she is incredible.

I want to work with Winona Ryder because I recently watched Girl, Interrupted. I’m very late, I know, but I watched it, and it’s one of my favorite movies now. There are just so many people who I’ve looked up to for years, even behind the scenes—writers, directors, costume designers—because everyone plays such a huge role and part, and it can break or make the movie. I just have a big dream list in my brain, and whenever there is a full moon, I just say a name and say, "Alright, universe, line it up for me!”


(Image credit: Tiziano Lugli; Wardrobe: Vera Wang dress; EF Collection earrings; Sonora boots)

When you are not busy juggling your acting career and school, what do you like to do in your free time?

When I’m not on set or in class, I turn into a full-time grandma. I find really beautiful hobbies that I enjoy doing, such as baking little pastries or crocheting blankets. Who am I? I’m literally 15 crocheting blankets in my free time, but it’s just the way it is. I love lighting candles and then doing a full-blown skincare routine. I’m really into skincare recently. It’s really important to me. I act like I’m doing the Vogue Beauty Secrets [videos]. That’s me every time I look in the mirror and do my makeup or skincare—like, "hey guys, welcome back to my channel” or "hey, Vogue, it’s Ariana.” 

You have to start a YouTube channel!

I tried that in quarantine, and nothing is more embarrassing, so I think I’m a little traumatized. But I’m trying a new approach, and I have this camcorder that I’ve been bringing around with me, so maybe in the future, I’ll put something out. 

I also love watching Spider-Man over and over again—The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield. Okay yes, all the Spider-Mans are fantastic, but I’m emotionally connected to Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, especially with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. I love! So that’s really nostalgic when I watch those. And really just sitting in a clean living room with candles, crocheting, watching movies, drinking boba, it couldn’t be a more perfect scenario for me when I’m not working. 

What about when it comes to style and/or beauty? Are there any trends or products you are really into right now?

I’m really excited about the fact that people are just doing what they want. There’s finally this endless amount of freedom with everyone, and that’s what, I think, is keeping the fashion world really exciting because we don’t know who is going to come out with what and what they are going to deliver. It’s really unexpected. People can come out wearing a dress one day and then … come out wearing a full body of glitter, like Doja Cat. And that’s really cool. I also love the blend of eras that people are doing. The Y2K and ’90s thing was such a big moment, but I’m seeing a lot of these vintage looks coming out of the archives, which makes my heart glow. I’m obsessed with vintage clothing. On my other side of comfortability, I couldn’t wear anything larger. This is my brother’s shirt that I took, and then I’m wearing Christmas pajamas. I’m obsessed with baggy, soft things when I’m not doing a photo shoot or on a carpet. I’ve been rocking my Uggs. 

Do you have the infamous platform Uggs?

My hairstylist has the platform ones, and I was going to steal them even though she’s not my size. I need them. I need to feel like Bella Hadid with my Uggs. I have the basic ones, but that’s okay. 

Okay, last question—are you someone who is influenced by TikTok beauty trends? 

One-hundred percent. The thing with me on TikTok is I have a private account that I’m on all the time, but my main account, it’s like I’m never there. I’m like, "Sorry, guys.” I’m pretty sure my bio was at one point "I come back once a month.” But I think the most influenced I’ve been is probably… I’m really into the slugging technique that people are doing. They take Aquaphor or a really thick Vaseline, and they rub it all over their face, and it makes you glow! I tried it for a week, and it was really good. I loved that. I try not to let myself get influenced too much just because it’s a little scary for me. It’s like, "Let me see 30 people do the same thing and then I’ll try it.” I try to pick and choose what I follow. 

Oh, the blush underneath the eyes! Have you seen this? I’ve always been a blush girl. When it’s summertime, I just throw away my sunscreen and try to get sunburned. It’s really bad. But I’ve always loved the sunburnt look. I started to see people… Instead of concealer, they would put blush under their eyes, but I think it got out of hand. I’m all about every blush trend. I think blush is just the best thing ever. 

Catch Greenblatt in 65, now in theaters. 

Photographer: Tiziano Lugli

Stylist: Mimi Cuttrell

Styling Assistant: Maddy Calvo

Hairstylist: Kiley Fitzgerald

Makeup Artist: Jen Tioseco

Executive Director, Entertainment

Jessica Baker is Who What Wear’s Executive Director, Entertainment, where she ideates, books, writes, and edits celebrity and entertainment features.