Victoria Pedretti has had a dizzying few years. In 2018, she played Nell in Netflix’s breakout horror hit The Haunting of Hill House. The following year, she booked a role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, then joined the cast of You as the newest love interest — fittingly named Love — of Joe, Penn Badgley’s creepy-sexy stalker-murderer weirdo. She then returned for the next Haunting installment, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and appeared in the under-appreciated Shirley Jackson biopic Shirley. More recently, you could see her strutting through a mall alongside Kacey Musgraves in the country darling’s “Simple Times” video.
You is back for a third season on Oct. 15. When we last saw Love, she had revealed her own stalkerish propensity, murdered two people, professed her affection for Joe, and announced that she is pregnant with his baby. Now the couple have relocated to suburbia, where, in typical fashion, Joe grows bored of Love and the monotony of parenthood. Soon enough, they find themselves embroiled in another murder crisis, with Love’s venomous impulses taking center stage.
How does Pedretti feel about Love’s dark journey? She talked to GQ about You, the way the new season caricatures California wellness culture, and why she lied in order to land the part in Once Upon a Time.
Let’s wind back to the end of season two. Love is a tricky character because on the surface she often seems very earnest and innocent, but she’s actually more like Joe.. What was your reaction to the way the season ended, with love killing Delilah and setting up this alternate personality?
I think it fits very much into her personality, to be honest. I don’t think this person is the most realistic, but she’s certainly human enough in that we are being manipulated by criminals all the time. Our world is run by very charming narcissists who commit heinous, terrible crimes. We hear about it in the news all the time. So is it an alternate personality? It’s kind of the perfect personality to manipulate people and accomplish the things that she does. Wow, I just called them “accomplishments.”
She’s racking up a body count. That is an accomplishment.
In the scope of the show, I think it almost is.
The show was more or less upfront about Joe’s true nature. We know what we’re going to get from him at this point, whereas it pulls the rug out from under us with Love.
That’s part of what I enjoy about playing her. I really love that discussion about what it means to be appealing and come across as somebody who’s good or kind but your actions don’t actually reflect that at all.
In season three, Love uses an ax and a rolling pin as weapons. She also digs up dirt on a seemingly perfect family that results in someone’s death, and she plants fake evidence in her neighbor’s murder investigation. To whatever extent it matters, do you still like her?
I have to like her to play her, so I guess, yes. I don’t know that it really matters what I think in terms of liking her, given that she is a fictional character. But I think my answer is yes.
You said in an interview at the end of season two that you felt Love isn’t a killer at her core. But she certainly goes in some violent directions in season three. Has your stance on her changed now that you have a fuller scope of the impulse that she has to grab an ax and take somebody down?
[One murder in particular that occurs in season three] is different, I think, from the rest of the murders. I really do think she does that out of aggression and maliciousness. She really wants to hurt him. But in the other cases, me as Victoria can see very clearly that she has a murderous impulse, but the character herself feels as if she’s doing everything she can to avoid that. She feels like this is an uncontrollable, instinctual animal compulsion that she’s allowing in order to protect herself. I don’t think she sees herself as a murderer, so when I’m playing it, I don’t think about it.
Her relationship with Joe seems to be the thing that has escalated that impulse. We saw the flashback with her au pair in the previous season, but that was sort of a different incident, too.
Yeah, I think she probably does feel a little bit more validated or justified in that being her method of dealing with people.
One of the best parts of season three is Shalita Grant and the way she skewers the wellness-obsessed, narcissistic California type, which Love uses to her advantage when she needs to manipulate Shalita’s character. What was it like for the two of you to play around with that dynamic?
It was really fun. For Love, I almost believe, to a certain extent, that she kind of buys into it a little bit, or is truly intimidated by it. It’s a lot of fun playing into that because I’m a woman out here trying to do my best, but I think the internet can make us all feel a little insufficient, given the amount of people out here acting like they’ve got it all figured out.
Do you think Love wishes she had what those picture-perfect California types have, or is it fuel for her mounting resentment?
I think she thinks if she’d had the perfect childhood she would have that. She just feels very sorry for herself, so I think she would justify how she feels however she’s going to, whether it’s like, “My dad couldn’t stay faithful to my mom” or “My husband died” — all these things that, while tragic and difficult, don’t justify the things that she does that work against herself. She has a self-destructive impulse. She thinks she’s putting people ahead of her and that that’s a noble thing to do, but ultimately she’s very much working against herself and destroying herself in the process.
Love opens a bakery. Do you ever get to eat the treats she makes, which look very real and very tasty?
One time I took an almond croissant. The person [who made it] warned me that it was a couple days old, but it looked so good that I didn’t listen to them. It probably would have been really good the day it was made. The strawberry donuts that Joe brings Love at one point are really good. I was like, “Can we put one of those aside? I really want one.” I ate like 15 of those last season for a scene, and I was sick of them, so it was really nice to be able to enjoy one.
Do you have techniques for scenes like that? A lot of actors use spit buckets.
That was my second job, and I was younger. I just thought I could keep eating them, so I did. I had never really done a food scene before, so I wasn’t aware of how long I was going to be consuming these donuts. Then I think I got proud, and I said, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll just eat it.” And I just kept going. Sometimes you do things that are stupid. That was one of those days. Now I would get a spit bucket, or I would know that the character doesn’t need to be consuming food throughout the course of the scene.
Let’s talk about a couple other projects on your résumé that are particularly interesting. You were recently in Kacey Musgraves’ “Simple Times” video. How did that come about?
She reached out to me. We had never met, but I’m a huge fan of her music, so I was flabbergasted that she hit me up.
What was the pitch that she gave you? “Just come strut through this mall with me and look cool”?
She was like, “I’m doing this music video for my new project,” and I was like, “I’m so excited for your new project.” She said it would be based on all these late-‘90s, early-2000s girl-gang movies that are so iconic. I thought it sounded fun as fuck. Anything for you, Kacey.
And was it fun as fuck?
It was a really fun experience. I got very sunburnt on my back, which I would say was a product of me being so excited to be there that I completely forgot about putting on sunscreen.
Your first movie was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is an incredible credit to have in general. You’re in the best sequence, set at Spahn Ranch. What did it mean to you to book a Quentin Tarantino movie?
That was bizarre. I remember getting the audition, sending it in, and getting the callback. I signed an NDA, but maybe that was just for the script. But I never got the full script. I had no idea what was going on the whole time, which is interesting. I would never fucking agree to be in a movie under most circumstances having not read the script. That shows you the power of Tarantino. I still can’t believe that happened. I remember getting the job in an Uber and asking my Uber driver, “Hey, do you want to take a picture with me? I just got a Tarantino movie!” So we took a selfie and I still have it in my phone.
Was the Uber driver excited to hear you say that?
She was so excited for me! She was like, “In my Uber?” We had a lot of fun with it. But it’s a pretty trippy experience. It’s a hard thing to comprehend, especially because I really only worked for two days. It’s so meaningful and substantial on my résumé, but the experience was mostly going horseback riding with the wranglers to rehearse for my scene, which was awesome.
Are you a horseback rider otherwise?
I think I can say this now: I lied and said I could ride a horse.
A classic casting story. I feel like every actor has an “I lied to get this role” story.
Yeah, I had no idea how to ride horses, but I knew I wasn’t afraid of horses and I knew I wanted to. It’s a very expensive hobby unless you grew up around people with farms. I thought I could probably learn, and I had a bit of practice before I had my call-back where I had to ride a horse. Then I tried to bullshit my way through the call-back, and apparently it worked. I found out I loved to ride horses. As an actor, most of the time when I’m doing things, it’s just about bullshitting. That’s kind of the fun of it.
Between You and the Haunting series, how much has your life changed in the course of the past three years?
That’s a big question. It has changed enormously from so many different angles: professionally, interpersonally. But I think all in ways that I’m excited about and proud of. Change can certainly be frightening, but I think it’s really important to embrace it. To be honest, there have been moments when I have felt victimized by certain kinds of change that felt out of my control. But at a certain point, I had to admit to myself that I like my life and I like my work and I’m really grateful for where I’m at.
What did you feel was out of your control?
The effects of being a professional actor that aren’t enjoyable, whether that’s rigorous working environments that feel non-conducive to making the kind of art I want to make or people taking pictures of me without me noticing. I think everybody can find things to dislike about their life if they want to. And exhaustion isn’t an unreasonable thing to dislike, but there’s always a compromise. For me, I’m very lucky to have a lot of choice in what I do. It kind of launched me into a bit of a spiritual evolution. I don’t have a lot of friends who also deal with these issues, to be honest, so I’ve felt a bit on my own in that. But I’ve noticed how some people kind of cut themselves off from the world as a product of it because it can be frightening.
Give me a sense of how you feel about the way that Love’s arc wraps up at the end of the third season.
It’s been written. I’m not a writer on the show. I think it’s a good ending. I think they’re really good at what they do. This season, they’re on fire. I really hope people enjoy the way the show comes to a close. It wasn’t easy to do.
Are you worried people might not appreciate it?
[Long pause] I don’t know, I feel like everybody just keeps liking Joe no matter what. I have faith in that for some reason.
This interview has been edited and condensed.