if the leftovers` margaret qualley can survive the rapture, making a


if the leftovers` margaret qualley can survive the rapture, making a
r e av e y at br ya n b a n t r y. m a k e u p : l es l i e l o p e z at t h e wa l l gr o u p .
a l l c lo t h i ng b y p r a d a . s t y l i st: r ac h a e l wa ng . ha ir : h e le n
Margaret Qualley has the graceful
movements of a ballerina (she studied
with dancing legends Jean-Pierre
Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride)
and the flawless skin of a china doll
(a genetic blessing passed down
from mom, Andie MacDowell). She
sits at a booth at Frankies Spuntino
in Manhattan’s West Village, hands
demurely in her lap, wearing a vintage
flower-print dress and black patent
leather heels, a gift from Miuccia Prada.
Ladylike is the 19-year-old’s default
setting, but when pressed on the limits
of her elegance, she leans in close.
“I’m the biggest klutz on earth. I always
have bruises on my legs,” she says,
revealing several mean-looking purple
blotches on her shins. “I also have
horrible road rage. That’s why I had
to leave L.A.”
An act this convincing suggests
Qualley learned the Hollywood game
early, but she was actually raised on a
3,000-acre ranch in Montana, and later
in Asheville, North Carolina. MacDowell
and her ex-husband, former model Paul
Qualley, eschewed watching television,
so the Qualley children (older sister
Rainey is an actress and singer) staged
concerts in the living room and rode
horses for fun. And, of course, there
was dancing. She studied at the North
Carolina School of the Arts and spent
summers with the American Ballet
Theatre. “Ballet was my whole life.
There was no other option in my mind,”
she says. “Then I was offered
an apprenticeship at the North Carolina
Dance Theatre. I had accomplished
this huge goal and then realized I
didn’t really want it anymore. I went
through an identity crisis at 16.” The
soul-searching teenager instead moved
to New York City by herself, signed up
for improv classes, and found another
calling. “It was the first acting class
I’d ever taken, and I just knew I had
to do it,” she explains.
In 2012, Qualley decamped for Los
Angeles to find an agent and begin
auditioning. After landing a small role
in Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto, she heard
Peter Berg was directing an HBO
pilot for Lost creator Damon Lindelof,
based on The Leftovers, Tom Perotta’s
2011 book in which millions of people
vanish after a rapture-like event. “At
first everyone thought I was too green
because I had never worked before, but
I loved the role; I didn’t want to miss
out,” she says. Her chemistry read with
Berg involved a set of impromptu pushups and repeatedly shouting out the
C-word. “I can’t even say that word,”
she whispers, covering her mouth.
Two weeks later, she booked the part.
Qualley brings restrained rage
to the role of Jill Garvey, a former
straight-A student turned high school
loner, whose police chief father (Justin
Theroux) struggles to keep order in
an unraveling town, while her
mother (Amy Brenneman) joins a
chain-smoking, vow-of-silence cult,
and her classmates turn to various
distractions—religion, sex, drugs—
to cope with the inexplicable event.
“Obviously, I haven’t had the same
life experience as Jill, but I know
what it’s like to feel like the world
is rushing by while you’re just
standing there,” she says.
Just standing there, as it turns out,
is a luxury Qualley can’t afford these
days—one last sip of coffee and her
publicist steps in to whisk her off to
a dress fitting for The Leftovers’ New
York premiere. “I really think I might
faint on the red carpet,” she says. “I
hate getting my photo taken, and I
have no idea what I’m going to wear.”
Whatever she chooses, when the
flashbulbs start to pop, you can bet
there won’t be a shin bruise in sight.

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