The Huntsville, Alabama-raised actress reflects on reconnecting with her roots, playing Delilah in The Delta Girl, and why she wants to see the South more authentically represented on screen

Interview by Jaclyn Bethany
Photographs by Joy Newell

You may recognize Caitlin Carver—the Huntsville, Alabama native and actress currently making a name for herself in the film world—from her standout role as Nancy Kerrigan opposite Margot Robbie in this year’s award-winning film I, Tonya. But if you’re just learning her name now, keep it front of mind: Carver is winning over audiences with her immense talent and wit, and she certainly won me over when we first met. She recently brought to life the progressive and risk-taking character of Delilah in The Delta Girl, my AFI Conservatory thesis film. Delilah is unafraid to go after what she wants, and the same could be said for Carver, who joins a growing league of young actresses carving out meaningful and distinct onscreen performances for themselves. —Jaclyn Bethany

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Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Caitlin! Where are you originally from, and where are you now based?
Caitlin Carver:
I was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, and I currently live in Los Angeles.

JB: How do you think growing up in the South shaped you? Do you have any favorite childhood memories? 
CC:
Being raised in the South taught me to always work hard and to be kind and loving to everyone. The most vivid childhood memories I have revolve around the atmosphere in Alabama. I remember the seasons; the green, vibrant landscape in the spring and summer, the leaves changing in the fall, the inch of snow we’d get in the winter. I remember walking to the bus stop in the mornings and smelling the crisp, fresh air. It was such a warm feeling. I loved swimming in the lake, fishing with my brothers, dancing in the front yard, having bonfires with friends, and cooking dinner with my family.

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I remember the seasons; the green, vibrant landscape in the spring and summer, the leaves changing in the fall, the inch of snow we’d get in the winter.

JB: What’s something unique about your hometown? 
CC:
We have the Space and Rocket Center! (laughs) And the Redstone Arsenal, where both of my parents work. It is the Army’s center for missile and rocket programs. Those are just unique places Huntsville is home to. For me personally, though, it’s the people, the Southern hospitality. Nothing can compare to that.

JB: What attracted you to the story told in The Delta Girl, and to the character of Delilah?
CC:
I spent last summer in Neshoba County, Mississippi with my family, and ever since then, I’ve wanted to tell a story like this. When you sent me the script, Jaclyn, I fell in love. It was exactly the type of script I was looking for. It’s a sensitive topic that she and Natalie tackled with so much grace. I related so much to Delilah, in that I always follow my heart without question. Her braveness is inspiring.

Although this film is set in the ‘60s, during a horrible, violent, segregated time in the South, it is, unfortunately, still relevant. The things I witnessed last summer in Mississippi reminded me of that, which is why I felt The Delta Girl was an extremely important story to tell.

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JB: We don’t often see the Deep South portrayed in films and in art––why do you think it’s important to portray this part of the country?
CC: I guess because it’s a foreign world to a lot of people. I think there are a lot of topics centered in the Deep South that people are afraid to talk about. I hope The Delta Girl will encourage others to share their stories and ideas about the South.

JB: Turning to Hollywood, who do you look up to in the industry right now?
CC:
That’s hard, as there are so many women I look up to and feel inspired by at the moment. Reese Witherspoon comes to my mind first, though. So I’ll go with her!

JB: Do you have a favorite food memory from growing up in the South? 
CC:
My great-grandmother was the best cook in the entire world. She raised my mom and taught her everything she knows about cooking. So I’d say my favorite southern food is anything they’d make, which usually consisted of massive amounts of butter, cheese, and Crisco. I love casseroles, homemade biscuits, and pecan pie.

JB: What's next for you?
CC: To continue telling creative, exhilarating stories that inspire me. ★

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Styled by Emma Larsen. Beauty by Whitney Olson. Styling Credits: Green top and pink skirt: Top — Fabiana Pigna; Skirt — Maria Stanley; Jewelry — mondo mondo. White top and striped skirt: Fabiana Pigna. Brown dress: Dress — Fabiana Pigna; Earrings — mondo mondo.