“I was really struggling through awards season. [I thought,] ‘If this is what I’ve been working so hard for, then why am I not enjoying it more?’ Things like that,” she reveals. “But we got into rehearsals for [the Seth Rogen movie] and I was surrounded by these great actors and this great director, and we were just focusing in on the words, the scene, the characters, and it all became very clear to me: I didn’t work so hard to wear designer dresses or go to dinners with foods I can’t pronounce. I did it for this. This is who I am.”
The irony of Kendrick’s distaste for high fashion is that the 5-year-old version of her would have adored such frilly duds. She grew up in Portland, Maine, toddling her way through a happy childhood scored by show tunes while dressed in tiaras and tutus. All the world was indeed her stage, and by design: At age 6, she was doing community productions of Annie and Gypsy.
“I used to be this girly, princessy little kid, and I had this weird idea about what adults were like, that all of the women of the world wore high heels and tutus. I might have been wrong,” she says, laughing. “But I really wanted to be grown-up. I wanted to be big.”
For many years, size definitely mattered to Kendrick, her otherwise idyllic upbringing marred by her comparatively pint-size physique and the cruel attention it was paid on the schoolyard. “Kids can be mean,” remembers Kendrick, who today stands 5 feet 1 inch tall. Fifteen rounds of playground agony inspired Kendrick to search for a place where she belonged. The viciousness of her peers was finally relieved when she, quite literally, found her voice onstage. “I remember auditioning for these musicals and singing these songs and being told by casting agents and directors, ‘You have a giant voice’ or ‘You’re a big singer,’ ” she says. “That kind of validation immediately caught my attention. There was one place in the world where I wasn’t tiny.”
As far as friend and co-star Rogen is concerned, Kendrick has never had a problem measuring up with her generation’s finest actors. “The first time I met Anna, I was blown away by how powerful such a small person could be. As a huge person, I attribute a lot of my presence to my sheer occupation of space,” he says. “Anna proves that theory wrong. Never has such a tiny person been such a presence in a room.”
Before Kendrick was a teenager, she was holding her own on some of the world’s biggest stages, treading the boards on Broadway. She and her older brother, Michael, would commute on Greyhound buses from Portland to New York City for auditions. She landed plum roles in big shows such as High Society (for which she was nominated for a Tony), a musical adaptation of the classic film The Philadelphia Story and Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. When Hollywood beckoned, Kendrick moved west and did a round of failed television pilots that kept her from waiting tables, then quickly landed her first film role in 2003’s Camp. Small-statured though she may be, Kendrick’s star wattage has always been big enough to avoid the bane of odd jobs that afflicts most Hollywood comers.