Watching actress Krysten Ritter is an exercise in reconciling light with dark. First, there is her look. Naturally raven-haired with large doe eyes and pale skin, the 28-year-old former model simultaneously projects the innocence and sincerity of gamine, classic beauties like Audrey Hepburn as well as the off-kilter intensity of eccentrics like Helena Bonham Carter.

Then there is her body of work. On one hand, Ritter, a Pennsylvania native, is best known for her supporting roles in big screen romantic comedies, from 27 Dresses and What Happens In Vegas to a notable role as Isla Fisher’s best friend Suze in Confessions of a Shopaholic. Her turns as the charming if sardonic sidekick in quick-witted, female-centric TV shows such as Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl also proves she shines when given sharp dialogue and a distinct point of view. There’s no doubt Ritter’s got a proclivity for comedy. “I love making people laugh—I’ll flip my dress over my head if it gets people to laugh,” she said. “There’s something to be said about laughing all day and getting paid to do it.”

As soon as you’ve pegged her for a strictly comedic actress, Ritter surprises with a dark, dramatic role. For the 2008 independent film Frost, she played a heroin addict. When Ritter played tattoo artist and recovering addict Jane Margolis on AMC’s Breaking Bad, her harrowing depiction of Margolis’ downward spiral back into drugs and subsequent death won critical acclaim and the industry’s attention.

Breaking Bad was important because of what it allowed me to do,” Ritter said. “ [The show’s creator and executive producer] Vince Gilligan gave me a real shot. I felt at that point, I wasn’t given that kind of opportunity. The writing and acting was so good, you felt you had to bring your A-game every day.”

Breaking Bad opened the door to Ritter being cast in her first lead in a TV show, Starz’s upcoming dramatic series Gravity. She’ll star opposite Ivan Sergei and Ving Rhames as a suicide survivor enrolled in an outpatient program. For Ritter, her leading lady status offsets the fact that she’s playing a depressed character.

“I felt very ready for it,” she said. “My career has been little baby steps and progressions that I felt I had gotten there. You’re the first one in and the last one to leave. Your personal life fades away, which is fine. You have to accept that.”

Her Gravity character, however, is as bleak as Ritter gets this year. She appears in two comedies this spring: She’s Out of My League with Knocked Up’s Jay Baruchel and How to Make Love to a Woman, where she’s the object of the lead character’s affection. “It was the first time I had my own funny friend,” Ritter laughed. “It was traumatic. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I’m the funny friend!’”

Ritter also begins production on two projects that bring her closer to her natural sensibilities. The first, a rock-and-roll biopic titled Killing Bono, tells the story of U2 from a rival band’s perspective. “It’s right up my alley,” said Ritter who sings and plays guitar with a band called Ex Vivian when she has the time. “It’s written by the same guy as The Commitments, which I loved. It shoots in Ireland and Bono is making a cameo.”

For the second project, Ritter teams up with director Amy Heckerling (Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) to play one of the leads on Vamps, a comedy about two vampire best friends run amuck in New York City. “Amy Heckerling, to me, is an icon,” Ritter gushed. “When they called to tell me I got the offer, I thought they were messing with me. It’s going to be the epitome of what she does.”

With her star rising, Ritter remains grounded by her love for the craft of acting. “I come from a very small town and I grew up without knowing what I wanted or how to make myself happy,” she said. “When I found something that I loved, I felt very grateful for it. I want to work hard and take good care of it.”

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of ANTENNA.)