Previously Known For: The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Harriet the Spy, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
|Currently Known For: Gossip Girl and Killing Kennedy|
“My confidence comes from me, Michelle, as a person. I don’t necessarily believe that I will act and be a lead forever, but I want to continue to act for a long time. I love to do what I do.” Most often recognized for her performance as the vindictive Georgina Sparks on Gossip Girl, Michelle Trachtenberg was only a child when she got her start in Hollywood on an episode of Law & Order in 1991. With undeniable talent, finding work wasn’t difficult with Trachtenberg snagging recurring roles on All My Children and The Adventures of Pete & Pete before she turned heads for her starring role on the silver screen in Harriet the Spy. Over the next decade, she made the transition from child star to beautiful actress thanks to credits in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gossip Girl. Now taking on more serious projects like Killing Kennedy, let’s take a look at how the 32-year-old has made a name for herself in Hollywood over the last 20 years!
A first-generation American born to Jewish immigrants from Germany and Russia, Michelle Christine Trachtenberg made her grand entrance into the world on October 11, 1986 in New York City, New York. Although her parents didn’t have any ties to the entertainment industry, that didn’t stop Trachtenberg from dreaming of taking the stage as she made her television debut in a commercial for Wisk laundry detergent and went on to appear in over 100 ads. “My mom wasn’t even familiar with how to go on auditions and push your daughter,” Trachtenberg said of her start. “I was watching TV and there was a little girl playing with a Barbie doll and I was like, ‘I want a Barbie doll. How do I get that Barbie doll? I have to be on TV!’”
Making an agreement with her mother to finish high school being fully committing to acting full-time, Trachtenberg was eight years old when she snagged a recurring role as Lily Benton Montgomery on the daytime soap opera, All My Children. Returning to the role over the next three years, even bigger things were in store for Trachtenberg in 1994 when she was cast as Nona F. Mecklenberg on The Adventures of Pete & Pete. By the time she wrapped up the series in 1996, she’d set her sights on the silver screen when she starred as Harriet M. Welsch in Harriet the Spy and earned a Young Artist Award for her performance as Maggie Parker in Meego. After starring as Penny in the 1999 comedy Inspector Gadget, Trachtenberg joined her longtime friend and former All My Children costar, Sarah Michelle Gellar, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“I had actually started watching Buffy because of Sarah, because I was a fan of her movies,” Trachtenberg said of landing the part of Dawn Summers. “I kept in touch with Sarah through the years, and because Buffy had become my real favorite show, I had always tried to think of ways for me to guest star on the show, and I heard about the call one day. Sarah was always very supportive…”
Trachtenberg’s guest role on Buffy lasted the next three years as she balanced her busy filming schedule with her schoolwork, still keeping the promise she made to her mother. “I have to always have a teacher on set,” Trachtenberg said. “Education is very important to me. I believe that, God forbid, if this acting thing doesn’t work out for me, I have to have a solid background behind me, and I’ve been raised believing that education is very enriching and very important, and that’s the moral that I’ve applied to my life… I want to go to university one day and I want to major in the behind-the-camera stuff. I want to learn how to make movies…”
After wrapping up Buffy in 2003, Trachtenberg continued hosting Truth or Scare before she joined Hayden Panettiere, Joan Cusack and Kim Cattrall in the 2005 figure-skating flick, Ice Princess. She added in cameos on television series like Six Feet Under, Robot Chicken and Law & Order as well as in flicks like Black Christmas and Beautiful Ohio, the latter of which earned her a Sarasota Film Festival Award. Then, in 2008, she snagged another supporting role, this time as Georgina Sparks in the popular teen drama, Gossip Girl.
“It’s super fun to play the bad girl,” Trachtenberg said of the series. “I love bringing out the inner nasty. Every woman secretly has an inner b---h deep down inside—including myself. But with the scenarios that Georgina is in and the lines from the script, the evil naturally comes out and flows really well for me. I don’t take the nastiness off-set, but sometimes when the paparazzi get in my face, Georgina comes out.”
After Gossip Girl, Trachtenberg chased another huge opportunity when she read the script for a television film called Killing Kennedy. Instantly drawn to the part of Marina Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald’s Russian wife, Trachtenberg proved she was fluent in Russian and landed the role as she set out to show the dynamics of Marina’s relationship with Lee, the infamous John F. Kennedy assassin. “One of the main reasons I wanted to play Marina, but not necessarily meet her, because we don’t really know that much about her, I wanted it to be organic. I thought it was brilliant to be able to create something that people hadn’t seen, but also to honor a woman who’s still alive,” Trachtenberg said of preparing for the film. “There were times when Marina was in love with her husband, and there were times when she was petrified of her husband, and there were times when she was angry with her husband. It’s also remarkable for Russian woman in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s to stand up for herself and take her children away from a man that was hitting her. Normally during that time, from what I understand, no matter what, you stood by your man and you took it, and Marina didn’t…”
Giving a stellar performance in the film, Trachtenberg has spent the last few years making cameos in series like NCIS: Los Angeles and Sleepy Hollow with her last silver screen credit coming in the 2016 flick, Sister Cities. Of course, the 32-year-old credits her success to gratitude and knowing that her stardom can disappear just as quickly as it came. “I’ve always known that I’m lucky to be an actress, and I’m lucky to be a working actress,” she says. “I’m lucky to have garnered attention for certain roles, and I’m grateful for it. I know that there are a billion girls out there that would kill to be in my position, and I never forget that. That’s probably the key to my success at the end of the day.”