Devon Ross’ next move
Having coffee with someone who oscillates between anonymity and fame provides a kind of prickly thrill. Something about the mix of caffeine and clairvoyance makes even the most jaded culture reporter remember why she started doing this in the first place.
I can tell the waiter at this trendy TriBeCa hotel cafe knows the feel, as he shiveringly places a mug of black coffee in front of Devon Ross, a clean-faced beauty with a raven-colored ’70s shag cut . The morning in question, we are a few days away from the Cannes premiere of Irma Vep— the HBO limited series in which the 22-year-old model made her acting debut — where she oozed Old Hollywood glamor and Gen Z je ne sais quoi in a cream silk Celine dress and pearl-studded finger waves. Still, I feel like our waiter knows she’s someone he should be able to recognize.
Likewise, Ross’s black sweater bears the face of a woman that looks familiar to me, but I can’t place it. “She’s my boyfriend’s mom,” she says—Susie Cave, co-founder of clothing brand The Vampire’s Wife; wife of musician Nick Cave; and mother of Ross’ partner, actor Earl Cave. Ross met Earl while filming a 2020 Disney x Gucci campaign.
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“We didn’t really talk that day,” she said with a smile. “We were both very shy, I was timed and it was around 4 a.m. backstage at Disneyland. I could see Chewbacca in his mask smoking a cigarette! She laughs, remembering being scolded by Disney staff for trying FaceTime with a friend, and quickly regrets telling me the Chewbacca story, pleading into my recorder, “Don’t come for me, Disney!”
Ross became aware of the Irma Vep project through her modeling agents and submitted an audition tape. “I had never made a tape in my life. I only know what it is because my boyfriend is an actor,” she says. “I was outside my doctor’s office when they offered me the role. I was like, ‘What? Are you kidding?’ ”
By now, our server has probably heard of writer-director Olivier Assayas’ series about the remake of a French silent film (The vampires), which is itself an updated remake of Assayas’ 1996 film, also called Irma Vep (the name of the main character in The vampires and an anagram of “vampire”). It’s funny and smart and meta – the kind of project upon a project that might inspire a magazine writer to open a celebrity profile with a celebrity profile sausage-making treat. It’s also the kind of project one expects from Assayas, who began his career as a critic for the influential French film magazine Cinema Notebooks. Ross met Assayas just before filming began, and the two hit it off. “He’s the coolest guy,” she says. “He was in London in the 70s, which is my dream. I was like, ‘Tell me everything!’ ”
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Watching Ross’ tape, Assayas felt stunned. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said. He hadn’t met anyone for the role of Regina, an aspiring filmmaker and assistant to Mira (Alicia Vikander), an American movie star who came to Paris to play Irma Vep, and he told his casting director to stop casting. look for. “I loved everything about her. She just magnetizes the camera and has this deep, mysterious beauty that you don’t often encounter.
Full of ironic nods to the seriousness of cinema, as well as grumpy waltz directors dancing with wealthy gatekeepers so their movies can see the light of a spotlight, the series also hints at the worlds of modern cinema, like the streaming algorithms and privacy coordinators. “When you’re a filmmaker and you’re writing a story about cinema, you’re kind of every character,” Assayas says. “And part of the fun of the show is me making fun of myself. But in Devon’s case, there was something special about his character that I wasn’t making fun of. When you’re a young artist budding, you don’t have an ironic vision, you are very serious, and I wanted to respect this seriousness.
Joining a cast of seasoned actors as a novice was daunting, but Ross never felt like a newbie. “I didn’t want someone, like, watching over me. I wanted to learn by doing that,” she says. “Most of my scenes were with Alicia, so I just watched her and slowly learned the terminology.” By design, there’s a naturalness to all of the performances – Vikander’s character slips between Mira and Irma, and to some extent Alicia, whether the tape is running or not. Assayas saw a similar authenticity in Ross. “I was playing with fire a bit,” he says of hiring someone who had never acted before. “But she has great instincts, and what she did was way beyond my expectations.”
Born in Toronto to Craig Ross, lead guitarist for Lenny Kravitz, and Anna Bauer, a former model, Ross spent her summers on the road with her father. Before fans showed up, she and her sister, Mia, were riding through empty stadiums on their scooters. “We would go to the wardrobe and ask them if they needed help sewing,” she says. “We were just trying to be little helpers, and then I fell asleep in my dad’s guitar case.”
“It was just no after no after no, but I never really got discouraged. I’d be like, ‘Anyway, you’re crazy. You’re really going to regret it one day!’
A few years after his parents separated, Ross moved to Los Angeles to live with his father. But she knew early on that she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps, career-wise. At 5ft 7in, she was turned down by several modeling agencies. “It was just no after no after no,” she says. “But I never really got discouraged. I have always taken rejection well. I would say, ‘Anyway, you guys are crazy. You will really regret it one day!’ She eventually caught the eye of Alessandro Michele of Gucci, and from that moment her career took off.
Ross started homeschooling, then dropped out in grade 11 because, she says, “I really wanted to be an adult.” During a rebellious period of her teenage years spent with her mother in Toronto, Ross recalls making frequent trips to New York to stay with Zoë Kravitz, whom she calls her “godmother” (Lenny is her godfather). Most recently, the two appeared in a YSL Beauty campaign.
Another youthful rebellion involved declaring an anti-guitar stance. Despite her protests, she says, “I’ve always had a knack for it.” Ross spent the start of the pandemic with his father in Los Angeles. To ease the boredom, they played music together and posted the videos on Instagram. “I’d have him play rhythm, and I’d play the lead, which is so funny, but he’s my favorite person to play with,” Ross says. These days, she divides her time between LA and London. After packing Irma Vep, she co-wrote songs and played guitar on her friend Camille Jansen’s upcoming solo album. Soon Ross will focus on his own music: “I’m definitely going to start a band when I get back to London.”
Hair by Shay Ashual and makeup by Mark Carrasquillo, both at R3-MGMT; manicure by Aki Hirayama at Tracey Mattingly Agency; produced by Drita Curanaj at 1972 Agency.
This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of ELLE.
Melissa Giannini is ELLE’s feature director.