Abigail Breslin: 'I had to learn how to use a typewriter'

Ed Symkus

Abigail Breslin turned 12 in April, yet she’s a veteran actor. The TV commercials started at age 3, and now she has a starring role — and her name above the title! — in the new film “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.”

You remember Breslin. She picked up a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her turn as an unlikely beauty pageant contestant in “Little Miss Sunshine.”

She’s been surprisingly adept onscreen, playing cute and vibrant (“Little Miss Sunshine”), eccentric (“Signs”), and insightful (“Definitely, Maybe”). But in person, she’s — and this news is nothing less than refreshing — a little girl, no airs about her, giggling, squirming a little at certain questions

Yes, Abigail Breslin appears to be the real thing: a normal, everyday kid who happens to be a very convincing actress. If she doesn’t follow her secondary dream of becoming a veterinarian, and stays with acting, perhaps she’ll take home one of those Oscars some day.

In “Kit Kittredge,” which is based on the successful series of books and absurdly expensive line of American Girl dolls, she plays the title character, a happy 10-year-old who, along with her family, is going through some tough times during the Depression. But her friends, and her dreams of becoming a reporter, help her get by.

Sitting with her mom in a room at the new Liberty Hotel, she seems a little tired (it’s almost noon, and she’s been doing interviews for about three hours), but there’s still a sparkle in her eyes, and she does her spunky best to answer questions and toss in a smile with most of her replies.

“I had to learn how to use a typewriter,” she says of her preparation for the role. “When I saw it I said, ‘Where’s the screen?’ That was really weird. But I don’t think I would be a very good reporter because Kit takes a lot of notes, and I wouldn’t be able to keep track.”

She explains that she doesn’t take notes in real life because she’s home-schooled.

But, she’s asked, don’t you still have to take notes?

“Naw, not so much,” she says. Then her mom chimes in with, “She’s a very good student.”

One thing she didn’t learn much about in her home schooling is the Depression, which is painted in the film as being a time of hunger, uncertainty and thievery. So she asked her grandmother.

“She told me some things,” says Breslin. “But I learned a lot while doing the movie, too. I read all the Kit books, but working on the movie, I would hear things and ask, ‘What does this mean?’ I asked anybody on the set.”

Breslin has said in previous interviews that she chooses to play characters that she’d actually like to know. She certainly would enjoy knowing Kit.

“She is very curious, always asking questions, because she wants to be a reporter,” says Breslin. “ But the thing I like about her is that she shares what she has, even if it’s not a lot. I think that’s something that’s really cool about her, and I think she’s a lot more brave than I am.”