If you didn’t know any better, you might not realize that Maia Mitchell is one of the stars of Freeform’s hit show, Good Trouble. You wouldn’t think she shared a steamy scene with Riverdale’s KJ Apa in Netflix’s Last Summer (we’re jealous), or that, on Instagram, she has over six million followers. During her fashion shoot with InStyle, she’s quiet and down-to-earth, giggling occasionally when the sun is in her eyes and wondering how the heck to get the fluffiest of designs over her head. A few days later, over the phone, she casually talks about growing up, admitting to some very relatable struggles for a mid-20-something.
“25 has been a really interesting year for me,” she says when asked about the good ol’ quarter-life crisis. “I think it's when you stop being able to excuse yourself from certain patterns of behavior. And, at least for me, it's when I've really had to question certain decisions I've made.”
One of those decisions involved moving to Los Angeles from Australia at the age 18, with every intention of heading back home at some point. But, despite never taking an acting class, Mitchell’s career took off. She later landed a role on The Fosters, and since then, it’s been full steam ahead.
“I've also developed a four-year relationship while I've been here” Mitchell adds, talking about her Insta-famous comedian boyfriend, Rudy Mancuso. “And my career is going great and that's my first priority. So I will stay here. It's been a really interesting time of just re-shifting my plans, where I'm at, and being kind to myself in that. It's been a really weird year.”
Of course, by weird, we’re assuming Mitchell also means amazing. Good Trouble — a spinoff of The Fosters in which her character, Callie Adams Foster, is now a law clerk — just came back for its second season. Along with her admittedly dark short, Strobe, which touches on social media and fandoms, and her upcoming movie, Whisper, which Mitchell describes as a “kind of morbid revenge thriller” about dating, the actress is landing more serious roles that deal with difficult issues.
“I definitely, since my Disney days, have made an effort to delve a little deeper,” Mitchell tells us. “Good Trouble was another really good opportunity to do that. It was a character that I know really well, but put in a different light. It's a little more sophisticated, which was exciting. Some of the themes are…I don't know if they're dark, but they're definitely more serious.”
As Callie, she’s been able to tackle some themes she’s familiar with, such as moving away for a job, but also explore stereotypes, activism, and relationship issues. The former ballet dancer even got to show off her moves on-screen at the end of last season. (“They sprung that on me,” Mitchell says with a laugh, talking about the now-famous tango scene. “I was exhausted, but that episode was fun.”)
Of course, there's also Callie’s wardrobe, which is full of power suits. That's not too shabby, either.
“I felt so weird about it because I look so young,” she reminisces about her first fitting, likening it to a kid trying on a Halloween costume. “But I love those power suits. I love being able to just kind of stroll into a judge's office [as Callie], wearing a power suit and six-inch stilettos, and give them piece of my mind.”
In real life, Mitchell’s style is more casual. Growing up in a small town, she mostly shopped secondhand and now frequents stores like Urban Outfitters and Reformation — the latter being her go-to for last-minute events. The actress is also a big fan of a classic outfit combination.
“I have too many pairs of jeans,” she admits. “That's pretty much my uniform — jeans and a tank. The older I get, the more girly I get, and the more I appreciate pinks, and ruffles, and that kind of thing.”
That’s good news, since we dressed her in sheer, sparkly, and poofy designs — something Mitchell swears she enjoyed.
“It's good to get out of my comfort zone and wear something a little more daring because I'm a little more conservative in my own life.”
With such a packed schedule, it’s understandable that Mitchell would have a sort of style uniform. On top of the aforementioned projects, she’s an executive producer on Good Trouble, and she often has to remind herself to focus on one work thing at a time.
“It means maybe not going out on a Friday night,” she tells us, talking about the struggle to find balance. “But that's just the sacrifice you make. Especially this year, just being in a different point in life, it's less about going out and being social and more about just keeping my head down, really hustling and working harder.”
Mitchell's advice for success? That's an easy one.
“Just being good at what you do. Work your way into the rooms and make your voice known.”
The actress also makes a point of taking time to reflect on it all.
“Lately, I've been doing a gratitude mantra, which sounds silly,” she says. “I'm a big believer in the Law of Attraction, and I think gratitude is the key to that. I think that's the key to everything.”
Photographs by Eric T. White, assisted by Cait Durra. Styled by Laurel Pantin. Hair by Matthew Monzon. Makeup by Deanna Mellusso. Art direction and production by Emily Shornick. Location provided by 525 W 52nd Street.