“Antes muerta que sencilla”(I’ll die before I’m basic) is the Spanish noughties hit that comes to mind when we meet the achingly cool budding actress, Devon Ross. Not only does she display John Berger’s concept of the primacy of the image, she is a Simone Rocha model whose looks cannot be ignored, but also, she naturally possesses the timid and melancholic character so coveted by writers and film directors. Like a living, breathing, glamourous film character acting out her own story, this young woman has finally broken into the industry. We discuss series versus films, her role in the highly meta Irma Vep (HBO Spain and US) and grounding in rock history.
Interview tak­en from METAL Magazine issue 47. Adapted for the online version. Order your copy here.
Tipped to be one to watch at Cannes, the daughter of a rockstar recently acted shoulder-to-shoulder with the Academy Award-winning Alicia Vikander. Schooled by the actress on set and with the supportive eye of Olivier Assayas, Devon’s method has blossomed. It reminds us of Kristen Stewart, who also appears in the series. Both never knowingly over-act. The value of these actresses being in their subtlety and beauty. Devon is the child of Craig Ross, Lenny Kravitz’ guitarist, and a 90s model, Anna. Modest, yet determined Devon Ross released music with a friend before now turning to acting, telling us she “really fell into this role”. We can’t wait to see what comes next. Becoming a Bardotesque muse for some 21st-century Godard would be ideal.

At home, what she holds dear remains her guitar and record collection, along with historic memories of the 60s and 70s rock n roll lifestyle explaining, “the older generation would burn rock records saying it was the devil’s music!” likely read in the pages of her vintage Rolling Stone magazine collection. Now Irma Vep hardly rebels appointing 80s band Sonic Youth to compose its score and soundtrack. Along with music knowledge, Devon knows her French new wave and black and white cinema too, passing the arbitrary interrogation. This interview displays her laid-back and evasive style evocative of the rockstars of old. Who we have “a lot to learn from” although, we haven’t put our finger on quite what yet.

The self-referential nature of the film Devon Ross stars in is mind-boggling. Irma Vep was first released in 1996 as a film inspired by the 1915 silent three-part serial Les Vampires. In 2022 the HBO series or long film as the trailer, Devon Ross and the director Oliver Assayas will have it, is a remake of his own 90s treasure. As the series commentates the making of a series from a film the acting director created, it reflects the real director’s genuine journey. What’s more, Irma Vep is an anagram for Vampire and the name of the sexy liberated catsuit clad lead, Anna. Devon’s character Regina assists Irma Vep off-set, and it’s the prime position for not-acting acting. This real and unreal understudy recites exciting concepts about cinema to a captivated audience. If the intention of cinema or series is escapism, it’s here. But it also makes us think. It screams of the value of not over- cooking your performance. The series within the series is a trainwreck hurtling into a The Room sort of space, we are relieved when the actors get back to acting as actors and not as their characters.
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Top MAISON MARGIELA from West Archive.
In your editorial you act out the perseverance of the dusty Paris, Texas lead, Travis Henderson. If you’re having a tough time, what keeps you going?
It depends, but watching films and listening to music always heals me. Just doing things that make me happy and hanging around the people I love. Playing guitar grounds me!
Is there something that you couldn’t live without?
I collect so many things that are found around my flat like my vintage Rolling Stone magazines I’ve been collecting since I was a teenager. My Les Paul guitar that I got for my 21st birthday is my prized possession though, it belonged to my dad for many years and means so much to me.
In 2022, what can we learn from the 60s musicians who pepper that collection of vinyl you have?
We can learn a lot from them. Back then there was a lot to be discovered, and I’m sure they had a lot of fun working that stuff out, and experimenting with new ideas. Rock and roll was a lot more controversial in those days. I mean the older generation would burn rock records saying it was “the devil’s music”! There was also a lot more mythology around that time as the musicians and the music itself was a lot more inaccessible and left more room for the listeners imagination. Nowadays you know what your favourite band had for breakfast, it’s less about the music. Now there’s a lot of pressure to try to make an original sound.
When you talk about pressure, do you also mean a financial pressure or a cultural pressure to conform?
Whenever you’re making something you really care about, there’s always some sort of pressure, whether it be financial or cultural or anything!
Yeah, I agree. Do you think the importance has shifted from refining your craft to achieving fame?
People have always wanted to be famous, it’s a tale as old as time. I think fame now is just something completely different from what it used to be. Andy Warhol said something like everybody is going to get their 15 minutes of fame, and now that’s actually true. I think he would’ve done really well on Instagram.
In your words, in an old interview, the 21st century needs George Harrison’s spiritual side and affinity with nature. Do you still feel this way?
I think the 21st century needs more of all of George’s sides.
Do you think spirituality is relevant nowadays?
Yes, I think spirituality is important as long as it doesn’t draw you too far away from reality.
Is the hippie renaissance coming?
I don’t know, maybe. I feel like a lot of people my age are into that sort of thing. Right? On the streets all the kids kind of dress like that now. So maybe, in a sense. Looks-wise, probably (laughs).
But then is that mediated via TikTok?
Yeah, I guess it seems like there is a renaissance of everything on Tik Tok. I don’t know much about that though.
Your aesthetic and creative output for me seems quite anchored in vintage influences. But are there any things that you do that feel far from that world? Like using a high-tech coffee machine every day, indulging in some pop or electronica.
Of course, I have an iPhone and my coffee machine is somewhat advanced, but I think it’s always good to return to more simple pleasures, like playing vinyl or reading.
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Sweater COMME DES GARÇONS, skirt PRADA, all from West Archive.
Music-wise, you’re a purist though?
Yeah, I like to keep things simple. I always have an open mind to things though. My friends show me new music all the time. They listen to a lot of 90s rock like Pavement. I’ve just never really paid that much attention to it before, but I like it. My friends are always getting me into new stuff.
Is popular music just not what it once was?
Stuff is just such changing all the time. That was just one period of time that I’m into, but nothing’s ever going to just stay the same. There’s always going to be new things. But there are still a lot of bands that appreciate that era and make music like that. It changes over time. Now, there’s like a million different types of music.
Can you name-check some London bands you like as fellow artists?
I saw Deadletter play last month, I thought they were really good. I also saw The Rolling Stones too. Man, they’ve still got it!
When you’re asked about your beauty muses, as you often mentioned, a mix of male and female references. Would you say you’ve grown up as a bit of a tomboy?
I really can go either way. I did go through a period of time though, in my teens and up until a few years ago, when, I was not into dressing girly at all. Then something happened and now I’m into it. But I am still a tomboy underneath it all.
Do you think that’s what’s in fashion right now androgyny or playing with the binary?
I don’t know, maybe. I feel like people now have more freedom to dress how they want.
Do you think modelling is harder than acting? Because one moment, a new face in fashion is exalted. And then the next moment, they’re thrown to the side. Whereas maybe actresses and actors can create more of a sense of heritage or security in their work, like music?
There’s definitely a time limit for modelling which you know getting into when you start. It doesn’t last forever. So, a lot of models have other things that they like doing, or people go back to school after. It’s all hard, in different ways. Acting is something you could do no matter what you look like. That’s cool to me.
Do you think that maybe the idea of beauty or ugliness could be assigned at random in a way? I like to think pugs are one of those conundrums where they’re so ugly they become beautiful.
That’s ugly-cute. I like that too.
How do we decide what’s beautiful? Since it’s always changing, does it mean that there is no essence?
It’s all subjective. Everyone finds different things beautiful. That’ll never change.
Growing up on tour with your dad, Craig Ross, and your model mum must have been quite the formative experience. Do you think it desensitised you somewhat to the world of fame or changed how you relate to rock and roll?
I mean, my mum was a model before I was born, so I didn’t grow up going on shoots with her or anything. But I got a sense of myself at a younger age by being around older people. I wasn’t afraid to talk to adults when I was a kid. I feel like that part of it was good. I could hold a pretty good conversation.
But I guess in terms of meeting those important people, or people who are famous, that’s something that not everyone would have experienced.
I grew up knowing that it wasn’t that normal. I respected that though. I’m lucky to have seen a lot of cool places at a young age.
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Top GAETANO NAVARRA form West Archive, shorts RABBIT.
When you live within a rock and roll world, it’s such a cool setting. How the hell do you rebel?
That’s a good question. I mean, I don’t know. I rebelled like any teenager would have at that age. You can always new find ways to piss off your parents. I love them though.
How do you feel about education?
Education is really important, but I was never one for school. It just never worked for me. I always moved schools and nothing ever felt right. The normal school system is not for everyone. But learning in general is important, however you want to do it.
Do you mind getting recognised on the street?
I don’t get recognised, really. It’s great.
Maybe being in London is kind of protective because it’s been hard to stream HBO from here, even though you can watch in Spain and the US. Over here you have to really dig.
Yeah. Absolutely. Maybe you can ask me again next month.
On the topic of privacy, nowadays with social media it seems to be something we care less and less about. What do you think?
I don’t post anything private. It’s good to keep somewhat of a distance between social media and your home life. People don’t need to know everything.
So, no reality TV shows for you.
Nope, I don’t see that in the future. I was talking today about the Ozzy Osbourne reality show. Do you ever watch that? It’s really good. It’s Ozzy just yelling at his dogs and it’s really funny.
Further into the realm of acting, we loved Irma Vep. It’s billed to be your acting debut, but on Mubi and IMDb, they quote you as an actress in two short films by director Mona Zaidi. There is only one of them still around online called Ryuichi Sakamoto async and it features a young girl, is that you? Did you really start from zero?
That’s actually one of my mum’s old best friends and I did a short film for her when I was a kid. It’s funny that it’s on IMDb there’s also a few other things on there that are not me, like Heavenly High or something.
Yes, you’re credited as a DJ, I didn’t think that was true.
In ’94, like yeah right.
Straight out of the womb into DJing. No, pre-birth.
I know, weird.
Did you enjoy being in Zaidi’s shorts? Do you think it set you up a little bit? It seems very experimental.
I did, I remember enjoying it. I just loved like being in front of the camera when I was a kid. I think I was like 8 or 9 or something. I was super young when I did that.
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Jeans and shoes CELINE, jacket YVES SAINT LAURENT vintage, vest HELMUT LANG from West Archive.
Congratulations on being billed as one to watch at Cannes. Your acting technique partly learnt from co- star Alicia Vikander on set, leans more towards the Kristen Stewart approach, in my opinion – deadpan, internalised, a little bit less approachable. In episode three when Alicia (or Mira) appears naked in front of you (Regina) your response is almost unreadable. Was that intentional?
Yeah, with this story, the way the show goes, you don’t really know what’s happening because all the girls are looking at Mira like that. We just don’t know which one she’s going to end up with. So yeah, definitely I tried to keep mysterious.
More generally, do enjoy cultivating mystery?
Do I enjoy it? I don’t know if I purposefully do that. I think that might actually be an accident, if that’s how I come across.
Back when you lived in LA, your friendship group was mostly art school types. And now with your very strong start in acting, would you be tempted to study it? Or are you going to hold fast to your dad’s advice to teach yourself everything?
I really fell into this role, and was seriously dropped in the deep end. But I loved every minute of it and I learnt so much from everyone. I think I’ll just keep going and continue to learn from others.
That crossover between documentary and film is a technique from the late 50s. The French new wave directors like Godard in Au Bout de Souffle went around just recording people with a handheld camera and improvised. Would you like to do something like that, do you think?
I mean, that’d be great. I love the natural style. And I love Godard too.
Yeah, he’s good fun, but also, semi-problematic in terms of representation of women. What do you think?
Sure. I think that’s true. His films are beautiful though.
When you were in Paris, did you pick up any French or hearing and speaking different languages kind of change the way you think?
I grew up travelling, so I knew a few words in different languages. I find French really hard but I picked up a few words while I was there. I find Spanish a bit easier...
That’s okay. I think Spanish grammar is a lot more accessible than French because French breaks every single rule.
Yeah, I don’t get it (laughs). I’d love to learn one day.
What was the last film that you saw on the big screen?
We watched Grease the other night. It’s always so good.
Have you found like a cool cinema near you in London?
There are so many cool ones here. They’re old and beautiful. I love it.
Is there something special about old, black-and-white films? How do you think film has changed since then?
Definitely, I think black-and-white films are really special. They gave way for people to make the films they make today. In Irma Vep, the film they are making is a remake of a silent era film called Les Vampires (1915). Olivier plays homage to this incredible film and celebrates black and white in the new adaption.
I love the character of Regina’s smart defence of the series as a serial, like a historic format. And the ensuing debate from the characters about content and the film industry. It felt very meta, like the old Spiderman meme where they’re pointing at each other.
Yeah, the whole thing was very meta. We were living in Paris, working with Olivier, who René is loosely based on. And he never even called it a TV show. He just always said it was a long movie, which is what René did.
I love that quote.
Watching the show again now I’m slowly noticing more and more little similarities between them. This story is very personal to Olivier.
Where do you stand on the series versus films debate Regina takes part in? It sounds to me like you love a series.
I love both. I do love a series. Both are great for different reasons. It’s fun to binge-watch a show, but it’s also, really, more meaningful sometimes to watch a film and everything’s compressed. Maybe it hits you harder sometimes. They’re both equally as great and shows have evolved so much over time. Now they’re super long movies!
The feeling you get scrolling through Netflix overwhelmed by choice is so prevalent it had its own TED talk, is more really more?
It relates to what I said earlier about there being so many genres of music. Yeah, there’s so much choice on Netflix. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because there’s something for everyone, I guess. I still can’t seem to find a show though!
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Full look CELINE.
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Jacket PRADA.
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Jeans and shoes CELINE, jacket YVES SAINT LAURENT vintage, vest HELMUT LANG from West Archive.
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Cardigan and shoes CHANEL vintage, tank top CÉLINE from West Archive, leggings PRADA, tights NENSI DOJAKA.
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Jumpsuit vintage, shoes PRADA.
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Top and skirt LOUIS VUITTON, shoes CELINE, socks Devon’s own.
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