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April 14, 2016

Heart and Craft

Riley Keough keeps it real.

John Griffiths
  • Jacopo Moschin

Growing up American royalty has only fueled Riley Keough's yearning to keep it real.

The daughter of Lisa Marie Presley, granddaughter of Priscilla and Elvis, and stepdaughter of Michael Jackson, Keough isn't the blinged-out diva one might expect. "I'm just chilling," she reports by phone from her West Hollywood pad. "I ate a burrito."

In the new Starz drama The Girlfriend Experience (from executive producer Steven Soderbergh, it's inspired by his 2009 film), she plays Christine Reade, a coed who's also a call girl.

"Christine is smart and driven," she says of her character, "and the show makes no moral judgment about what she does. She doesn't really seem to care about people, though."

To prepare, Keough interviewed women who did sex work to help with tuition. The ladies' consensus? "They loved it." Still, the actress is dubious. "How do you sleep with somebody you're appalled by? Intimacy is key for me."

Born in Los Angeles, she spent her formative years in California, Hawaii and London, and was home-schooled. "I had more of a bullshit detector than your average kid," says Keough, who was five when her mom and dad (musician Danny Keogh) divorced. "Kids wanting to come to my house - I could sense agendas from a really young age.”

She's also good at getting noticed in her own right. After dabbling in modeling as a teen, she made a splash in 2010's Joan Jett biopic, The Runaways. In Magic Mike, she played a partying stripper with a pet pig. And she smoldered in last year's Mad Max: Fury Road as an ass-kicker named Capable (the film introduced her to her husband, Australian stuntman Ben Smith-Petersen). Next up was Lovesong, a youth drama that earned her raves at Sundance.

Directing shorts, producing (she co-produced and starred in this year's crime-romance Dixieland), maybe film school — they're all on her docket.

As for personal hurdles, "I'm understanding to a fault sometimes." But her Girlfriend character has got her thinking: "I need to work on being more heartless!"

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