Lessons In Chemistry Costar Stephanie Koenig on Her Third Hit TV Series, Her Love of Valley Living—and Pickleball
She’s on the verge.
Talk to Stephanie Koenig and you’d never know she had been a working actress for a decade. She has the enthusiasm of a newbie. Take what she says about her Lessons in Chemistry costar Brie Larson.
Off-the-shoulder wool crepe dress with zippers by Sergio Hudson, $3,195. Black patent leather heels by Christian Louboutin, $795.
“I was really nervous to work with Brie because I’m actually quite a huge fan. I’m a geek for Marvel movies, and she’s Captain Marvel!”
Or Miles Teller, her costar in the 2022 TV series The Offer.
“I thought maybe he was going to be reserved because he’s such a big star. You know: ‘Don’t talk to me, don’t bug me about the business.’ But I drilled him. I was like, ‘How was it working with Tom Cruise? Tell me everything!’”
Maybe it is because she grew up outside of Hollywood. Along with an older sister, she was raised in Rochester Hills, Michigan. “My mom was a secretary at Chrysler under the head of design. And my dad was an electrician on an assembly line.”
“I think naturally over the years, I’ve learned to keep my excitement tempered. I just don’t get too excited about things. I’m not like, ‘This role is going to change everything!’ I’m more like, ‘Oh God, I hope they like the work. I hope it turns out.’”
Or maybe it is because she hasn’t exploded—yet. Lessons in Chemistry, based on the New York Times best-selling book by Bonnie Garmus, is set to premiere in September. Apple+ is putting a lot of promotion behind it, and it is generating good buzz.
Still, Stephanie, who lives in Sherman Oaks with her actor husband, Chris Riggi, is pragmatic. After years of hits and misses, she understands how—from a mental standpoint—it’s important not to get ahead of your skis.
“I think naturally over the years, I’ve learned to keep my excitement tempered. I just don’t get too excited about things. I’m not like, ‘This role is going to change everything!’ I’m more like, ‘Oh God, I hope they like the work. I hope it turns out. I hope they edit it.’”
There is the constant hope that a project actually airs. Not always the case. She did a CBS pilot with Will & Grace creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, and her costar was Julie Bowen from Modern Family. It didn’t get picked up. There were a few other jobs that included a few more disappointments, and then, in 2020, a breakthrough role in HBO TV series The Flight Attendant costarring Kaely Cuoco. It got nominated for 12 Emmys, winning one.
A year or so later, she landed an even bigger part in The Offer, the Paramount+ series that chronicles the making of The Godfather. Stephanie plays a casting agent who has an affair with the main character, played by Miles Teller.
Strapless chiffon gown by Alexander McQueen, $3,900
And then last year: Lessons in Chemistry, a darkly funny and poignant story about a groundbreaking female chemist in the 1960s. Stephanie plays frumpy busybody Fran Frask, a secretary at the male-dominated Hastings Research Institute where the heroine, Elizabeth Zott, is also employed.
Each successive role has gotten more substantial. “In Flight Attendant, I died. In Offer, I lived, but only made it to episode five. In Lessons I make it to the final episode. Yippee!”
Lessons in Chemistry was shot over a three-month period in Los Angeles. She points to one scene at the historic Biltmore Hotel with lots of moving parts as one that was particularly exciting. “It’s always fun to do period pieces because they do a lot of the work for you. You don’t have to act like you’re in the ’60s. You don’t have to talk old-timey. You just have to look like a person back in the ’60s. They always had a wig ready for me, and all of these old clothes. It was a joy to do it.”
Double-breasted houndstooth blazer by Alexander McQueen, $2,900. High-waisted flare pants by Sergio Hudson, $1,095.
Stephanie was grateful the Lessons shoot was local. The actress had to be on set just months after she and Chris were married, and she didn’t want to put off starting their lives together as a couple. One of their first moves: relocating from West Hollywood to Sherman Oaks.
“We have three dogs, and we needed a place for them to run around. We found this magical place that has a huge backyard, and it’s so quiet. It also has some things I consider luxuries—I just started making some good money—like central air-conditioning and a washer and dryer in the house.”
She says she and Chris love to walk to the Boulevard and hit their favorite spots.
“We go to Hank’s Bagels and The Coffee Roaster a lot. Sometimes we go eat at Casa Vega. Right now I’m thinking about putting a pickleball court in our huge driveway. I like games. I have ladder ball, cornhole, and a Frisbee game. I also bought an inflatable pool. I’m just really enjoying our first house after being married. It’s everything that I expected.”
Photographed at the Velvet Martini Lounge in Studio City, a Rat Pack-inspired piano bar and restaurant with live music every evening. Located above Vitello’s eatery on Tujunga Avenue.
Editor’s note: This photo shoot and interview took place before 7/14/23, when the SAG-AFTRA/WGA strike went into effect.
The celeb hang-out of the 80s.