Kaia Gerber
Photography by Getty Images

Be Nice to Kaia Gerber

Compassion doesn't come easy in Apple TV+'s 'Palm Royale' — or in the real world. Kaia Gerber has thoughts about that.

Kaia Gerber wishes we said “sorry” a little more often. “People apologizing when they bump into you? That feels like it should go without saying, but it doesn’t — at all.” The model-turned-actor is calling from her home in Los Angeles, and the conversation has turned to common decencies.

“Sometimes just acknowledging that you’re wrong can be pretty powerful,” I offer. But Gerber isn’t even asking for that much. “Yeah, or just that I exist, maybe.” For her, simple goodwill gestures go a long way.

Expectations of etiquette and thorny pricks of impoliteness are the underlying premise of Palm Royale, Apple TV+’s new dramedy that stars Kaia Gerber alongside legends like Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern and Carol Burnett. Satirizing the social-climbing scene of 1960s South Florida, the sun-drenched romp is all things soapy, silly and shamelessly melodramatic. And it marks the latest addition to Gerber’s acting resume, as the high fashion muse shifts her focus from walking runways to collecting cast credits.

Kaia Gerber acting in Palm Royale
Photography courtesy of Apple TV+

Brimming with busy bubblegum prints and codes of conspicuous consumption, Palm Royale is a whacky ride examining anxieties of the status-seeking elite. Gerber’s character Mitzi — a sweet but naive ingenue — exists on the periphery of this privileged bubble. She’s introduced as an aspiring model with a belittling boyfriend, working a slew of day jobs from manicurist to cocktail waitress. Despite her charming sincerity, Mitzi’s biggest flaw is failing to see her own value. Kaia Gerber empathizes with that.

“Every person has insecurities, and especially as a woman — and a woman whose job it is to be looked at in that way — it can do a lot to your self-esteem,” she says. “I started modelling quite young, so I relate to the lack of experience, and maybe a lack of self-awareness, in certain ways.”

Kaia Gerber acting in Palm Royale
Photography courtesy of Apple TV+

Growing up with Cindy Crawford as a mom, Gerber’s professional foray into the fashion industry was practically a given. (She made her modelling debut at 10 years old.) When I ask if she connects to Mitzi being underestimated, she shoots back dryly, as if we both already know the answer. “No, I don’t relate to that at all,” Gerber says, adding a giggle to confirm that she is, obviously, kidding. Of course she knows the feeling.

As the daughter of a world-renowned supermodel, the 22-year-old is no stranger to quick judgments. Born into stardom by association, she has, in recent years, become a fixture of the viral nepo baby discourse. But unlike many celebs with A-list parents, Gerber doesn’t deny the unfair advantages of having a famous family. Still, with a private life propped under pop culture’s microscope, it’s no surprise that she’s a fan of not assuming the worst in others.

Kaia Gerber acting in Palm Royale
Photography courtesy of Apple TV+

“I remember every time that I’ve needed kindness and someone has given it to me,” she tells me. “I know how important that can be; how powerful that can be. And I would never want to miss the opportunity to do that for somebody else.” This sort of sensitivity translates to her onscreen counterpart. In a show predicated on conditional allies and malicious gossip, well-meaning Mitzi is a reprieve.

The role is comparable to Gerber’s previous gig in Emma Seligman’s 2023 lesbian comedy Bottoms. In the cult-favourite film, she plays Brittany, a cheerleader who’s positioned as vapid but whose quips sharpen as the story progresses.

 

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Both Mitzi and Brittany are beautiful (obviously), endearingly ditzy upon first impressions and misjudged at the core. Also, they’re both really funny. The latter can be chalked up to Gerber’s take on these supporting roles, as she flips the script on the airhead archetype by getting in on the joke. It’s clear she’s not just taking random roles to bloat her portfolio; she’s choosing projects — and characters — she believes in.

Kaia Gerber acting in Palm Royale
Photography courtesy of Apple TV+

Delivering customer service with a smile to the unbearable upper crust, Mitzi’s rose-coloured glasses keep her from getting jaded, which Gerber admires. “As easy as it is to become pessimistic today, life is so much more enjoyable when you believe the good in people,” she says. At the same time, Mitzi is perhaps too trusting, getting entangled in a life-altering affair with murky power imbalances. “I think that Mitzi sees the good in people to a fault,” the actor reflects. “And maybe she’s not fully protecting herself.” It begs the question: Is unguarded kindness worth it if you risk being met with manipulation? Gerber seems to think so.

“It says a lot more about the people who take advantage of you than it does about you,” she muses, adding that it’s possible to practice self-preservation while still being pleasant. At this point, we’re not really talking about Mitzi anymore. “One of the things I learned through watching the incredible actresses I got to work with is you can have boundaries and still be nice,” says Kaia Gerber, who filmed Palm Royale with Wiig, Dern and Burnett. “As a woman in this industry, you never want to be called ‘difficult,’ but I’ve learned that sometimes when they’re calling you ‘difficult,’ it’s really that you have boundaries and that you care.”

Caring is not always popular, but it tends to make you want to understand people more, even if just through small-scale niceties. This is probably why, when asked which courtesy Gerber wishes was more common, she lands on the informal apology.

Just like her Palm Royale character, Kaia Gerber knows what it’s like to be seen as weak, she says. But why should she harden? “What I love about Mitzi and the way that her character develops is that you do see her start to find herself; find her strength and learn and grow.”

Gerber is working on that too, surprising audiences with her skillful on-screen subtleties, crafting her comedic timing and continuing to carve out a name for herself in her own way. In the meantime, though, your kindness would be much appreciated.

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