Dakota Fanning knew ‘Please Stand By’ role would be a challenge

It appears Dakota Fanning has hit her stride. At 23, the star with nearly two decades of acting on her resume has reached a place where she can pick and choose roles — on both the silver and small screens — that challenge and inspire her, all while attending NYU’s Gallatin School.

In her latest movie “Please Stand By,” Fanning plays “Star Trek” fan-fiction writer Wendy, who lives with autism and in full-time care.

The offbeat road-trip drama, also featuring Toni Collette, is now playing at Village East Cinema in East Village, and is available on demand.

We recently caught up with the actress to discuss the movie, her new crime series “The Alienist” (airing Mondays at 9 p.m. on TNT) and life in New York City.

What drew you to “Please Stand By” and Wendy?

Well I was so moved by the story, first of all. I read it and spoke to Ben Lewin, the director, and he’s such a lovely man, and talking to him about what he had in mind, and I just felt like it would be such a journey that we would take together. Also, from a selfish acting perspective, I knew that it would be a challenge and, you know, something that I hadn’t done before and would kind of push me in a different way.

But I think [what] I loved most of all … When I describe the movie, I don’t even really say that the character is on the autism spectrum, because I think there’s so many other things about her, you know? … I loved that it doesn’t sort of lead with that.

Viewers needn’t be Trekkies to enjoy this movie, but it does convey the depth of the series that non-viewers might not be aware of.

Yeah, I thought so too, because you think of sci-fi, alien, that sort of stuff, but I think that this movie really shows you the underlying emotions of “Star Trek” and the characters, especially I think how Wendy relates to Spock and she connects with his sort of inability to show emotion, and she deals with that a little bit in her life. It did kind of make me look at it in a different way, and I wondered if it would make people sort of become fans [of “Star Trek”] that weren’t previously fans.

Tell us about your new series, “The Alienist.”

I mean, I’m so fascinated by the [19th century New York] time period that it’s set in. I think that there’s oddly so many crazy parallels to our society now, which I’m always so intrigued and baffled by when you see period pieces and it’s like a recognizable world, in terms of the sort of social issues. And I think that the show kinda deals with some of that. My character’s the first woman to work at the New York Police Department, and she’s the secretary to the commissioner and has aspirations to rise in those ranks.

So you get to see sort of harassment in the workplace, and how society’s rules toward women would hold them down at the time.

You’re a New Yorker these days. Where do you like to hang out?

Well I’m a downtown person. On Avenue A … [I like] this bar called Lucy’s, and I like Ray’s Candy Store … it can only be found in New York, you know? And Ray is still in there and works in there, and it’s like where you go after a night out and you get a fried Oreo and take it home. I love little places like that, but East Village … I realize I go there so much because it’s low-key and cool.

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