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How Emily Dickinson Helped Hailee Steinfeld Find “A More Fearless Approach to My Art”

To play a young version of 19th century poet Emily Dickinson in one of Apple TV+’s first series, Hailee Steinfeld had to don period-appropriate clothes, including a waist-cinching corset and layers of petticoats, costumes that she says required the help of “one, if not two, women.”

The singer-actress and star of Dickinson points out, however, that unlike “what the women of the time went through,” she “could loosen [her corset] up at lunch and to go to the bathroom.”

But when it came to the social struggles Dickinson faced in trying to make an impact as a woman, Steinfeld can’t help but see similarities to the present day. “There are so many parallels,” Steinfeld tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Here’s [someone] who in her time had to fight fearlessly for her rights and her voice to be heard, just to be understood as an artist and as a woman, and that is very much still happening today. I think we’ve come a very long way, but not much has changed. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

She also felt comforted and inspired working on a set led by a female showrunner in Alena Smith.

“She created an environment where I as a young woman in no way felt scared or uncomfortable,” Steinfeld says. “I felt like I could come to work every day and work in a space that should be the way it should be for any woman in any workspace and just in life in general, so I hope that this is part of what already feels like a big change happening.”

Steinfeld, 22, spoke to THR about taking on her first series regular TV role, her first project as an executive producer and her new song, “Afterlife,” which is featured in, and was informed by, the series.

What drew you to this project?
I truly felt like this was so different from anything that I had read. I try to be very specific with what I spend my time doing, and I want it to be something that I believe in and feels interesting and cool, but this was all of that on a deeper level. I’m executive producing this as well, and I wanted to show up as something more than just an actor. I wanted to be a part of this on a deeper level.

Why did you want to venture into television?
It’s this new turn in our world — everything is streaming. When I knew that this was Apple’s first experience in the TV world, it just felt so exciting to me that it would be mine and theirs together. Working on something episodically with new directors and not knowing what’s coming next with scripts, the whole idea just seemed really exciting to me and very different than what I know.

What has your work on the production side entailed and been like?
I am a part of conversations that I have in no way been concerned about as an actor in the past, from preproduction to postproduction. I’ve only ever really known showing up and doing my job and walking away and realizing it’s completely out of my hands — hopefully it turns out great. This one, I care so much and feel so in it.

Do you see yourself doing more producing in the future?
I would love to continue, absolutely. It would be really fun to produce projects that I’m not necessarily acting in. Continue reading “How Emily Dickinson Helped Hailee Steinfeld Find “A More Fearless Approach to My Art””

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