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Dickinson Star Hailee Steinfeld on Why Emily Could Be a Hero for the Millennial Generation

Hailee Steinfeld portrays literary icon Emily Dickinson in the new series from Apple TV + (Photo courtesy of Apple TV +)

While most of us think of the iconic poet Emily Dickinson as a rather eccentric under-appreciated reclusive spinster, Hailee Steinfeld and Dickinson are turning many preconceived notions of this literary genius on their head.

Steinfeld, now 22, began her career with the movie True Grit at age 14, where she beat out 15,000 actresses and received an Academy Award nomination. This was followed by Bumblebee, The Homesmen, and Enders Game. Currently, she is making her mark in movies, music, and now as the leading lady and executive producer in Dickinson, now streaming on the new Apple TV +.

The fresh new half-hour dark comedy series audaciously explores the life of rebellious young poet Emily Dickinson. Set in the 19th century, this coming-of-age story portrays Emily as an unexpected hero for the Millennial generation.

While completely underestimated by her parents, played by Jane Krakowski and Toby Huss, she rejects the conventions of her society, sex, and family and instead fills volumes of notebooks with her poetry that details her vibrant fantasy life.

Steinfeld takes viewers into the world of the brilliant poet, whose irrepressible spirit, defiant attitude, bold vision, and daring love life resonate more than ever, especially at a time when many of us feel like outsiders in our generation. “I feel like we have come a very long way. But in the grand scheme of things, not much has changed,” Steinfeld exclusively told “Women are still very much fighting to be understood, considered equal, and respected. My big hope is that women feel that they are seen and heard.”

What attracted you to Dickinson? I’m sure you get choices and you’re not only acting in the series, but you are producing the show as well.
I wanted to do this because this series felt so different than anything I had really ever come across. This show tackles so many conversations and so many themes that are somehow still relevant today as they are in the 1850s. The minute I met writer-creator Alena Smith (Newsroom) her and I had a conversation, I knew I wanted to be involved in Dickinson.

Please talk about the acting part of the show and the producing aspect of it.
As far as acting in it, I read this and felt like I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play this literary icon. And as far as producing, this is my first-time executive producing and I have always been interested in that, and of course, I wanted it to be something that I felt was truly special. So, this was that. It’s been really exciting to be a part of the conversation and certain decision-making processes that I’ve never been a part of in the past. So, to be a part of that on the project that I feel so connected to is extremely exciting. Continue reading “Dickinson Star Hailee Steinfeld on Why Emily Could Be a Hero for the Millennial Generation”

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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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Hailee Steinfeld: ‘I missed every high school dance and prom, yet I found my way to the Met Gala’

Hailee Steinfeld, the 22-year-old Oscar nominee and pop star, has briefly transformed before my eyes into an old-school diva, her husky, measured voice suddenly a funny and theatrical wail. “Don’t bring that up!” she cries, in mock outrage. I’ve asked about Katniss Everdeen, the tortured heroine of the Hunger Games franchise, and a role Steinfeld was reportedly close to getting in 2011. Does she ever look back… “… and think what my life would have been like?” Steinfeld interrupts. “No!” she sputters once again, her lip beginning to dramatically quiver. “Not at all!”

It’s a rare moment of levity in a conversation that starts off professional and businesslike but grows looser as it goes on. “I truly believe everything happens for a reason,” Steinfeld says, taking a second bite at losing out to Jennifer Lawrence. “There are so many parts that I wanted or didn’t get… But I think, weirdly, it’s the same feeling of having missed every high school dance and prom, and yet I somehow found my way to the Met Gala. I feel like I’ve made up for it.”

Steinfeld has had remarkable staying power for an actor who, if she weren’t quite as brilliant as she is, could easily have peaked at the age of 14. That was how old she was when she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in True Grit, the Coen brothers’ dusty 2010 western that marked her film debut. Alongside a cast of stars including Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, Steinfeld proved miraculous – projecting strength, fire and world-weary pluck, all while dressed in the patchy wardrobe of an old man.

From there, rather than disappearing into the child-star void, she has carved out a diverse and interesting career in film and music. She comfortably cemented her place as a leading lady via the 2016 should-be classic The Edge of Seventeen and last year’s genuinely endearing Transformers spin-off Bumblebee, voiced Gwen Stacy in the stunning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), immersed herself in music, and this week makes her major television debut in one of the wildest and most inventive surprises of the year: Dickinson on Apple TV+.

It is also one of the more under-the-radar treats on the new streaming platform, possibly because it is tricky to pitch succinctly. But, if you were to try, it would sound something like this: Dickinson is a playful and revisionist take on the young life of reclusive poet Emily Dickinson: a half-hour oddity that smoothly oscillates between comic farce, teen drama and heartbreaking tragedy. It is about the allure of the dark and naughty, the pursuit of agency as a young woman living in a world set up to work against you, and features rapper Wiz Khalifa as the embodiment of Death. It could have been a disaster. Even Steinfeld was surprised it wasn’t. Continue reading “Hailee Steinfeld: ‘I missed every high school dance and prom, yet I found my way to the Met Gala’”