Hailee Steinfeld has a new muse, she declares, but the woman has been dead for 133 years. No matter. She has still given Steinfeld a “newfound fearless approach” to her next collection of music, the first in five years.
That is pretty powerful stuff, considering Steinfeld is referring to Emily Dickinson, a poet most of us were forced to analyze in some way or another in junior high school. But Dickinson has become a prevalent part of Steinfeld’s life; so much so, she apologizes for bringing her up repeatedly, even quoting her, in conversation. She’s forgiven, of course, and her 12.5 million Instagram followers will be relieved to know – not just because Steinfeld is so genuinely nice. Rather, Steinfeld has spent the better part of a year playing the title role on Dickinson, which was renewed for a second season before it even premiered on Apple TV+ on November 1st.
She had not been particularly excited to read the script of the first two episodes when they were sent to her for consideration. “You know, I thought, okay, it’s a period piece. It could be dry and not so exciting,” she admits. “But when I got into it, I saw that modern contemporary pop music, for one, plays a big part in it. I was excited by that” – Steinfeld’s own single “Afterlife,” which dropped in September, appears on the show – “and the amount of modern parallels you see are so surprising and heartbreaking but at the same time funny.”
After speaking with creator Alena Smith, Steinfeld says the “rest is history,” but perhaps that’s just the 23-year-old not giving herself enough credit.
She is also now an executive producer on the project, and it is obvious Steinfeld put in a tremendous amount of research into her role as a young version of the poet in mid-19th century Amherst, Massachusetts. So it’s really no surprise Emily Dickinson (or at least the spirit of her) was with Steinfeld when she went into the studio after the cast finished filming the first season.
“I was so excited to just go in and say absolutely everything I was feeling, and I think again that has a lot to do with that Emily really was that person: she was so unapologetic, she wrote about everything she felt, and she was so completely…shameless,” Steinfeld says excitedly, bestowing an adjective normally used in derogatory ways on the poet as if it is the utmost honor.
This description goes hand-in-hand with the character Steinfeld portrays on screen, but perhaps not the one we learned about in the classroom: historically, Dickinson had a reputation as a curmudgeonly, reclusive spinster, who may have been chock-full of talent, but was a humorless heterosexual. Continue reading “Hailee Steinfeld is Fearlessly Entering the New Decade”