Hailee Steinfeld’s Emily Dickinson wants to be famous — maybe, she thinks.
She says it onstage with “international singing sensation” Adelaide May (Kelli Barrett) after attending a moving performance at the opera in the sixth episode of Dickinson’s second season. But as Emily’s dalliance with fame in the Apple TV+ series continues to play out, no sooner is she drawn to the bright lights of attention than she learns of its dark underside.
“If you’re seen, then you’re exposed. Everything that’s exposed, well it goes stale,” Adelaide says. “The critics, they’ll put you on top for a minute but then they’ll drag you down. They’ll get sick of you, and they’ll destroy you. They hate you, see, because you made them love you. You were a courtesan and they fell for your trick.”
It’s after this exchange when Emily, like she did earlier in the episode, imagines Adelaide is Sue (Ella Hunt), who hints that Emily wants more than the ephemeral appeal of fame, saying Emily craves “meaning” and “love.”
In addition to drawing Emily closer to the lure of fame and featuring a passionate reunion with Sue — albeit in Emily’s imagination — the latest episode also continues to tease out the uncertain dynamic between Emily and her editor Sam Bowles (Finn Jones), who Emily fantasized about sleeping with just one episode earlier. As they sit together at the opera, he admonishes Emily for writing a letter describing, in great detail, her affection for him to his wife, reminding Emily of the rumors that he’s unfaithful to her. He tells her that his interest in her is purely professional. And during an emotional moment in the opera, when Emily grabs his hand, he quickly leaves, rejecting the latest poem she intended to give him.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Steinfeld about how Emily feels about Sam, her character’s conflicting views towards fame and the extent to which the singer-actress drew upon her own experience in the public eye in portraying the poet’s concerns.
Viewers see Emily wrestle with fame and having her poems published throughout the season. How do you think Emily feels about fame at the start of the season, or why does she feel so uncertain about having her poetry published?
I think the daunting [nature] of it all and the self doubt that she’s already experiencing without even having the fame in knowing that might be what it brings, she hits writer’s block right away — just with the idea, just by being consumed by the idea of fame, not even yet having it. The idea to her is intriguing and exciting. To be celebrated as a writer, as an amazing poet. It’s hard to imagine. Her poems were only discovered after she died and for somebody that we’d like to think contemplated for so long whether she wanted to publish these poems or not, it was clear she did because she had; she had no choice but to put them under different names. But she wanted to know what people thought of her work. And I think the scariest part of fame, and I think this still holds true now, is that you can ask for it, you can achieve it, but once you have it it’s kind of a hard thing to get rid of in a sense, if you reach a certain level of it. And Emily is just sort of searching for answers to these questions and painting this picture in her brain that is equally as amazing as it is dangerous and terrifying. Continue reading “Hailee Steinfeld Opens Up About Emily’s Relationship With Fame in ‘Dickinson’ Season 2”