In the name of Emily

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This article is published in issue 2-3 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until January 19, 2021

“When I turned 13 when I was 13 The Grit, my first film, they told me that I would become famous and my life would be ruined. In reality it never happened: it just became full of commitments ». In fact, ten years have already passed since the Coen brothers’ western was released Hailee Steinfeld, who at the time earned an Oscar nomination, has meanwhile shot 18 films and various video clips as a singer.

To make her reflect on the meaning of celebrity, however, was the second season of her TV series Dickinson, available on Apple TV + from January 8 with the first three episodes, which will be followed by another seven on a weekly basis. “I chose to play this somewhat modernized version of Emily Dickinson because after all her nineteenth-century struggle to be appreciated as an artist, in a male chauvinist world, echoes in what many women still have to do today “, she had declared about the first season, in which the poet secretly cultivates her feeling for friend Sue (Ella Hunt), destined to become her sister-in-law, while her father opposes the desire to publish her poems.

In the new episodes, her dream could come true, when publisher Sam Bowles (Finn Jones) offers her to print his poems, but Emily is torn and begins to
wondering what the consequences could be for her, who loves more than anything else to be a recluse in her room to write. “I also started, on set, to think about what fame means to me,” says the actress. «From a personal point of view not much has changed: I have the same friends as always. On the public front, I believe that the positives far outweigh the negatives: being famous allowed me to make incredible journeys, wear clothes and meet people I never dreamed of reaching. Of course, celebrity in Dickinson’s day was something completely different from today. ‘

Because?
“Today it’s pretty easy to become famous, and it happens quickly too. But the basic question always remains the same: fame cannot be an end. For me the only thing
what matters is doing this job, which I love, to entertain the public “.

What do you hope viewers get from this series?
“I hope they feel less alone and more understood. This show suggests not giving up being yourself and pursuing your passions to the end. Playing Emily Dickinson, the poet has become a model for me to follow ».

How?
“Immersing myself in his way of thinking made me realize how he was able to speak and write about anything without hesitation. And how she struggled to be heard. This made me bolder, especially when I write my songs. Before, when I worked with other authors, I felt more embarrassed to talk about myself and what I wanted to express: now I’m no longer afraid. I am increasingly convinced that if you are an artist you have to take risks, because otherwise this profession becomes boring very quickly ».

Do you have other models that inspire you?
“Lady Diana and Katharine Hepburn, two intelligent and classy women who shared fortitude and compassion with Emily. And then my mother, who remains the main guide of my life ».

Is it thinking about these examples that you also wanted to become a producer of the series for the first time?
«In the past I have worked with very good producers, but I underestimated their role: it is a complex job and I only understood it by doing it. As a simple actress you limit yourself to acting if-
following the director’s directions, and you have no control over the film or series. As a producer, I had a chance to be more creative, giving my input throughout the show. I liked it so much that I want to continue doing it ».

Emily Dickinson loved to stay in her room where she could spend hours, days and even weeks writing her own poetry. How was it for you to lock yourself up at home during the lockdown?
“In the beginning, like everyone else, it was good. And for me even more, because in these ten years I have not stopped a minute and perhaps I have neglected people a little
that I love. Furthermore, this period has also given me the opportunity to reflect and appreciate what I have. After a few weeks, however, I began to hate imprisonment and I was delighted to be back in shooting ».

Mostly she returned to do it on an exceptional set: that of the Marvel TV series Hawkeye, in which she plays Kate Bishop.
“I have to admit it was great and a little weird. Not only for the anti-Covid rules but also because I met some colleagues with whom I had already worked and, thus masked, I did not recognize them at the beginning! “.

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