A lot has changed in the 10 years since Hailee Steinfeld became the ninth youngest Best Supporting Actress nominee in Academy Awards history for her breakthrough performance in “True Grit.” For starters, Steinfeld has grown up to become an incredibly versatile lead performer, as comfortable in a massive blockbuster movie like “Bumblebee” as she is in the surrealist period comedy “Dickinson.” But despite her evolution as a performer — not to mention the ever-changing industry that has seen top creative talent flock to streaming platforms like Apple TV+, on which “Dickinson” is available — one thing remains the same for Steinfeld: the work itself.
“One of the first interviews I did [after the nomination] somebody said to me, ‘Do you know your title has forever changed?’ I truly did not understand what they meant,” Steinfeld tells Gold Derby in a new interview (watch the exclusive video above). “I absolutely did that thing I did in 90 percent of my interviews when I was 14 where I was just like, ‘uh-huh.’ I acted like they knew what they were talking about when I didn’t. Shortly after, I knew what she was talking about. I will say, it was absolutely an honor, the highest honor.”
“But I think now having gone 10 years since then and having continued to work with incredible people, I’ve realized it’s still about the work,” she adds. “It’s still about going every day and being the best performer and learning and asking questions and never being afraid of asking questions or be ashamed of not knowing the answers. I’m just getting started. I do remember it like it was yesterday. I can’t believe it was 10 years ago. I’m so grateful to be in a place where my work is recognized. Because here I am playing a character who in her lifetime wasn’t.”
Set in the years before the Civil War, “Dickinson” focuses on the title poet, Emily Dickinson, as she comes of age in a society where women are not encouraged to express their creativity or intelligence. In the second season, however, Em (as she’s affectionately known) is given a chance at public recognition for her poetry and the 10 episodes explore how she grapples with the push and pull of fame and celebrity. It’s a subject Steinfeld knows well, although not in the same capacity as Em. That separation, the actress explains, helped her performance.
“At times, a difficult time understanding where Emily was in season 2,” she says. “I realized once it was over — if only I realized it sooner — that it was because I was sort of close to it. And the headspace she was in, in just solely trying to figure out what fame is and what it means. It’s not something I, Hailee, have really put much thought into. I consider my relationship to fame healthy, it’s always been about the work for me so anything that comes along with it is just a bonus, I’d consider. So I had to think a lot about what she was thinking and because I didn’t have the answers, I felt a little bit lost — but she was, so I guess it worked.”
All episodes of “Dickinson” season 2 are now available on Apple TV+. The show’s third season, which Steinfeld teases as best as possible given the secrecy around the plot in our interview, is currently in development. But before that, the actress will also play a leading role in another strictly confidential project: the Disney+ series “Hawkeye,” where she stars opposite Jeremy Renner who returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the title Avenger.
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