Sidney Flanigan came out of seemingly nowhere to deliver one of 2020’s most affecting performances in “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.” Playing Autumn, a teenager struggling to find the resources she needs to get an abortion, Flanigan’s turn in the critically acclaimed drama would be impressive even if it weren’t the actress’s film debut. While she had never previously considered acting as a profession, there was an authenticity to writer-director Eliza Hittman‘s script that appealed to her. “All the characters seemed so real and I was really inspired by the story,” says Flanigan in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “I watched her other movies and I really liked them and it felt like something worth giving a chance.” Watch the full interview above.
Autumn is a character that doesn’t fit neatly into a box, unlike the stereotypes we tend to see in other films about teenagers. In Flanigan’s words, “I think she’s someone that is headstrong and maybe a little anxious. I think she tends to suffer silently sometimes to try and handle everything on her own.” This is what makes the inclusion of Autumn’s cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) so important. Skylar drops everything to help her cousin, joining her on a perilous journey to New York City and becoming a rock for Autumn to lean on.
Those who have seen “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” recognize the film’s most memorable scene to be the one that gives it its title. In one unbroken take, Autumn answers a series of difficult questions from a social worker and gradually breaks down in tears as her deepest feelings come to the surface. Flanigan was given the space to prepare on-set that day, with Hittman making her star feel as safe as possible. In the end, it ended up being a cathartic experience. “I just felt so comfortable and I felt like I was connected to my own experiences as a woman and the things I’ve been through,” recalls Flanigan. “It was almost like sitting through my own therapy session.”
Flanigan, who identifies as a nonbinary woman and uses she/they pronouns, is one of the first nonbinary actors to earn major awards attention for their work in film. Most notably, they claimed the Best Actress prize from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards along with recognition from five other critics’ associations. “It’s overwhelming but in the best way,” admits Flanigan. “I never thought I’d be in a movie or be acting. Life is just so surprising.”
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