Haviland Stillwell Discusses New Queer Roles and Shows
A few months ago, at ClexaCon 2019, I was able to talk to Haviland Stillwell. I saw her on a panel during the previous ClexaCon edition and watched her as part of my review of Freelancers Anonymous. I wanted to know a bit more about this movie, something she said on that panel, and her role in BIFL. You can find a written version of the interview below, but you can also watch it in the added video.
Haviland Stillwell on Freelancers Anonymous
Me: “It has been a few months since Freelancers Anonymous has been released. What has the response been like?”
Haviland Stillwell: “The response to Freelancers Anonymous has been really positive. I think one of my favorite things about the film is that it’s so female positive. There are so many principal females in it. And we were all saying on set when we were making it that usually when you’re doing a film, there’s one or two other women, who are principal characters. And in this one, there were so many. It was entirely principal females actually and we don’t usually get the chance. You know, there’s usually like one older woman and one younger woman. It doesn’t happen often that we’re sort of all in the same age group and all getting to work together. So that’s been really positive.
Also, it’s a funny movie. It’s a rom-com and you know, it’s nice to just have a good old-fashioned funny movie. And my character is completely ridiculous. So, there’s that too.
Me: “What was the energy like on set?”
Haviland: “The energy on set was really fun. Because it’s a comedy, a lot of things… I mean, we took it seriously in terms of getting our work done and everything. But there was also a lot of laughter and a lot of really genuine support. Sonia Sebastian, the director, who’s amazing, would say ‘cut’ and everyone was like: ‘that was great,’ ‘you nailed it,’ ‘you kicked ass.’ So, that was really cool too because there was a lot of really positive comradery, which I like.
I’ve definitely been on sets where it’s not like that or it’s higher stress or people aren’t as positive. So, I have learned that I really value that and it is a more positive environment. Like with anybody in their work environment, if you have people around you who are giving you the thumbs up, you’re going to want to work harder. You’re going to just be more encouraged to do better work.
Haviland Stillwell on BIFL
(This interview took place in April, months before the release of BIFL)
Me: “You’re in BIFL too. Can you tell us something about that project?”
Haviland: “Yeah, I heard somebody say it’s kind of like a drama with a lot of comedy or comedy with a lot of drama, depending on what lens you’re viewing it through. To me, it’s more of a comedy. It’s a roommate/buddy kind of a show. My character is the big sister of one of the girls who lives in the house.”
Haviland: “I am the kind of person that… I think any of us, who have gone through hard times or gone through depression or anything like that, you have that person in your life who just is so eagerly trying to make everything okay. They’re just like: ‘but what can I do to make it okay for you?’ ‘Why can’t you just be happy?’
Not that they don’t really understand; they’re so eager to do that. That’s who I play. There are a lot of opportunities to make fun of my character because it is sort of like ‘there’s that optimist.’ I also say that she’s a controlling optimist. Like: ‘Everything’s fine. I’m going to make sure of it. If I have to drag you kicking and screaming, you’re going to smile!’ We all rely on that person in our family, especially who’s kind of pulling us up a little bit, but who may have cracks in their veneer as well.”
Haviland: “I think it’s primarily a show about young adults who are finding their way. Like, one of the characters is dealing with depression.
One of the characters is dealing with being in love with her best friend. And that, you know, we’ve all been there. We have all been there! Literally don’t know an LGBT person who hasn’t been in love with their best friend at some point. So, there’s that too. There are a couple of characters that you’re sort of like: ‘Okay. I know she likes her. Is that going to happen? What’s going to happen?’ I think it’s a lot about people just trying to find their way in the world.
And so, my character is definitely there to show a slightly different perspective and also a slightly older perspective, to be honest. Just like: ‘Okay. I’m not 21. I’ve kind of been where you’ve been.’ And my character is married.”
Does Haviland Stillwell still get nervous?
Me: “We can watch BIFL at ClexaCon tonight. Are you nervous?”
Haviland: “No. It’s great actually because at this point, I’ve done so much. I started in theater. I was on Broadway before I did film and TV. You know, leading up to the opening night was so nerve-racking. You were so nervous and excited for it. So, it’s like: at this point, we’ve done the work. The work is done. There’s nothing I can do at this point. Either people will like it or they won’t. So, I’m more excited to see it and excited to hear the reaction in the room.”
Queer roles for Haviland Stillwell
Me: “Last year, you were on the LGBTQ actresses’ panel. I heard you say something along the lines of ‘Somebody pass me a queer role already.’ Did that happen already?”
Haviland: “Yes, it did. Yes! I’m very excited to say yes. Actually, I played several gay roles this year but the one I’m the most excited about is that I actually played… There’s a film coming out called Reckoning with Richard Dreyfuss and Mira Sorvino and I play Mira Sorvino’s girlfriend. So, I’m very excited about this, because obviously, I love her. I mean, she’s an incredible actress and she’s so great. So, when that came about, that was really exciting.
The film isn’t specifically about it; it isn’t a gay film specifically. It’s just that her character happens to be gay. I think that was even a cooler part of it. Because it wasn’t like… It’s definitely an element in there, but it wasn’t like ‘oh, this is a film about being gay,’ which I think is happening more and more. That we can just exist in the world as gay characters instead of it being this film about how we’re gay. As far as I know, we don’t have a date for that yet.
There’s a project called Between Friends that will be filming in the fall, which I’m excited about. And I just had a Hallmark movie come out. So, there are lots of things. I play a gay character on an animated show. They told me I’m not allowed to talk about it yet. I play a totally Punk lesbian on the show and I’m like: she’s so cute! She’s like such a cute little drawing. Oh, I will happily tell you as soon as they allow me to talk about it.”