10 questions for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” newcomer actress
Hello Josephine, let’s start this interview by telling us a bit more about yourself, your parents, your life in LA, your difficulties… What is your background and how did you decide to become an actress?
I was born in LA and I’ve lived here ever since. My family is originally from New York but my dad works in the film industry and he moved to the west coast before I was born. My mom was an actor when I was young, but she eventually had a career change and is now a chef. Having both parents involved in the entertainment industry growing up was definitely influential but it’s not how I initially started acting. It was all because of a local musical theatre summer camp that a lot of my friends were joining. My first show ever was Snow White and I played a squirrel. During the school year I went to a French immersion school which I’m so grateful for since I wouldn’t be able to speak French if I hadn’t. Unfortunately, the school’s academic rigor was difficult for me to handle at times. As a result, I’ve struggled a lot with self worth. My artistic and academic life felt like two different worlds. I was so passionate about acting but I didn’t view it as a legitimate career choice and began having a difficult time recognizing my worth. I finished high school at Idyllwild Arts Academy where I could merge the two worlds and explore who I was as an artist. The path I’ve taken was confusing at times but ultimately worked out better than I could have imagined. I feel confident as an actor and person now and am ready to continue my career back in my hometown.
You grew up in Los Angeles. Would you say that it had an influence on your choice of working in entertainment or was it an evidence since your childhood? Tell us about your parents, are they working in the industry and which impact did they have on you?
Growing up in LA gave me an understanding of how movies are made at a young age. My dad is an assistant director so he focuses on keeping the set running while the director focuses on his artistic vision. My dad is incredibly passionate about filmmaking and he was constantly showing me new movies. My favorites were always films he’d worked on and especially the sets I’d gotten to visit. Seeing everything that went into creating the final cut was amazing. There were so many departments full of talented people collaborating to create something special. When the movies were released, it was always obvious whether all the collaborators were passionate about the project and their role within it. When they were, the final cut became electric. It was as if a whole new world was created and now I get the honor of following a story within it. It truly made me value collaboration in a whole new way. I hope I’m always able to work with people who love what they do and are willing to lend their talents and create together. When he wasn’t busy working on set, my dad and I were regular audience members at various theaters across LA. Every weekend he’d give me a list of potential activities and I always wanted to watch a play. I was definitely a little too young to be expected to sit still in a quiet theatre for at least an hour, but that was never a problem. I loved getting invested in stories and found my eyes glued on the actors. I suppose acting was always a big part of my life but it wasn’t obvious I’d pursue it professionally. It’s not that I wasn’t interested but I didn’t think about it much as a kid. I watched so many plays because I loved them. I visited the sets so often because I loved them. I just did it for love.
How would you describe your personality?
I have a very bubbly personality. I try to bring a sense of optimism to any situation which has served me well. I’ve always been a creative person and feel most like myself when I have an outlet to express myself. I’m very outgoing since I love engaging with other people so much. My favorite aspect of my personality and the one I hope to maintain forever is my curiosity. I love learning and discovering new things and I think that desire fuels everything I do.
Fun and bubbly.
Creative and engaging. Collaborative and curious.
What is your “Madeleine de Proust?”
Oddly enough… elephants! I studied at Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles for many years however I was at the elementary and middle school campus for the longest period of time. Just outside our music room were these huge elephant shaped hedges. When I was a kid I thought they were the most mesmerizing thing I’d ever seen and I saw them quite often. I saw them every week when my teacher walked me and to classmates too and from the music room. I saw them every morning. My dad dropped me off at school because we had a tradition of sneaking past the elephants and into the classroom to drop off my backpack so I didn’t have to carry it from the schoolyard when the bell rang like the other kids. My favorite time to see them was when our art teacher would let us complete our assignments outside because I got to draw in the sunshine in my favorite spot under the elephants.
At such a young age, you have been featured in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, and has been directed by Quentin Tarantino, working next to Brad Pitt, could you tell us about the process of casting such a huge production like this one? Was it your physical appearance, your talent or just luck?
A little bit of all three! I’ve had the honor of running around Tarantino’s sets since I was very young and I happened to be visiting Once Upon a Time in Hollywood the summer before my senior year. Maybe it was because I’d just spent two years running around the woods at my hippie art school or the fact that my hair was down to my waist, but apparently I gave off the right vibe for a Manson girl. I arrived on set a month or two later as background. During the time between being cast and arriving on set I’d done quite a bit of research and made a character based off one of the cult’s former members. I named her Happy Cappy. Quentin loved it and my role started to expand. I finished the shoot as cast.
In “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” you play one of Charles Manson’s daughters. Was there a process you had to go through to get in the mind of your character and personified herself? Did you have to do a lot of research or were you always aware of the whole sad story of Sharon Tate’s killer’s predator and his killer’s entourage?
I was familiar with the Manson Family and their involvement in the Tate murders, but not to the extent that I am now. Before arriving on set, I was sent a few documentaries to watch and found them fascinating. Two of them contained real footage of the Manson
Family while they were living at Spahn Ranch. Those were the biggest windows I had into the world since the character “Happy Cappy” didn’t exist on the page yet. I spent time imagining what life at Spahn Ranch would have been like. I thought about what kind of person would join a cult and what that actually meant. I imagined lots of young people living within a small area and probably spending little to no time alone reflecting on the reality of their situation. Their sense of community must have been strong since they all provided for each other dumpster diving for food and finding clothes, yet they also forfeited free thought. The lack of independence combined with the girls being at such a vulnerable age and all the psychedelic drug use made how they rationalized such horrific acts much more understandable. I did base my character off the cult’s former member Catherine Gilles. Her nickname was “Capistrano” or “Cappy”, and the “Happy” came while I was working on the character.
You are American with deep French Roof, born and raised in Cali, you speak fluent French and English is your maiden language, how did you get to speak such perfect French and do you like playing a role in French as well, as much as english?
My grandparents speak four languages (English, French, Ukrainian and Polish) but they didn’t pass them down to my mother. She really wanted to make sure I spoke at least one other language since she didn’t get the chance. She found the school “Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles” and enrolled me in pre-school. I stayed there until my freshman year of high school and learned French there. Attending school in French was especially difficult for me since my parents didn’t speak the language. It was definitely worth it and now I’m grateful for the challenge. I would love to play a role in French. Although I’ve never done any professional work I did get to do plenty of theatre in my second language in middle school. My personal favorite was my performance as Poseidon in Ulysses (I wore a very stringy and bright blue wig) or as a nun in Les Misérables. I also got to speak French in several performances throughout high school. A huge portion of the school’s population was international and people often incorporated their native tongues so I was sure to speak French on stage whenever I got the chance.
Talking back about becoming an actress, what kind of movies inspired you? Which stories transport you? Which actresses lead the path for you to become one? Were there any artists in the family?
Jessica Lange, Reese Witherspoon and Margot Robbie are all exceptional actresses. If I could pick a career I’d mimic any of theirs. They have each shown great versatility and
it seems impossible to stump them with a role they can’t truthfully portray. I adore everything about Big Fish, but Jessica Lange is so beautiful as Sandra Bloom. Her relationship with her dying husband easily moves one to tears. I am a sucker for a good chick flick and Legally Blonde is easily one of my favorites. Reese Witherspoon brought Elle Woods to life so effectively that she will remain an iconic character forever. Yet I didn’t realize how versatile an actress she is until I saw Mud. The differences between the southern white-trash, Juniper, and the bright, sunny sorority girl, Elle Woods, were so great she was almost unrecognizable. To create characters so distinct the actress herself becomes unrecognizable is the ultimate goal as an actor. Margot Robbie is the most consistently outstanding actress I’ve ever seen and it looks as if her career will be comparable to Meryl Streep’s. I could cite so many of her films but I must try to restrain myself so I don’t go on forever. I would say her performance in I, Tonya is my personal favorite and of course Once Upon a Time in Hollywood! It’s so unbelievable that I’ve already been able to share the screen with one of my favorite actresses of all time.
If you would have to choose a director you would like to work with, who would it be? You can name several, and tell us which moves you have seen from them?
I really love directors who take full advantage of their medium and put emphasis into aesthetics. Wes Anderson is amazing at creating colorful, creative and specific worlds. The characters are very distinct and a little offbeat but they fit so perfectly into whatever world he has created. Moonrise Kingdom is an excellent example of that. He also isn’t limited to any medium. I became fascinated with his work because of his live action films, which made it surprising when his animated film Isle of the Dogs became one of my favorite movies. I would also love to work with Taika Waititi. I fell in love with Jojo Rabbit the first time I saw it and no matter how many times I re-watch it, it moves me every time. There are so many movies about World War II that many would argue that well is dry. Waititi completely disproved that. There are infinite perspectives and new stories to share as long as you’re willing to look with an open heart. My final dream director is Michel Gondry. Not only is he a fellow frenchie but his creativity is unparalleled. So much of his work is done on a small budget because he prioritizes creative storytelling and making use of what he has much like a child at play. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is such an interesting and dare I say philosophical concept. I would love to work with someone with such an acute desire to play.
Would you share with us the last tv show you watched and loved, and which one you would advise us to watch?
BoJack Horseman is probably my favorite show of all time. It’s animated and most of the characters are animals which can be off-putting for some people but it’s so clever and unexpectedly heartbreaking. The storyline has such an impressive range, you never know if you’ll finish an episode laughing or crying. Arrested Development is my favorite comedy. The jokes are constant and witty while the characters are clear-cut and specific. Jessica Walter is absolutely hilarious as Lucille Bluth. The most recent show I’ve watched is Euphoria. It’s dark and gritty but also very relatable to my generation. It deals with the darker aspects of modern teenage life more effectively than most other examples I’ve seen all while having an eye-catching aesthetic.
Josephine, how do you see your generation of actors and actresses evaluating in this crazy world ? Most actors used to make a choice between television and films, it used to be quite difficult to start in the television industry to go to the film industry, and sometimes impossible. What do you think about it now and how do you see it in the next decade, we are also talking about the webseries….
I love film and television! Both are so wonderful it would feel wrong to choose one over the other. I’m really excited to follow wherever my career takes me and would feel honored to participate in either medium. I think all these new forms of entertainment are creating a whole world of possibilities. Netflix’s Bandersnatch is a really interesting example of an experimental form of entertainment. It’s the first and only choose your own adventure film I’ve ever seen. Web-series are making creating content easier and more accessible than ever since anyone can write, direct and upload their own films. I think in the coming years a lot of directors and creators will begin their careers through self-produced web-series and short films. I think all these new forms of entertainment are wonderful since they allow more room for creativity.
Tell us who is your favorite high fashion brand? What’s your style and what is your message to the girl of your generation and most generally, your generation? (Like “be yourself or stay strong or any other message).
If I’m going to splurge on a high fashion piece I prefer to shop vintage. Not only is it the more sustainable option, but I love knowing I just found a unique piece that is no longer being mass produced and probably never will again. It makes it even more special. Sorority Vintage is an online shop I love that curates designer vintage pieces. I would tell girls to give themselves the freedom to experiment and find what they truly love. It’s so easy for people, but especially young girls and women, to get caught up in outside expectations. Those expectations have caused me a lot of frustration in my life and often made me question whether I should follow my bliss or a more predetermined path.
Just try things! Evaluate what you enjoy and don’t enjoy keeping in mind that it should be personal. You are an individual. See what excites you and don’t worry too much about what you’re “supposed” to be doing. Practice listening to yourself and your gut, it’s often right!
By Alex Marie