“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” This truthbomb from philosopher Søren Kierkegaard perfectly captures the nature of how life only really begins to make sense when enough time has passed. But this pearl of wisdom assumes that time moves in one direction. What would happen to our level of understanding if we could bend time — jumping both backwards and forwards, learning lessons from history and from the future? This idea lies at the heart of Making History, the brand new FOX comedy starring Leighton Meester. I recently had the chance to speak with Meester about the show, the joy of getting to flex her comedic skills, and her own definition of fulfilment.
Always in search of new ways to challenge herself, Leighton Meester jumped at the chance to try comedy when she was offered the role of Deborah Revere in FOX’s Making History. As a woman making her way in pre-Revolution America in 1775, Deborah knows a thing or two about doing it all. Whether it’s wielding an axe, shooting a gun, or riding a horse, she’s mastered everything she needs to in Colonial life — all while wearing a corset and heels. But when she meets Dan and Chris (played by Adam Pally and Yassir Lester), who have traveled back in time from 2017 and ask her if she wants to join them as a fellow time traveler, she gladly jumps on board.
The show’s concept creates a brilliant dynamic — two guys from the future learn lessons from the past, while a woman from the past learns lessons from the future. So which of these characters is learning the most? “I would say my character because she is more open to learning new things,” says Meester. “She even marvels at something as simple as plastic, and all the little things that we take for granted in the modern world.” Meester adds, “Deb has a childlike appreciation of everything around her. She’s amazed by ice cream, and cotton clothes that breathe, and being able to get into a car and get somewhere in five minutes instead of one month. Also, I think Dan and Chris come to appreciate that they’ve grown up in a time where men and women are treated as equals. I think that’s why Deb loves Dan and gets along with Chris. Dan, although he’s kind of an oaf, he doesn’t even think twice about talking to her about politics, involving her in business decisions, and even pushes her to start her own business.”
Not only do these three leave us in stitches with each hilarious situation they find themselves in, they also lead us through many teachable moments — especially with Deborah who becomes a prism through which we see the evolution of women’s rights over the course of time. For Meester, one episode in particular provided viewers with the best glimpse of Deborah’s inner strength. “I really enjoyed the two-part episode where we went to Chicago in 1919, run into Al Capone, and bet on the World Series,” she says. “I think that was a really clever storyline, and I enjoy that time period for a lot of different reasons. I also love the fact that my character has said as much, and fulfills that in the show, that she is not just the girlfriend. Such as when she is getting her cover story on which gangster she will be, and they say, ‘OK so you’re Bugsy Siegel and you’re Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend.’ She says, ‘No, I want to be my own gangster.’ I think it’s nice because it’s making a statement. And it’s also coming from Deb, who, when she says something it’s so just so common sense — she should be her own gangster, why not? It’s her ideals that give her a really ‘ahead of her time’ persona.”
Strong women and comedy go hand-in-hand for Meester, who used to love watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I Love Lucy when she was a young girl. “I grew up watching [these shows] — strong female characters who were beautiful, but they could do lots of things that played against that. They could be strong characters, and funny in their own right. They made me laugh as a kid and still do. In their time it was so rare to see a woman leading a show, and being the funny one at the same time. It’s really inspiring.”
Although taking on the reigns of comedy can be intimidating for even the most seasoned of actors, Meester revels in the unique way comedy can touch on hot button issues. “The fact that we can use humor to make a point is something I really enjoy. I think it’s a great way to reach people in whatever way you want. And talking about the political and social climate in a funny way is really exciting.”
The challenge was made all the more rewarding of an experience thanks to her co-stars. “For me it was a huge challenge. I have less experience than the people I’m working with, and I felt really lucky and really supported, and yes, very challenged by the material, but at the same time I was allowed to explore the character and find what I thought was funny, and really work with the writers and actors and directors to flush out the character. I felt even more fulfilled getting to do that. And it’s so much fun on set that it’s a joy to go to work.”
The exploration of this role has been a labor of love for Meester, who cites the work of one of her personal heroes as a major inspiration in how she builds her characters, as well as how she lives her own life. “I love Joan Didion. I think about some of the complexities that she is able to capture that are so human, and are so specific to being a woman. Being vulnerable, and at the same time tough, but not in a hard shell kind of way — in a smart way.” Meester says Didion has been a major role model for her entire adult life. “She inspired me throughout my 20s and into my 30s, to remember that I feel much more fulfilled when I’m building my own character, things that make me feel whole and satisfied, as opposed to building other aspects of my life which are much less important. Building my relationships and friendships, learning, exploring, being kind; instead of thinking so much about what you’re wearing, or who you’re dating, or who has ‘more.’ She also brings so much depth to a female character, whether it’s herself of someone else.”
Photography Aleksandar Tomovic
Creative Director Stephane Marquet
Photo Editing Arthur Galvao
Styling Sonia Young
Makeup Clariss Anya Rubenstein
Hair Lauren Andersen
Nails Millie Machado
Production Bello Media Group | Interview Brent Lambert