Rachel Sennott’s very big year unofficially kicked off at SXSW, where she ate everyone’s lunch as a stand-up comic in crisis, in I Used to Be Funny, and as a queer high school senior starting a fight club, in Bottoms, which she co wrote with her Shiva Baby director Emma Seligman. Now, with an appearance in HBO’s psycho-sexual drama The Idol, the 27-year-old actor is in full-on promo mode. But today, instead of going one-on-one with a journalist, Sennott got a slightly high Kristen Stewart instead.
MONDAY 6:30 PM APRIL 17, 2023 LA
KRISTEN STEWART: What up?
RACHEL SENNOTT: Hiii.
STEWART: How are you?
SENNOTT: Good. I’m so excited. Thank you for doing this.
STEWART: Thank you for having me.
SENNOTT: These Zooms always feel like a comfy little FaceTime.
STEWART: Totally. I also just split a small edible with my girlfriend, which I don’t usually do. And then I thought, “Oh, fuck, I have to interview Rachel about her movies and her life,” and then I was like, “Step away from the journalist. Your job is to take that edible for this.” [Laughs]
SENNOTT: That will make it the real experience that it needs to be. I didn’t take an edible, but I got these free mushroom-light things in the mail. I don’t know who they were from. Now I’m like, “Should I have eaten them?”
STEWART: Nice. Microdosing mushrooms is a generation below me. I took an eighth when I probably weighed 80 pounds and just went, “Bleh.” And then maybe once or twice since then because it’s fun around a campfire. But there’s a cooler, whole new approach to drugs that seems therapeutic and nice. I think it’s better this way.
SENNOTT: It’s a little more chill now. I feel like with mushrooms once you’ve had a scary experience, why do that again?
STEWART: Yeah. It’s too much of a risk. Some people love psychedelics. They’re not for me. Wait, so what the fuck? I couldn’t get two different apps to work in order to watch Bottoms, so I can ask you the most honest question—what is the movie about? The only thing I’ve heard is that you felt excited to make a movie about girls and queer people that was stupid and not have the characters win this moral high ground. It’s so weird to have to fight to do that.
SENNOTT: First of all, I’m glad because I want you to see it in the theater with other people.
STEWART: As god fucking intended.
SENNOTT: I watched so many cuts alone in a room, and I was like, “Is this good?” And then I watched it with an audience of people and I was like, “This is the best ever.” Because it’s basically about these two girls, me and my friend Ayo [Edebiri], and a rumor starts that we went to juvie over the summer, so we lean into it. We start this female fight club so that we can fuck the cheerleaders in the group. It’s sort of starting this fake female empowerment thing and our characters are benefiting from it, which is something that people do in real life.
STEWART: Baby Tár. [Laughs] That’s cool. I can’t wait to see it.
SENNOTT: Also, it’s literally girls beating the shit out of each other. I remember the first announcement we had for the script, they put “fight club” in quotations and we were like, “It’s a real fight club.” There’s actual fighting in the movie, and someone was like, “This is so inappropriate, women beating each other up.” I was like, “Didn’t we earn that?”
STEWART: Oh man.
SENNOTT: They love it.
STEWART: It’s so weird. You can see the trajectory of the reaction to the #MeToo movement and how—I don’t want to be derogatory because I think these movies need to happen—but there’s this race to moral efficacy and superiority that people are obsessed with right now and it’s the most boring way to actually help and understand each other.
SENNOTT: It almost underestimates us. People really paint women one-dimensionally. I read the Love Lies Bleeding [Stewart’s upcoming film] script, and I was like, “That’s a perfect example of a messy, twisted lesbian.”
STEWART: Oh my god.
SENNOTT: It’s so fucked up. I can’t wait to see it.
STEWART: Everything’s just—reality’s breaking. That’s why movies are either so good or so bad right now. I feel like we don’t really have the words for it. And considering vocabulary is also changing so fucking quickly—how old are you? You’re like 27. I’m 33, I love hanging out with you, and I love—
SENNOTT: I feel like we talk the same.
STEWART: Totally. But I’m trying to determine—you’re not an alien, but so many of them are.
SENNOTT: My little sister and all her friends go to fashion school, and they’re so cool. I hung out with them and I was like, “I’m such a fucking loser. I don’t know anything that they’re saying to me. I think I’m dressed weird.”
STEWART: Yeah. One of the questions I was going to ask you to try and determine if you were an alien was, “Are you easily embarrassed?” Everyone that I know that was raised in the American Pie era is steeped in shame and obsessed with hair removal.
SENNOTT: I definitely have shame and embarrassment, it’s about the way I handle it. The lowest I ever was, was when I was tweeting during sex being like, “Ha, ha, ha. This is lame.” I was embarrassed, but I was clearly not embarrassed enough because I was sharing that with everyone.
STEWART: How weird and cool. Are you working on anything right now?
SENNOTT: I’m writing a movie that I want to direct that’s about that period in my life. And then I have some stuff—
STEWART: Do you like texting?
SENNOTT: It depends who. Do you like texting?
STEWART: I fucking love texting. It’s a lot of blue on my end and you better fucking love it.
SENNOTT: But do you prefer one big text or do you want quick, fast, “We’re out of here?”
STEWART: I can have a pretty rapid fire conversation and feel pretty connected and be like, “Are we having the same conversation? I think so.” And then look back and be like, “Wow, weird wordplay happened there.” I like having a record of it.
SENNOTT: Yeah. I used to be terrified of phone calls. Now I love a cold call, calling someone I haven’t talked to in ages. Back when I was single, I loved calling people I’d been on one date with. It throws them off and you’re like, “I’m insane. I’m fucking creepy.”
STEWART: “Hey, what’s up?”
SENNOTT: Hey. I’ll just call you whenever I want. I don’t care. And you call him for two minutes and then you’re like, “Okay, bye.” That is a power rush for me.
STEWART: What is your sign?
SENNOTT: I’m a Virgo.
STEWART: Whoa. Okay.
SENNOTT: I feel like we discussed this late at night the first time we hung out, right?
STEWART: The first time we hung out was fun. Me and Dylan [Meyer, Stewart’s fiancée] were just talking about it. We were like, “Remember when she became our little friend that night?” Even though the neon—whatever. It doesn’t matter where we were. [Laughs] I was fucking wasted and I was like, “I fucking love you.”
SENNOTT: You have to be that way in those environments. It’s like a week straight. That was my first time ever doing that, and I was doing the lightest version. You had so much shit going on, and it’s so overwhelming. You have to find your two people, and then be like, “Stay with me.”
STEWART: Exactly. Okay, so you’re writing this thing. How many projects have you done that you haven’t had a hand in developing or writing?
SENNOTT: I was on a sitcom. I didn’t have a hand in the development of that. [Laughs] Bodies Bodies Bodies I did not. Ally [Pankiw’s] movie [I Used to Be Funny] I auditioned for, I worked with her on the script, but didn’t do it. And then The Idol—
STEWART: For people that don’t know, she played a standup comedian, therefore she probably had to imbue her character with a little bit of her authentic voice.
SENNOTT: I like to add a little sauce.
SENNOTT: I just watched the Boygenius film you directed, which is so great.
STEWART: That’s good.
SENNOTT: What’s your dream project to join? Do you love joining when you’re like, “It’s a book.”? Or do you love joining when you’re like, “It shoots tomorrow.”
STEWART: All of the above. I used to have a hard time creating a character and then believing it enough to play it because as a kiddo I was always just called to arms. The character would always be so fully outside of me, and created by someone else, that I was so scared of fucking it up or not doing the best. It’s about being a good student, that’s how kid actors are. I was always like, “If I made it up, it’s bullshit.” I had all these stupid rules for myself that I guess I needed then. As I’ve gotten older, I’m very down to be reckless as an actor. But if I were to ever develop something, which I’m starting to do—I’m going to make this movie [The Chronology of Water] with Imogen [Poots].
SENNOTT: Yeah. I want to be more like, “Let me do it.” But the Virgo side—I’m so anxious. I’m literally surrounded by all these lists of my three-year goals.
STEWART: Honestly, you should be so proud of yourself. I don’t mean to sound like a loser, but the Virgo thing is really working in your fucking favor. Because you’ve already held on to so much and not let it slip. I’ve worked constantly as an actor but I’ve always needed an assignment. I was clearly punching the shit out of all the walls of the houses I was in, which was probably annoying for the owners of the houses, aka a lot of the directors I’ve worked with. I was always like, “I am just an actor.” But that’s not true. Sorry, not to cut you off. This is about you.
SENNOTT: No. This is a natural conversation. It is funny though, because no personality type actually works in this industry. No matter what, it’ll drive you crazy.
STEWART: Man. Wait. So, you’ve written stuff, but you haven’t directed a movie yet?
SENNOTT: No. When I was in college, I co-directed sketches, but they’re like a minute.
STEWART: But you’re writing this movie that you’re going to direct?
SENNOTT: Yeah. Hopefully.
STEWART: Are you going to be in it?
SENNOTT: I don’t know, that’s a lot of pressure. This is going to sound so vain, but I barely even have time to work out when I’m acting and my skin is breaking out. If I was directing and acting, I would look fucking crazy.
STEWART: That is one thing about directing, is that you look like a fucking disgusting mess trash bag all the time. [Laughs] Literally. You’re just like, “I’m so thirsty, and I’ve never heard of ChapStick.” Everything is so outside of your body, which is such a different experience.
SENNOTT: As an actor everyone’s like, “Do you need water? Can we fly some in?” [Laughs]
STEWART: Oh man. How about process? What does your favorite set look like? Because it’s really fucking important. It’s better to design that shit from the ground up. Every bit of the wheel should be totally cut into and reinvented.
SENNOTT: I love a set that’s, like, controlled chaos, but that’s not true. I had so much fun on Bodies. Halina [Reijn, the director] has this insane energy and she pushed us to be free. And when we were shooting Bottoms, there was a night where we blew up a van and I was like, “This rocks.” But obviously all of those things wouldn’t be chill without an AD who really has it all locked so that you can be free. What’s your ideal set?
STEWART: I feel scared of anything big lately. There’s a weird hierarchy that makes me uncomfortable. This is the most clichéd, rote, expected, and completely genuine thing, but I just want to make a Cassavetes movie. I want my first movie to be a student film, even if it takes three years. I’m also not going to make a movie for more than $5 million, because it makes me uncomfortable and they usually suck. But getting people to agree to do that is so hard.
SENNOTT: It’s weird because I feel like I started in the super, super indie sphere. I was like, “I can’t wait until I’m getting trailers and shit.” And now I’m like, “Take me back to the Shiva Babyhouse.”
STEWART: I know. [Laughs] You’re so funny.
SENNOTT: But it’s so crazy. I remember the difference between Shiva and Bottoms. For Shiva, Molly [Gordon] and I were staying in the kids’ rooms upstairs. Everyone was so close together that you could literally be like, “Emma?” [Seligman, the director] And she would be there.
STEWART: That’s so fun.
SENNOTT: And in Bottoms, it would be like you’re on the opposite sides of a football field. You’re taking a bus to a van to get to set. And you’re like, “Where is everyone?”
STEWART: [Laughs] I viscerally know that feeling and it’s kind of esoteric. You’re in your own extra-large coat that they bought you specifically for this movie so you can fit your wardrobe under it.
SENNOTT: And you’re like, “It’s not even that cold out.” Standing alone in wardrobe with that coat on is really dissociative. I’m like, “Who am I?”
STEWART: It’s really infantilizing, too. You’re just like, “I’m here being preserved for my moment.” [Laughs]
SENNOTT: I’m always like, “Can I pee?” When they walk you to the bathroom I always feel like a child.
STEWART: That’s so funny. What the fuck else? What are you going to have for dinner tonight?
SENNOTT: I actually already had dinner. Is that crazy? I’ve been trying to go to bed early, so I can wake up early. But I had sushi. What about you?
STEWART: I haven’t had dinner yet. I’m probably going to have this chickpea masala thing that I made with some rice. I’m going to stay in tonight. I’m already in bed literally.
STEWART: Me and my girlfriend are also writing something right now, and my brain works so much better in the morning. What’s your relationship with sleep? Because mine is complicated.
SENNOTT: To write I have to wake up at 5 a.m.
STEWART: Me too.
SENNOTT: And then I can only write till 9 a.m. or something, maybe 10 if I’m really pushing it. When Emma [Seligman] and I were writing Bottoms, we would do daytime. But alone, it has to be early. And then with work, I did a lot of stuff this past year where you start with a 5 a.m. call time on Monday, and then you keep pushing it so that by Friday it’s a 5 p.m. call time, and it’s a Fraturday. I got into smoking weed before I go to bed to try to make myself fall asleep but then the sleep is kind of weird. You wake up feeling like, “Eh.”
STEWART: I cannot sleep when I’m working, unless it’s a couple weeks in. It’s very, very, very annoying to dream about the most useless cyclical things. You think you’re trying to prepare for the next day by having these thoughts, and then you realize that you’re lying there organizing blue paint swatches. You get up and you’re like, “You didn’t do shit, but toil in your bed with weird incommunicable ideas.”
SENNOTT: That’s insane.
STEWART: Yeah. I’d love to get a camera on my body too. I think I burn a lot of calories when I’m sleeping, because I think I just never stop moving. It’s so annoying.
SENNOTT: That’s so stressful.
STEWART: It used to be much worse. As I’m getting older, it’s getting better. And when I’m not working, I sleep pretty well. I also got curtains. Dylan moved in, and she was like, “What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you have curtains?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t sleep.” And she’s like, “No fucking shit.”
SENNOTT: Oh my god.
STEWART: Yeah. Okay. Did the same person who did Shiva do Bottoms?
SENNOTT: Yeah. Emma Seligman.
STEWART: And you guys are best friends. God, that’s so aspirational. It takes a long time to get to that point. You’re so lucky to be doing it young.
SENNOTT: It’s so fun. We got rained out for two weeks, and we’re like, “Fuck. We’re not going to get the last scene.” And then you’re like, “I’m glad I’m having this panic attack with you.”
STEWART: Yeah. Design the shit out of your process. That’s the only way to enjoy it. Me and Dylan are writing a movie. It’s a stoner girl comedy, and it’s really fucking stupid. I think you’ll like it. But the reason I even thought of this is because our producer is our best friend. We’re starting a company. I’ve worked with so many people that I didn’t know and that I didn’t like for so long. It was definitely valuable, but also, fuck that. We should do a movie together. What the fuck?
SENNOTT: I know. We have to figure out what it is.
STEWART: Yeah. I think you’re rad. I’m so happy to talk to you.
SENNOTT: We’ll make a movie of our night at whatever that bar was. We can make it a quest film.
SENNOTT: [Laughs] But thank you so much for talking to me, and I hope you and Dylan have a delicious, what did you say? Chickpea? It’s more than just chickpeas. I don’t know why I’m calling it a single chickpea.
STEWART: [Laughs] Where do you live?
SENNOTT: I live in [redacted].
STEWART: Me too. Wait, what are your cross streets? Never mind. [Laughs] I told you I ate a fucking edible.
SENNOTT: [Laughs] We’ll end it before I give out my address.
STEWART: That’s a good idea.
SENNOTT: Thank you. Nailed it.
STEWART: Bye dude. Nice to talk to you.
Hair: Edward Lampley using Oribe at Supervision New York
Makeup: Jamal Scott using YSL Beauty at Art Partner
Nails: Nori Yamanaka using O.P.I at See Management
Photography Assistant: Meghan Marin
Fashion Assistant: Adriana Espinal
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